Monday, October 31, 2011
Deptford Fun City, 1978; reissued by Cherry Red with bonus tracks; available
CD: 20 tracks, 73:34
ATV founder (and mainstay) Mark Perry was the editor of the legendary punk zine SNIFFIN' GLUE. That being said, it's obvious he viewed punk more as an attitude than a sound, for Alternative TV rarely ever stuck to punk's "rules". The early singles "Life", "How Much Longer?", and "You Bastard" (all present, with the latter two appearing in different versions) are most definitely UK '70s punk, and fine examples at that! However, the debut single "Love Lies Limp" is decidedly reggae-influenced. THE IMAGE HAS CRACKED, their first album, veers all over the place stylistically. Some tracks were recorded in a studio, while others are either straight live takes or what appear to be collages of studio and live material. The straightforward punk rock of "Action Time Vision" and "Viva La Rock and Roll" are musically quite accomplished, but the experimental material makes thems somewhat tame. Opening track "Alternatives" starts with a synthesizer noodle (played by Jools Holland!) before going into a krautrocky instrumental track accompanied by Perry trying to get the audience to use the stage as a forum. He gets progressively angrier at them for acting up, finally exploding when a fight breaks out. There's also the interesting cover of Frank Zappa's "Why Don't You Do Me Right" and the hypnotic "Splitting In Two". My personal favorite is the atmospheric "Nasty Little Lonely", which has a nice slow buildup to an explosive release. One of the bonus tracks, "Another Coke", is a live number recorded for the album but rejected due to space. As a whole, THE IMAGE HAS CRACKED is a bit schizophrenic, but it does cohere into a great early post-punk album with repeated listens. After this, Alternative TV would shed their few "punk" tendencies and go deep into experimental music. The bonus track "The Force Is Blind" is much more in line with this industrial direction. It's hard to find, but the second album VIBING UP THE SENILE MAN especially shows this side of the band to great effect.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Ata Tak, 1979; available with bonus tracks
CD: 18 tracks, 59:48
Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke began his career in Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (specifically on PRODUKT DER...) and ended up dividing his time between his solo work and Der Plan. This, the second release on the Dahlke-founded Ata Tak (again, after PRODUKT DER...!), is his first solo venture. Unlike the later AUSLAND, this finds Pyrolator completely on his own. His arsenal of machines is quite impressive - an early Italian synth, an organ, a Korg MS20, two mics, and a tape setup. Interestingly, this completely instrumental album was intended as a protest piece against prevailing cultural views in Germany! The pieces themselves cover a lot of ground in a krautrock-influenced industrial way. The four "Inland" tracks, as well as "Minimal Tape 1/2.3", are surprisingly harsh masterpieces of early synth noise. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are the dreamy ambient "Minimal Tape 1/8" and a couple of catchy synthpop numbers (my favorite of these is "Danger Cruising", which sounds remarkably like its name). "Bärenstrasse" and "Nordatlantik" round out the stylistic diversity with pioneering bits of dark ambience. The six bonus tracks are very worthwhile as well, with the droning "Die Einsamkeit Des Langstreckenläufers", "Struktur 01" and "Struktur 22" being particularly delightful. Most of these were recorded prior to INLAND, but soundwise they are along similar lines. While this is much more minimal (and nowhere near as lighthearted) than anything else Pyrolator ever did, it's a wonderful and enjoyable slice of eccentricity. It's also my favorite Pyrolator solo release, but nervous fans might want to start with AUSLAND or Der Plan's GERI REIG before going INLAND.