Close To The Noise Floor is a 4 CD compilation containing a book with a history and short band biographies by Dave Henderson. The subtitle is Formative UK Electronics 1975 - 1984, excursions in proto-synth pop, DIY techno and ambient exploration.
The older one gets, the more one returns to the music of one's youth. There is nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia, and when you are young you feel the music simply much more intensely. I started to discover and explore music in the early 1980s. It was a time when synthesizer music became popular. Kraftwerk had been around for more than a decade but suddenly they found themselves high in the English charts with The Model, a song that was even meant to be the B side of the single. Followed by bands like Tubeway Army, The Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark amongst others. But these were only the tip of the iceberg. Soon I discovered that below the radio appealing hit groups, there was a whole underground movement that was far more interesting. This movement found its origins in the punk movement-not so much musically but more the mind set of DIY: Do It Yourself. This was the idea that one did not need to be able to have a musical education and extensive practice to be creative. In addition to that in the late 1970s Japanese musical instrument makers like Roland and Korg brought relatively cheap gear on the market, so electronic music was no longer the private domain for a limited group of people.
The Elephant Table Album double LP and the series of cassette compilations called Rising From The Red Sand on Third Mind records are now rare cult compilations, but at the time they were meant to bring these underground bands to the attention of a wider audience. Many of the bands and artists that were on these compilations are also represented on Close To The Noise Floor. There are some familiar names like The Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Blancmange, bands that would eventually end up high in the charts but are represented here with their earlier, much more obscure work. Some bands like Chris And Cosey, The Legendary Pink Dots and Attrition are active to this day but most bands are gone. Alan Burnham released only one 7 “ single (the A side is on this compilation) and was never heard of again. The only name that I miss on this compilation is Cabaret Voltaire, the English equivalent of Kraftwerk. Together with Throbbing Gristle and The Human League they were the pioneers that really put the fundament below the scene. But maybe they did not give permission, I cannot think of another reason why they are omitted.
Back in 1982 the synthesizer was considered an instrument one could do anything with. Listening to this compilation in 2016 ironically it becomes clear that this music is very much defined by the limitation of the technology of that time. But creativity feeds upon restriction, through the limitation distinguishes the master.
**** Erik Gibbels (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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