Electronic Soundmaker + Computer Music : January 1985

Machine Age Voodoo

S.P.K. first came to the public attention on the crest of the metal-bashing wave. Lumped in with foundry workers Einsturzende Neubauten, their previous experiments with tape loops overlooked, they faced another blow when the synth-dominated single Metal Dance brought cries of 'sell out'.
Unrepentant, this first album for WEA is a defiantly commercial bland of metal bashing and synthesised melody. (Although in fact virtually all the sounds on the album are either originated on or processed by Graeme's Fairlight.)
In many ways, Machine Age Voodoo is a work in progress; there is the sometimes uneasy relation between Sinan's serious lyrics and Graeme's upful tunes, as they seek to establish their new 'pop' equilibrium; and there is angst in their attempt to weld the high-tech with the hurgh! of their earlier work. A culture clash, as Sinan's oriental origins vie with the limited structures of danceable disco-fodder tops off this tangle of tensions.
Do they pull it off? Well, yes and no. The most successful songs on the album are really those that take no chances. The opening track, Junk Funk, (also the latest single) semi-serious sentiments aside, is fundamentally a floor-filler, complete with a crashing percussion break halfway through. Ditto Metal Dance, getting a re-run here, and High Tension. Everything has been thrown into this one - Vocoded vocals, stuttering drums, even a sly lift of Chic's famous Good Times riff.
The whole album is characterised by the heavy electro-percussion and harsh sampled sounds most people have come to associate with Daniel Miller's protogés Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget. Although it is arguable that S.P.K. were with it first (Spot Depeche going in for a little cosmetic metalwork themselves on telly these days) they weren't with loudest. Against competition like the Mute Muppets, I suspect S.P.K. will have to shout, not only louder, but a lot more distinctly, to be heard.

Tony Reed

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