Monday, June 16, 2014
A Few Notes on SPK
Some of the best music to ever emerge from Australia was undoubtedly created by SPK. They have one of the more confusing discography's to work through as many releases have various covers for each pressing, different versions of the same song with the same name or no names at all, often different names of the band for each release and even two different versions of the band entirely. It was mainly based around Graeme Revell who was the driving force and sole continuous member during their 10 year existence. He moved to London relatively early in the SPK lifespan and the remaining members, notably Neil Hill (committed suicide at age 28, his wife Margaret Hill died 2 days later from anorexia), still put out music under the banner as SoliPsiK (the ultra rare See-Saw 7"). There were many collaborators throughout the years, the other consistent being Revell's wife Sinan Leong, who appears on most releases and also appeared on a few classic Nurse With Wound albums.
There were three main phases of the band, the first being the early industrial noise material up until 1983 which is arguably their strongest. These very earliest recordings were intense punk inspired songs often creativity utilizing a wailing EMS synth in the background. Those early 7"s were collected onto side one of the essential compilation Auto De Fe:
The B side to Auto De Fe, recorded in 1981 (as opposed to the late 70's) sits perfectly between their noise and dance periods:
The first proper full length (there were multiple live cassette releases and bootlegs) was Information Overload Unit (under the name System Planning Corporation) that was recorded while Neil Hill and Revell were working in a Sydney mental ward- the album deals with insanity and contains field recordings they made of patients. It's an noisey experimental masterpiece of the highest order, predating much of that kind of music:
After that was Leichenschrei, a very dense, amazing industrial classic by anyone's measure. It's a timeless recording- find it, buy it. Next came an incredible EP under the name SepPuKu:
After 1984 came the comparatively commercial period that spawned the dance classics Metal Dance, Junk Funk, Breathless and more, though I would venture to say, while still awesome, this is the weakest of their output. A few years later came the neo-classical ambient world music excursions that evolved into Revell's current film score career. The highlight of this era would be the Zamia Lehmanni Songs of Byzantine Flowers LP that is a groundbreaking mix of world musics and dark ambient textures, the pinnacle being the hauntingly beautiful single In Flagrante Delicto:
The obscure album Revell made up entirely of insect sounds, The Insect Musicians, is worth noting as well.
A totally amazing band, I recommend spending a few months or years exploring their catalog.