An often overlooked factor that contributed to the explosion of creative work from the minimal synthesizer artists of the early 1980’s was the music cassette. It provided an economically viable option for both the recording of the music and the dissemination of those recordings. For the first time a generation of underground musicians were not crippled by the asphyxiating costs associated with studio recordings and the pressing of vinyl. Couple the cassette with the wider commercial availability of the color photocopier (which provided a relatively inexpensive means to produce packaging for these “do it yourself” releases), and at last there was an inexpensive means for electronic musicians to promote themselves. Sadly, because of the sheer volume of cassettes that were released during the era, many of these heroic recordings were overlooked and then eventually lost to time.
One of the more interesting bands from the minimal electronic cassette culture was the Netherlands duo of Lex Grauwen and Paul Oosterbaan. Known as Tranquil Eyes, they released their only album of material on a cassette in 1985 with the Stitching Stopcontact label out of Amsterdam. Lost in the shuffle, the work didn’t receive the acclaim it deserved and their notoriety faded with the closing of the 80’s. Now twenty-seven years later, Onderstroom Records has finally committed this treasure to 180 gram vinyl.
While using the title “Walks” as a poetic metaphor for the compositions themselves, these are substantively dark songs enforcing themes of social alienation and the disappointments of coming of age that for some odd reason often reference the use of technology as a tool to spy on us in our homes. Descriptively that may seem like subject matter flying in every direction, but “Walks” really is an album that seriously looks inward, is focused, and uses a literary sophistication equal to the early works of Yukihiro Takahashi.
Although there are industrial elements here, stylistically the music tilts toward the New Romantic and easily translates to the dance floor. Heavy in the rhythm department, there is a cache of more than competent sequencing and drum programming. “The Average Indian Reservation Song” and “Finding Out For Yourself” are so good one wonders how they stayed under the radar during those golden years. If these two songs had been packaged as a 12” single they could have easily bested their commercial contemporaries. Yet as good as they are the song that captures the heart and imagination via the New Romantic spirit is “Seashore,” an up-tempo and moving tale of two lovers who “walk” on the beach together, make love, and never say a word. The vignette is complemented by its mystical sitar sample and Mick Karn-like bass line, which harken back to Monsoon’s “Ever So Lonely” and a time when exotic world sounds and the “other” were being discovered by New Wave artists.
In song after song the listener is drawn by adroit vocals weaving their way through an array of abstract synthesizer sounds, guitar samples and masterful control voltage triggering. Tranquil Eyes and their album “Walks” are certainly a cut above the rest in skill, but in a larger picture they were important musicians in an even more important movement.
Artist Link: http://www.onderstroomrecords.net