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- Tape Recorder And Synthesiser Ensemble by T.R.A.S.E
8/10 Clinton Staff review, 11 October 2013
Remember the recent 7” by TRASE? The lost music electronics wizard Andy Popplewell recorded when he was 16? Well, following on from that ace 7” we have this much awaited album length release. It's worth the admission price for the cover alone. Popplewell, sporting blue patterned jumper, turns momentarily away from his synthesizer to glance at the camera, his friend plays guitar wearing shades and looks about twelve. On the wall is a row of spanners and pliers, presumably for Popplewell to ‘tinker’ with his machines.
Initially conceived as an extension to his woodwork, metalwork and science classes, Popplewell composed all this using a self-made synth and the whole thing was funded by his paper round. The music is utterly brilliant, uninhibited as it is by any kind of self consciousness, the fizzy synths sound remarkably contemporary while obviously harking back to the golden age of experimental synth music from the likes of Human League to BBC Radiophonic Orchestra to Gary Numan.
‘Harmonium’ is a glorious piece of synth and treated guitar ambience sounding like something Bvdub or Celer might come up with. Elsewhere, ‘Trace Sketch 3’ is a gloriously heartfelt electronic composition, like a pastoral homespun Kraftwerk, it tugs at all the heartstrings. The electronic instrumentals are universally brilliant, it's only when vocals appear that there are any signs that this was made in the early '80s. ‘Talk to Me’ sounds like ‘Reproduction’ era Human League with Phil Oakey’s baritone replaced by the squeak of a schoolboy.
There are eccentric cover versions, The Glitter Band’s ‘Angel Face’ being particularly effective. Often with these ‘lost’ records the default position is to praise it due to the extraordinary circumstances behind the way in which it came into the world but regardless of that, there is some amazing stuff here. A must-buy not just for anyone like me whose formative years involved listening to synth pop and playing around with tape recorders, but for anyone with an interest in primitive electronic music.
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