AK-47 – Stop! Dance! (Output Records single, 1981)

AK-47 'Stop! Dance!' artwork

output records | opr202 | 1981

AK-47 was the work of Simon Leonard; ‘Stop! Dance!’ was released a year before Leonard met David Baker, his future musical accomplice in I Start Counting, Fortran 5 and Komputer, at Middlesex University, and two years after his solitary 7″ with File Under Pop on Rough Trade.

Unlike the industrial noise claustrophobia of FUP’s ‘Heathrow’, ‘Stop! Dance!’ is a bouncy little synthpop track which is very 1981 (in a good way), albeit with a dark edge thanks to the vocodered vocals which seem to be lots of references to AK-47, which, in case a whole generation of computer games and action movies has passed you by, is a gun. Naming your musical alias after a weapon and then delivering fey pop music is just about as contradictory as anything else Leonard has done in his musical career I guess. ‘Stop! Dance!’ is all simple, persistent drum patterns, stalking single-key basslines and bubbling sounds and sweeps blended in over the top, while a chord change brings in a brief, wobbly and quite pleasant melody.

‘Autobiography’, the first of two tracks on the B-side, is a short instrumental featuring a sawing synth sound, tick-tock beat, some Kraftwerk-esque vocal loops, reedy melodies and Leonard intoning a brief couplet about waking up and getting on a freight train, as if the autobiographical element was some deep southern porch blues number. ‘Hilversum AO’, another instrumental, has a euphoric quality, even if there are a few dud notes in among its elegiac melodies.

There’s nothing exceptionally polished about these three tracks, unlike the comparatively gleaming work Daniel Miller and Depeche Mode would put out the same year on Speak & Spell; like ‘Heathrow’ it retains a firmly experimental dimension, only here that edge is delivered through synths rather than grainy field recordings. Quite aside from its collector status among I Start Counting / Fortran 5 / Komputer fans, this is an example of an alternative electropop and bagging a copy on 7″ would have set you back near enough GBP50.00 at the time this was first uploaded.

First published 2011; re-edited 2015.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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