Breakneck Germanic synth Rock. Fuzz and The Fall, if The Fall were allowed guitar heroics. Drum machines, killing jokes and nursery rhymes. Jelly babies jiving on a Saturday night. Souixsie, Pauline, Invisible Girls, and X-ray spex. Germ-free adolescents, Altered Images, and Human Leagues. Bo Diddley on a hookah in a souk. Bells and toy pianos. The flying lizards without the deadpan. Sonny & Cher covered cross-eyed & painless. Angular Devo Anti-Funk. Tribal, Burundi beat. `70s Sci-Fi tones and vocals, wailed and whispered. Quando Quango and ACR. Punk timables, Latino, and Liquid Liquid-inspired bass and skronk. Marianne`s broken English. Rip Rig & Panic`s climate, Big Star solos, and abstract steel pan Jazz. Pitched down demons and synthetic wasps join harpsichord loops in exploring the dark. Loose tubes and Pigbags and the Captain`s magic band.
I was drawn in by curiosity (I know very little about Cherrystones. I have one of the Godsy 12s, and I was once acquainted with a beautiful young lady who used to do the door at Poptones), and then by quotes on the press sheet:
“Switch on the uninitiated”
“Not an exercise in rarity to make people feel alienated”
“The good and the rad, not the smug”
According to Cherrystones these are, “Loose chips, fragmented discoveries, random punts”, and I like the idea that “Critical Mass” is a snapshot, simply records that he found at a given time and was into. He`s not showing off, just sharing. So obscure (and that`s not the same as rare) is the music here that it actually sets up a jumping off point for further digging, for those so inclined. The other thing that I like about the compilation is that, when I actually listened to it, it did provide a proper alternative to anything else that I`ve recently been exposed to. “Critical Mass” for sure doesn`t lie within any vogue, marketing strategy, or even convenient genre, other than it works for Cherrystones. Completely uncompromising. Usually on even the most “out there” collection there is at least one track that is currently sought after in certain circles. Not here. Everything is unknown.
Cherrystones adds to the mystery by deliberately omitting any band biography from the sleeve notes. He says, with the aim of allowing your imagination the chance to fill in the blanks, write the stories. My initial plan for this review was to hit the net and stick some facts in those holes myself, but I am now wondering if Cherrystones` decision was born of necessity as much as choice, since there`s scant information to be easily gleaned.
German New Wavers Rheingold will probably be familiar to Test Pressing visitors for their 1980 hit, and DJ Harvey play, “Dreiklangsdiemensionen”. Influenced by Kraftwerk, members from both bands forged collaborations when the original groups split. Chandra Oppenheim`s dad was a professor based in New York, where he organised parties and events with composers and musicians such as Philip Glass and Fred Maher. Aged twelve, Chandra fronted gigs at The Mudd Club, toured and recorded, backed by Maher`s The Dance. Aksak Maboul were the founders of Crammed Discs. Several of The Transmitters went on to form Loop Guru and Transglobal Underground. The Method Actors came from Atlanta. Dojoji came from Holland. The Lines included William Orbit`s mate Rico Conning. Fote were contemporaries of Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat and Clock DVA. Founder Rob Haigh later recorded Drum And Bass as Omni Trio. 39 Clocks came from Hannover and were previously called Killing Rats. The Flowerpot Men again might be known to folks of a Test Pressing mindset. One of the projects of Youth`s occasional studio sparring partner, Ben Watkins, their cover of Dr John`s “Walk On Gilded Splinters” allegedly (well that`s what my dealer told me) featured in David Mancuso`s Loft playlists.
The only thing that really links the tracks on “Critical Mass” is that the bulk of them were released between 1980 and 1982. However, despite their unique nature, for all this strangeness, they do have something else in common. Each one possesses a hook. They may have broken from the norm but they are all still somehow Pop. Inventive in method, ignoring or ignorant of rules, improvised, uncontrived, enthusiastic, and undiluted.
Cherrystones` “Critical Mass” will be available on May 25th through Touch Sensitive. Any one who bought those old Serie Noire comps or Trevor Jackson`s excellent Metal Dance overviews should definitely investigate.