Hope + Harrow: Sufferhead EP – review

Hope + Harrow ‘Sufferhead EP’ (Workhouse Digital)
Released 23rd October 2013

H+H. Peter Hope and David Harrow; you may know them? You should know them. Working in and around leftfield electronics and dance since the late Seventies/early Eighties, these two have literally journeyed the globe exploring technological mediums and maximum musical highs. Both have careers and credits as long as a pair of very very long arms. Harrow has made sweet music with Anne Clark, worked with Genesis P. and as part of Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound collective. Andrew Weatherall’s Sabres’ label released his richly flavoured ambient/techno/dub Technova and he plays around with experimental jazz under the alias of James Hardway. Plus he has/had loads of other irons in fires; Oichio, producing, writing pop singles, blah-de-blah… He now chews the studio fat in LA, but you also might just remember him as the one wearing leathers writhing around in the classic ‘Old Style Drop Down’ video (Watch now). The man has a pretty cool CV don’t you think! The video leads neatly to Hope; The Box, Richard H. Kirk collaborant, DJ Parrot and White Trash projects, not to mention overlord of his Wrong Revolution which I have extensively been extolling the virtues of in recent writings (check this author’s pages)… THE vox-man like no other. A formidable pairing you will agree, but it’s been almost thirty years since they last worked together.

In 1985 Ink Records Deutschland released the first Sufferhead EP, a vinyl slab of four pieces veering between electro-funk/pop and dark circuitry exploration. It is an unsung gem of a release and not only for the brutal poetic splendour of ‘Snakes Washed In’. So, decades on, I had no idea what to expect to hear from the dreaded iTunes after all the creative works they’ve made apart… Perhaps, unsurprisingly what was registering between ears and brain was a little startling and I will say at this stage – unfairly – I was underwhelmed. No bludgeoning beats, no full-on body movements and more importantly where the hell was Pete’s voice? I guess – unfairly again – I was expecting a continuum; a Sufferhead 2. Stupid moi, move on! This Sufferhead is an all new method of psychological combat. Where the original slaps you round the face immediately this one prods and pokes, eventually breaking, burrowing and consuming. Around 20 minutes over 5 tracks it’s best to sit back with repeat firmly ON and let the whole work its way through and through and through again. It will take time but it’s more than worth it…

‘Perfect Rain’ opens with meandering spirals of Carpenter-like sequences, slow glitchy percussion and deep-resonant vocal soundings. ‘Revolution Train’ pushes forward, a melody of rolling sequence and mesmeric echoing voice; “Enough’s enough. It’s time to switch their power off”. The message becomes pretty clear before the tempo ups ‘Tongue Tied’; fast and sweeping, its sleazy mood reminds of the best ‘Dubnobass…’ era Underworld. ‘Turn Up The Fuzz’ crawls a dubby headspace, its bleakness controls so heavily that you will do nothing else, restraining all thoughts just to listen; “Thinking’s what fucked it all up in the first place”. The closing ‘Spartacus’ almost allows Hope’s voice to rip through the surface arpeggios and is about as close to their Eighties work as the pair allow, abruptly stopping which is where the repeat button is an absolute necessity.

Simply listening once to this EP is not enough. Nor is twice, thrice… Sufferhead here is proving to be one of those ‘slow-burning’ releases. Crossing all kinds of musical borders, firmly rooted in modern electronica, flashes of Neu!/Kraut, dub and soundtrack build a unique dense layering, a complete installation best galleried through headphone space. If throwaway background sound is your thing then it’s not for your disposable 1p plastic carrier bag. This is music made for those where sound really matters, for those of us with constant addiction cravings. A work of complete brilliance! It may have taken ten or so complete revolutions of listening to Sufferhead to arrive at this conclusion, nevertheless it will be played endlessly (if that is I last another thirty years) just as their previous EP has been. “We are controlled by the insane” sings Pete!

A brief note to add that Peter is off to pasture’s new and taking the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle with him. No doubt New Zealand will not know what’s hitting! I for one wish him all the very very best. Keep in touch with everything (and there’s a lot with much more to come) Peter Hope at Wrong Revolution where many titles are currently FREE to download.

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