Friday, March 9, 2007

Primitive Calculators -St.,CD,2005/1979,Australia

Melbourne’s Primitive Calculators met as teenagers in the early 70s, growing up in the grim outer suburb of Springvale. The Velvet Underground and The MC5 were obvious heroes, but they were also inspired by lesser known bands like The Fugs, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Godz as well as the writing of obsessive rock journalist Lester Bangs. By 1977, they had deserted Springvale for the more musically liberated environs of St. Kilda, forming a punk band called The Moths. Well-known figures like Nick Cave (The Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party) and Ollie Olsen (Whirlywirld, No) would often come by to listen to records, but the Primitive Calculators were always outsiders in Melbourne’s punk scene. A move to Fitzroy in 1978 helped Primitive Calculators develop a network of likeminded friends. They released their debut single in 1979, featuring the songs I Can’t Stop It and Do That Dance. Pressed with plain black labels in a stark monochrome sleeve, the single introduced many to the impassioned, atonal, electronic chaos that was the Primitive Calculators’ trademark. The following year the band attempted to relocate to London, but seeing how difficult life was for fellow expats the Birthday Party and Whirlywhirld, decided instead to take an indefinite break. A live recording of a gig supporting the Boys Next Door in 1979 turned out to be Primitive Calculators’ swansong. Released by friend and supporter Alan Bamford in the early 1980s, Primitive Calculators is a crucial document of a band whose originality, power and humorously belligerent Australian mindset has never since been duplicated. But the story didn’t stop there, as Primitive Calculators had an unexpected renaissance in 1986, when filmmaker Richard Lowenstein included them in his film Dogs In Space (starring a young Michael Hutchence), which was based on the Little Bands scene they had created.


From Inpress Magazine, Melbourne, January 2005:
"Primitive Calculators played testing music and quite frankly it's a great thing. Meeting in Springvale in the early 1970s the various members of Primitive Calculators had an appreciation towards bands such as The Fugs, 13th Floor Elevators, The Godz and the Holy Modal Rounders. Much like those late 60s acts, Primitive Calculators effectively attempted to create rasping and rudimentary experiments that freed them from traditional song structures, and after repeated listens to this reissue of their 1982 album, it starts to emerge that Primitive Calculators were creating something completely new-found, yet unfathomable and mysterious; in fact the pneumatic drill-like sound that opens the album is almost a seditious auditory assault that makes contemporaries of Primitive Calcuators (bands such as New York's Suicide and France's Metal Urbaine) seem like apparitions of puppy dogs.Primitive Calculators are a lopsided and capricious tension-dream that perfectly encapsulates the searing audacity of the Australian countryside as much as it does the inner city. To these senses the Australian "outback", just as much as the begrimed alleyway or barroom, is an engineering, cold and manipulative environment, and one feels that the Stuart Grant's distressed outpouring in Do the Ice Pick (sample lyric: "I need a good shit - I wanna go home") is a decisive abstract about the imperfect and confrontational situation which is life.This compilation, released by local Melbourne label Chapter Music, pulls together the Primitive Calculators' full length album, (11 tracks recorded live in 1979) plus bonus material scrouged together from archival cassette tapes; there's also a seldom-seen video for the track I Can't Stop It."Post-punk" or "proto-industrial" are descriptive misnomers that rarely assist any review, and, equally, the band's inflexible starkness and musical extremity make such misnomers redundant. It's a testament to the band's scraping foresight that their prescient mix of punk, synthesizer and drum machine can still cast a bottomless shadow over today's "now sound", but if that doesn't hold any interest, their version of the Isley Brothers' Shout should, mainly because it comes with a free paramedic to help conduct a heart massage.The Primitive Calculators' nausea is a very rare thing; it's palpable, enjoyable and serene." Shane Jesse Christmass.
From Vice Magazine (Australian Edition), February 2005:
Best Album Of The Month ~ 10/10"Before this re-release, this album resided in some sort of mythical territory; I had heard snippets of it on mix-tapes and at friends' houses, and it appeared like some pure stream of completely honest art-punk that would instantly satisfy all musical apathy, but I couldn't find a fucking copy anywhere. Thanks to Chapter Music, this 1979 Australian classic can finally be snatched from the sweaty palms of elitist indie boy record collectors and be played at full volume for the people, man." Hugo Klang.
From Maximum Rock n Roll magazine:
"PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS - S/T CDIf anyone can tell me what 'art punk' really specifically refers to anymore in 2005, I'm game to listen. It's a lot easier to discern on this discus, a reissue of a previously impossible-to-find live lp by Australia's prime synth-buggerists the PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS. The first 11 tracks are the original record, recorded live in front of several folk (apparently) clapping at gunpoint, in 1979. It should be noted that this live LP functions as an effective bookend for the 'Live at YMCA 10.2.79' LP recorded by the UK's similarly inclined CABARET VOLTAIRE for Rough Trade. But unlike VOLTAIRE, most of whose stuff works on a level that most of ya’ll would not consider ‘punk’, the CALCULATORS maintain their dour aggression at all costs and the result is very, very punk, like if VOLTAIRE had recorded an entire LP in the vein of their ‘Nag Nag Nag’ EP. The bonus tracks, from hoarded shoebox cassettes, are even rougher and more, uh, punk. Call it synth-garage-muck. Anyone who picked up the SLUGFUCKERS or METAL URBAIN reissues last year should do themselves a favor and spend some meds dough on this as well. To have been at one of their cranky-aggro shows in 1979, especially compared to the mainstream sounds of that time, must have been like a visit to Mars, generating a totally uncertain audience response. This is 'art punk'. (RW)"
Visit band's homepage here
Buy this CD including a rare video by the group at Chapter Music .
get this gem here


Overhere said...

This blog just gets better and better. I am going to add a link to my blog just for you. I'd also like to 'feature your site in the blog of the week section.

Keep 'em coming

ommyth said...

I swear to all that's holy I was thinking of Primitive Calculators just yesterday... I only first really heard them in '99, shamed though I am to admit it. Staggering coolness.



Anonymous said...

Amazing record! This is quite equal to all the synthpunk greats.