NEW MUSIK

Prog - - Intro - LIN BENS­LEY

New Musik’s or­ches­tra­tors of synth-pop blazed sev­eral short cir­cuits on their de­but al­bum From A To B. Its com­puter-gen­er­ated com­po­nents were as­sem­bled from the bright sparks and ran­dom brain­waves of front­man, song­writer and pro­ducer Tony Mans­field, who was as much a sound ar­chi­tect as a mu­sic pro­ces­sor. In 1979, two years af­ter the band’s cre­ation, Mans­field brought key­boardist Clive Gates into the main­frame. The pair had pre­vi­ously rip­pled the air­waves as the T. Rex and King Crim­son-in­flu­enced Ree­man Zee­gus.

The ro­botic man­ner­isms of Straight Lines and Liv­ing By Num­bers fore­shadow an Or­wellian world, and when in the lat­ter song Mans­field asks, ‘Does it all add up to you?’ he may be al­lud­ing to life, the uni­verse or a record la­bel bal­ance sheet for all the lis­tener knows. Although Liv­ing By Num­bers sounds like a prophetic strapline for a mo­bile phone com­pany, it was elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­turer Ca­sio who re­tained the lit­eral sense of the Top 20 sin­gle and used it in a TV ad­ver­tis­ing campaign for pocket cal­cu­la­tors.

While one might hes­i­tate to sug­gest that cli­mate change or plan­e­tary pol­lu­tion in any way in­spired This World Of Wa­ter or Dead Fish (Don’t Swim Home), they seem re­mark­ably pre­scient now and could so eas­ily have been the sound­track to Blue Planet II. And if the see­saw shanty On Is­lands lends lyri­cal com­par­i­son to King Crim­son’s own Is­lands, then Science of­fers the an­ti­sep­tic alien­ation of Kraftwerk and the ner­vous tic of Tube­way Army.

‘Turn­ing for­ever/ I never could tell/ If this was a heaven/ Or this was a hell,’ laments Mans­field on Sanc­tu­ary, which was their last chart­ing sin­gle. The lyrics spoke vol­umes about his own gath­er­ing fears and in­se­cu­ri­ties at the time, and these were fur­ther echoed on the clos­ing number, The Safe Side.

Work­ing at a hit fac­tory soon be­gan to take its toll. One of the al­bum’s high­lights, A Map Of You, hints at Mans­field’s grow­ing dis­ori­en­ta­tion in both an emo­tional and phys­i­cal sense. His ‘where in the world am I?’ view­point sug­gests it was of­ten bet­ter to travel in ex­pec­ta­tion than ar­rive at fur­ther indecision. This was a trait that con­stantly dogged the band’s ad­vance­ment and as com­mer­cial suc­cess be­gan to elude them, Mans­field be­came more reclu­sive. New Musik re­leased two more stu­dio al­bums be­fore dis­band­ing in 1982, leav­ing the front­man to be­come a full-time pro­ducer.

The short­est dis­tance be­tween two points is the line de­scribed by that aca­demic crow. Archimedes would have re­alised that the math­e­mat­ics of New Musik was more than the sum of its parts. Af­ter all, From A To B is more about art than science any­way.

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