Art Objects

Bagpipe Music

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Originally released in 1981 on the tiny U.K. indie Heartbeat, Bagpipe Music is the sole full-length release by Bristol new wavers the Art Objects. Though fairly obscure at the time, Bagpipe Music has developed a strong cult following over the decades since its release, since a rejiggered version of this band -- singer Gerard Langley, drummer John Langley, and non-musician dancer Wojtek Dmochowski, with a new guitarist and bassist -- re-emerged as the Blue Aeroplanes shortly after the Art Objects disbanded. Though especially in their early days, the Blue Aeroplanes were noted for an experimental bent and poetic attitude, the later group was far more conventional than the willfully noisy, almost antagonistic skronk of much of Bagpipe Music. The clattering post-punk squalls of the music, particularly effects-loving guitarists Jonjo Key and Robin Key, and quasi-funk bassist Bill Stair, sound deeply indebted to precursors like the Gang of Four and Captain Beefheart, making the Art Objects fundamentally not all that different from seemingly hundreds of other bands working in England at the turn of the '80s. But what makes Bagpipe Music unique is Gerard Langley's vocals and lyrics. With very rare exceptions, Langley doesn't sing on these tracks, but reads his own poetry over the band's musical backdrop. Unlike contemporary punk poets like John Cooper Clarke and Patrik Fitzgerald, Langley rarely interacts with the musicians in terms of his rhythms and delivery: only on a handful of songs, like the uncharacteristically poppy "Showing off to Impress the Girls," does Langley seem to be following the band's lead. More common are songs like "Miraculous Birth," where Jonjo's tightly-wound, Fripp & Eno-like needling guitar line and Langley's recitation, the song's only two elements, sound like two completely separate performances played back at the same time. The five bonus tracks, unfortunately, do not contain the songs from the Art Objects' two 1980 singles on the Fried Egg label, although one of those lost tracks, "Our Silver Sister," does appear here in a later re-recording, alongside a bracingly noisy musique concrète version of "New Caucasian Maps," a song the Blue Aeroplanes would go on to record twice more. The compellingly strange aspects of Bagpipe Music mostly make up for the elements of the album that are more familiar D.I.Y. post-punk noise-making, but Bagpipe Music is perhaps more interesting to dedicated fans of early-'80s obscurities than to casual Blue Aeroplanes fans.

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