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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Musik - Sanctuary

Name: New Musik
Album: Sanctuary
Year: 1981
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Phil Collins, Buggles, Thomas Dolby, Naked Eyes, A Flock Of Seagulls, Brian Eno, The Planets
"One-Word" Review: Smooth-Sterile-Synth-Pop
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Epic, CBS inc, GTO Records
 Sanctuary - Cover & Lyrics
Sanctuary - Back & Record
Sanctuary (1981)
  1. They All Run After the Carving Knife4:54
  2. Areas 4:08
  3. Churches 4:53
  4. Sanctuary 4:12
  5. Science 3:20
  6. Division 4:20 /
  7. Luxury 3:49
  8. Straight Lines 5:11
  9. This World of Water 3:36
  10. Dead Fish (Don't Swim Home) 5:23
  11. While You Wait 5:04
  12. Back To Room One 4:14
Album Rating (1-10): 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
Tony Mansfield - Producer, Vox, Guitar, Keys (Nick Straker Band, Yukihiro Takahashi, Captain Sensible, Naked Eyes, Burning Bridges)
Tony Hibbert - Bass (Nick Straker Band, )
Phil Towner - Drums, Percussion (NIck Straker Band, Buggles, Naked Eyes, Burning Bridges)
Clive Gates - keyboards (Wet)
Paula Scher - Cover Design
Peter Hammond - Engineer

Unknownness: I’ve never heard of this band, and despite it being a good year, 1981, the cover does not tell much about what is in store. It has a bleak look to it, with a “Little Boxes” style housing development. The back has a dark tint to it, but displays the band, who looks like they could be anything from power pop, to new wave, to pub rock (not that there are big jumps in those classifications). Even the band’s name could mean anything. I’ll have to see what we have here.

Album Review: So New Musik put out 3 albums in the UK, and this record, Sanctuary, is a US released compilation of tracks from their two albums From A to B and Anywhere. “Living by Numbers,” their most “successful” track (a top 20 single, yet not included on this record) was used in a Casio digital calculator commercial back in 1980. Their third album, Warp, was released after this compilation, and was recorded after half of the band left in 1982. It was credited as one of the first albums to be recorded only with digital samplers and emulators. The band leader, Mansfield, went on to collect quite the resume of albums produced. I really like this album, through some of its bleakness, these long-running songs contain some simple catchy parts, and they carry on without much downtime, but with confidence. Although, this album is set up in an incredibly awkward way, where putting the atmospheric songs in the line up as batters two and three, and leaving their star song off the record, and the other catchier songs at eight and nine. The casual listener may have given up by the third song, and never reached the gems in the later part of the album

“They All Run After the Carving Knife” combines jangle guitar strums, with cold, synthesizers and a simple two-hit drum beat. The vocals are sung with a precise execution, where every syllable is important. The chorus is a catchy repletion of “See How They Run” over the crystalline synth. This is the lighter side of dark wave, as it treads the fine line between the two new wave genres with as much precision as the vocal delivery. The song does go on a bit much, but it never loses its hook. The song ends in an instrumental section that could still carry the chorus with it if they so chose, but they showcase some of the nuanced tones and effects that they are capable of, as the song fades out.
“Areas” starts with more bleak, airy/watery synth sound choices with a drum kit that at times sounds like crickets. After a minute goes by, the Phil Collins sounding vocals with a Gary Numan cadence begin over the tundra-esq landscape. The song is sullen and quiet. The song reminds me of what Thomas Dolby was doing with his sonic dreamscapes that created feeling more than pop. This is definitely a practice in musical texture rather than catchy hooks and verse-bridge-chorus-repeat rock song. It too, ends with a fade
“Churches” fades up with some warbley electronic sounds, mixed with a marching pace synth-like drum beat. The verse has a sparse-yet-driving tempo that crashes right into the chorus, which simply states, with a mechanically enhanced vocal, “churches” over and over following the musical breakdown in the chorus. The haunting synth “bells” creates the aesthetic feel of being in an empty church. The randomness of the verse-chorus structure feels like either section could go on for as long or as short as the band chooses, and the result would not make the song any different. The song keeps rebooting as you think it is about to wind down, again, a practice in atmospheric resonance and not a precise song out of a mold.
“Sanctuary” continues with the religious tones for the first few seconds, and then the song thrusts itself into a bouncy piano based new wave pop song. The melody on the verse reminds me of the song “All I Want for Xmas Is You” as well as the Airwaves’ song “Nobody Is.” The secondary chorus melody is a very nice reprise on the previously set up melodies. There are a bunch of great hooks all tied together in this song.
“Science” starts off like a general story song. But the chorus comes on quickly, and has a catchy, yet somewhat unconventional melody, reminding me of Brian Eno a little.
“Division” starts off with an echoing synth keyboard that evolves into an upbeat, shiny, and warbley pop number. The band has a tremendous way of crafting their songs by grouping a bunch of related sounded segments together in any order or length and still coming out with a balanced and cohesive song. And this song is no different in the way they blend parts to the song and over lay them, shorten or lengthen them, and always know when to bring it back to the peaceful, uplifting melody. The song even fades out, and then comes back in for a short 30 second segment to end the first side.

“Luxury” starts out as an airy, sparse atmospheric song, but it quickly finds its computer assisted melody, sounding a whole lot like the band The Planets. There is a bit of a broken down carnival feel in the verse, which is flipped over for the chorus. There is a computerized vocal that repeats “This Is Your Life” over a couple times, enhancing the sterile atmosphere the song creates. They mess around with playing some of the vocal parts backwards further enhancing the alien planet effect they’ve created.
“Straight Lines” fades up with the most straightforward, bouncy, new wave song they have on the record, which is still a far cry from bass-drum-guitar driven pop of their counterparts. The entire song is built on catchy interchangeable parts, that builds to the chorus, and like Lucy’s football, is  plucked right out from under our feet when the Charlie brown chorus is supposed to get there, But after the second run through, we connect with the chorus, and its simple and repetitive delivery is quite satisfying. The single note bass line for the majority of the song moves the song along with the drums as a time keeping percussion. You can’t help but tap your foot to this song. So many parts of the song are visited at the same time as the song ends, and the combination/overlapping of the sections is fantastic.  You don’t even realize 5 minutes has gone by, by the time the song fades out.
“This World of Water” starts with some jangley guitars and synth drumming. The song sprints right into the fast tempo and creative rollercoaster melody, breaking from verse to chorus at random whim. The chorus itself is a wackily computer enhanced vocal when he sings the three parts “Swim for the other side / swimming against the tide / drown but you’re still survive” that is unnecessary, but equally essential to the song. This song could go on and on forever with this chorus repeating with slight differences in tone, and it would still be amazing.
“Deadfish (Don't Swim Home)” continues the water theme on this compilation, and starts off with some celestial spacey tones, sounding like it is played in reverse. For the first minute and a half before the drums kick in. The precisely executed vocal punctuate the verse, and the chorus is sung with a very British melody. But there is definitely a specific style of composition that is all New Musik, and is immediately identifiable, if only they became more popular. The chorus in this song is drawn out a little long, and it is a bit too simplistic to carry with it the same attention as “World of Water.”
“While You Wait” has tinkling bells, echoing racquetball sounds and a lonesome space feel to the start. As the vocals start, a slipshod array of overlaid vocals singing different things begins, coming off as more of a remix than an original track. All of the other New Musik elements are here, but this feels like an un-fleshed out idea, rather than a conscious directional song. I’m not sure why this song was included on this record, unless they wanted to illustrate the diversity of the band. Otherwise, I’m to the point where Epic was trying to make the album as unappealing as possible, while still including some of their best material. The song itself gets caught in a loop, and just fades out when the band hits the 4:50 mark.
“Back To Room One” combines the airy synth jingly sound with a driving kick drum. This song has an interesting melody when it comes to the chorus, where it sounds backwards and unfinished, all while employing washing/computer effects, yet overall, a very appealing end product. Like many of their songs, it goes on for a little too long, and gets caught up in its own repetitive ness, and even though strategies are employed to change up the general construction and keep the listener interested, 4-5 minutes is a little too long for these last three songs.

Stand Out Track: This World of Water
Straight Lines

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