When I first moved away from home I was sharing a house with one Reuben, a sculpture student from Ipswich. Happily we had similar musical tastes centred around shared appreciation of a cannily programmed drum machine, tastes which allowed us to present a united front against the third member of our household, a painting student named Kevin who was into jazz and real music, whatever the hell that was supposed to be. We all got on fine most of the time, but occasionally we'd argue.
'Synthesiser!' Reuben would spit as an expletive as Kevin shuffled back to his room and all that proper music he listened to, Pat Metheny or whatever.
Anyway, at some point Reuben slung me a tape of a group called Nagamatzu. I'd never heard of them. 'They're from Ipswich,' he told me. 'You might like them.'
I did, and I kept an eye open ever since, somehow missing them each time they resurfaced - not that they were exactly putting themselves about. So for much of the last thirty years, Nagamatzu have remained more or less that band which I taped off Reuben from where I stood, even as I'd seen the name of Lagowski - one half of Nagamatzu - crop up in numerous fanzines without realising there was an association. When Shatter Days was reissued on vinyl, seemingly out of the blue, I accordingly nearly quacked my pants with excitement. I hadn't even realised it was called Shatter Days.
It's just four tracks, supplemented by a few things contributed to compilation albums around the same time, but Lordy it's powerful. It's also of its time, as the unfortunate qualifier would have it, in so much as I'm pretty sure that's a Roland TR606 I can hear spanking out a typically android rhythm, and as a fan of both Joy Division and the Cure, these are probably the sort of bass lines I would have played through my flange pedal, had I owned a flange pedal; but before I present an impression of something which sounded like a hell of a lot of other backcombed material of 1983 vintage, Nagamatzu put vaguely familiar elements together in a combination which greatly exceeded the sum of the parts. It's not so much that they ever sounded like either New Order or the Cure as that this is what New Order and the Cure should have sounded like but didn't, because New Order turned into some sort of extended Trevor Horn remix and the Cure were always better as the Joy Division you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite, before it went all self-consciously Alice in Wonderland.
Anyway. Other bands - fuck 'em. Shatter Days still effortlessly strikes that fine emotional balance achieved on only a couple of New Order records, somewhere betwixt the sun bursting joyous from the heavens and a vague memory of once having felt like slashing your wrists at a bus-stop in Huddersfield, a sort of bitter-sweet euphoria for want of a less comical description. What seems astonishing is that they achieved such an effect by such apparently minimal means, chugging bass riffs and just a couple of notes with which to render something that essentially does the same job as Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam. This one really is a masterpiece.