Sunday, 21 February 2010

Plug them in


There were very few contemporary bands that I listened to in the 1990’s, and even fewer bands from that era that I still listen to now. Of those, all of them is Add n to (x).

Formed in 1994, Add n to (x) spent almost ten years pulverising audiences with their synapse melting brand of electroclash, a peculiarly nineties genre that basically means techno music with a brain and a bad attitude. Relying on a variety of vintage analogue electronic instruments and clattering live drums, dressed in capes and masks, the group were like an evil Stereolab, obsessed with science fiction, anime, pornography and the low, bass frequencies that make you crap yourself.

I saw them live once and the overall effect was of being smacked around the head repeatedly with a Tandy catalogue. It felt pretty good, until the low bass frequencies started.

The band split in 2003 after a gruelling American tour, and the three main members went off to other projects (Barry 7 to produce Spider and the Flies, previously discussed here). They left a legacy of five full length albums which, although not stunningly varied, still sound relevant today. Their overall sound is fairly formulaic, it must be said, but, for a time at least, they owned that formula so it was there to use how they wished. I hear echoes of Add n to (x) in all sorts of places today, not least in the work of Goldfrapp and, gawd help us, Lady Gaga.

Some sample tracks from the group. ‘Buckminster Fuller’ and ‘Revenge Of The Black Regent’ are from their third and most realised LP, ‘Avant Hard’ and showcases the classic Add n to (x) sound: a relentless radiophonic maelstrom of dance music for psychopaths. ‘B.P Perino’ Is from their fourth album, ‘Add Insult To Injury’, and shows a gentler side, a sort of love duet between lonely robots which, like so many Add n to (x) tracks goes on about two minutes longer than it should. Lastly, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ comes from their final LP, ‘Loud Like Nature’ where, as a swan song, they revealed a previously under utilised glam rock element to their music.

Please remember, the tracks presented here are mere aperitifs. If you like what you hear and want more, please buy the originals. All of Add n to (x)’s stuff is available, very reasonably, from the usual outlets, so you’ve no excuse not to.

2 comments:

King Modulator said...

top choice U-W!

saw them in 1998 in a former regional government fallout shelter in Fife and very few experiences have topped that since. the stage was set up in the former mess and they opened with "The Black Regent", Barry 7 striking Ronsonesque poses with his Synthi A whilst Ann pumped out the bass on her recently excavated Rogue. it was strange and wonderful (and loud) as you could want - like Suicide turning up at UNIT HQ...

have to say I went off them a bit after "Avant Hard" though as they seemed to tame the synths a bit more as time went on.

far too good to be tarred with the "electroclash" brush though. most of that amounted to shrill NY/Berlin perfomance art types with "shocking" lyrics, one finger bass and cheap drum machines.

the only band to from that time I would recommend would be US band Adult. (full stop included essential) who come close to Add N to (X) in celebrating the racket-making potential of old analogue kit. check their early singles comp "Resuscitation" ("Human Wreck" in particular) which is an invigorating mix of your Ballardian dissociation, John Foxx/Fad Gadget synthetics and rattling Detroit electro.

Unmann-Wittering said...

Some interesting points there, Your Majesty, and I'll follow up on Adult.. The image of Suicide visiting UNIT HQ is one I won't be shaking for a long time. Brilliant stuff.