October 1, 2012

Unheard-Of: Inkey$ Vol. 2

The Globule is proud to present an obscure and idiosyncratic cultural artifact from a bygone golden age of synth music fandom.

Inkey$ was a relatively short-lived “cassette magazine” assembled and distributed in the United Kingdom through the 80s. An enthusiastic outlet for the far flung hearts of space that dotted the UK’s underground landscape, Inkey$ featured interviews, reviews, and previews of self-released synthetics in a myriad of spacey styles. This volume, the second issue from 1983, is a nearly 90 minute exploration of the boundaries of analog synthesis delivered with a profound sincerity and a dry, Anglo wit. Having digitized the ancient cassette myself, 2 brief disclaimers are in order: (1) In a classic hand-dubbed manuovour, the tracks on the first side cut off abruptly. (2) As each side nears its end, the audio slowly dissolves into an almost “bitcrushed” sound-cloud. Apologies in advance, but 30 years is an eternity to ferrous particles, just ask William Basinski. The warm, slightly corroded fidelity of the audio gives an appropriately vintage and almost “hauntological” patina to the proceedings. Lossless, this isn’t.

The centerpiece of the volume is a lengthy feature on Robert Schroeder, a Klaus Schulze disciple (and Innovative Communication signee) in the early stages of his long and varied career. Schroeder’s solid Berlin-school pieces pair up sumptuous pads with loping, delayed arpeggios, for some kraut-lineage black-light anthems. Plenty of layered, panning lines, and soundtrack-inspired key shifts sprinkled throughout to bring you back to earth. The tracks featured are an unreleased predecessor to his uniformly excellent “Harmonic Ascendent”, and slightly more chunky, at times cartoonish slices from his then-yet-to-be-released “Cygnus A”. The sounds are pitch-perfect reference points for the current crop of synth-sploitationists, with a studio musician’s flourish and an engineers precision. Betwixt the two is a fairly languid interview, as Robert recounts his Ars Electronica accolades and rock-band dalliances in his thick German accent. while the shop talk throughout is more for context than illumination, the lackluster deadpan of the host is quite amusing on its own.

The side continues with several brief offerings from 3 other European explorers.
Rudiger Lorenz is up first, with a track off his wonkily titled “Wonderflower”. Long-release bell-like progressions peak with analog saturation over phasing arpeggios. An exquisitely wistful ambience. The kind of perfectly somber wow and flutter that inspired early OPN.

Daniel Arfib is up next, with a cut off his “Musique Numerique”, a #Rare, private-press LP that’s since gotten the Creel Pone treatment. Pure noise wash, with primitive FM-Bass swells. Crunchy!

Next, some resonant, groovy fare from IC recording artist Klaus Kruger, featuring the venerable Manuel Gottsching. Swinging string synth stabs, live-drumming bop, and funky upbeat guitar punctuations.

The uber-nerdy ESSP (“Electronic Synthesizer Sound Project”?) picks up side 2, a showcase of the UK’s most subterranean knob-twisters. The first track (“Experiment 144″) is a low-fi tour de force consisting of lyrical, jaunty tracks, produced entirely on the EDP Wasp synthesizer, Spider sequencer, echo unit, and “dr. rhythm” (Roland DR55 to these ears). Reedy, hissing riffs squeak out over Mort Garson-lineage foxtrots. Occasional foghorn samples (recorded Dorset, England) punctuate throughout, for a truly goofed-out opus of bent squelch.

Aside from this cassette documentation, “Experiment 144″ and its creators have left almost no discernible trail. A true lost gem of bedroom blip-funk. You heard it here first (and last). Finders Keepers, get on this!

Next up: Mark Shreeve with his epic “Assassin”, a bizarre versioning of John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13″ theme, released some 7 years beforehand. Though the track retains much of the paranoid boom-bip of the original, you can’t help but wonder how he got away with releasing this as an original composition. Nonetheless, as the lesser known of the two (I guess it’s 3/3, if you count the Bomb The Bass re-make)the soaring solos and snappy drum programming make this a synth-groove opus worthy of any Carpenter fanboy’s attention.

Carl Matthews – Iridescence Cassette

“Iridescence” is next from Carl Matthews, a true underground entity, with a catalog of almost exclusively self-released cassettes. Birdsong and plaintive 4 note motif give this a floating, melancholy feel. Echoes of Froese’s Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, with a more “staring out the window on a rainy day” loner vibe. The five minute glimpse of the 13 minute original is a moving miniature.

Ron Berry’s “Sea of clouds” is an epic, high-altitude cruiser. Thick pads, swelling banks of white noise and ratcheting oscillations. A menacing, simplistic baseline underpins mysterious lfo’d tone-float and shadowy solo lines.

Last but not least is Mark Jenkins with “Time’s Winged Chariot”. An active audio field filled with shuffling percussive thump, virtuistic looping sequences and some superb vintage vocoder verbiage. A bouncy bass-line moves in, as the leads get more animated, morphing into zipping, panning glissandos. A high-energy missive.

Research indicates Mr. Jenkins to be a synth nerd of EPIC proportions (Holy Hell, look at that setup. He gives Klaus Schulze a run for his money, approaching Dave Wilson levels of analog obsession). This track is available nowhere but on a CDr of Mark’s self-released “Analog Archives”. A quick Discogs search reveals all sorts of biographical nuggets. Apparently a former member of White Noise? Later entries in his catalog include a collab with Damo Suzuki? Definitely a prime candidate for future digging.

The “Inkey$ News” outro includes updates on synth releases by the likes of Klaus Schulze, Kitaro, Nash the Slash, and a barrage of new, bizarre-sounding releases from micro labels like Mirage Tapes, Syntape, and “Hawkfriend”(?) by artists like “Sea of Wires” and “Dr. Phil”(?!)

A truly immersive trip through a forgotten nook of synthetic sound. So glad I could re-release this dusty statement back into the world at large. (BTW, if this is already floating around what.cd, please DON’T tell me.)

Grab this piece of history HERE