Michael Mulders was the primary engine behind Spectral Display when they were signed to a contract with EMI in 1980, though it wasn’t until he collaborated with Henri Overduin that they were able to put together this driving synth-heavy tune. Overduin wrote most of the lyrics and provided the vocals for It Takes A Muscle, which was recorded in Mulder’s home on his own equipment with the help of a few studio musicians. One notable if odd connection: the percussion for Spectral Display come courtesy of Kim Haworth, who did the drums on the America song A Horse With No Name. Though the song never achieved widespread success at the time, the group did follow up their 1982 self-titled debut with one more record in 1983 called Too Much Like Me. According to their site they are be recording new material, though that was in 2012 so I wouldn’t hold your breath. It was covered by M.I.A for her 2010 album Maya, proving once again that most of the things that have been good about mainstream music today can be found in even better form in the 80s.
K. Leimer (aka Kerry Leimer) has been releasing ambient/experimental music since the late-1970s, primarily on his own label Palace of Lights. Very Tired closes out his 1983 release Music for Land and Water and is a good demonstration of his deliberate method of constructing sonic landscapes, primarily with synthesizers and tape loops. Music for Land and Water was originally composed not for commercial release but as part of a performance and installation series. Though I couldn’t find an audio clip of it available to share, the setup for the lead track “Art and Science” consisted of four tape systems playing loops of different lengths, which sounds like a real treat. Yet another example of the pioneering work that can be found in your local New Age bargain bin. Leimer made extensive use of loops in both his solo work and as part of the group Savant which featured Marc Barreca and other ambient artists. You can purchase physical releases from Palace of Sound here though it doesn’t look like Music for Land and Water is available on the site.
Those who have followed the annual Eurovision song contest for a long time might remember Pas De Deux from their 1983 entry representing Belgium entitled Rendez-vous. You can watch their performance at the contest here, which the announcer introduces by saying
I’ve described this as sort of crypto-punk. I suppose Belgium deserves some credit for trying something new.
That glowing introduction was delivered with classic British passive-aggressive disdain, but given how fresh Cardiocleptomanie sounds today I think this Belgian group got the last laugh. The group comprised Dett Peyskens (who is currently part of the group Red Zebra), Hilde Van Roy, and Walter Verdin. Cardiocleptomanie comes off the group’s only full-length release Axe Ends which also came out in 1983. The synths probably give this one away as being early-80s, but the combination of driving rhythms and almost disinterested vocals are irresistible. Perfect for anybody who has ever harbored a little crush on the girl from the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio.
This track from The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop is just as undeniable as The Sea and Cake are at their best. It comes from his second solo release, Who’s Your New Professor put out by the good folks at Thrill Jockey in 2005. Though it predates the modular synth sounds that dominate his most recent releases, like 2015’s The Republic, you can hear some of those beautiful tones percolating through his earlier solo work.
As I mentioned in a previous post, The Sea and Cake went on hiatus around 2004, and Archer Prewitt and Prekop both released solo records soon after. It’s interesting to listen to Who’s Your New Professor alongside Prewitt’s album Wilderness. Maybe I’m trying to shoehorn something here, but these albums shed light on what each guy brought to The Sea and Cake. Though Wilderness was Prewitt’s last solo output to date, Prekop has continued to record on his own in addition to reuniting with the rest of The Sea and Cake. Another great solo record of his is Old Punch Card, which is full blown synth goodness. I was lucky enough to see Prekop live when he performed at Hausu Mountain’s birthday party a few years ago and it was a real treat. To get a sense of what the set up looked like check out this live video from 2011. Prekop also did the cover art for the most recent release from Good Willsmith entitled Things Our Bodies Used to Have. Good Willsmith are a great group who I’ll have to write about at greater length because Doug, Max, and Natalie create some really beautiful jams and they are also beings of pure wonderful light.