A dark night in 1981 found two friends with a liking for post punk industrial noise, horror films and the excesses of American public access TV in the back of a car on their way home to Ipswich from a particularly inspiring Cabaret Voltaire gig. Realising that making some noise of their own was not only a real possibility, but something that had to be done, they went about scraping together and borrowing a motley assortment of electronic equipment; A guitar, a dirty bass and some well chosen effects pedals (and of course a copy cat tape loop for all those essential vocal and noise samples to add a bit more menace to the mix). After asking a friend to join them they were gigging within a fortnight. In the spirit of the times, intent being much more important than any kind of musical expertise, they took to the stage (well… a small platform really) with more a plan of attack than a set list and forced something primal and surprisingly beautiful out into the world, much to the delight of a pub full of drunken, big haired thrill seekers.
More playing and practice saw their sound go on to develop into soaring, rhythmic, sample fuelled, soundscapes. Shatter Days, their cassette mini album was released in March 1983 and was well received, leading to invitations to contribute to many compilation albums including Three Minute Symphony and Life at the Top. Andrew Fleck left the band shortly after, but Andrew Lagowski and then Stephen Jarvis moved to London and continued playing live and writing together.
They released Sacred Islands of the Mad on cassette in 1986. Darker and more melodic, Nagamatzu had evolved. Their tracks seeming to slide into the room fully formed, with crunchy momentum and swooping harmonies grounded by the warm, rattling progress of the low slung bass and lifted by the jangling insistence of that slicing guitar, all strewn with unsettling samples. Compelling listening indeed.
More interest, compilation and live appearances followed. In 1987 the 12" single Lift Off, was the first release on Nagamatzu’s own label Motorcade. Then in 1991 they released their final album, the appropriately named Igniting the Corpse on cassette. A few months later they parted company and went on to pursue their own projects. Igniting the Corpse was no mere last gasp though, more the culmination of sonic exploration for this pair of mismatched souls with their shared appreciation of harder, darker and more menacingly beautiful music. It is like a holiday in the electronic underworld, or a soundtrack to a strangely inviting nightmare.
Andrew’s musical career began as a drummer, something that seems wholly obvious when you hear his complex rhythms. These form a large part of the Nagamatzu sound, and are something that developed further still in his solo recordings. In a recent interview with Josh Cheon he said; "I always felt others had more musical ability/talent than me, so I was always trying to learn stuff, but I’m basically a technician, not a musician."
Listening to Nadir there is no avoiding the technical mastery. It is the sound of a man driven to push beyond the limitations of his kit. So technical yes, but to think that that is all there is to Andrew is to ignore the vast array of emotional tone that he brings to his solo work. Crisp clean samples rise sharply above mouldering subterranean underworlds. You can smell the heady mix of ozone and decay. Obviously this is due to musical understanding of exceptional quality, and is a statement of intent.
PURE MOTORISED INSTINCT
It’s all in that name really. Not in any sense considering himself a musician or technical mastermind, Stephen Jarvis let his instincts guide him through the demise of Nagamatzu to a different kind of musical endeavour. Recorded at his home studio in East London he set off to pursue that other darkness he loved.
His inner astronaut takes us on a flight, slowly spinning off into space past sparkling nebula and the glow of distant constellations. CIrcling currents of organs, strings and electronic choirs take us through that endlessly beautiful darkness above us. Too powerful and moving to be ambient, too quiet to be anything else, it's not fast and filled with fury, but Pure Motorised Instinct definitely gives us a ride to remember.