quality baked goods part three: ron berry and odd nosdam on sanity muffin

December 8, 2013 at 9:45 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Ron Berry – Where Dark Forces Meet (C50 tape, Sanity Muffin, S/M #41, edition of 100)
Ron Berry – A Voice In The Wilderness (C48 tape, Sanity Muffin, #42, edition of 100)

Odd Nosdam – Le Ambient Mix (C60 tape, Sanity Muffin, Numero 46)

ron berryodd nosdam

In writing about the Sanity Muffin catalogue I have often mentioned the electronic music of the late 70s/early 80s, not to make comparisons as such but to clarify the vibe.  Krautrock, sure, the industro-clattertronix of Cabaret Voltaire, of course, but also less obvious signifiers like the film scores of John Carpenter, his straight-to-video imitators and so on.  It is clearly an era that Billy (Sprague – Sanity Muffin head honcho) feels an affinity with and here he is showing his respect by returning to the source.

Ron Berry is a veteran UK composer/performer of electronic music, often on instruments of his own construction.  Where Dark Forces Meet (1982) and A Voice in the Wilderness (1983) are the first two albums in his sizeable discography and these reissues return them to their original cassette format.  Everything an aficionado of the genre could wish for is here: cosmic synth washes?  Check.  Pitter-patter motorik rhythm?  Ditto.  Pitch bent keyboard virtuosity?  Natch.  But this isn’t ‘library music’ or a mere history lesson – both albums bubble and crackle with invention and energy.

Some great instrumental synth pop, pulsating with properly hummable riffs, is interspersed with some timelessly odd experimental tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 3” CD-r released by Sheepscar Light Industrial (well, I say ‘timeless’ but that BBC sound effects LP thunderclap provokes a nostalgic chuckle whenever I hear it…).  The feel is more complicated than the relatively straightforward utopianism of the Pauline Anne Strom tape.  The look-to-the-stars futurism, all gleaming spaceships and tight fitting uniforms, is tempered with a grounded, realist introspection (maybe a result of its hand-crafted origin during a particularly icy stage of the Cold War?  I’m guessing).  This mixture of accessibility and depth means they are the sort of albums that feel like old friends within a handful of listens.

Ron seems like a cool guy.  He is still active and has run a website dedicated to his activities for over a decade.  His autobiographical account of his work is entertaining (love the tasselled leather suit) and shows a disdain for the music biz that will have readers of this blog nodding in approval.  The section on the necessity of building his own kit (due to being skint) contains enough detail to satisfy even the most perverted synth fetishist.  His essay summarising The Loudness War is excellent too.

Also of interest:  Odd Nosdam, that is David Madson – co-founder of Anticon, is a far ‘bigger’ name than would usually be covered by RFM but I’m happy to mention this mix from 2006 because a) Sanity Muffin has presented it to us as a beautifully packaged tape and b) because it is lovely.  Often endeavours like this can be tiresome exercises in hipster cock-waggling (‘hey kids, check out the low swinging girth of my record collection…’ – an urge satirised hilariously here.) but not a bit of it.  Yes, the selection is relatively obscure (and, should it matter to you integrity fans, sourced solely from vinyl) but every track adds to the ebb and flow.  Featuring RFM faves such as the aforementioned Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk and, most surprisingly, Nurse With Wound it feels more like the ambient collage LPs of the late 80s/early 90s than it does more obviously comparable recent efforts like, say, the Late Night Tales series.  It has the overall vibe of a half-remembered dream or the slow, glowing wind-down at the end of a day spent consumed by a satisfying physical task.  It can be heard (but not downloaded) via Bandcamp but really you should buy the object for the genuine mixtape experience.

All three tapes can be bought via the Sanity Muffin Big Cartel site.

1 Comment »

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  1. Great Stuff guys! ;>

    ./ … ORILA

    * orila.net twitter.com/orilarecords *


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