May 3, 2017

RhoDeo 1718 Aetix


Today's artist's method of recording is as unique as his work: he locks himself in his home studio alone with his synthesizers and tape machines and emerges months later with a record. Apart from pop trends, he has turned out some of the most creative and human synthesizer work on vinyl.....N'Joy

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Born in Port Glasgow, Scotland, Leer played in several local experimental pop groups in the early to mid-1970s, moving to London when the punk rock scene was at its height. He formed the punk band Pressure, but by 1978 had moved on to music influenced by synthpop and Krautrock bands such as Can. That year, he self-financed his debut single, "Private Plane". Although it was recorded in his own apartment and was only issued in 650 copies on his own label, it gained significant attention, with NME naming it "Single Of The Week"

It became one of the most collectable and influential UK indie singles, it appeared on his own Oblique label and was a groundbreaking mixture DIY electronics, tape loops and hushed vocals.  Cut-and-paste music in a cut-and-paste sleeve.  It was, as remembers, “compelling pop with a dark heart, swooping between the pretty and the pretty disturbing.” It sent out ripples across the music scene.  “Thomas was a huge influence on me,” Matt Johnson told Johnny Marr in 2002, “particularly his single, Private Plane.  The fact it was just one guy in his bedroom doing the entire thing made a massive, massive impact on me.  He was years ahead of his time and actually inspired me to create The The really.  He later told me that the reason his vocals were so whispered on that song is because his girlfriend was asleep in their bedsit while he did it!”

Leer followed Private Plane with another influential release – the industrial/ambient headcharge of The Bridge, recorded in collaboration with Robert Rental.  Originally released in 1979, it was re-released by Mute Records in 1992, and was half full-on electronic clink-clank industry and half serene, looped atmospheres.  The album was originally released on Throbbing Gristle’s own label and, as the experimental music archive commented recently, “If TG had had less of an agenda, and less of a desire to shock/offend, their music might well have sounded more like this.”

From The Bridge, Leer started a solo career, signing to Cherry Red and releasing the EPs Four Movements and Contradictions in the early 80s.   He mapped out a gloriously low-tech, soulful alternative to the sterile synth-pop scene of the time.  And they still stir the emotions now.  “This is the masterpiece of Thomas Leer,” says a recent blogger on of Contradictions.  “He borrowed a lot of equipment (guitar, bass, r-box, synth) from some musicians and recorded 7 tracks on 4-track.  And this is a mixture of soul, funk, electronics, industrial and new wave.  And it's fantastic how much soul this has.”

This “one-man anti-Heaven 17” then signed to a major label, Arista/BMG, and started work on a new, sampler/Fairlight-driven excursion.  The resulting album, 1985’s Scale of Ten, was Leer’s attempt to ‘subvert the mainstream from the inside’ and contained the singles International, Heartbeat and No. 1.  The whole project was ‘anthologised’ by BMG records and given a long-overdue CD release in 2004. Critically acclaimed, although always working just on the edge of mass appeal, Record Mirror called International “one of the finest, most invigorating, unquestionably vital records of 1984.”

From Scale of Ten Thomas Leer tried a new approach.  He moved backstage from centre stage and in 1987 formed the avant-garde electro-cabaret duo ACT, with Propaganda’s Claudia Brucken.  “I wanted to do something totally different to what I'd done before,” he remembers, “and I wanted it to be more project based, theatrically-inspired and most importantly with someone else fronting it…  Claudia’s sound was unmistakeable and it seemed to me that whatever context you put her in it was always gonna be recognisably her.  I was looking for an identity for an unidentifiable music and she fitted the bill...”

ACT released four singles and an album across 1987-1988 including Snobbery & Decay, the making of which was so hi-tech it was the subject of a BBC/Tomorrow’s World documentary.  But when fourth single Chance was scrapped over legal troubles with an Abba sample, and the whole record company machinery became far more of a burden than a platform, Thomas jumped ship.

It was a scene reminiscent of The Prisoner, Patrick McGooohan’s 1960s psychedelic spy trip.  Thomas Leer resigned from the music industry.  No one knew quite where he was or, for that matter, why he resigned.  But he had, and he stayed ‘in the village’ for the next 14 years.

By the early 2000s, the music scene was changing and – in some ways – catching up with Thomas’ original DIY techno ethos.  His name started to be dropped in all sorts of places: in 2002, Day Breaks, Night Heals from The Bridge was featured alongside Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin on Mute Records seminal compilation Rough Trade Electronic 01; in 2003 The Human League’s Phil Oakey spun Private Plane on Radio 1 in an electroclash special, sandwiched between Yello and Pete Shelley; and in 2004 ZTT released a three-CD box set of the complete ACT archive, which followed a Cherry Red compendium of his early material.

None of these really swayed Thomas Leer in returning to the music scene.  It was hearing Ninja Tune/Solid Steel’s manic DJ cut-up radio show in 2003 that did that.  “I’d hung up my synths and moseyed off into the distance,” he says, “and I'd have probably stayed there if I hadn’t tuned into Cold Cut’s Solid Steel show on Kiss FM.  One Saturday night, the Future Sound of London doing two hours of musical mayhem.  It was fantastic and immediately made me want to start working again...”

By 2004 this work was beginning to leak out.  Web-based MP3 samples, an whole album of wide-screen soundscapes for Avatar (Conversation Peace) and an early version of Parts of Greater Hole, mailed on CDR from a new website,  Now finished, mastered, remastered and remixed, and with a suite of extra tracks, Parts of a Greater Hole (Karvavena Records, 2005) marks Thomas Leer’s return, proving he has lost none of his experimental vigour, while at the same absorbing many new influences and styles - from drum & bass to glitch-music – that have emerged in the years since his ‘resignation’...

Leer returned in 2007 with a new album From Sci-Fi To Barfly and in 2009 on the track "Tonight", from "A Rose" - Stefano Panunzi album. After a few years of silence 2015 saw the release of remastered demo's from the early eighties being a pioneer of the independent self release, Thomas Leer returns to the artistic freedom of recording and releasing when, what and how he wants via Future Historic.  1982 ‎(9xFile, FLAC, Album),  Fairlight EP '83 ‎(7xFile, FLAC, EP), 1991 ‎(10xFile, FLAC, Album) and in 2016  1979 ‎(13xFile, FLAC, Album) latter also released on CD by Klanggalerie earlier this year.

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Thomas Leer & Robert Rental were something of an anomaly on the list of all of the artists who released their music through the original imprint of the Industrial Records label back in the late 70's, famed for giving name to the developing genre of industrial music through artists such as Throbbing Gristle, The Leather Nun, Monte Cazazza and SPK. The mission statement of the label was to be as anti-commercial, ironic and subversive as possible, the sounds of what constituted "industrial" at the time an often difficult, highly experimental mish mash of electronic, dark ambient, musique concrète, noise and post-punk influences. Rooted in performance art, there was a definite philosophy behind what these artists were doing which they weren't afraid to discuss at length, supposedly representing something of a soulless post-modern machination left after the first wave of punk music had burnt out influenced by the themes of psychological fear and paranoia in a technological age touched upon by authors such as J.G. Ballard and William S. Burroughs (who ultimately released his own noise music experiments through the label). Though backed with strong support neither Thomas Leer or Robert Rental were into waxing lyrical about obsession with this as their peers, and only released one LP in 1979, The Bridge. After they moved to London from Scotland around the end of the original punk explosion, they quickly formed a band but found the scene was dying out. Audiences were receptive to new kinds of experimentation, and they decided to jump on the more electronic side of post-punk which groups like Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide would become known for.

Thomas Leer and Robert Rental - The Bridge (flac  229mb)
01 Attack Decay 3:44
02 Monochrome Day's 4:01
03 Day Breaks, Night Heals 4:03
04 Connotations 4:04
05 Fade Away 6:24
06 Interferon 7:58
07 Six A.M. 3:12
08 The Hard Way In & The Easy Way Out 4:44
09 Perpetual 5:04

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Thomas Leer's 'Contradictions' originally came out in 1982 as two 12" singles. This is a much expanded release and contains some of his early singles and b-sides, as well as the complete album.

Arriving right in the middle of an exciting time for British pop; 'Contradictions' took up the torch, lit by ABC, Elvis Costello, Orange Juice and Dexys, and crossed it over to the more esoteric sounds the likes of Scritti Politti, Blue Orchids and Sudden Sway were developing. It's contagious, sweeping, all enveloping electro-music. Music that's deep and wide, despite it's supposed 'narrowing' (a trendy notion at the time, mainly by the brighter critics, though I thought it was a clever way of squeezing unfashionable or aesthetically unsound bands out of the equation), a light, breezy, textured array of ingenuity and influence. Thomas Leer took dance, Latin rhythms, reggae, jazz and rock, infused the lot with a post-punk energy and intelligence, and welded them onto a resolute pop base.

Unfortunately, the great unwashed weren't moved. Perhaps he wasn't handsome enough (Pop-stars were highly beautiful in the early 80's or they died), perhaps he was ahead of his time, perhaps it was thought his name sounded like a sex-pest. He drifted into 'underground', and while his music was still excellent, he began to attract the 'obscure' tag, pretty much a kiss-of-death at the time. 'Contradictions' slowly disappeared from view.

You've got a chance oh brave, hardy reader, what a chance you've got. 'Contradictions' is just a few clicks away. A few days and you could be placing it in your chosen mode of audio signal retrieval; a few meager coins lighter, but much, much richer in real terms. This collection from 1982 catches Leer on a creative upswing, with a more fleshed-out sound (guitars, horns) than on his first singles. Reissued in 2008, this important recording deserves a second listen.

Thomas Leer - Contradictions (flac  429mb)

01 Private Plane 4:00
02 International 4:01
03 Kings Of Sham 3:57
04 Dry Land 3:26
05 Don't 5:29
06 Letter From America 4:03
07 Tight As A Drum 4:38
08 West End 4:28
09 Hear What I Say 5:17
10 Mr. Nobody 5:22
11 Contradictions 4:48
12 Looks That Kill 4:57
13 Soul Gypsy 5:16
14 Choices 6:10
15 Gulf Stream 5:41
16 All About You 5:12

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"Series of tracks for unreleased album Circa 1982" © 2015/2016, Released on Bandcamp

Thomas Leer - 1982 (flac 299mb)

01 Forgive And Forget 4:37
02 Shooting At The Moon 4:12
03 For The Strangers 4:34
04 Leaving 5:32
05 Control Yourself 6:07
06 Magic In My Soul 4:33
07 Change Of Heart 4:45
08 Who's Foolin' Who? 5:33
09 Don't Say A Word 6:36

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Leer evolved quite a bit from his days collaborating with Robert Rental and recording lo-fi synth-soul in his bedroom. This disc, from 84, is very slick. You can almost hear the very same Fairlight sounds used by Trevor Horn in his productions for the Art of Noise and Propaganda.

However, most of these tracks are minimal in construction. 'Memories of Reason' and 'International' are the gems here, but the other tracks do grow on you after repeated listens. Leer never goes for the big chorus or obvious hook. His vocals just float on top of the chugging electro-rhythms. Is this synth-pop perfection? Certainly not--this disc is a bit more cerebral than most. This is Leer at his most polished.

 Thomas Leer - The Scale Of Ten   (flac 521mb)

01 Searcher 4:05
02 Lust For Loneliness 4:09
03 Warm 3:55
04 Memories Of Reason 4:10
05 International (12” Global Mix) 7:11
06 Heartbeat 4:37
07 Sweet Surrender 4:19
08 No 1 (12” Extended Mix) 8:00
09 Mistrust 5:00
10 Passing Through 4:16
11 Easy Way 5:15
12 Control Yourself (Out Of Control Mix) 8:19
13 Chasing The Dragon 3:50
14 Transition 3:53
15 Time Heals 3:37
16 Listen 4:07

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Cass said...

Most excellent! Thanks, Rho :)

apf said...

This blog is a musical education. Thank you, Rho!

Mick said...

Wonderful stuff. Big fan of the Leer.

Anonymous said...

The Thomas Leer repost is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

LonelySubmariner said...

Thanks for these Thomas Leer posts great muscic from an overlooked pioneer of 'electro' pop for want of a better description.
I would like to request an alternative link for 'Contradictions' as despite turning my Adblock of completely Multiup still claims 'Adblock Detected' and refuses access to download.

Rho said...

Well Captain Lonely, and i've given like advice before, get yourself a light dedicated download browser, so you can keep the adblock on at your regular browser. Get yourself Adware cleaner (freeware) and regularly run it to clean up any mess those adds leave behind.

Chris said...

Thanks for this essential stuff, I'm a big fan of your site, visiting it everyday!

LonelySubmariner said...

Thanks for the advice Rho! Taken to heart and sorted out, 'Contradictions' Dl'd last night.
Can't thankyou enough for the sheer scale and diversity of music you post. Especially less well known artists. A vist to your blog is always a joy and an education.
Long may you run!

Klfinhell said...

Could you please re-up Thomas Leer & Rental - The Bridge?
Thank you kindly.