Camberwell Now – “Working Nights” (1986)
This Heat casts a long shadow, and rightfully so–their blend of the edge and energy of punk with longer-brewing strains of art-rock tradition created one of the most lasting archetypes of post-punk. But an unfortunate side effect is that their brief years of existence can obscure the fact that drummer and mastermind Charles Hayward has continued to make riveting, artful, and often beautiful work for nearly thirty years since This Heat disbanded. His compositions have tended to stretch out a bit from the punch of This Heat circa ‘Deceit,’ favoring the atmosphere of the bands earlier work and the rhythms of something like “Health & Efficiency,” but virtually none of the judiciousness and visceral impact was lost regardless of minor production shifts over the years. “Working Nights” represents one of the (numerous) high-water marks in Hayward’s oeuvre, This Heat included, reaching musical and emotional crescendos rarely matched in rock music. It’s a political work, I think, about the worker and industry; but it also explores more mysterious ground, the emotional level of someone who feels trapped in a machine that has no regard for its components, and the clattering, ghostly world in which the night-shift worker can live. The track also happens to presage, perhaps moreso than any of This Heat’s work, the cyclical, instruments-as-loops groove of the best of 1990s “post-rock” like Disco Inferno, Stereolab, Tortoise, or the various Thrill Jockey proponents–all from the unfashionable year of 1986. [Charles Hawyard and This Heat are featured in numerous mixes at Musicophilia that seek to expand upon their unique sounds.]
Kraftwerk – “Antenna” (1975)
I mostly try to share things at least some of you might not have heard. But sometimes, hearing a track that’s become embedded in our mutant musical DNA without setting out to do so can be just as amazing. That’s the feeling I’ve just had, hearing “Antenna” at complete random, not having put on ‘Radio-Activity’ in at least a year. Maybe there’s nothing left to be said about music upon which multiple genres are founded–this is as much the bedrock of modern music as James Brown, and hip-hop MCs in the late 2000s are declared geniuses when they have the insight to borrow heavily from the grandchildren of the disciples of Kraftwerk. The Knife, probably my favorite modern group to get started this decade, live and breath in the radiowaves of this album. Even my beloved OMD, themselves now well and duly canonised, were but a minor homage (however wonderful) when they aped the album outright eight years later to make ‘Dazzle Ships’. But there’s no need to say anything really, when thirty five years on, the music still sounds like the future. Simply resplendent (the track, the whole album), and worth being reminded of now and again.
Neon Judgement – “TV Treated” (1982)
I try to avoid the “if you like [contemporary band x], you should check out [influence x]” formula. But the Neon Judgement were so prescient and so good, and so clearly foreshadow one of the musical developments of the last half decade I tend to enjoy–the entire DFA/LCD Soundsystem/Hercules & Love Affair/”dance-punk” sound (not to mention Goldfrapp, Out-Hud, Les Attaques, et al)–that it’s hard to avoid. The Neon Judgement were from Belgium, clearly loved Suicide and a fantasy-world NYC, and could be called DNW-related or proto-Electro, but their sound is more fully-formed and fully-fledged than those labels can often suggest. There’s the hard, long-lasting dance beats; the saw-tooth sine wave synthetics; the “punk” vocals; and the New Wave guitar jangle, and it’s intoxicating stuff–so much so that I’ve got to share two tracks. They deserve more attention.
Neon Judgement – “Concrete (NY Stoney Wall Doll)” (1984)
Leda – “White Clouds” (1978)
“White Clouds” caps off a mini-them this week on Musicophilia Daily of less-heard music by well-known artists. The album attributed to Leda is perhaps the least likely offshoot of Tangerine Dream, apparently created by Peter Baumann. Even on the dancier/disco tracks there’s a definite touch of the cosmic TD sensibility, and it’s apparent on “White Clouds”. Floating female vocals are doubled by a sanguine synth line, above double-time arpeggiated synths and “epic” drums. It’s a lot of fun, and you should grab it from the Synopsis Elektronika blog. [And if you get going on the electro-space-disco trip, you can hear more Leda on the ‘Les Rythmes du Monde‘ “box set” at Musicophilia.]
Fever Ray – “Dry and Dusty” (2009)
I have Jon at Portland’s Anthem Records to thank for The Knife. In curmudgeon mode, I’d written them off, guilt-by-association with that farming implement-entitled nexus of hipster ephemera–to my loss. Jon got me to listen to ‘Deep Cuts,’ and I was instantly won over–the warmth, the electronic buzzing, the wonderful melodies, the taste of experimentalism: who could resist. ‘Silent Shout‘ was released the next year, and while I missed the pop sensibilities at first, the album now strikes me as a classic of the genre. Fever Ray is the Knife in all but name, with little appreciable fall-off from the main body of work despite being the work of 1/2 its personnel–it’s no singer-songwriter side-project or noodley indulgence. That multiple-personality-disorder vocal approach is as haunting as ever.
Duncan Browne – “Journey” (1973)
Browne’s first album is a lovely little record that calls to mind Donovan, Nick Drake, and that misty pastoral folk revival feeling. But on his second, self-titled LP from 1973, slightly less expected elements begin to filter into the strongly-composed singer-songwriter material–don’t let the petroleum-jelly-on-the-lense cover photo deter you. The sophisticated guitar work, hand-claps, percussion, bubbling synth lines and choral coloration on “Journey” provide a good introduction to a wonderful and underrated album. [Duncan Browne is featured in this ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ mix at Musicophilia.]
Hot Gossip – “I Don’t Depend On You” (1981)
Hot Gossip were a “sexually suggestive” and “risque” dance troupe who for whatever reason also became a minor but enjoyable little sidepiece to the Human League/B.E.F./Heaven 17 post-punk story with their album of covers in 1981. This track is a cover of a track by the Human League originally released under the name The Men, a bouncy little dance-funk synth-pop confection in the post-punk to New Pop transitional style.
Various – Tracks from the ‘1981’ Briefcase Disc, Part 6
Here is the 6th bunch of tracks from the ‘1981’ box set’s ‘Briefcase’ disc, from amongst 250 further bands and tracks not found in the nine themed mixes in the set. You can see previous installments and keep track of new ones with this tag.
Moving on into the Cs, all credit is due Hyped2Death, where I heard most of these tracks, so go over there and buy a few things (I recommend the Zoomers). This batch would largely fit right in on the ‘Cassette‘ mix from the set–in fact, a couple of these tracks were on the early versions of that mix. The jubilantly named Buzz brings us an arpeggiated, galloping little rumination on the absurdity of life and death; whereas the morosely named Cancer bring a silly slice of nonsense-vocals about. . . who knows what, but it doesn’t sound that horrible. The Cardboards shuffle along odd keyboard work. CCCP-TV bring you something that sounds like an American single on Postcard Records about sex, and accompanying terrors and secretions. Finally, Ceramic Hello create Ballard-informed darkwave electropop that can’t help sounding lovable and homemade, despite lyrics like “I lie in bed, laugh. . . and DIE”. Fun stuff, really.
Buzz – “Life Ends”
Cancer – “000010”
Cardboards – “On the R to TZ”
CCCP-TV – “Fear That Mindless”
Ceramic Hello – “Gestures”
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Electricity” (1979)
OMD would soon achieve a much more sleek and sophisticated sound, creating some of my favorite music in 1981. But the plucky amateurism and youthful energy (cover art notwithstanding) of their first single is undeniably infectious. Helicopter synth-rhythm, jumpy bass, grandmother’s organ, and a xylophone hook acquit the DIY spirit of ’79 nicely, from a time when “post-punk” didn’t yet stand in the serious, monolithic sound that their Factory labelmate would lature embody against which New Pop/New Wave would react.
La Bionda – “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1980)
I would never, ever have suspected this fantastic fully-animated video existed for one of my favorite Italo Disco/pop tunes. But it does, and like the track, it’s pure joy. Every once in a while, YouTube justifies its existence big-time. Unfortunately, nothing on the album from which “I Wanna Be Your Lover” comes close, as I learned the hard way a while back with a dodgy Russian “import,” but some of their other stuff seems like reasonably good, if rather more standard-issue, disco fun. (For a bonus, check below the ‘more…” link for a “live” performance by the duo of the track, in front of this video on a bluescreen, that adds another unbelievable layer. )
Telex – “En Route vers de Nouvelles Aventures” (1980)
It’s criminal that basically none of Telex’ work is currently in print–a state that surely can’t continue for long. They’re better (and for my money “more important”) than just about every post-Kraftwerk/Moroder synth-pop band that existed during the post-punk era; their first three albums have the timeless quality we all love from Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer World’. This track is a good introduction: warm, bouncing, graceful, sophisticated, fun. Thank goodness for the always-thorough (though currently moribund) Music Blog of Saltyka & His Friends, in the meantime till someone realises they could make bank getting Telex-awareness to a just level in the USA. [Telex are featured along with tons of other fuzzy synth-disco goodness in a four-part megamix at Musicophilia.]
Stevie Wonder – “All Day Sucker” (1976)
You just can’t fuck with Stevie Wonder. Unless, I guess, you’re the woman to whom this song is directed. From a 7″ appended to a double-LP (who else could pull that off?) but running circles around most anybody else’s title track, “All Day Sucker” is proof, if any is needed, that everybody with good ears listened to Wonder, including weirdo post-punkers who’d try messing around with similar squelchy synths and percussive instruments and grooving basslines a few years later. [Stevie Wonder is featured in one of my favorite mixes at Musicophilia.]
His Name Is Alive – “One Year” (2001)
His Name Is Alive is never the same twice, for better or for worse. Starting as 4AD-style acoustic vampire pop (or something) and passing through vibretto-less female-vocal bent Beach Boys deconstructions, I gather His Name Is Alive lost a lot of listeners with this one by doing the only thing that is too left-field for the lifelong left-fielders: making almost-straight-ahead contemporary R&B pop. If you listen a little closer, there’s actually still plenty of weird there; and HNIA hardly set the charts afire with this one. But I love it on its own terms: fun, catchy, sophisticatedly understated, Top 40 one universe over from our own.
Our Daughter’s Wedding – “Buildings” (1982)
Another celebratory track, this is joyous singalong ramshackle synth-pop from the white-kids-who-dig-Bernie-Worrell-and-Prince school. The lyrics are basically “Someone’s out there building tonight | Everybody’s Having Fun | Yeah!” I loved it from the moment I first heard it, and wished it’d been released in 1981. ODW were recently given the compendium treatment on CD (‘Nightlife: The Collection’), and it’s well worth seeking out.
UPDATE: Backup stream: