Strange feelings taking hold…
The 1980s provided fertile ground for homegrown electronic musicians to experiment and get to grips with emerging technology. Negative Response was one such outfit, a minimal synth affair that had originally been reconstructed from the remains of Croydon punk band The Two an’ Eights.
Inspired by the DIY punk ethic, Negative Response crafted their electronic compositions from equipment that included a Roland Dr Rhythm drum machine, Wasp synth and a 4-track cassette machine. A series of cassette releases followed, with the first arriving in 1981, while the electronic outfit also popped up on various compilation releases over the years. More recently, Seattle-based label Medical Records issued a retrospective collection of Negative Response tracks recorded between 1981 and 1984 as a limited vinyl release.
Now new release Submersion Therapy sees Negative Response presenting their first original material since that initial 1980s period, yet utilise many of the methods used in earlier recordings through the use of second hand recording equipment and synths. As a result, the material here has a raw, DIY aesthetic with minimal electronic percussion, treated vocals and warm, analogue synths.
Tracks such as ‘Truth’ offer up a pulsing quality, driven by a repeating mantra of “What did you see there?/What did you do there?” which present a strange, cryptic vibe. Conversely, ‘Tears’ has an oddly charming naivety in its reedy synth musings. Elsewhere, the dark intonations of ‘Til It’s Over’ has a mesmerising quality lurking in its depths.
There’s something more muscular about the wonderfully-titled ‘Coral Pink and Candy Coloured Sky’ with its bold, marching percussion. Lyrically, the song plays around with sci-fi themes (“Far from home this is a strange land”) and emerges as one of Submersion Therapy’s best compositions.
‘Artificial’ is a harsher affair with its angular attack rhythms, while the track’s synth swoops suggest early Ultravox. Lines such as “No complex emotions, no happy, no sad” are delivered with a mechanical flatness that’s weirdly emotive.
The album also boasts some effective instrumental numbers, such as the wistful ‘Rising Water’. Something in the track’s repetitive pattern of electronic rhythms suggests a nod to YMO, while the layered effects build up a dizzying collage of minimalist delights.
There’s a harder edge to the industrial-tinged ‘Changing Skyline’, which also delivers some pertinent commentary (“Social cleansing of the existing community”). The drone-like delivery of the vocals emphasises the Ballard-esque dystopian themes.
For those that have a preference towards that raw DIY approach to electronic music, Submersion Therapy offers up minimalist compositions that weave in squelchy synths and treated vocal effects across nine tracks of oddly compelling electronica.
Submersion Therapy is out now.