Still, it had the signature of an interesting record:
Cool band name (Cerebral Hemorrhage)
Promising title (Back in 1984)
Great label name (Illusion Records)
Intriguing song titles (Let's Modulate, Night Music)
And a strange icon of a stoic face with the caption "Big Brother is watching YOU"
How could anyone resist that? I certainly couldn't - and when I put the needle on the record and heard 20 seconds of tinny drum machine plink-plonks before falling into a steady stream of pulsating synths, I was immensely satisfied. Through a bit of research I pieced together a few potentially-incorrect factoids about the record and band. It was ostensibly a one-man project by a guy named Dennis Hurley. This record was the third put out under the Cerebral Hemorrhage moniker. Two preceeding albums - an EP from 1981 and a double-LP from 1983 - appear to be almost as scarce than this one. (there might be a fourth record that came out around the same time as Back in 1984 too, but I'm not sure) However, whereas those records apparently incorporated lots of guitar and sound more like Hawkwind-style prog, there is nary a guitar to be found on this record, which appears to be re-recorded all-synth versions of songs from the earlier records.
The two sides of the record are different animals - the second side is largely ambient and instrumental, and much more experimental. It comes across as highly influenced by Cluster and other 70s-era Krautrock bands. They're good songs, and they have interesting titles, but are not nearly as sonically wonderful as the A-side.
The two tracks on the first side of the record pack a great one-two punch of electronics and lyrics of Cold War fear. After a minute and a half of synths and drums, the vocals suddenly kick in, singing about 1984's (the year, not the book) alternate history, in which after Reagan's re-election the US descended into nuclear war with the Soviets. The lyrics repeat "where were you?" at the moment world was annihilated. It's a great track that ends with a gurgle of synths before being interrupted by a nuclear explosion, and suddenly the second track begins. Where the first track asked "where were you?" at the world's end, the second track is a repetitive litany of memories from before the destruction: "there were buildings / there were faces / there were cities / there were towers / there was sunlight"... you get the gist. Both tracks are absolutely great for synth nerds, coming across like a crossbreed of League of Nations-ish minimal synth and the bedroom lonerisms of John Bender or Kevin Lazar.
If anyone has Cerebral Hemorrhage's previous two records I would love to hear them. Even if they're more prog-rock, I'm interested in seeing the progression toward this undiscovered minimal synth gem. I'd be surprised if this one doesn't end up on quite a few wantlists in the coming years. If anything, this one proves that there are still some diamonds out there - maybe they're just hidden in plain white sleeves with minimal information.
Cerebral Hemorrhage: Back in 1984 12"
1984, Illusion Records
A1 Back In 1984
A2 I Remember
B1 Let's Modulate
B2 The Chilly Dance
B3 Night Music
Click here to listen!