Saturday, October 9, 2010
Thomas Leer and Robert Rental, THE BRIDGE
Industrial Records, 1979; reissued by Mute/The Grey Area; available
9 tracks, 43:20
Scottish musicians Robert Rental (born Robert Donnachie) and Thomas Leer had each released an important indie single a year before this collaboration. Leer's offering was the poppy lo-fi "Private Plane"/"International", and Rental's was the weird industrial "Paralysis"/"A.C.C.". Having relocated to England, the two mavericks were lent 8-tracks by Throbbing Gristle so they could record this album. As the liner notes point out, this was recorded in a two week span (June 18th to July 2nd) in one of their homes; interestingly, the back cover notes "all blips & unseemly noises were generated by refrigerators & other domestic appliances & are intrinsic to the music"! Both musicians take turns on guitar, synths, "synth percussion" (more on that later), bass, and other noises. THE BRIDGE is divided into two distinct halves; the A-side features vocal work, while the B-side has four tracks of pure ambience. The vocal songs are definitely in a post-punk/synthpop mode. Leer sings lead on four tracks; the fuzzy "Connotations" and the bizarrely catchy "Monochrome Day's" are definite highlights. Rental takes the lead on "Day Breaks, Night Heals", and this creepy gem is the absolute standout. What's interesting about the percussion is that Leer and Rental didn't use a drum machine. Instead, they pounded out rhythms on synth and made tape loops of the results. While primitive, this technique lends a unique touch to these tracks. The flipside is a completely different story. Rental is credited with tapes, loops, and voice for this side, while Leer takes on synths, tapes, and voice (that's voice, not vocals). Long drones and loops, accompanied by TV sounds and those other "unseemly noises", flow effortlessly towards dark chillout bliss. The lengthy "Interferon" is the standout here, but the other three are amazing as well. Both sides add up to what is one of the best releases from Industrial Records; thank goodness Mute reissued it! Around this time, Rental released an extremely rare demo called MENTAL DETENTIONS; this completely instrumental gem of early industrial heaven also features Leer on a few tracks and DEFINITELY deserves a reissue. Leer still has a synthpop career, and for a while was in Act; some is worth investigating, some isn't. Rental would collaborate with the Normal (Daniel Miller, Mute head honcho) on a single-sided live album (rare but worth the hunt); his last output was the excellent "Double Heart"/On Location" single on Mute, featuring DAF's Robert Görl on drums and Leer on piano (also recommended). After this, he retired from music to raise a family, sadly passing away in 2000. The fact that so little of Rental's output exists is reason enough to buy THE BRIDGE, but the music more than justifies adding it to your collection.