“Do it yourself” was the credo of the punk movement. One did not have to be highly educated or spend 6 years rehearsing to be creative. Even though punk itself lasted only for a short time, it paved the way for a lot of bands, artists and music styles now generally referred to as post-punk. It allowed people to make music and art starting from zero, and the most talented learned while being creative. In the United Kingdom and on the European mainland, there were a number of underground bands making electronic music inspired by industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, some of the German Krautrock bands like (early) Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and Harmonia and even the weirdness of The Residents but also fueled by the first generation of affordable Japanese (Korg and Roland) synthesizers.
Long before the internet and CD-recordables, the cassette was the medium of the underground movement. Cassettes were reasonable, cheap to produce, and could be produced in relatively small editions, and although the standard format was 60 or 90 minutes, they could also be shortened. The artwork would be made manually, and the cassettes would be traded, sold at gigs or in local record stores or even distributed via a network of small cassette companies.
During the first 4 years of their existence The Legendary Pink Dots released over 10 hours of music on cassette, from abstract industrial sounding sound collages, ambient to melodic and melancholic songs. Using a simple 4 track recorder the sound quality is not as good as a regular studio recording and especially in the first years which sound primitive. Yet there is a kind of magical, sincere roughness in them. It's a way of working they kept until this very day, and in recent years there is even an outburst of creativity and new releases, thanks to Bandcamp. On Bandcamp these releases can be easily made available in a digital format, and cheaply priced. For the fans that prefer a physical copy there is a CDR with a handmade cover that can be ordered direct from the band.
5 Days and 5 Days Instrumentals are two companion CD-recordables / digital albums so-called because they were recorded in 5 days. 5 Days spent sleeping, eating and for the rest recording music. Although they sound like Legendary Pink Dots albums, they definitely have a different nature than their regular albums. There are track titles but the tracks do not have a traditional song structure with a refrain, bridge and so on. Most have rhythmic and basic melodic structures. If you take each track individually then they are not really outstanding. The magic is in the complete recording. They are definitely not jams. The band started from basic ideas , but there is a big degree of improvisation. The role of guitarist Erik Drost is limited on these releases as they are dominated by the electronic sounds from founder members Edward Ka-spel and Phil Knight.
Of course one can ask why they release this material. They could have stripped it and maybe made a few proper songs out of it for the next album. Commercially it is probably not wise to release that much material in a short time anyway but I like to turn the question around: why not? It is definitely created with a different approach leading to a different result. With the current technology it becomes easy to lose oneself in the details. To try to capture the perfect sound and the perfect solo. To do it over and over again. But that is not how the Legendary Pink Dots work. Going back to basic, intuition, freedom to improvise and above all enjoying the process of creating music are the key factors here. One can tell from the result that they really enjoyed these sessions.
Music is like a flow, like a river. When you try to catch it, it slips through your hands. But you can follow it, float and let it take you to different places. It's like looking at a beautiful woman without her make-up on. After a while you realize that true beauty comes from within and doesn't need make-up at all.
*****- Erik Gibbels (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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