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Released: 4th November 2020
|LP Purple Vinyl Edition||£18.99||Buy Now||In Stock. Dispatched tomorrow.|
We live for this. Limited edition Purple vinyl with 12 page booklet.
Astaron from Vienna, Austria were a music and art performance duo made up of Angie Mörth (member of viele bunte Autos) and Martina Aichhorn who existed from 1984 to 1989. Influenced by the Viennese Actionism, Einstürzende Neubauten and Kate Bush and armed with a big dose of black humour and a true love for trash culture they created an impressively unique body of work. They released two DIY tapes, One 12” and this stunning self titled album at the tail end of 1987. It was originally released by local label Ton Um Ton Records in a criminally low pressing of 500 Copies. This is the first official reissue of Astaron's debut, on London label Sealed Records.
In modern reissue culture, it's easy to think "now I've heard everything," but the ingenuity and exploration that exploded in the wake of punk and DIY culture in the 80s still seems not to be fully uncovered. Astaron's music employs primitive electronics and an almost naive, brutalist approach to melody, yet teases out threads of emotional vulnerability from the drily iced murk. Like much of mainland Europe, Vienna's underground punks embraced the gothic, synthetic music that drifted across the channel from the likes of Mute, 4AD and Rough Trade and re-submerged it into the cold. Astaron sidestepped the trappings of a strictly "dark wave" genre sound, incorporating influences that coloured the sound in unsuspecting ways. There's elements of gallows humour, traditional Austrian folklore melodies, eldritch solemnity and even a kind of Byzantine harmony in the way the vocals blend.
Astaron's self-titled album opens with a familiar analog drum machine pulse and looping micro-tonal vocal inflections, serving as an intro of sorts to The Burning, a darkly humurous nursery rhyme over martial snares and Bauhausian chord progressions. There's an utterly charming playfulness in the buzz of the cheap keyboards, it's so DIY you can almost hear the Tascam's tape heads whirring underneath it all. Little Girl Crying introduces a minimal, almost Middle-Eastern melody over stabbing electronic piano and programmed drum machine, intoned blankly, robotically. St John's Fire introduces an almost medieval, Austrian waltz feeling that also recalls the 80s DIY, harmonied songwriting of Dolly Mixture if it was set in a kind of plastic, surreal themepark in the woods. As Time Joins In deserves to be a Cold Wave classic, LFO-inflected basslines wavering in and out of the background to create a rhythmic pull that the coldly funky beat lurches against. If this was played on guitars it would be The Shop Assistants, or even Siouxsie on a budget. As the synth envelope reduces and a stabbing guitar joins the fray, we're in the midst of a freezing anthem to loss, it's pretty inspired in its simplicity and pared down, post-punk jaggedness. As Time Joins In would have been all over some legendary minimal wave comp at the time had it been released in the UK, Burst Out closes side A and reminds us of Y Pants, Solid Space, Young Marble Giants, it's so bloody minded in its twin goals of minimalism and melody.
While a seam of humour runs through the group's work, their funereal dirges are convincing; In An Absence feels like they've taken a whirring drum machine into an Orthodox church, the duo's vocals entwining in a solemn dance of death. It's a testament to the fact that the group's lineage can't be easily reduced. Theirs is an experimental approach that makes much of little, refutely subterranean in its presentation. Sea Blue Ladies borrows from the more mournful side of The Banshees yet here its mouldy with genuine hardship, it feels like its being waxed in a damp basement in a forgotten crypt underneath Vienna's hard street. Perhaps its Astaron's background as a performance duo, their clearly imaginative reconstitution of different music trends that contributed to the obscurity of the music. Listening to the closing triptych of Collecting Bones, The Slurring and The Voice and it feels more abstract, like Einsturzende Neubaten, even touches upon Cocteau Twins-ish glossolalia and primitive cut-up techniques like the most far out Can recordings of the 60s. The Voice closes the album as a total red herring, a loop-based track that dips into a world of dread and horror and seems far removed from the heartfelt tracks like As Time Joins In.
Astaron's music was murky, full of life, obscure, funny, obtuse, odd and the very definition of Do It Yourself.