The late 70s/early 80s was a great time for Australian music. Acts like Essendon Airport, Systematics, Scattered Order, Severed Heads, Violet Lightning, Cybotron / Steven Maxwell von Braund, and even more obscure cold/minimal/new wave / minimal synth acts such as A Cloakroom Assembly, I.Q., Pleasant Peasants, Ya Ya Choral, Informatics, Denial, The Products, Bamboo Bridge, The Sigh of Relief, The Tapes, Laughing Hands, et al., plus influential labels like M Squared, all delivered a beautiful sound and made a huge impact to the Australian ‘underground’ music scene.
However, one particular band from that blissful period whom I immensely enjoy is cult Melbourne minimal-synth group The Metronomes, a formidable force in the early electronic music scene.
The Metronomes initially were comprised of rock journo-synth player Al Webb (Streetlife) and bass player Andrew Picouleau (Secret Police, Sacred Cowboys). Ash Wednesday (Einstürzende Neubauten, Models, Modern Jazz, Jab, Crashland, Thealonian Music), who featured on one side of The Metronomes first obscure single “Saturday Night/Sunday Morning” (released in 1980 on Cleopatra Records), later became a permanent fixture in the band. They were never intended to be a live outfit and only ever came together in the studio, but, this could all change in the not so distant future?!
Their debut album ‘Multiple Choice’ hit Cleopatra Records in 1981:
“The first full-length, Multiple Choice, was recorded in the winter of 1980, using Roland Strings, a mini-Korg, some ARP synthesizers and a Boss DR-55, a drum machine that was intensivly used by many minimal synth bands during the 80s and by legendary bands like Sisters of Mercy or New Order in their first songs.”
Following on from their first effort and from a lengthy break in which all the members’ various lives and careers went in numerous directions, “Regular Guys” was released in 1985:
It was surely more premeditated, as most of the songs arrived in studio already written. Each writer had creative control over their respective songs, a long-standing Metronomes road rule; only one track had what you might call a spontaneous birth. The LP featured the next wave of synth toys like the Oberheim synth, Oberheim drum machine and Prophet 5. Once the programming was set up, the instrument tracks were bounced via a PCM box direct to video tape, a pioneering process which almost entirely eliminated tape hiss.”
Their third album “Today” is now available on iTunes, several years after it was first released in 2004 after the group took a break and pursued other interests. I have not heard this album in its entirety yet but one day I’ll get around to it – I just don’t like iTunes so I’ll have to hunt for CD. You can also sample it here.
- – To learn more about their history check out the history section of their website, or Andrew P’s personal history page. Some nice info/pics avail here too! – -
So let’s fast forward to the present year. I guess now would be the perfect time for some freshly released Metronomes-related music? Well, reader, we are in luck! A fresh Melbourne label named it Records has surfaced and is/will be doing just that.
But first, earlier this year, it Records launched with its debut release of cult dark-psych-space-trance The Night Terrors member Miles Brown’s ‘Electrics/Night Time’ solo 7″. Miles, a renown thereminist who learnt from Lydia Kavina, illustrates a very coldish minimal synth-pop sound as his solo effort. Upon purchasing the 7″ single you will be emailed a digital download of the single + B-side ‘Night Time’ PLUS 12 remixes by a bucket-load of local talent: Justin Fuller (Zond), Matthew Brown (Public Possession, ex-Zond), Other Places, ASPS (ex-Chrome Dome), Kangaroo Skull (My Disco), Jake Blood, COMPLETE (Heirs), Prolife (ex-Slug Guts), WORNG, Transient Threat and The Metronomes.
The more stripped-back, minimalist ‘Blind Date’ Metronomes remix takes Brown’s ‘Electrics’ into a more up-tempo direction, containing an ethereal-eerie vocal and an addictive outlandish vibe. It’s a lovely progression from the original, yet still stays faithful. Take a peek below:
NEWS: Coming soon on Dual Planet (the fresh new local-based label that had re-issued Steven Maxwell von Braund’s ‘Monster Planet’, Cybotron’s ‘Sunday Night at the Total Theatre’ and also two LPs by Italian Teisco), in conjunction with it Records, is a “best of” Metronomes release.
This previously mentioned “best of” release could sit nicely on your record shelf with the Italian label Mannequin’s brilliant Metronomes reissue. Released several years ago, ‘The Ballad of the Metronomes’ features both 1st and 2nd LPs + both 7″s. Still avail.
MORE NEWS: Last but not least, the long awaited new Metronomes record is due to drop later this year on it Records. More details to follow in the coming weeks/months/etc. Stay tuned. Exciting!
Below are some tracks from the very early period of The Metronomes:
The Metronomes – A Circuit Like Me
The Metronomes – Sex II
The Metronomes – A Living Person
The Metronomes – Moral Climates