Friday, December 4, 2009

Martin Human: Upside Down and Backwards 7"

Unknown minimal synth records abound, even in this digital age in which it seems everything has been shared. Here is a virtually unknown gem that I have only seen twice: A 7" from a San Francisco solo synth artist with the perfectly new wave name Martin Human. I don't know if he ever released anything else, or was ever in any other groups - it would be nice to know! This 7" is a self-released record on his Human Release label. The music is just programmed drums and very simple, minimal electronics and vocals - a very bare-bones approach to synthpop. The A side is good, but the B side, Rocks and Caves, is even better, with a quick pace, echoing vocal cries that sound like they were indeed recorded among the rocks and caves, and synthetic percussion overload at times. This one is sure to be on at least a couple wantlists.

Here is a mini email interview I did with Joseph from Martin Human:

I have a ton of other stuff that I recorded and mixed on my 1/2" 8 track in my bedroom that no one except friends have heard. It was kind of all over the map stylistically but mostly soundtrack kind of material. I have never really stopped making music to this day. Martin had quite a bit of interest from Elektra/Asylum at the time but they wouldn't move forward with me until I had a band together that could tour to support a release which I never got around to. The motivation and interest for me was to be in the studio constantly making new stuff as opposed to playing the same songs over and over live.

Q: Did you play live, and if so, were there any similar bands that you played with in the area?
A: Martin never played live but I did with a number of other bay area bands.

Q: What was the SF synthpop scene like at the time - was there a lot of support for the music?
A: I used to get a lot of radio play from "The Quake" KQAK (later became Live 105) which supported a lot of local music at the time, as well as most of the local college stations. I sort of did my thing in a vacuum back then and didn't really know many other synth artists at the time. I was so young I couldn't even get into most of the clubs. KROQ in SoCal also had the single in rotation for a few weeks in addition to lots of college stations all over the country (I have a list somewhere).

Q: What equipment did you use?
A: All the synth sounds on the single were made with a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and Prophet 600. The drum box was an EMU Drumulator. It was recorded and mixed at Russian Hill Recording, SF in studio B on a Neotek console and an MCI 2" 24 track.

Q: And how many copies did you press?
A: 1000 were pressed. I sold about 200 and gave away about that many.

Martin Human: Upside Down and Backwards 7"
1984, Human Release
A: Upside Down and Backwards
B: Rocks and Caves

Download this record here!

Barbi and the Kens: Mini LP

This is perhaps the first and only 7" to be called a "mini LP". This is the only release by Barbi and the Kens (aside from another 7" with only two of the four songs found here). It was
released on Bobby Orlando's "O" Records. The record starts with an irreverent new wave number, Pay My Bills, followed by the bratty, punky Uptown Downtown Cruising. More similar quirky new wave starts off side two with Just a Gigolo. These three songs sound like a mix of early B-52s and Blondie - weird, silly, fun, and highly infectious, with male and female vocals. The final song, Steppin Stone (yes, a cover of the song made famous by The Monkees), is pure danceable minimalist electronic bliss - totally repetitive (think DAF or Robert Gorl, but less industrial and more electro), with thumping synthesized drums and basslines, and completely monotone female vocals. To me, it is the standout track (but even without that song, this 7" is quite solid!).

Barbi & the Kens: Mini-LP
1980, "O" Records
A1 Pay My Bills
A2 Uptown Downtown Cruising
B1 Just A Gigolo
B2 I´m Not Your Stepping Stone

Club De Rome: Selftitled mLP

I can't believe this one has not been shared yet. This is the only album (a mini-LP, really) from French synthpop/coldwave/industrial band Club De Rome. I think they also had a 7", but I've neither seen nor heard it. The more I listen to this record, the more I love it. From the melodic, minimalist A L'Est & A L'Ouest Du Crépuscule to the synthpop smash Painting On Your Skin to the thumping dark thumping bass of Brisure De Symétrie, this album is just one excellent song after another. As far as I know, the two members, Renato Bortolotti (voice,guitar,programming) and Maurice Moschini (drums, programming, sampling) were never in any other groups besides Club De Rome. The mini-LP was released on the venerable Lively Art label, home of Asylum Party, Data Bank A, And Also the Trees, Little Nemo, Museum of Devotion, and (my favorite), Collection d'Arnell Andrea. For a great sampler of what this label has to offer (including an exclusive track by Club de Rome), check out the "13" compilation on the Crispy Nuggets blog here. This Club De Rome mLP was also released on CD with a few bonus tracks (I don't have this, unfortunately). I think it is truly deserving of a reissue one of these days. Perhaps with some unreleased bonus tracks if they exist! If any band members see this... Do you have any other recorded material?

Club De Rome: Selftitled mLP
1989, Lively Art
A1 Viva La Vita
A2 Sex, Fun, CDR
A3 A L'Est & A L'Ouest Du Crépuscule
B1 Painting On Your Skin
B2 TV Deus Rodeo
B3 Brisure De Symétrie
B4 Gringhita

Download the album here!