Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

DALEK i - COMPASS KUM'PAS

Every so often I stumble across a record that makes me think "Why hasn't anyone told me about this before?".
In this case no has told me about this before because it seems that no one has heard it or if they have then they don't hear in it what I hear.
Now, I don't mind having strange tastes, after all that's to be expected if you like vinyl in a download age, but the silence over dalek i's Compass, Kum'pas just seems weird to me.
People rave over far lesser 80s post punk bands but despite the current attention to so-called cold wave bands there seems to be no room for dalek i.
In some ways, however, its very refreshing to be able to make your own mind up without being influenced by anyone else.
And my mind is telling me that this in an unjustly forgotten piece of plastic that deserves more attention. So, if after reading this you are intrigued go onto a well known auction website and get a copy. They are really cheap and fairly easy to come by.
Hailing from Liverpool and, like most Liverpool bands, at one point having a future member of Big In Japan in their ranks (Dave Balfe if you are interested) they were obsessed with using electronic means to make music. Needless to say Kraftwerk and Suicide were an influence. Although there are real instruments, such as the tradional guitar, bass and drums they are usually only used to assist the synths.
The most complete history of the band, side-projects and further adventures can be found here: http://robinparmar.com/dalek-i-love-you.html
The LP kicks off with their second single The World. I find this a haunting and dark song. With a very flat vocal Alan Gil sings about the unpleasantness of the world - this is the 'real world'! There is a great bit of one fingered synth work about half way throught that is worthy of the Human League and suddenly the whole thing shudders to a close with what could be a laugh, a cough or a death rattle.
The rest of the record doesn't get very much warmer. 8 Track wonderfully utilises tape manipulation to slow down parts of the song, which together with the sawing guitar, some off key piano work and wordless voical give a woozy, drunken feel.
Next is Destiny (Dalek I Love You) which is the song that got me into Dalek i in the first place. Cold, spacey and slightly anguished I love this song. It is exactly the sort of music that Dr Who should be listening to. "What would I gain to sell my brain to a machine" goes the chorus. As dystopian a pronouncement as you are likely to hear.
Other key tracks are Freedom Fighters, the cover of You Really Got Me and We're All Actors. Freedom Fighters has some bouncy organ work and choppy guitar licks and on first listen seems to be one of the happiest songs on the record. Closer attention to the lyrics soon dispels that idea as it become clear that the song is about someone being attacked by a mob, possibly of fascist skinheads, for no reason.The Kinks, You Really Got Me is stripped down to the drum machine beat and an insistant bass overlaid with some electronic work. Under this onslaught it ceases to be about unrequited love and takes on a rather dictatorial quality. We're All Actors has a slightly ska-ish bass line over short organ stabs. From the sounds of it, being an actor is not all its cracked up to be.
The more I listen the more inventive this LP becomes. Is it too much to compare it to the Beta Bands EP's album? Well, there are, obviously, none of the sampledelica and hip hop influences. But none-the-less there is a similar playfullness and willingness to chuck anything in that will produce the right (wrong) results. The restrainted slightly muted vocals, the slow drum machine beats, the loving synth work and the rare appearance of the guitar combine to make this a rare pleasure.
The cover artwork is also worthy of note. Designed by Chris Hughes of the band the front has a shape that may or may not be meant to represent Japan and this shape appears in reverse on the back of the sleeve. The carefully designed calligraphy lends an almost architectural quality. On the reverse the tracks are listed against a timeline to give an idea of how long they last. A great idea that I've never seen anywhere else.

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