Monday, 1 October 2018
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (1980)
Released February 1980
Recorded in Liverpool
Unashamedly influenced by Kraftwerk, Neu! and Brian Eno, this debut album from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark led the way in electronic, avant-garde post-punk music. Eschewing the industrial guitar backing of other post-punk groups like Joy Division, Public Image Ltd, Echo And The Bunnymen and Gang Of Four, they went firmly down the electro route - their sound full of synthesisers swirling all around, sonorously, over an insistent bass rhythm. A classic example is the pulsating, mysterious opener, "Bunker Soldiers" and also the bleak soundscape of "Almost".
"Mystereality" borrows its parping saxophone sound from the first two Roxy Music albums, even Andy McCluskey's vocals seem styled on Bryan Ferry's haughty-sounding delivery. There is nothing commercial about this, in any way, it really is quite a credible album. The one concession to jaunty commerciality would be the lively, tinkly keyboard riff-dominated "Electricity". This left no-one in any doubt as to the electronic nature of the band's sound. a new type of music was certainly around to take over from punk and challenge new wave/ska. The song also has a big, rumbling bass line on it, countering the trebly keyboard riffs. The dour-sounding vocals are the only similarity with the more familiar (by now) post-punk sound. "Electricity" is very much a sonic symbol of early 1980.
"The Messerschmidt Twins" is a grandiose, slow-burning song of the type that the group would specialise in over the next few years. It has a dignified, mysterious majesty to it. Considering most of this material had been recoded in 1978-79 it was quite ground-breaking for a UK group. Even the cover was artistically innovative.
"Messages" was also a single, although not particularly successful, but it is very atmospheric and melodic, again in a grandiose way. "Julia's Song" is a most addictive, bassy number, featuring some infectious percussion sounds. "Red Frame/White Light" has that cinematic, spy-movie Teutonic feel about it, all very perplexing and spooky. "Dancing" is a very "Krautrock-influenced instrumental, with a few random vocals cropping up. Very Neu! or Can. Very innovative for the time. "Pretending To See The Future" is a brooding closer, although the higher-pitched of the two vocals grate slightly.
This is an album definitely worthy of checking out. It tends to have slipped under the radar. The 2003 remastered version is excellent in its sound quality. It is autumn/winter music, though, not for a hot summer's day.