Miscellany / J-hop
20 January 2014
[ Galagos 043 ]
The Act: DEPARTMENT M
The Release: 'MISCELLANY / J-HOP'
The Format: DIGITAL SINGLE
The Release Date: JANUARY 20TH 2014
The Record Company: Label Fandango / fierce panda records
The Truth: DEPARTMENT M come from Leeds in the North of Englandshire. Ostensibly a creative vehicle for one Owen Brinley, they have spent the past year developing a fascinating, fizzing sound which combines the heroic synths of yesteryear with a contemporary electro sensibility. Depeche Mode, Air, Talk Talk, Cabaret Voltaire and - of course - ELO are just some of the names referenced in their company, and fair play too - Owen Brinley is decidedly not a man afraid of a saxophone solo. Bolstered by a four person-strong live line-up this is an act which can straddle the divide between the shiny retro-obsessed Classic Pop magazine and the cool dark alleyways of modern East London.
In a true clash of the musical formatting generations 'Miscellany / J-Hop' is a double-AA side digital single, the third such release from Department M: March 2013 saw 'I'll Fax You An Apology' / 'Black Boutique' on local label Hide & Seek. In June came 'The Second Prize' / 'Absentia' through Too Pure. Their handy 'Department M' mini-album released on fierce panda on December 16th - brings together most of the songs on these three releases, adds a couple more toweringly sombre tunes and waits for the light to come pouring out of the sky.
Or, in the words of Owen himself: 'Miscellany is a track that delves into the vault of hibernating recollections we all amass over time. The sweepings of the memory floor, the moments we forget then suddenly remember again years later for whatever reason we erase and rewind, we erase and rewrite, we erase and rewire. Musically the track floats into consciousness, luring the listener into its false dream-like state before slamming into a sharp caffeinated electro-focus. It's a song of contrasts, of soft and sharp, of light and dark.'
So how did we get here? Legend already has it that Owen's career took a completely different turn when he put down his guitar and picked up a Roland Juno-60, the classic keyboard that defined the sound of the likes of '80s hair bears A Flock Of Seagulls, and all of a sudden his nascent electronic influences burst to the forefront of his writing. No less interestingly, his career as DJ and binge drinker in several Leeds nightclubs had him suffering from the onset of hyperacusis, an acute over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges. Something to keep his well-developed tinnitus company, but not something to keep him out of the studio.
These conditions over time created a tension which arguably informed the lyrical and musical elements when Owen moulded the Department M sound alongside local long term collaborator James Kenosha. Unsurprisingly, phrases like "abrasive beauty" and "brutalist pop economy" tend to be bandied about Department M's music, for theirs is a world of overdriven hip-hop drum loops crashing against smooth swathes of analogue synthesiser, where the beefiest of rhythms collide with the sweetest of vocals. Come check that sweet beefiness out for yourselves here:
JANUARY 10TH 2014 LONDON SHOREDITCH OLD BLUE LAST
(PANDAMONIUM 14 with THE DEATH OF POP + DESPERATE JOURNALIST + HABITATS)
'Miscellany / J-Hop' hereby becomes the seventh of twelve singles released to celebrate twelve years of Club Fandango alongside the likes of Felt Tip, Desperate Journalist, I Am In Love, Longfellow, Machine Room and more keep your peepers on www.clubfandango.co.uk for pupdates.