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T.R.A.S.E. – Tape Recorder and Synthesizer Ensemble (2013)

2-01-2014, 08:40
Electronic | Lo-Fi

T.R.A.S.E. – Tape Recorder and Synthesizer Ensemble (2013)

Artist: T.R.A.S.E.
Title Of Album: Tape Recorder and Synthesizer Ensemble
Year Of Release: 2013
Label: Tape Recorder & Sythesiser Ensemble
Genre: lo-fi, reissue, synth-pop
Quality: MP3
Bitrate: 320 kbps
Total Time: 1:07:25
Total Size: 156 MB


1. T.R.A.S.E. - T.R.A.S.E. Sketch-1 (5:29)
2. T.R.A.S.E. - Electronic Rock (1983 Instrumental Version) (3:31)
3. T.R.A.S.E. - Harmonium (5:11)
4. T.R.A.S.E. - T.R.A.S.E. Sketch-3 (4:29)
5. T.R.A.S.E. - Talk to Me (1983 Version) (4:38)
6. T.R.A.S.E. - T.R.A.S.E. Sketch-4 (4:18)
7. T.R.A.S.E. - Angel Face (3:08)
8. T.R.A.S.E. - Unrequited Love (1983 Instrumental Version) (5:08)
9. T.R.A.S.E. - T.R.A.S.E. Sketch-5 (4:46)
10. T.R.A.S.E. - This Life of Yours (1981 Version) (4:00)
11. T.R.A.S.E. - We Are So Fragile (2:35)
12. T.R.A.S.E. - Momento (1983 Electric Guitar Version) (5:42)
13. T.R.A.S.E. - Twilight (4:33)
14. T.R.A.S.E. - War Machine (6:32)
15. T.R.A.S.E. - Voices (3:25)

Andy Popplewell’s T.R.A.S.E., or Tape Recorder and Synthesiser Ensemble, is one of the loveliest reissues to have emerged from the Finders Keepers camp in recent times. Due to the diligent research of Andy Votel, it was only recently coaxed out of Popplewell, who is nowadays a renowned sound engineer/editor and vintage tape baker who’s worked for everyone from Alpha Brussels to ZZT.
This double LP worth of gear taken from his nascent recordings documents a vital, explorative spirit in bloom, using his homebuilt circuits, equipment and the odd guitar to create rudimentary yet arresting synth-pops nodding to the likes of John Foxx, Ultravox, Joy Division and Kraftwerk. At worst it’s derivative songcraft, but at best there are some deeply charming and engrossing instrumental compositions, pieces like the beautifully cosmic billow of ‘Harmonium’, the prodding, emotive coldwave funk of ‘This Life of Yours (1981 vers.) and a later, brooding cinematic number, ‘Twilight’ from 1987. There really aren’t many completely, previously unissued LPs of this calibre knocking around, and a particular dearth of those that feel so naive yet ambitious.

In 1979, a 14-year-old called Andy Popplewell started building his own six track mixer from a blueprint in an electronics hobbyist magazine. After it was finished he graduated to constructing his own synth before he turned 17 and then wrote a synth pop album in his mum’s garage and recorded it himself between 1981 and 1983; making one single cassette copy. Then due to a chance meeting with Andy Votel 30 years later in 2012, that cassette – not even a demo really as it never got sent to anyone – has now been released as an album.

And it doesn’t hurt that the album is actually good. The booming and moody homemade synths, icy syn drums and scratchy guitars call to mind album tracks from Tubeway Army’s self-titled debut as well as the instrumental sections of Replicas, not to mention Metamatic by John Foxx and sections of Travelogue and Reproduction by The Human League; albeit versions captured on two track (sometimes bounced down to three track) recordings in a mum’s garage in Didsbury in the early 1980s. But the low-fi recording adds to the recording not subtracts, giving it more of a fetish-worthy cold wave ambiance.

And some of the songs are better than good. When you listen to the track ‘Harmonium’ with it’s tape echoed guitar scratching and moody synths, you wonder where on Earth this slice of pre-shoegaze, pre post rock, outsider synth pop electronica has come from exactly.

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