New Musik

Some years ago, Sony Japan had a web site where they were collecting requests for which obscure albums they’d like to see on CD. I requested Warp by New Musik. At the end of last year, Sony Japan finally released Warp, so I bought a copy (for the third time—I also own cassette and vinyl releases).

I’ve been a fan of New Musik since their few chart hits in the early to mid 80s. They only released three albums; “From A To B“ was the first, and was followed by “Anywhere“. Unfortunately, their record company went bust just after “Anywhere” was released, so the album was tough to find. I still remember my joy and amazement when I saw a copy in the £2.99 bin of a tiny record shop in Beaconsfield… New Musik’s contract was part of the deceased record company’s assets bought out by Sony. The huge Sony Epic label wasn’t really very interested in a quirky pop-electronica band with “art house” lyrics, and after “Warp“ the band broke up.

The band’s songwriter and lead singer, Tony Mansfield, moved into production work. He worked on A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, albums by Naked Eyes, Camouflage and Captain Sensible, and other more obscure projects. Like Trevor Horn, he has a very recognizable style, which often leaks into the albums he produces. There are a few Tony Mansfield fan pages on the web, and a mailing list where fans swap information about his projects. (The latest being production work for a Latvian band called Brainstorm.)

Like DEVO, New Musik took serious themes and wrapped them in quirky, happy-sounding pop music; a kind of sugar coating for the bitterness. Whereas DEVO used humor, New Musik were more somber, yet without venturing into Cure or Morrissey territory.

Musically, New Musik sounded like nothing else. Burbling synth sequences were completely discordant, yet somehow they sounded right. Songs didn’t so much end as fall apart, individual multi-track pieces stopping at different times, cutting straight into the next track, or dissolving into strange instrumental noises or pieces of other songs.

For me, “Warp” was New Musik’s finest work. The album has a cohesive feel—it’s not a concept album, but the tracks sound as if they belong together. The sound has a simplicity approaching that of Kraftwerk, mostly using only four tracks. There’s no filler material either, nothing I skip when I listen. And finally, the ending is unforgettable…

I ordered the CD from Japan. It’s now available from Amazon, albeit at a hefty markup. (Why is it that Japanese import CDs double in price when they’re sold by US companies?)