‘thinking won’t stop it
thinking’s what fucked it all up in
the first place…’
Blue, Blue, Electric Blue… tripping out on the u-bahn. “Blue Electric Light” is retro-futurism, taking a razor to spoken words, spun out over sparse yet perfectly-matched Kraftwerkian beats, crackling and fizzing in unsettling rolling synth-lines, a relativity of accelerating beats. Europe endless, subways, ripped posters, tube-trains, travel, displacement, rootlessness, not belonging, perpetual meditation, all systems going going gone, strange lights flowing through frequencies in urban blue shift, eddies of sound that bleep, pulse, echo, ping and wow into the static. The album might operate on the Soft Cell voice-plus-boffin principle, but similarities halt there. There’s the clinical purity of Roland 808 and Juno 106, but Peter Hope’s voice is sired by Howlin’ Wolf during a voodoo eclipse, then wrenched from the larynx with a claw-hammer. There’s “Revolution Train”, whiplash synths, conspiracy power-theory, burning flags, caged migrants, Lenin’s sealed train carrying the virus of insurrection across Europe… ‘they are few, and we are many’, but never weighed down by the heavy gravity of its narrative. And hidden track – “Perfect Rain”, as a mid-point polkadot shoot-out, a ‘perfect drug’ acid-rain stippled with rueful broken beats that cant and yaw.
Once, in Sheffield, there was the Box. Peter Hope – Box-vox, explains how ‘David (Harrow) and I first got to know each other back in the days of the Box. Drummer Roger Quail played on David’s album, and David appeared in our video for “Old Style Drop Down” (Go Discs, 1983).’ But something dies and something’s born. ‘After the demise of The Box we decided to do some tracks together to release through Ink Records – who David had been working with at the time doing material with Anne Clarke. The tracks fitted the bill as ‘alternative dance’. The EP was titled ‘Sufferhead’ (1985) – after the Fela Kuti track ‘original sufferhead’.’ With headlining track “Too Hot” rammed with jerky twitching rhythms. It was ‘inspired equally by the Electro scene of the day, and the work I’d been doing with Richard H Kirk.’ Recorded at Cabaret Voltaire’s Western Works studio, from the “Leather Hands” 12” (1985, Double Vision) to their full ‘Hoodoo Talk’ collaboration (1987, Native Records NTVCD28), the Kirk-Hope interaction does indeed form a blueprint, a vital prequel.
But they’re shifting boundaries, further. What is the track called “Soil” – an edgy narco-deal gone down? A William Burroughs slant into the grey room, a lethal hotel assignation with dogs and guns, a place where faucets drip and words scratch. The contemporary music ecosystem, where technology has subverted capitalism’s control, is riddled with such intriguing contradictions, it’s morphed into a continuum where new internet niches and genres are birthed and assassinated faster than you can kickstart your router. While daytime radio is gridlocked with four-to-the-floor identikit EDM, music’s underbelly has seldom incandesced as brightly, or been so richly diverse. Impossible to keep total track of its miasmic immensity, but I suggest to you that Peter Hope and David Harrow are artists worthy of your attention. Their “I Am Spartacus” plays trans-planetary hopscotch with psychedelic geometry, with maybe a sideways kick from Kirk Douglas to Ian Dury’s “Spasticus Autisticus”.
‘It was always our intention to do further material, but Ink records wasn’t doing so great… delays etc. Then David went off to Berlin and we just kind of lost touch, both doing very different things. Wind forward twenty-seven years and we get back in touch via Facebook, David’s got a few tracks he thinks I might like and sends them through. I’m back in Sheffield – temporarily, at this point and have time to spare… so I do my bit on the tracks and we reinvent Sufferhead and release a ‘follow-up’ Sufferhead EP, digitally (2013, Workhouse WHO-29). Then, at the end of last year Walter, from Klanggalerie asks us if we want to expand the EP and make it into an album… to rework the five tracks (“Perfect Rain”, “Tongue Tied”, “Revolution Train”, “Spartacus” and “Turn Up The Fuzz”) and add more. That’s about it. Klanggalerie have been very supportive of my work and it’s great to finally get that long awaited Hope-Harrow album out.’
The eleven pristine tracks on ‘Blue Electric’ is the result. Blue, Blue, Electric Blue…
‘stake your claim – in this game
we are controlled by the insane…’
by HOPE & HARROW
(2016, Klanggalerie GG219)
BY ANDREW DARLINGTON