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Nation 12 > Electrofear > UK Compact Disc > Sleevenotes
SUMMARY...
Format : Compact Disc
Catalogue Number : TPCD8
Label : Tape Modern / Fullfill Records
Release Date : 05 November 2005
Country : United Kingdom
Electrofear
Electrofear
Nation 12 is a project that started life as a collaboration between electronic pioneer John Foxx and Bomb The Bass's Tim Simenon back in 1989. At the time the 21-year-old Simenon's hip hop beats and music cut-ups were right at the cutting edge of British music, as he'd not only constructed his own Number Two single Beat Dis but in 1988 the dance innovator also co-produced Neneh Cherry's Top 10 hits Buffalo Stance and Manchild. In addition to his love for hip hop, the Brixton born producer was also a fan of electronic music, especially Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget and John Foxx. Although the latter hadn't made a record since 1985's In Mysterious Ways, they met up via mutual acquaintances in 1989 to discuss the idea of a collaboration. Foxx has drifted out of music as a reaction to the middle of the road, Fairlight-tooled dross that had taken over the music scene in the second half of the Eighties which he felt left him "no place to go". That was until acid house began to emerge, a new form of electronica that Foxx immediately felt at home with. He started going to the Fridge in 1987, where he saw the performance artist Leigh Bowery "in full and bewildering bloom" as a colourful club scene sprang to life animated by house rhythms. According to Foxx, "a sort of electro-punk techno-hippie had emerged to save the day." A little later the former Ultravox! founder started going down to London's Wag club to hear Tim Simenon DJ.

When
Simenon went around to John Foxx's Highgate home to discuss working together, "John played me this new song, Remember and I immediately loved it. I thought it was great. In the end, I just tweaked it a little." Martin Heath, owner of Bomb The Bass's label Rhythm King, also liked the track and signed it up as the first single by a new project dubbed Nation 12. The combination of icy electronics and tumbling beats comes together extremely well on Remember, though bizarrely it's the only music that Foxx and Simenon collaborated on together. "Looking back on it, it would have been interesting to have done some more work," says Foxx. "Tim's a creative magpie - he has a beautiful instinct for beats and grooves and an encyclopaedic knowledge of sounds and sources. He simply breathed it all like air." Although there's another Simenon mix of the track on the 12 inch, the B-side Listen To The Drummer is a full on, hip hop mash up which the dance producer had assembled with the help of co-producer / engineer Shem McAuley. If anything, Listen To The Drummer actually attracted more attention at the time and still occasionally surfaces in the DJ sets of acts such as the Plump DJs. As Simenon took on new producer projects and started recording his second Bomb The Bass album, Nation 12 effectively became a new team consisting of Foxx and McAuley, plus two more co-producers / DJs / engineers / sound experimenters, Simon and Kurt Rogers. Essentially, Foxx wrote the lyrics and the melodies, then played them to the others who added beats, plundered and mutated form various obscure sources. "The album began at home," says Foxx. "Then it proceeded in various studios around London, such as Matrix. I remember Mark E. Smith from the Fall was around at one point. Simon Rogers and he had worked together and I'd known him previously. We often had glorious arguments about everything. After that, the project relocated to a beautifully tatty country house in the New Forest where Simenon set up just the Mac and sampler with keyboards - the first time I'd actually recorded straight into a computer." They'd sometimes listen back to their work while "zooming around Manchester's flyovers in this artificially boosted car which contained the biggest internal sound system ever contrived. The inside acted a as giant bass resonator and we resonated to Kurt's Kruel Kutups of every psycho-electro record worth resonating to."

Perhaps as a response to the underground success of
Listen To The Drummer, Nation 12's second single was another beat-fuelled club track, Electrofear. Yet the album itself was growing into a fascinating mix of styles, from the affectionate, synthesizer-led Kraftwerk homage Florian to ambient, uplifting psychedelia on She Was and the exquisite Leaving. There were even full blown, Bowie-esque pop songs such as Your Kisses Burn, while Shadow Dancing mixes smoky electronics with a thrilling, sky-gazing chorus. "My own brief for the project was to unite electro-beats with psychedelic via acid," remembers Foxx. "I instinctively felt that the future was a kind of psychedelic electronic music. Those elements weren't talking to each other at that point. I remember playing Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles to Shem and some of the others and it was the first time they'd heard it. You could really feel the weather changing. Later, the Orb and the Chemical Brothers etc made it all work like a dream, but this was a couple of years before all that."

Although they'd worked on over a dozen tracks, unfortunately the
Nation 12 album was never finished. The project imploded as Electro fear (now also the title of this CD) failed to match the impact of that first single, leaving far more adventurous tracks on the cutting room floor. As the album was never delivered and Rhythm King eventually closed, the tapes form those recording sessions were also lost. "I had one or two things on tape somewhere, but essentially I thought it was gone for good," admits Foxx. Then three years ago, two cassettes appeared (courtesy of a long-time John Foxx fan Simon Blackmore) which contained most of the material recorded by Nation 12. Not only that, but the sound quality on these tapes is very good, and apart from the two released singles, they are the source of almost all of the music on this CD release. Although there's the odd hiss and crackle, both Foxx and Simenon believe it's part of the album's raw charm: "The music itself is primitive and promising", says Foxx of this snapshot of a work in progress. "It's like a little map of possible musics. Some of the elements sit together like oil and water, some point to entirely new directions for the period - many of these have since been fruitfully explored by others. If we'd have continued, I'm sure it would have worked." Thanks to Martin Heath's support, Nation 12's fragments and songs are finally assembled into 77 minutes of music, described by Foxx as a mixture of "film noir dance routines, electropunk and psychedelic chart songs."

Steve Malins 2005

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