|808 State: Newbuild
50 Albums That Killed Rock 'n' Roll
15. 808 STATE NEWBUILD
The group was formed in a Manchester record shop in 1988 by club kid Graham Massey; indie label owner Martin Price, who released the raw, acid sounds of Newbuild on his Creed label; and Gerald Simpson, who now records as A Guy Called Gerald.
Essential Tracks: (5) "Narcossa" (6) "E Talk"
What Detroit techno sounds like after Manchester roughs it up.
Talk abounds of the early 808 State, when A Guy Called Gerald was in the group, Bjork was still singing with the Sugarcubes, and everyone was broke. Now it's time to glance back on what those days actually sounded like with the re-release of 808 State's first-ever transmission to this blighted planet. And boy, is it ever scary. Tracks like "Dr. Lowfruit (4 A.M. Mix)" strip away the soul of Detroit techno and replace it with a cold and rhythmic paranoia. Beats slap in and out of time, and acid synth lines slide in and out of the mix like poisonous snakes. Nary an attempt is made to insert a ray of natural light into this artificial dystopia, which is what lends these recordings their power. Much like the mutant machines of Survival Research Laboratories, these recordings demon-strate how technology can express the agony of life. Dance, but only if you dare. (Rephlex; dist. by Caroline)
|CMJ New Music Monthly
808 State - Newbuild
One such group was 808 STATE. Rephlex, the label co-run by Aphex Twin, has reissued that group's pioneering album Newbuild, originally released in 1988, when the group included Gerald Simpson, a.k.a. A Guy Called Gerald. Ten years ago, this record was certainly ahead of its time, forecasting the direction that this music was going to take. And it still sounds vital today.
[Reviewer: JAMES LIEN]
Newbuild was originally issued in 1988 on the band's own Creed label and now Aphex Twin's Rephlex label has saved this masterpiece from becoming just a trace memory in the cerebella of the 12 people who bought it back when acid house wasn't luv'd up, blissed up and neutered.
Of course, we all know that 808 State found success with that muzak crud, "Pacific State," and for collaborating with such underground heavyweights as UB40. But - come back! - 808 State were once avatars for the MDMA set. The band's key ingredient was Gerald Simpson (later known as A Guy Called Gerald, and creator of the truly awe- inspiring Voodoo Ray and Black Science Technology records).
Newbuild is a testament to the band's stop- at- nothing enthusiasm for their music, and is also the guts and determination of fiercely independent music. The tape they recorded the album on was removed from a dumpster 'round the back of the Manchester studios of the BBC; it'd been thrown away because it had been cut and spliced so often that it no longer met the quality thresholds of BBC engineers. But these three Mancunian scallywags saw an essential resource and seized it.
And it's with this spirit that 808 State imbued their debut record. The instruments were crappy and severely dated (remember, this was 1988, and the vogue for the Roland TB303 was five years in the future). Simpson, Massey, and Price recognized that the acidic spikes and snarls of the 303 and the synthetic percussion of the Roland 808 were exact replicas of the sounds they heard in their mindspaces. The trio then recorded an album that, after more than ten years of technological progression, still kicks away every other attempt at the definitive acid house album. And I mean "album," not just a collection of individual tracks sequenced together.
Newbuild takes you on an excursion through the jacked up sounds of dendrites firing, quasars spinning, and the piezoelectric sounds of an electron mist. From the opener "Sync/Swim" through the body- tingling bass pulses of "Flow Coma" and the percussive frenzy of "Headhunters" to the closing tribal techno funk of "Compulsion," 808 State challenge your preconception of how music should be and prove just how damn funky three tearaways with a beat-up drum machine can be.
The sounds they generated in those days were only recognizable to a handful of producers, one of which was DJ Pierre, the creator of the first acid track ("Acid Trax"). This machine music, while funky and danceable, was and remains abstract, avant- garde, and without referent in the real world. One can listen to a tuba and recognize its low parp, or the sounds of a clarinet's swoonsome calling. But the sound of the TB303 can only be described in metaphors and similes. 808 State relished this abstract quality and structured an album on that foundation.
It's tempting to conclude that by using such unreal, manufactured sounds, 808 State distilled inhumanity in sound; they did no such thing. There's all the passion contained in Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in Newbuild. It's just that the trio's passion was not directed at societal ills. They were hellbent on redefining notions of what constituted acceptable sound. And unlike Marinetti and his Italian Futurist sidekicks, 808 State, DJ Pierre, Stakker Humanoid, and a small cadre of similarly- minded visionaries, found an appreciative and open- minded audience. Stakker Humanoid's debut single, "Humanoid" broke through to the upper reaches of the British pop charts by selling over 100,000 copies. MDMA was the tool by which pent-up Britons released their minds (and their unfunky arses surely followed). The pulsations generated by the TB303 enhanced tactile sensations previously numbed by unregulated tea drinking. This music wasn't and isn't for listening - it's for experiencing.
Of course, popularity diluted the quality of acid house records (reaching a nadir with D-Mob's rabble- rousing "We Call It Acieeed!"). But, for a brief while, the music was pure as the Sandoz lab had intended. And Newbuild was, as your Indie 101 professor will explain in a later class, named after a housing project in Bolton, Lancashire. The project has since either been torn down or earmarked for a refit. But 808 State's Newbuild will forever stand; for its foundations are too strong and its architects entirely negligent about planning for obsolescence. Newbuild wasn't constructed for its time, or any other time. It's an awe- inspiring shadow of a dimension that no one can perceive. Don't try to explain it; just experience it!
[Reviewer: Paul Cooper]
Manchester seems to be the happening place for real freaky acieeed at the moment. Here's a whole LP of twittering and twiddling on the electro knobs to add to the list of strange sounds emanating from the current house capital of the UK. The only lyrics are 'push it' and a mutated version of the Bang The Party lyric 'releeeeease your body' on a brilliant track called Compulsion. And, gosh, the whole LP is compulsive stuff, you don't exactly listen to it, more like feeel the frequencies... and respond.
[Reviewer: Christopher Mellor]