Simon Reynolds – CUT PASTE “POST-PUNK ESOTERICA”

POST-PUNK IN THE REST OF EUROPE
Holland
The fertile Netherlands post-punk scene was fostered by labels like Plurex, publications like Vinyl (roughly equivalent to NME or Germany’s crucial Spex magazine), the Peel-like radio shows Spleen and RadioNome, and a strong squatland culture. Out of this emerged a bustling DIY cassette network and an extreme electronic music movement called Ultra. Probably the best, and certainly the best-known, of Holland’s post-punks are Minny Pops. Named after their Korg rhythm box, the group started out as a drummer-less trio and initially sounded something like a cross between Wire and Young Marble Giants. The group’s leader Wally van Middendorp (also founder of the Plurex label) told NME their goal was ‘really mechanical music with weird noises in it: scratching guitars, very simple vocals, and a simple bass line reinforcing the drum-machine beat.’ Also redolent of Wire was the group’s penchant for stylized stage movements. At early gigs Minny Pops confounded audiences by leaving a minute-long fissure of pure silence between each song – the band just stood there frozen, arms folded. This abrasive spirit of rigour was captured in the title of their 1979 debut, Drastic Measures, Drastic Movement (a post-punk classic, recently made available again by LTM, with copious rare bonus material). Middendorp described DM, DM as ‘background music which you can’t ignore, new muzak.’ Minny Pops then hooked up with Factory for a series of singles, starting with the great Martin Hannett produced ‘Dolphin’s Spurt/Goddess’, and the 1982 album Sparks In a Dark Room – more polished and diffident than Drastic Measures. Sparks has been reissued by LTM, who’ve also put out the singles/rarities comp Secret Stories. More Dutch post-punk units worth checking: Nasmak, whose lustrous chrome guitarsound, neurotic bass, and robotic drums start from ‘She’s Lost Control’ and the ‘funky’ parts of Heaven Up Here but go somewhere pretty unique (Bodance EP, Zick Zack, 1981; 4our clicks, Plurex, 1982; Nasmak side project + Instruments, who are enjoyably nagging and dissonant on Februari-April ’81 (Kremlin, 1982); squatland guitar collective Morzelpronk; the Pere Ubu-influenced The Young Lions; Interior with their ‘James White meets Motorhead’ style of ‘bizarre disco’; the Zappa/Talking Heads damaged The Tapes; Mekanik Kommando (check their fine Snake Is Queen album from 1982) and many others. Useful, if hard to find, compilations of the Dutch scene: Ultra (LeBeL PeRIOD, 1981) and Dokument (Vinyl Records/ Roadrunner, 1982).

Excerpt from Postpunk Esoterica by Simon Reynolds, the second part of the discography to his book Rip It Up and Start Again (Faber & Faber, 2005). Download the full discography here http://www.simonreynolds.net/index.php

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