Eric Ramsden from Manchester was one of a handful of early electronic post punk pioneers, unique and uncompromising not completely unlike Robert Rental, Fad Gadget, . He was involved with early Factory acts, the New Hormones label, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley as The Tiller Boys and maybe best documented with Cabaret Voltaire (as guest musician on record, as opening act on tour and fully absorbed on the Pressure Company live LP). From solo output up to putting a band together (The Bedlamites) and getting recruited for the then Manchester based femme fatale junkie legend Nico as tourband member – with additional stints in the Suns Of Arqua, Psychic TV and the Durutti Column.
This short bio shows a lot unknown facts, thankfully supported by the man himself about his whereabouts and his surprising return to electronic music starting with ‘Man Dog’ in 2014 on Klanggalerie after a 18 years hiatus and continuing until the present day. Find his latest Album ‘No-Go‘ here as CD and DL and a live recording from 2019 promoting the ‘Wire Me Up‘ 2*12″ on soundcloud.
An incredible find, many, many thanks to Hugo Ball.
While the digital single is out since late March and already the most succesfull Soft Cell single since a very long time the physical
singles will be out as soon as May (CD) and November (12″).
Of course all with different mixes. The CD single even has an extra non-album track while the 12″ tracklist shows 2 exclusive Pet Shop Boys Remixes.
Pre-ordering now just in time for X-Mas is possible here.
“Drink The New Wine” was recorded last year during lockdown with the four members sharing audio files. The track employs the Surrealists’ ‘Exquisite Corpse’ device whereby each artist adds to the piece without seeing what the others have done. Bauhaus have used this technique in the past to great effect. The title refers to the very first Cadavre exquis’ drawing rendered by André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert and Yves Tanguy which included words which when strung together made up the sentence, ‘Le cadavre exquis boiara le vin nouveau’ (‘The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”) For the recording, the four musicians each had one minute and eight tracks at their disposal plus a shared sixty seconds plus four tracks for a composite at the end. All done without hearing what the others had laid down. The only common link being a prerecorded beat courtesy of Kevin. The final playback came as synchronistic revelation.
Written and Produced by Bauhaus
Art Direction and Video Design by
-Adrian Burke (Awen Studios Ojai)
Another lost album rediscovery thanks to mobile working lead to this release. Partially it has still a 90’s optimistic Ambient flair with a touch dreamaway but paired with selected speech samples. Soundwise it prequels Fernando Cerqueira’s earlier vaporwave works as Walt Thisney with it’s distinguished slightly unreal appeal up to the final track which dives into drone territory and was published separate in 2004 as EP. This one connects more to his recent works with it’s timeless approach.
The general unreal futuristic feel no matter if generated through different voices or noises, synth or piano sounds is what always caught my attention so this is paired with altered images of Tokyo, Japan, 〒101 0021 tōkyō to, chiyoda city, sotokanda, 1 chōme−15−１ 半田ビル (Original Photo by Gwen King on Unsplash) to reflect this.
‘Asuna’ was his second solo release after Ras.Al.Ghul splitted for good. The first one, ‘Space.Scape’ had been reissued before remixed and remastered by his alter ego Walt Thisney in digital format. Originally issued by Thisco in 2003 as Thisk 12 on CD (and Thisk 19 in 2004) who rececently celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a highly recommended compilation (ltd. LP / DL) 7300 Earth Spins featuring new and old allies of the label he founded together with Luis Van Seixas aka Sci Fi Industries when he too still lived in Portugal back in 2001.
If you order the LP you’ll even get a Compilation CD from 20 Years ago free with it to linder the hurting if you see the postage costs.
Listen and get this insubstantial artificial artefact here >
Mark Griffin was born in 1957 in Kentucky but based in Dallas, Texas since 1979 as far as known. Actually a classical trained and studied musician and trumpet player, he joined a local New Wave Band, The Telefones and played with Jazz musicians, worked for a local indie record store during the 80’s and became MC 900 Ft. Jesus ca. 1988, named after an Televengalists vision of 900 Ft. high Jesus statue he promoted heavily at that time. Together with DJ Zero (Patrick Rollins) they self relased a first 12″ which caught interest of Nettwerk – then looking for quite progressive acts fitting in the late EBM / Synth Wave / Alternative Electronic corner like Consolidated, Meat Beat Manifesto, Severed Heads, Skinny Puppy and more.
“Hell With The Lid Off” (Nettwerk, 1989) with DJ Zero was themed arround the questionable TV & Radio preachers and their agenda not unlike the middle ages indulgence tradings which caused the first great crisis of the catholic church, the schism and splitting into evangelic and catholics in Europe. Paired with a good sense of irony and sarcasm.
The irresistible groovy electro tracks ‘I’m Going Straight To Heaven’ and ‘Truth Is Out Of Style’ made their way into my favourites back then, despite the unavoidable Stephen R. Gilmore Design which ruined so many records for me and the obvious hip hop scratching. I nearly sorted this LP out after reviewing it then but for a late 80’s record it beared many good ideas and did not hesitate to jump over the boarder to the plain absurd. A special humour which was seldom in my usual listening then. The album title was of course another direct quote – John Peel even offered a session as I recently discovered feat. ‘Truth Is Out Of Style’, ‘Real Black Angel’ and ‘Revolution 10’ (from the ‘UFO’s Are Real’ 12″).
Peel Session, February 1990
“Welcome To My Dream” (Nettwerk, 1991) expanded the spectrum Mark Griffin worked in favourable. Less synthesizer and hip hop orientated it started with a bang – ‘Falling Elevators’ which was an surprise success 5 years later after Levis used it in a campaign and got subsequently issued as a single in 1996 (!).
The more in sync with the earlier tracks ‘Killer Inside Me’ and the futuristic lounge jazz track ‘The City Sleeps’ where then as singles issued with lesser success. The bizarre ‘Dalis Handgun’, nearly an acapella track also showed Griffin’s main interest in leftfield themes and storytelling as did ‘Adventures In Failure’ and ‘Hearing Voices In One’s Head’. It is a great album and much more serious than the first but as the song titles give away it’s no surprise the mass appeal needed for commercial success was vanishing. Slightly jazzy downtempo tracks where not really en vogue while half America started stage-diving to Grunge and Europe was raving on with sidesteps into Warp, IDM and Ambient. The lyrics, missing an overall album concept kept the intelligent observations, the sarcasm but with self-critic present also which was not going down to well with most of the hip hop influenced audience.
Mark Giffin writes on his channel: “About 47 minutes of a live show we did in Moers, Germany on June 7, 1992. I don’t think it was broadcast, but rather was shown on closed circuit TVs scattered around the festival. Someone recorded it and gave me a copy, but unfortunately they stopped the tape before the end of the set. Still, it’s some of the best footage I have of the band from those days. Features Chris McGuire on reeds, Baby G on turntables, and Mitch Marine on drums.”
“One Step Ahead Of The Spider” (American Recordings, 1994) appeared on a new label, three years on. Already involved in “Welcome To My Dream” where Mike Dillon (Percussion etc.) and Chris McGuire (Saxophones), but now he went full way into jazz band realms, adding Drew Phelps (Bass), Dave Palmer (Piano), Earl Harvin (Drums, nowadays playing with Tindersticks), Nikhil Pandya (Tabla) and Rajiv Chakravarti (Tambura).
Starting the album with an 11m43s track – ‘New Moon’ – showed how ignorant / arrogant / free of commercial orientation Mark Griffin operated back then. If you made this and managed to follow the storytelling you where ready for the album. If not, then not. Many of his old listeners might have skipped it then, I know I did. I missed any sense of dynamic groove and was so disappointed I gave it away after listening half hearted ca. twice…
The artwork did not help either.
I think this is one of the quite spectacular cases where the grown public was scared away in large parts without gaining a new.
Anyway – this year I finally felt curious enough to give it a go again (…..).
Lyrically Mark Giffin took this to the top, the dark sarcasm he showed on “Welcome To My Dream” turned into blank Cynicism besides his observational storytelling. A Curtis Mayfield cover with Living Color’s Vernon Reid guesting on Guitar did not save this from being a step ahead into uncharted territory. ‘Tiptoe Through The Inferno’ is one of the greatest song titles ever used imho but it describes pretty well where he was heading to.
Find a comic adaption with full lyrics on instagram courtesy of Simon Paul.
‘But If You Go’ was the second and final single, the video was never properly finished nor aired and is from his personal archive.
Afterwards – he disappeared. A fourth album was planned but didn’t work out; “I had sort of lost my sense of humor about it,” he says. “The big thing about MC 900 is we’re a pretty dark thing, but it was like I used to at least try to be kind of funny and I got to the point where I didn’t think anything was funny anymore and I still kind of am that way.” (Dallas Observer Interview, January 2017),
He finally opened up a little about his whereabouts, frustration leading to more alcohol and a complete reinvention as Pilot and Flight Instructor to build up enough praxis to apply for a commercial Pilot license but after 9/11 demand vanished and he found himself living of his savings until he asked for a job in a bookstore. Years later he slowly started DJ’ing in a small bar, started a MC 900 Ft. Jesus facebook page in 2012, took on a second Job to survive.
A full professional recording “Live In Vienna — A.D. MCMXCII” (2013, self released), a Radio Broadcast from 1992 was published via MC 900 Ft.’s Facebook page as free download in December 2013.
I discovered this thanks to discogs when I was startled whatever happened to him after listening to ‘Welcome To My Dream’ once again to start my day working from home.
In 2016 he finally made a full live appeareance which can be found on youtube.
So, at last he found the attitude to go out and play again in addition to his daytime jobs after a hiatus of more than 15 years. Perhaps there is more interest in his dark, witty observational style maybe now than in the 90’s and it would be great to have a few songs reflecting the changes of our times from his POV.
Bonus Track: Instore set, Record Store Day 4/22/2017, Dallas Tx
1: Falling Elevators / 2: The Killer Inside Me / 3: If I Only Had A Brain / 4: Tiptoe Through The Inferno / 5: The City Sleeps / 6: U.F.O.’s Are Real
So yes, indeed it’s time to wave good-bye for another year and say hello to the next..
Besides plenty of anniversary editions and reissues I’ve been more and more listening to digital releases, in large parts due to the unclear pandemic situation and my ongoing work from home. Not sure if this is a good thing but basically with the ever increasing postage (and customs duty post brexit) it’s a go with the flow. After all it’s the music that counts and with a little research plenty of great stuff can be found.
A selection from my favourites below (in slightly chronological order):
Of course this can’t be complete without a clutter of reissues, older but recently discovered stuff etc. but I will leave it at this for now as a glimpse and a reminder of some. Life goes on.
Thanks to all the musicians who make it a little more enjoyable.
When he released his last ‘solo’ album in 2017 (before returning to use Cabaret Voltaire for new releases) I always felt this would be a great way to end his lifelong career. “Dasein” includes many facettes, uncomprising and still groovy, disturbing but listenable. It sums up so many of his interests and phases masterly and as such could have been the closing point of his musical career, going full circle from electro, industrial, experimental white funk, acidic house and experimental cut up’s.
[Intone CD9 – also the first Vinyl 2LP on his own label]
Mute announced today via Instagram:
It is with great sadness that we confirm our great and dear friend, Richard H. Kirk has passed away.
Richard was a towering creative genius who led a singular and driven path throughout his life and musical career.
We will miss him so much.
I did not yet come to terms with his two latest CV Drone releases yet but loved the beautiful 12″ and liked the “Shadow Of Fear” album even if I had the impression that he’s been playing it safer then necessary. Somehow I doubt it was an attempt in seniority mildness…
Classic later CV in the mix (l.t.r. Richard H. Kirk, Stephen Mallinder)
A great deal of his work was curating the Cabaret Voltaire back catalouge, licensed nearly complete to Mute. Partly remastered, remixed and reworked carefully besides many live recordings and some unreleased gems like the complete “Chance Vs. Causality” Soundtrack from 1979.
I’m running out of words for now. Thankyou for all the hours and hours music & inspiration.
Find a great essay by Ken Hollings over at The Wire now for some interesting thoughts, insights and observations.
As there is not much literature on CV available or has been available in the past with the exception of “The Art Of The Sixth Sense” and it’s updated story which was nearly a different book (“Industrial Evolution – Through The 80’s With Cababaret Voltaire“) due the request of CV / RHK by Mick Fish there might be interest in this recently published neat Interview collection by Fabio Méndez which looks a lot like a true labour of love to me which was never ment to be an epitaph to the story.
In times where many thoughts lead back to what once was normal for each of us there is a little catchy ironic nostalgia as performed by Stahlnetz showing this is not really new in phases of change a pleasure to rediscover. I loved the single when it came out and was lucky enought to find the 12″ pretty soon afterwards in the bin’s when the NDW came to an bitter end and German sung pop music went English again or straight into oblivion.
Single (1981/82) aus dem Album Stahlnetz – “Wir sind glücklich” (BMG Ariola).
Produziert von Conny Plank. Musik & Text: Jochen Rausch.
Unavailable since 38 years, except as expensive 2nd hand copy LP, now a digital reissue is available carefully transferred and remastered from the original Masters via various sources. Artwork and tracklisting was altered on this occasion so hold your breath if you paid a lot for the orginal album.
Besides – an unreleased track from the Conny Plank sessions was released a few years ago via Jochen’s Soundcloud.
In December 2020 they actually released a new album (!)
“Music For Smartphones” is (of course) digital only and accompanied with an (extended) single too. But most thrilling – 51 tracks, just arround 1 Minute in length and each accompanied by a video to be found on youtube….
In an interview posted on their homepage they go into the details –
Jochen Rausch and Det Cremer from Wuppertal use a the digital voice software they called Marta and their idea to work with the restrictions following the obversation of people scrolling through their timelines with a short affection span endlessly. Of course you can find them now on Instagram, FB alike with your smarthphone (…)