Fader – First Light (Blanc Check Records album, 2017)

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Fader is a duo of Blancmange’s Neil Arthur – whose collaboration with Mute stalwarts Fortran 5 on ‘Persian Blues’ remains, in my humble opinion, an overlooked classic – and Benge from John Foxx & The Maths.

First Light is their first album and is released by Blanc Check next week. Here you’ll find Arthur at his elliptical best, backed by some varied and truly ingenious electronic backdrops.

I reviewed the album for This Is Not Reto. My thoughts can be read here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for This Is Not Retro

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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

Barry Adamson, Anita Lane & The Thought System Of Love – These Boots Were Made For Walking (Mute Records single, 1991)

Barry Adamsn, Anita Lane and The Thought System Of Love 'These Boots Were Made For Walking' artwork

mute records | mute119 | 1991

This version of Lee Hazlewood’s hit – made famous by Nancy Sinatra – is an absolute stone cold classic, as they may have said in the 1970s. On Terry Donovan’s 7″ mix, those immediately-recognisable descending bass notes that herald the original are here complimented by piano and a deep dub-inflected hip hop beat. Barry Adamson adds a string section and a funk guitar where the Sinatra version quickened the pace with a rather cheesy horn section. Anita Lane‘s vocal is typically excellent, archly na├»ve and seductive all at once, somehow colouring the sparse arrangement perfectly.

On the other remix front, Renegade Soundwave departee Karl Bonnie‘s ‘Bonnie Floats On Airwair’ mix – aided superbly by Holger Hiller with additional noises from then-Orb member and onetime Fortran 5 accomplice Kris ‘Thrash’ Weston – ratchets up the bass levels and adds some pulsating electro percussion, pushing this into heavy digital dub territory, with all the aplomb expected from the assembled trio. The mix also makes full use of some sterling slide guitar work from ex-Birthday Party man Rowland S. Howard. John Waddell adds all manner of new elements – a fragile synth melody and soulful sax – and in so doing turns the track into a blissed out groove somewhat reminiscent of The Beloved, recalling the chilled-out Balearic vibe of the time.

Adamson’s own ‘Go Johnny’ blends two strands of his distinctive style – spiralling orchestration and jazzy bop laced through with samples and abrasive noises. The track kicks off with some meditative organ lines before diving headlong into a Bernard Herrmann-esque chase theme with a beat that doesn’t know if it’s bop or rockers reggae. Both ‘Go Johnny’ and the original cover of ‘These Boots…’ feature on the celebrated Fine Line soundtrack to Delusion.

First published 2004; re-edited 2015.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Link

David Baker (Komputer) – Dirty Contacts 2 DJ Date

Dave Baker from Komputer / Fortran 5 / I Start Counting DJs at London electronic music night Dirty Contacts 2 at The Boogaloo in Highgate, London on 1 May.

Details can be found through this link, which also includes an extract from my Mute Short Circuit review from 2011.