1980, Music

Half-Mute (1980) by Tuxedomoon

With the first track I thought this was going to get really out there, like a (much) more ambient version of Swell Maps or This Heat but with saxophone.

But those bands are too aggressive (and aggressively weird) in comparison. It’s more like Bowie instrumentals but closer to what Eno and Cluster were doing. And there’s one track (“Tritone”) that starts off sounding like Young Marble Giants without a vocalist (and with weirder instruments), though that impression goes away pretty quickly.

Though it’s clear they were inspired by Bowie and Eno (like basically every other British post punk band of their day) it’s clear they listened to a lot more German electronic music than most of their contemporaries on the post punk side of the spectrum. And unlike the contemporary synthpop bands, these guys know that organic instruments exist. (Seriously, is there a contemporaneous synthpop record with both saxophone and violin on it? I doubt it.) They really have found their own distinct niche – try as I might I haven’t quite come up with another band quite like them.

I’m not sure the material is quite there – the lyrics are minimalist (as you might expect) and the melodies are more the quality of German electronic music than, say, David Bowie (or even Eno). The older I get the more I want a little more musicality to my experimental music, unless it is just absolutely path-breaking and, obviously, this is not. (I mean, you can really play spot the influences if you’ve listened to The Berlin Trilogy or basically any German electronic must of the 1970s.)

But it’s certainly unique, interesting stuff in its fusion of a bunch of different things you can easily recognize. And adding vocals helps a lot, differentiating it from some of its most obvious influences and from the more ambient music being made at the time.

7/10

PS I thought they were British. They are American. They sure sound British.

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