AAAK: Buildingscape Beat XXV – album review
AAAK – Buildingscape Beat XXV (Eromeda Records)
2 X CD
Late 80s industrial electronics reworked for the 21st century alongside six brand new tracks – just don’t stick it on late at night if you need to be up in the morning…
One day in 2009, construction crews working on the regeneration of Salford were stopped in their tracks when their shovels hit someting hard. Something deep underground, some piece of Manchester’s lost industrial history. The earth trembled, first with a grinding scrape and then the clash of metal on metal. “Whatever it is, it’s… alive!” And thus rose from the shallow grave in which it had laid dormant for almost two decades, the almighty beast that was AAAK, ready to spill its dystopian beats across a new century.
Or if you prefer the real world version:
Think of Manchester music in the late 80s and you’ll probably remember the baggy scene going overground; clubs pumping out variable quality Balearic beats; if you lived here you’d probably remember a few indie guitar bands that bucked the dance crossover trend too – but industrial electronics? Wasn’t that the preserve of slightly scary Belgians? Well, mostly, but somewhere in the wastelands that covered much of Manchester and Salford’s pre-regeneration city centres Ding Archer and Paul Rawlinson – armed with a drum machine and a collection of scrap metal – were making a noise as intoxicatingly nasty as anything those Benelux boys could muster. There was a legendary incident whereby a gig was pulled when the promoter took exception to their use of an angle-grinder. Inspired by the decay around them, they called it Buildingscape Beat and released six tracks of it on Sarah Champion and Alison Martin’s SCAM Records in 1988. John Peel loved it and so did the Belgians – with the renowned KK Records of Antwerp offering a deal and releasing a full length album – even if success was somewhat limited back home. Then their studio got robbed and they were forced to pack it in. Spin on to 2009, and approached about a possible retrospective compilation the duo reconvened to play some gigs, make new music – and re-record some of their old material. Now a five-piece band including real drums and guitars and Mr. Heart‘s Tamsin on additional vocals, this is the result.
The buildingscape of Salford has evolved considerably and so has the Buildingscape Beat. Not surprisingly, the addition of the more conventional instruments has shifted the sound more towards rock territory – but fear not, AAAK are still about as likely to squiggle out a guitar solo as to belt out a ballad. There’s no gentle acclimatisation to this collection of new-old and new-new: starting with the latter, press Play and you’re catapulted into a world where the rhythms race too fast for comfort and Paul R still sounds like a very angry man. Put it this way, you really would not wish to be the subject of “Never Stop Me”. And don’t be thinking that a female voice will soften the blow (not that you would, if you’ve ever heard Mr Heart) – it’s more kind of not only is this man exceedingly pissed off, but he’s brought back-up. Even the brief respite that is the slower, punk-funk flavoured “Enjoy Your Moment” has a vaguely threatening feel in the way Paul warns “things happen for a reason – you are the reason”. The standout track from the new-new side kidnaps Neu!, fucks them up a bit and takes them for a frenzied 3am car chase around the estates off Regent Road; its title is “Ordsall Calling” and you can almost hear the police helicopter hovering above.
The reworks meanwhile might well break the hallowed “number one rule of a remake, don’t fuck with the original” but all rules are allowed exceptions. Most so-called futuristic music sounds more than a bit daft by the time you actually reach the future, but sitting here in the century of information overload wondering which sci-fi nightmare is going to come true next, AAAK have found their time. Snatches of odd sound effects, processed vocals and butchered guitars fire in from every angle in a way that physically couldn’t have been done in 1988 (unless you had a shitload of money, which they clearly didn’t). The relentless electrobeats of “Sharpshooter”, the flickering chaos of “Buildingscape Beat”, Paul and Tamsin’s duelling shouts on “Brain Drain”; if anything they sound even more apocalyptic. If they ever make a version of the Grand Theft Auto game set in a near future Salford where half the cops are robots and there are missiles on the roof of Sainsburys, this is the soundtrack. However, it’s probably not a good idea to listen to AAAK late at night when you really need to be up in the morning; suddenly going to bed seems like a far less attractive proposition than a spot of spontaneous panel beating.
The album is available directly from the label shop here. AAAK will be performing a special album launch show at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester on August 23rd, followed by an appearance at Infest in Bradford the following day. For more information visit their website here. All words by Cath Aubergine, more writing by Cath on Louder Than War can be found here.