Even as an omnivorous music fan in his younger days, some things still slipped under HERC's radar undetected. Thankfully, it doesn't really matter how or when you come to music, just as long as you find it. Or it finds you. That's the mission statement of HERC's "Have You Heard?" ongoing series of posts.
The aptly named group New Musik found HERC a couple years back, on the excellent 2010 Ministry of Sound compilation, Anthems: Electronic '80s 2 (above), five decades after they released their first single in 1979. It is a testament to Tony Mansfield and the other chaps in the band that the music holds up with minimal dated sounds all these years later. When asked to describe their sound, HERC says "power pop with an electronic edge". Writing for the fourth edition of Trouser Press Record Guide in 1991, Jim Green had this to say about the band's musik:
New Musik's full but spacious sound is immediately appealing: vocals, acoustic guitars, synths and other keyboards ply melodious ditties impeccably deployed and ingeniously enhanced at the mixing console. What's most telling about this new musik is that it's sensuous but not sensual, energetic but not violent, calling up a sort of bittersweet, melancholic feeling, but never redolent of the gloom-doom syndrome. Which makes the band either a breath of fresh air or an overly polite and sterile waste of time.
One probable reason they went undetected back then was they were not successful by any method of measurement. allmusic's Stewart Mason summed it up:
New Musik's near-total lack of commercial acceptance is one of the great mysteries of early-'80s pop. Their music, rooted in classic pop songwriting but with a forward-looking interest in shiny electronics, is both instantly accessible and coolly forbidding.
New Musik's debut single "Straight Lines" was released in the UK in September 1979 and despite the above appearance on Top Of The Pops, the single stalled at #53 in the UK.
A second single "Living By Numbers" did better, falling just outside the Top 10 at #13. Neither of their first two singles saw a US commercial release until they were released in tandem as part of Epic Records' brief Nu Disk initiative of 10" EPs in 1980 (below). It failed to chart but did earn the group some spins in dance clubs at the time, as the DJs reached beyond the confines of disco to the burgeoning sounds of electronic and new wave music.
|This 1980 US 10" EP featured the band's first two singles and their respective B-sides.|
A third single "This World Of Water" was released in April 1980, peaking at #31 with the band's debut album From A to B (featured at top of post) following in May 1980. With the clarity that hindsight allows, allmusic's Michael Sutton hailed the album as
one of the best -- and most influential -- electronic LPs of the '80s
while Adam Barnett-Foster offered his contemporary review of the album in the The Rock Yearbook 1981:
Surprisingly catchy... Hummable and hard to get out of your head once you've lived with (it) for a few days. Overcome your prejudices and give it a listening.
The album, which opens with the sound of a doorbell, reached #35 on the UK charts but saw no US release at the time. Interestingly, only one of the three singles' B-sides was included on the album; the other three songs (the third single had 2 songs on its flipside) would not be included with the album until it was first released on CD in 1994. A fourth single "Sanctuary" was released in June 1980 with three (!) songs on its B-side and fell just outside the Top 30. (Those B-sides surfaced on a 2001 CD re-issue of the album.)
In January 1981, "Luxury", the first single from their upcoming second album was released but failed to chart; all of New Musik's subsequent singles followed suit and missed the charts as well. That second album Anywhere (above) was released in March 1981 and stalled at #68 in the UK with no American release. Three more singles followed the album with no success. The album was described variously as "bland" and "boring" in the notoriously fickle British music press. HERC likes it only slightly less than the first album. One thing to listen for on the first two albums is that often times a song will end, there will be a brief period of silence and then some synth noodling can be heard. Mansfield has stated in several interviews that Anywhere is his favorite New Musik album.
Note that the cassette version of Anywhere (above) contained two exclusive tracks, one at the end of each side, that have yet to be issued on CD: "Under Attack" and "And".
Then, in May 1981, a New Musik album was finally released in the States. Sanctuary (above) is a compilation of tracks from the band's first two albums. Rolling Stone's Wayne King gave the album three stars calling it "catchy British electronic pop". Disappointingly, neither the album nor a promo only 12" single featuring "While You Wait" and "They All Run After The Carving Knife" failed to ignite interest in New Musik's old music. The band also had two songs featured on Epic's Back To School sampler (below) in 1981 alongside (then) fresh tracks by Adam and the Ants, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark and others.
Following two more UK singles in September 1981 and January 1982, the third and final New Musik album Warp (above) was released in March 1982. Michael Sutton says the music on Warp is
essentially Kraftwerk's futuristic dance music without the German accents and the icy hooks
while Jim Green piped in, calling the music "transitional"; it is slightly different sounding than the band's first two full-length efforts which had been fully recorded and mastered before they signed with GTO in 1979. Guitarist/Vocalist Tony Mansfield, who also wrote the overwhelming majority of the band's tunes as well as producing all of their recordings, went on to produce other 80s groups such as Naked Eyes (both of their albums), The B-52s (1986's Bouncing Off The Satellites) and a-ha (songs on their debut album but not "Take On Me").
All three of New Musik's albums have been issued on CD by various labels in various countries featuring various differing bonus tracks. There is even a single 2 disc set that features the first two albums. General consensus among fans and collectors is that the Japanese discs of each album are the ones to get as they have all the New Musik released thus far although Tony Mansfield has hinted at a new album since 2001!