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.

The Unconventional Challenge

Never going back

On February 22, 2010, Warp mainstay and Techno redirected to IDM duo Autechre-[æ] reached its tenth album, “Oversteps.” First available on Bleep.com and Japanese iTunes became a CD and deluxe vinyl option the next day.

Autechre: “Oversteps” (Warp,2010)

The abstract is always a concept difficult to explain semantically. Not only belongs to the universal meaning but blurs in vague descriptions when you try to come down the continuous of the participant elements of the perception to an understandable common language. It is the overwhelming colour of the absolute in Rothko‘s paintings. No words found because wordlessness is the meaning of his epoch. The same absolute you find out on Andy Warhol‘s bottle series a few steps away on other MoMA‘s room. Then you click a code to express your perception comparing both. The abstract and the serialization of a specific object tend to equalize in the same absolute result, apparently like ‘O=0.’

Musical terminology tries to describe concisely but goes unuseful. Autechre-[æ] music needs a comparative framework. It could be mathematics or its applied daughter, Physics, but it is going too far. Kinetic art is suitable. It contains movement perceivable by the viewer, whose changing perspective alternates different perceptions of the whole at once. Change the viewer for a listener, and you will get the code.

Autechre-[æ] suggests a musical object but never in a linear way. A synth line could be the anima, the first perception, but they always go deeper to the fundamental matter, to the constructing zone of it, where you can apply micro whatever, minimalism, and so on. If you got interested in quantic physics, you would perceive Penrose avoiding Copenhaguen Interpretation of quantic mechanics, assuming a system can be deterministic but not necessarily algorithmic. Then you go pleased with your conscience. It is an intimate pleasure, not easily transferable or shared.

Oversteps” emitted sonar signals out Autechre-[æ], exploring possibilities to go backward on their steps with hints of Techno and industrial beats. Still, I think they were joking with themselves with more accessible and predictable continuity in demand.

“Maxinquaye” turns 25

The Tricky-hop’s voice

On February 20th, 1995, Tricky released “Maxinquaye,” through 4th & Broadway. The album was co-produced by Mark Sounders, having Martina Topley-Bird as main vocalist with the additional singers Alisson Goldfrapp, Ragga and Mark Stewart. His solo debut identifies trip-hop definitively by his voice and lyrics. The peculiar articulation and cadence of MC AdrianTricky Kid Thaws rhyming differs from most of the American rappers at the time, delighting for one’s fortune or other’s misfortune. He is uttering spliff as the only way to scape from crime, revealing abandonment.

Giving narrative to ‘Daydreaming,’ the second single released at the end of 1990 by Massive Attack, six months before its celebrated debut “Blue Lines,” help to define the Bristol Sound. He was a crucial part of the collective, then formed by Robert3DDel Naja, and the triplet of DJs GrantDaddy GMarshall, Nellee Hooper, and AndrewMushroom Vowles under the creative supervision of producer Jonny Dollar. He also contributed some rhymes to the ‘Five Men Army‘ and the title track, ‘Blue Lines.’ Before its release, he met 15 years old Martina Topley-Bird, who sang in a home recording of ‘Aftermath.’ Tricky offered the song for the album, but they were not interested, considering unsuitable.

Tricky. “Maxinquaye” (4th & Boradway)

He took some distance from Massive Attack‘s creative entourage for the matter of limiting. His first solo material was ‘Nothing Clear,’ a claustrophobic dub reggae included in “The Hard Shell,” a compilation of Bristol musical scene in aid of sickle-cell amnesia, released in 1991. With the encouragement of his flat-mate Mark Stewart, a founding member of The Pop Group, post-punk and industrial hip-hop pioneer for U-Sound Records, Tricky recorded a new version of ‘Aftermath‘ in 1992. Martina‘s baby doll blues was wrapped up in a guitar riff sampled from Marvin Gaye with flutes around in a psychotic atmosphere as Tricky rambling, “How can I be sure in a world that is constantly changing?” ‘Aftermath‘ remained unreleased two years until he delivered through his Naive label with strong critical reception. After Island Records re-released it, he recorded ‘Ponderosa‘ with producer Howie B. The set scene for the debut solo album, “Maxinquaye,” was in the works. Failing the commitment to deliver some lyrics to Massive Attack‘s sophomore album, “Protection,” Tricky gave them two written for “Maxinquaye.” So there are songs across the two albums sharing practically the same lines – the “Maxinquaye” tracks entitled ‘Overcome‘ and ‘Hell ‘Round The Corner,’ have textual matching similarities with ‘Karmacoma‘, and ‘Eurochild‘, on “Protection,” respectively.

Maxinquaye” is tributed to his mother, Maxine, also known with the surname ‘Quaye,’ who died when Tricky was four years old. She used to write poetry and he impersonates the voice of a demanding legacy. In painfully slow tempos, Tricky scans every corner of the absence, of his betrayal fate, the darker recesses of the mind where foggy atmospheres reign. The whispers of a generation in drug culture instead utopian something else, whatever, but brighter. It is not sweet-talking but perturbating in audacious sound, loaded in character and pain.

Creating drum’n’bass from jungle

Fresh forever

W- 2020/02/17-23


Gerald Simpson, a Manchester Moss-side born who was working in MacDonald’s, created the defining vinyl for the UK Acid House in 1988: ‘Voodoo Ray.’ That piece of musical art made out of a simple sampler, a 303 bass synth, and a rudimentary drum machine gave him the status of technical genius. It also cursed his entire musical career.

Miscarried through the savage industry, he tried to replicate the success with “Hot Lemonade (1989),” but he suffered under-production. As a central figure of the Manchester dance scene, he worked for 808 State on ‘Pacific State‘ and remixed Stone Roses‘ ‘Fools Gold.’ Being signed by CBS, he released “Automannik” in 1990, a minimalistic work treated in the significant company standards which didn’t reach the appropriate audience, far from the taste of his developing futuristic dark sounds. Infructuous “High Life Low Profile” took Simpson back to the Hardcore, to the basics of drum programming, to create two landmarks for the irruption of drum’n’bass as a genre: “28 Gun Bad Boy” in 1992 and the definitive “Black Secret Technology.”

A Guy Called Gerald: “Black Secret Technology” (Juice Box, 1995)

Released in February 1995, this quarter of a century seems not affecting it at all, keeps it inalterable, as fresh as the primary proposal: To capture the time for the foundation of a new musical paradigm, ready to grow and evolve. Nothing to add to but his own words.