By Doug Walker
Mars Everywhere - "Industrial Sabotage"
Cabaret Voltaire - "Radiation: BBC Recordings 1984-1986
From Aural Innovations #8 (October 1999)
Mars Everywhere - "Industrial Sabotage" LP
Released June 1980 by Random Radar Records (RRR 008, LP)
In the late 70's one could hear new forms of music being worked on in almost every large urban area of the US. A strong regional scene had emerged as the younger, non-mainstream players looked for ways to present their new sounds to the public.
In NYC, one could find the likes of Material, James White & the Blacks, 8-Eyed Spy. Cleveland/Akron yielded Pere Ubu, Tin Huey (whose fine Warner Bros. LP has sadly never been reissued), Human Switchboard, Devo and the Styrenes, while in Washington DC the Muffins, Mars Everywhere and Guitarist Steve Feigenbaum were active, creating a label (Random Radar) and sponsoring concerts at venues all over the DC area.
Formed in 1976, Mars Everywhere was the mutual brainchild of High school friends and Electronic Music enthusiasts Barney Jones (Guitars, Organs, Electronic Reeds) and Ernie Falcone (Guitars, Devices, Effects), who quickly recruited Synthesist Tom Fenwick to the fold. The trio used Free Improvisation as their musical material, and tapes of the early material expose the group as a quick-witted outfit, steeped in both the SpaceRock ethos of Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze/Ash Ra Tempel, and the Avante'-Classical work of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Morton Subotnick. This configuration contributed a track to the long-deleted "Random Radar Sampler", which was organized and produced by Steve Feigenbaum's brand new Random Radar label (the entire concert was issued in 1989 by Audio File Tapes, contact them as it may be out of print).
As the underground (spurred by the punk movement) gained momentum, Mars Everywhere added musicians and turned toward developing a SpaceRock sound based on the works of early Hawkwind, Soft Machine, Gong and Can, utilizing a conventional rhythm section of Greg Yaskovitch (BassGuitar, Synthesizers, Electronic Trumpet), and Robin Anderson (Drums). Synthesist Fenwick stayed on, and the group began gigging as a full band towards the end of 1978, and was invited to play the Baltimore Manifest (an 8-hr concert featuring Daevid Allen, NY Gong, Material, the Muffins Yosh'ko Seffer and host of area groups; other concerts were held in NYC and LA during Fall 1978).
Drummer Anderson and Synthesist Fenwick left the group early in '79, and were replaced by Doug Hollobaugh (Synthesizers), and Barney Jones was enlisted to play drums, which he learned to play over a three-month period. The group gigged all over the DC area with the Muffins, but changed keyboards over that summer. Carlos Garrazza (Synthesizer, Keyboards) was invited to join that August. A favorable article in Washington Post helped raise the band's profile that fall, and the group (which by now included a lightshow) finished the year doing a major gig at the Washington Ethical Society, attended by nearly 1000.
1980 saw the group begin recording for this LP; many of the longer tracks were recorded in April of 1980, but the LP also contained shorter tracks recorded live from December '78 to fall of '79.
The LP opens with "The Enchanted Domain", named after Magritte's painting. Bursts of white noise begin the affair, then they are overlaid with Synthesizer and Glissando Guitar. Lush String Synthesizer and Fender Piano chords introduce the body of the piece, backed by BJ's delicate cymbal work and echo BassGuitar by Yaskovitch. They take the progression around a few times, then comes a legato section of Synthesizer, Gliss Guitar and Effects, over which the Trumpet blows with obvious allusions to Miles Davis' electronic work on the horn. BJ gives a two beat intro, and the band falls back into the tune, letting loose strong and aggressive playing from the band, and a dazzling Guitar solo by Falcone, who builds his statement verse by verse. Heavily effected Guitar ends the piece, but it does feel like there should've been one more movement to the piece; nonetheless, it is quite successful.
"Steady State Theory" is actually a jam from the group's Random Radar demo tape, recorded with Anderson and Hollobaugh. The band feeds ideas off each other, while Guitar and Electronic Reeds blow over the top. The playing is tight, and the rhythm section seems to respond well to each other. "Mare Chromium" describes the Silver Sea on Mars, and was one of the band's signature tunes. This version is from the Manifest at John Hopkins U., 12/15/78, and finds the band tumbling out of an extended Electronic improvisation, and into the tune. Fenwick plays the ostinado on Farfisa Organ, whilst Jones blows a heartfelt reed solo, and Falcone a sizzling Guitar burn using a homebuilt moving coil to excite the strings, getting a heavy E-bow like sound. The audience response at the end of the tune is warm and appreciative, a well desrved tribute. The title tune is next, and turns out to be an improvisation inspired by the Voyager Jupiter mission (the first Spacecraft flyby, which took place in the Spring of '79) and Morton Subotnick's Electronic compositions, the track was recorded 9/30/79 at the American University Auditorium (a marvelous show, this writer opened for them, backed up by 3/4 of the Muffins). "Industrial Sabotage" blends Synthesizer, Gliss Guitar, and BJ's treated cymbals and whirli-hose to create a menacing sonic chill, as Guitar starts screaming over a massive wall of sound; this works to the max, but is faded out as the band slides into its most well-know track, the TV theme from Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone".
Starting with an acoustic recreation of the theme aided by the Bassoon of Muffin Tom Scott, they get into the meat and tatters of the tune in rocking fashion, with killer Guitar and Synthesizer solos giving an aural interpretation of what one might see during one of Serling's captivating programs. "Zoln" is based on a simple riff, introduced by a brief incantation by Jones' treated voice; easily the longest track on the LP, it is meant for jamming off. Beside voice and winds, Jones' drumming is simple yet strong, and he steadies the band as well as propelling it. Note Falcone's use of Ring Modulator here, his brittle Guitar chords lend alot to the texture of the sonic events. "Attack of the Giant Squid" originally appeared on the RR Sampler LP; the version here was recorded 6/22/79 at the legendary DC Space. Once again Jones steals the show, controlling the flow of the improv with voice, transistor radio and an alarm clock, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a scene from a 50s Sci-Fi thriller.
This was stirring stuff, but ME was destined for destruction, and disbanded before the new decade's first year was out. Although the other members left music, Barney Jones continued to record and perform SpaceRock through the 1980s, releasing a clutch of Cassette LPs for Audio File Tapes and Sound of Pig Tapes; BJ passed away 7/3/96, missing the current resurgence of the music but an integral part in helping establish things for those who now play the music here. Often, one can find this LP in used record bins, or occasionally on OOP lists; the LP needs to be reissued, but as yet there has been no interest in such a project, from either the ex-band members or Random Radar's successor Cuneiform Records. A shame, as it deserves reinvestigation, and could now find a new popularity amongst today's SpaceRock audiences.
Cabaret Voltaire: "Radiation. BBC Recordings 1984-1986"
Released By: New Millenium Communications (PILOT #39, 1999)
The end of the 1970's was actually a great time for music, with bands and musicians worldwide beginning to self-define and create all sorts of progressive, distinctive or idiosyncratic approaches to Rock Music; led by the Pistols, the UK produced any number of interesting bands, some of which have survived to the late 90's, and continue to expose listeners to both current and previous activities over time. Due to the ease with which CDs can be produced, veteran bands have been able make available all sorts of live material.
Cabaret Voltaire released their first LP in 1979; what drew me to investigate was the fact that the band's music sounded as if they'd been listening to early Hawkwind, Can, and Roxy Music in the Eno period, and had cutup and recombined these bands ideas into a new musical stew. From 1979 to 1982 they recorded seven LP/EPs for Rough Trade Records, finally signing to Virgin Records in 1983, and releasing "The Crackdown LP/EP. This LP startled and upset many of the group's fans, as the band's sound had changed from a swirling, almost SpaceRock sound to overt club/dance music.
Yet the band, boosted by a number of dance hits in the UK, continued to work on the recombination of Space and dance; they got it right in 1985, releasing "Micro-Phonies", which spent many weeks in the UK top ten. The LP's grooves, and downright nasty vocalizations, which just dripped contempt and disgust at British culture under Thatcherism proved a resounding hit. Relentless drum machine overlaid with punk/funk guitar scratching and squealing reeds kept the links with SpaceRock whilst deconstructing the dance esthetic, recombining these elements with the then new MIDI technology and some large doses of 70's Miles Davis, James Brown and works of futurist/novelist/surrealist J.G. Ballard.
"Radiation" is a collection of live recordings done for the John Peel and Mike Long shows, which used to be broadcast weekly from the BBC's London studios; these recordings actually reveal Cabaret Voltaire as a group ten years ahead of the mainstream. "Sensoria" (#1 UK single in 1984), opens with a ridiculously fat Bass sequence, and Mallender introduces the vocal lines just dripping with venom at the "dog eat dog" philosophy the Tories imposed on the British in the 1980's; Richard Kirk slides in his scratch Guitar in between the sequenced handclaps. "Digital Rasta" reflects some of the influence the influx of immigrants to British culture, and makes sly reference to the friction caused by the movement of the liberated British colonials to the former colonial ruler's turf. The tune is propelled by some exquisite BassGuitar by Mallender, and nice chording on the Juno-60 Synthesizer which became one of the band's signature sounds. "Kind" is built around the rhythm section of Mallender, guest drummer Marc Tattersal, and Kirk's Sequencer/Drum Machine; their work here is an obvious nod to Miles' 70's music, and rocks the house to the ground, as Mallender's insistent chant that "this is the last chance" is a warning of rough times ahead. "Ruthless" seems to allude to suicide, but as easily could be an urge to dance, although every one of these tracks is completely UNDANCEABLE; they superseed cliché-ridden dance sensibilities. These were broadcast on the Long show, on 10/18/84.
The next three tracks appeared a week later on John Peel's program, and appear 2 are released on the "Drinkin' Gasoline" EP, released in February 1985. "Sleep Walking" opens with the beat and vocal samples, then Steven Mallender's voice tells a tale of despair, of a society Sleepwalking as its guts are riven with the worst attributes humans possess (greed, coldness, brutality, arrogance, vanity). Kirk again has composed a sequence that, while usually having the bassdrum kick in 4/4, runs the rest of it into a very complex 8th note pattern that render the tune UNDANCEABLE. "Big Funk" shows Kirk's command of MIDI samplers, but somehow lyrically has been turned into a condemnation of British Rightist/nationalist sentiments; pour the irony all over these attitudes by inflection of the "Big Funk" sample. Mallender goes for Stanley Clarke tour-de-force moves on BassGuitar, and executes in a manner that exudes competence, and a pretty fine set of chops as well.
"The Operative" is the most "rockish" of the cuts from these sessions, and once again is propelled by intense rhythm section work, and Kirk's guitar sample marks the end of each chorus. Through the haze can still be heard the influence of Hawkwind on the group here, as the story of a security agent seen through the eyes of a prisoner being tortured. PLAY THIS VERY VERY LOUD, it's quite something else, and might even reveal from where certain hype stars like NIN steal their stuff.
Another long session is up next, and was broadcast 8/6/86; the band had gone back into the studio, and were amassing material that would appear on the CODE LP, released in March 1987. "You Like to Torment Me" is an ode to sexual obsession, with the narrator engaged in a stalking fantasy whose violent ambiance is hammered home by the Drum Machine, and the great sequenced break where the chorus would be. "Hey Hey" decries the manufacture of personality in pop culture, and unfortunately Mallender began to play BassGuitar less, and more of the instrumental responsibility fell to Kirk's shoulders. "We've got Heart" is aimed at the phenomena of conspicuous consumption that ushered in the "Yuppie" era; the message is stated plain, i.e., "Go along, get along". The cynicism in Mallender's vocal is great as he spits out all the lame excuses the former hippies give when they finally sellout! "We've got Heart" was a slogan used by the early 70's UK Anarchist group "The Angry Brigade".
"Sex Money Freaks" deals with a view of the commercialization of sex, and the desire of an outsider to get involved in this manufactured fantasy. Kirk's big beat Drum Machine is the center of the piece, along with a fine Guitar Synthesizer solo that just drifts across the top!
The disc's final two cuts are from unidentified sources; "I Want You" was an international hit record, and its release was accompanied by a serious video. This version is live and quite a bit faster than what was recorded. "Doom Zoom" could've been released last year (minus the Vocoder stuff); the tune has James Brown written all over it, and would be appropriate and welcome by the "Acid Jazz" crowd. As was stated, this stuff is simply way out front for the mid 80's, and although New Millenium's packaging is good, the sound quality excellent, the disc WAS TOO EXPENSIVE. I do understand they've recently gotten a US distributor, so the price may've come down from the $22.00 I paid for it.