Thursday, 31 October 2013

MFH - 1979-85 (2012)

MFH was a duo comprising David Elliott and Andrew Cox, and I should probably confess that what follows is hardly impartial given that Andrew was a close friend prior to his horrible passing in 2009. I met Andrew and David through their recording as Pump on The Elephant Table Album, and my noticing how their contact address was about three streets from where I was living at the time. I knew of MFH from weirdy cassette fanzines although I'd never heard their music, excepting Andrew's excellent solo tape Methods. All the same, we had plenty in common and it transpired that we knew at least a few of the same people.

It's a little odd only now getting to hear MFH having known Andrew so well and for so long, particularly as he's no longer with us, but it's more or less what I expected given Andrew and David's appreciation of Cluster and others. Their music didn't exactly sound like Cluster, but it shared more common ground with the German avant-garde than with many of MFH's wilfully industrial contemporaries, all busily frowning as they twisted those VCOs and pretended to be the science-fiction Black Sabbath. What we have here are nineteen instrumental, or at least non-vocal tracks culled from the five cassettes released by MFH - all quite atmospheric and with a clear love of improvised sound composition which makes it quite difficult to identify some of the sources. I fully expect the next person who overhears me listening to this to declare that it isn't music, except actually it kind of is. Even at their most abstract and atonal, MFH made great use of repetition and texture to create something which draws you in if you're prepared to give it a chance. Being culled from a cassette source, it's lo-fi by necessity rather than as a virtue, but this isn't a problem. These pieces might best be approached as abstract paintings in sound, fascinating oddities which might have formed by means of some obscure geological or organic process, and the more one listens, the better they work. If it's any good to you, I listened to this today whilst out on the marshlands of Salado Creek here in San Antonio. It was warm and I spent a few minutes just watching swarms of dragonflies go about their business. This was a pretty good accompaniment.

The history of this kind of music is rewritten on a more or less yearly basis, and it's got to the point where people now use the term industrial music as though it ever really meant anything; and give it another ten years and the whole thing will probably turn out to have been invented by one of those saggy old groups of Joy Division covers Nazis, which is obviously bullshit. It's therefore definitely a good thing that MFH are now honoured and remembered by this wonderful retrospective. They may not have set the world on fire, but they are at least worth remembering.

Available from the Forced Nostalgia label.

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