Weekly Retrospective

W- 2020/02/17-23

Compiling the essential records released on the past times that match to corresponding dates of the present week.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys

The Synth Pop reigned 1980

On February 22, 1980, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released the eponymous debut album through Dindisc, the Virgin Records sub-label.

The album “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” came out preceded by ‘Electricity‘ single, which hit the stores in May 1979 as the Factory Records sixth reference (Fact6.) The duo from Wirral (Liverpool) had two months of life when Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys took the song for challenging sessions with producer Martin Hannett (as Martin Zero) at Cargo Studios.

They disappointed with his overproduced work. So, they re-recorded it at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (Greater Manchester) and dealt with Factory to release their version as A-Side with Hannett‘s production of ‘Almost‘ on the reverse. With regular plays on John Peel’s late-night show, B.B.C. Radio 1, added to the music media excellent response and the visual endorsement by Peter Saville‘s 7″ sleeve, the O.M.D. debut single was more a claim to follow than instant hit for the charts. This potential made sign the band for Dindisc in September 1979, with Factory‘s blessing and support. The agreement included Saville as an in-house designer.

The first album recreated material from duo’s previous band; an eight-piece called The Id, formed in 1977 by the school and college friends with shared tastes on the new-wave/synth-pop-oriented music. They used to gig on the Merseyside area, where popularized ‘Julia’s Song.’ By the way, McCluskey and Humphreys involved in a side-project, VCL XI (named after changing into Roman numerals the VCL 11 valve’s diagram represented on Kraftwerk‘s “Radioactivity” album back cover). It allowed them to experiment in more intricate electronic possibilities. The Id finally disbanded. With the experience acknowledged and the musical influences of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and Neu!, O.M.D. was in the works to sign the sound of hooky, percolating synth-pop. They used Dindisc‘s advance to build their recording studio in Liverpool, The Gramophone Suite, and to hire Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper, who became full-time band members. They delivered the album to Dindisc by December 1979.

O.M.D: “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” original sleeve by Martin Saville and Ben Kelly

The re-recorded version of ‘Messages‘ was the first U.K. top 20 for the band. The album reached the Top 30 in the U.K. Albums Chart. The Neuesque ‘Mystereality,’ the hypnotic ‘The Messerschmitt Twins‘, and the inflected Brazilian bossa nova, ‘Dancing, ‘ stand as brilliant gems for musical posterity. The art-cover by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly is an iconic design for the record industry, featuring multiple colour versions of a die-cut grid over orange inner sleeve.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” was the beginning of a quick succession of two albums throughout the year. “Organisation” appeared by the end of October 1980, which included ‘Enola Gay,’ the song providing the band’s international recognition. The U.S. release titled the album “O.M.D.,” collecting of the most relevant tracks from both, including the hit related to the plane carrying ‘Big Boy,’ the first nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Virgin remastered release in 2012 added few bonus tracks to the original, with a cover version of ‘Waiting For The Man‘ taken form of Lou Reed‘s composition ‘Waiting For My Man,’ included initially on The Velvet Underground‘s discography.

The late ’70s had sparse examples of music based on technology, a significant change of aesthetics. Shaking and radical proposals went from The Normal and D.A.F. to the early Human League, looking for the acceptance of the unbeatable post-punk and new-wave. Joy Division‘s ‘She’s Lost Control‘ redirected to some composite output while Ultravox was growing to reach its ‘Vienna‘ pop panacea. Gary Numan‘s Tubeway Army proved synth-pop could be number one with ‘Are “Friends” Electric?‘ Time for the sound of analog synthesizers had arrived to raid into the charts. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark was ready to introduce the melody on it and be a significant act for the genre with a row of catchy singles until the mid-eighties. “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” is one of the records that sustained the so-called new sound of the eighties decade.

An exercise of style (A Vs. kind of)

“Versus”, a new way to recreate a record

Massive Attack let Mad Professor rework the Bristolians’ material on the consoles of Ariwa studio, the West Norwood (London) complex owned by the dub wizard’s alias of Neil Fraser. It was an extended agreement after being required to add additional production and mix to the ‘Sly‘ single, taken from album “Protection” (Virgin, 1994), concretely for the versions ‘Cosmic Dub‘ and ‘Eternal Feedback Dub.’ Mad Professor didn’t take the assignment regularly and created a new album. Released on February 17, 1995, “No Protection” is mostly a track by a track dub remix of the entire original master. The counterpart, the “versus” of Massive Attack‘s second album.

Massive Attack Vs. Mad Professor: “No protection” (Virgin, 1995)

Under the operating Mad Professor, Massive Attack‘s “Protection,” one of the Bristol Sound‘s defining album, becomes “No Protection.” From the ten original tracks, Guyana-born Fraser chooses eight, leaving ‘Eurochild‘ and the The Door‘s ‘Light My Fire‘ live cover version aside. The recording modifies the originals heavily in an expansive slow mode, where the bass and the beat are recreationally intensified. The whole ting is another album indeed. The hazardous exposure related to the title has no harm in the result.

Mad Professor created another format for the art of mixing beyond the old of the regular version. He installed “the artist vs. the artist” way to recreate a record. “No protection” gives a comparable unit to “Protection” that feedback each other in a separate enriching form. An art act that reflected and opened doors to the way music will evolve from then on, being receptive and reserving space for the influxes, no matter the genre belonging to the creator. Dub permeates the whole electronic music spectrum nowadays. And it was a moving force since the late eighties.

As the mid-’90s run to the end of the decade, entranced in the vibrant boiling rave scene, the British black communities help to establish new electronic genres like Drum’n’bass with its syncopation of fast breakbeats and heavy basslines. Its predecessor, the evolutive Jungle, emerged from the Sound-System culture of DJs and sound engineers working at once in a thrilling succession of samples, loops, synthesized effects under the trembling bass vibe. Trip-hop is a particular variant, the distinctive and British fusion of hip-hop and electronica that, by the time, already has recognition and commercial success. The common is that the influence of dub touches all of them.

Created in the ’60s by Jamaican pioneer producers like OsbourneKing Tubby” Ruddock and Lee ScratchPerry, at the time, the style of dub has a wave of revival due to the new emerging genres. Among others, Mad Professor is one of the producers that had been working on it since the early ’80s. Expansive creativeness is the key to dub. The working dub, using the studio tools and techniques, manipulates and reshapes the recordings to another dimension of time and space. Characterized by giving special treatment to the rhythm section, dub turns a song into an instrumental, removing vocals and adding echoes and reverb effects to an airy flotant expansion. It creates space to rewrite the original; its vocal snippets, as well as parts of other compositions, fuels the progression instead.