Staying in the 4AD camp after my previous Dif Juz post, we’re featuring a group who cut through the label’s usual doom and gloom with their razor sharp electro-soul single Breakdown.
Synths and drum machines were nothing new in post-punk by ’82 but whilst acts like Human League and Cabaret Voltaire were continuing in the tradition of their European predecessors, Colourbox seemed more directly influenced by the next wave of black electronic styles developing in NYC, Detroit, Chicago and beyond.
On the flip of their Hi NRG pilfering debut comes the downbeat Tarantula, an epic synth-led chugger which suddenly mutates mid-track into the kind of electro-reggae beast we simply can’t get enough of over here at SBB. Confusingly, both sides of the Breakdown 12″ were recorded and released twice, the 2nd and slightly more polished version from ’83 you can hear below – the rhythmic switch happens around the 4:30 mark…
Soon after this release, vocalist Debbian Currie was replaced by lovers rock chanteuse Lorita Grahame, and Colourbox’s electro-dub-rock experiments continued til they found themselves involved in a nasty lawsuit with Stock Aitken & Waterman for an uncleared sample on their ’87 collaboration Pump Up The Volume. I’m getting way ahead of myself though, and seeing as there’s plenty more skanky antics in the Colourbox oeuvre, I’ll save that trip to M/A/R/R/S for another day. Until then, here’s artist Diana Campanalla dancing to their cover of You Keep Me Hanging On in front of one of her paintings and an inflatable guitar…
I’m afraid I don’t really have enough time to do this band justice today but seeing as this wont be the last time we visit Dif Juz who’s dub-infused soundscapes sit at the more creative end of the Skank Blog spectrum, I’ll let the music do most of the talking for once.
Briefly… Dif Juz formed in 1980 following guitarist Alan Curtis’ departure from some struggling Birmingham band who called themselves Duran Duran. Enlisting the help of his brother David, plus bassist Gary Bromley and multi-instrumentalist Richard Thomas, Curtis turned post-punk’s jagged dissonance into ethereal textures, experimenting with dub deconstruction and jazz timings (Dif Juz stood for “different jazz”), leading to the posthumous accolade of inventing post-rock over a decade before the term was coined.
A six year career left us with a handful of stunning EP’s and one album proper, so let’s start at the start with their debut release on Ivo Watts-Russell’s fledgling 4AD label, 1981′s Huremics EP featuring 4 instrumentals, the 3rd of which is the polyrhythmic rocker Mi with Bromley’s bass bubbling at it’s epicentre…
And as I can’t chat anymore about Dif Juz right now, here’s Dereck Higgins with some thoughts on the subject…
There appears to be almost no info online regarding this record, which is both mildly frustrating and beautifully absurd given that the name of the group is Famous 4. Equally curious, the 4 appeared to be a three piece, with this EP being “dedicated to the fourth man”.
Hume Tunes 1 also suggests there were more releases planned but sadly all we have are these 4 tracks (and one uncredited dub) to go by.
And the dub is of course what I’m alerting your skanky ears to today, though that’s not to say this selection of fair-game genre pilfering post-punk (ska, reggae and disco all get the Famous mistreatment) isn’t worth a few minutes of your time.
With very little to go on aside the presence of Mark Lusardi, the go-to guy for sparse dubbed out mixes and famed for his work with everyone from Dennis Bovell to Killing Joke, I can only assume that Lusardi had his hand in the lusciously EQ’d mix of their jilted and spiky take on lovers rock I Want That Girl. Whoever’s responsible, I’d like to formally commend them on one of the finest rimshots ever committed to tape. Obviously the rest of the track is nice too…
And how about a bit of dislocated disco, featuring Mick Lynch’s jacking keys which seem to preempt early house despite this record coming out back in 1981.
As ever with these mystery releases, if anyone has any info on the whereabouts of the not so famous messrs Giz, Ygor and Lynch, then please drop us a line.