Feb 17, 2016

RhoDeo 1607 Aetix


Today's artists were an industrial music group from London, one of the most important and influential early industrial music acts. Their approach was marked by the use of "found" material, re-constructed to better serve their purpose, of making "more" with "less"......N'Joy

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More expressly political than their German counterparts Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, Test Department followed the same tack: A creative use of the ethos in which diverse objects (including large amounts of scrap metal and power tools) can be used as instruments. The group formed in the London suburb of New Cross in 1981. The core members of the group were Graham Cunnington, Paul Jamrozy, Jonathan Toby Burdon, Paul Hines and Angus Farquhar. Other members who played with the group at various times included Alistair Adams, Neil Starr, John Eacott, Andy Cowton, Tony Cudlip, David Coulter, Gus Ferguson and Martin King. Comedian Vic Reeves played bass in an early incarnation of the band. The band signed to Some Bizzare Records, a label connected acts like Depeche Mode Soft Cell, PTV, Foetus, Swans. The slides and film for Test Dept multi-media events were made by visual director Brett Turnbull.

Their discography spans a wide variety of influences and styles, including a collaboration with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir in support of the miners' strike of 1984. They were particularly notable for complex and powerful percussion, as well as high-energy live performances. Like the German band Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, another Some Bizzare Label signing with whom they are often compared, Test Dept used unconventional instruments such as scrap metal and industrial machinery as sound sources; however, Test Dept's use of these objects was far more rhythmic than was Neubauten's, and was often accompanied by film and slide shows. The group were noted for large-scale events in unusual site-specific locations, such as Waterloo station, Cannon Street station, Stirling Castle and the disused St Rollox Railway Works in Glasgow.

The band's album The Unacceptable Face of Freedom was praised by a music reviewer for The New York Times, claiming the album was notable for a "sophisticated use of sound-collage techniques and the helter-skelter momentum of its cyclical rhythms
In later years the band's music became less industrial and took on many of the properties of techno. The band's political stance was energised by the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

The band split up in 1997, but its former members have continued to work in the fields of art and culture. Angus Farquhar re-established the ancient Gaelic Beltane Fire Festival, held yearly on the night before/morning of the first of May on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. Farquhar also formed NVA, an innovative theatre company specialising in large-scale site-specific events. Cunnington, who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, produced a one-man show in 1996 called Pain, recounting his experiences as a sufferer from this condition. Jamrozy works as an artist under the name of Satellitic. Gus Ferguson teaches music to orphans in Kathmandu, and young buddhist monks in Northern India..

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Originally released as a cassette in 1983, TD's second release after their original cassette (History - Strength Of Metal In Motion) and including some of the tracks from that release. It was a collection of live material and a few tentative studio dabblings. Capturing the raw energy of the groups early performances it features recordings of some of the groups first underground events. The legendary Arch 69 show under Waterloo station on a saturday afternoon was followed up by the nearby Titan Arch show a few months later. This time the Metropolitan Police raided the venue and arrested the entire audience and the group for organising an illegal event. TD's reputation for the risky and unpredictable was forged and they continued to utilise industrial sites and found locations whenever and wherever possible.

Their use of primitive drumming and monotonous waves of metallic noise meant that the group was unappreciated when the songs that comprise this compilation were originally recorded (1982-1983). The music is rabidly primal and earthy, which is quite an accomplishment since that's not what one usually associates with today's industrial rock. Since all of the songs are similar in approach and sound, it's impossible to pick out particular highlights; it sounds as if it's one long song broken up by flashes of silence. Still, fans of today's industrial sounds should really check out where it all originated.

Test Dept. - Ecstacy Under Duress (flac  398mb)

01 Hunger 3:59
02 Compulsion 5:12
03 In Uniform 6:15
04 Slow Hunger 4:01
05 Spring Into Action 2:31
06 Gdansk 7:50
07 Shockwork 2:57
08 Efficiency 12:13
09 On Pain 4:44
10 Beating Retreat 9:07
11 Untitled 1:28

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Beating a Retreat was TD's debut LP after signing to the Some Bizzare stable, originally released as a double vinyl box set through Phonogram. The record company could not handle the politics of the group and it proved to be their last release for a major label. It was also the name of TD's first illegal performance at Arch 69 which although sparsely attended on a Saturday lunchtime was to send shockwaves through the underground scene, TD had most definately arrived.

This Test Dept thing knows the power of doubt and the paralysis born of fear, gestures in awe of it, works in wonder of it, can't get to grips with it but, crucially won't succumb to it. Unique in todays pop depression, it confronts the cynicism adopted against the innefectiveness of our individual wills. That TD exist at all, after Thatcher's Falklands death-blow to our belief that public desire dictates anything, is a miracle indeed. The British collective's first album shows them with a better range of industrial percussion and more of a sense of rhythm than their only true contemporary, Einsturzende Neubaten.

Test Dept. - Beating a Retreat (flac  193mb)

01 Fall From Light 4:33
02 Kick To Kill 6:13
03 Sweet Sedation 4:12
04 Spring Into Action 4:15
05 Plastic 4:55
06 Inheritance 3:42
07 Cold Witness 7:11

 (ogg   mb)

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These recordings were made at the Berlin  'Atonal' Festival and the Kampnagel, Hamburg in 1985, and are a powerful document of the flowering of TD into a potent force. The 'Atonal' Festival was a showcase for the most radical and uncompromising acts in Europe & was recorded at the old SS HQ the Tiergarten in the centre of old West Berlin.

Test Dept. - Atonal and Hamburg “Live” (flac 294mb)

01 The Fall From Light 4:09
02 Total State Machine 8:25
03 Shockwork 4:00
04 Gdansk 5:57
05 Kick To Kill 6:01
06 Fist 3:53
07 51st State Of America 7:33

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Though they've jettisoned much of the pounding steel percussion of their early material in favor of martial drums, a few synthesizers and some tape music, The Unacceptable Face of Freedom remains more focused on social critique of the British government and unfair union practice in keeping with their previous album. Released on Some Bizzare in 1986 it was the second 'Ministry of Power' collaboration. It involved the artist Malcolm Poynter whose sculptures formed the basis for the award winning album cover. His work used toy soldiers and guns to sculpt large scale figures such as his awesome 'Horsemen of the Apocalypse'.

It was also the name of a massive event held at BR's Bishobsbridge Maintenance Depot at Paddington to commemorate the demise of the Greater London Council (undemocratically abolished by Margaret Thatchers Tory Government because of its radical programme), it was the beginning of a flowering relationship between the 'Railway Children' and the National Railways. Decorated with Sculpture from Malcom Poynter, dance from legendary choreographer Jacob Marley and the Company of Cracks, poetry from the radical miner Alan Sutcliffe, script by playwright Jonathan Moore, directed by Teddy Kiendl, set designed by Tom Dixon (now head designer at Habitat), banners by 53rd State Banner Co, brass played and conducted by John Eacott of Big Band Loose tubes and 360 degrees audio and visuals from infamous soundman 'Mad' Jack Balchin and acclaimed directors Brett Turnbull and Martine Thoquenne, gymnastics and pyrotechnics from Ra Ra Zoo. It was a truly awsome underground event featuring the cream of talent of a generation. The Ministry of Power was born. It was the first ever 'rave' in the UK and is still the benchmark for large scale site specific work in Britain.

Test Dept. - The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom (flac 329mb)

01 Fuckhead 5:37
02 51st State Of America 4:04
03 Comrade Enver Hoxha 5:00
04 Fist 3:35
05 Statement 4:24
06 The Crusher 4:04
07 Victory 4:09
08 Corridor Of Cells 7:58
09 The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom - Face 1 4:22
10 The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom - Face 2 5:30
11 The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom - Face 3 6:40


12" dancefloor single Faces Of Freedom 1,2 & 3. released under the pseudonym TDA (Taking and Driving Away). Featuring Neutrament (Face 1); Rico (Face 2). Test Dept's formation in 1981 in the decaying docklands of South London, was an urgent reaction to the materialistic drift and reactionary conservatism of the prevailing musical and political culture. TD rejected the conventional and developed a style that reflected the decay of their surroundings scavenging the unregenerated wastelands for raw materials, and transforming found industrial items into designed, sculptural instruments. Suitably armed they forged a hard rhythmic sonic battery, fusing found sound samples and cutting edge electronics in the construction of a dynamic physical totality. Their infamous sonic assaults were challenging and demanding for audience and performers alike, a test of physical endurance that journeyed through the sonic pain threshold and into a cathartic energy release. The 'Stakhanovite Sound' was a furnace that forged an attitude of total collective commitment, embracing the spirit of punk with an avant revolutionary sensibility that sought to challenge the status quo. It was the antithesis of commercial record industry values. Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses.

Test Dept. - The Faces Of Freedom EP (flac 101mb)

01 The Faces Of Freedom 1 4:22
02 The Faces Of Freedom 2 5:30
03 The Faces Of Freedom 3 6:39

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I haven't heard much Test Dept so this will be a good chance to check out their sound. I've liked your other industrial oriented posts so this should be enjoyable. Great blog by the way. Tons of great music and information. Best wishes, Brian

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Would it be possible to re-ip Test Dept. - Ecstacy Under Duress (flac 398mb)? The link no longer works. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the epic Test Dept post. I saw them live back in 94 and it was one of the most hypnotic performances I ever heard. Looks like they're still going (as Test Dept: Redux) and have some live appearances booked this year.