Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Cultural Amnesia - Enormous Savages Enlarged

Cultural Amnesia existed during 1981 and 1983, releasing several cassette albums through the then burgeoning network of cassette labels. Selections from the cassette albums Video Rideo, Sinclair's Luck, The Uncle Of The Boot, contributions to cassette compilations and numerous previously unreleased tracks have appeared on the retrospective vinyl compilations Enormous Savages (Anna Logue Records) and Press My Hungry Button (Vinyl-On-Demand). Recently issued on CD is Enormous Savages Enlarged which is as it says an enlarged version of the vinyl edition released by Anna Logue Records in 2007, which originally featured nine tracks from their vast archive of songs.

Cultural Amnesia were initially associated with the industrial movement, partly due to the involvement of an adolescent John Balance - assisting Cultural Amnesia with advice and encouragement, releasing and designing the album Sinclair's Luck. Cultural Amnesia worked from a wider array of influences though; their sound featured sprightly electronics, abrasive angular guitar loaded with clever, stilted lyrical wordplay. Their recording methods and equipment may have been lo-tech, even for the time, but their ideas and the execution of those ideas as evidenced on Enormous Savages and its successive collection Press My Hungry Button illustrate they are ripe for (re)discovery.

And deservedly so. The opening track 'Kingdom Come' is competent intelligent experimental synth-pop. Cultural Amnesia really come into their own when the electronics collide with abrasive guitars. The jolts of jagged guitar that fizz through 'Repetition For This World' are electrifying, while piercing and jarred guitar lines punctuate the throbbing electronics of 'Sacrebleu'. The hollered vocals deliver words of twisted love amidst guttural coughs.

Ultimately Cultural Amnesia are an electronic group but the guitar playing on this, and Press My Hungry Button, is truly distinctive and such a wonderful sound. It works particularly well on 'Blind Rag' where the electronics slow down, and the hesitant delivery of the storyboard lyrics are couched in screeching post-punk guitars. 'Materialistic Man' is pure punked-up distorted electro-pop, while 'The Wildlife of the Tranquil Vale' is like listening to English schoolboys channelling Suicide with a casio organ.

Three tracks penned by a young John Balance are included here. They capture Balance's penchant for dark poetry and black wordplay, which he would refine with his own work as Coil. 'Fetish For Today' oozes macabre industrial subject matter over pulsating electro beats and buzz guitar. The howling electronics of 'Scars For E' is indebted to Throbbing Gristle, with the lyrics even adopting P. Orridge's speak. It is, however, a Brion Gysin influence that provides the finest collaboration between Balance and Cultural Amnesia. The choppy guitar and rapid fire electro rhythm of 'Here To Go' works particularly well with the convoluted and almost cut-up delivery of the lyrics.

As I write this Synth Britannia, a BBC4 documentary on how synth-pop revolutionised the UK music scene, is being advertised. Gary Numan, Human League, Depeche Mode are amonsgt the talking heads appearing on it. Cultural Amnesia won't. They didn't sell any records or garner much attention outside of the cassette network. Like many others, they don't appear in any histories of post-punk. Listening to this or Push My Hungry Button you might ask yourself, why?

Not only that. They're back. This Enlarged edition includes 5 tracks from Cultural Amnesia recorded since 2000. And guess what? They're pretty cool. The electronics slightly cleaner, the guitars slightly less rough but they're as obtuse and as clever as ever. 'It's Coming' is delivered in reams of smart descriptions and waves of distorted guitars hinting at a punk-funk thing. 'Contains' is a clever-clever list of marketing spin, ingredients and common phrases over electro squelch and guitars. With its stark guitar chords over primitive electro rhythm, 'I Heard It On The Radio' is almost a transitory piece bridging the gap between the old and new Cultural Amnesia. The hollered vocals and Albini-esque guitar playing over organ chime on 'syst.admin' is reminiscent of the solo work of Thighpaulsandra. Blurt and a honking squeeze box make this a total winner. This Enlarged edition closes with 'Theme From Cultural Amnesia' which appropriates a foreign radio broadcast over some loose guitar playing and theremin like wail, dissolving into experimental electronic improvisation.

Cultural Amnesia were never short of ideas and these new tracks show they still have a lot to offer. It's rare we review an album twice but this is great stuff. Limited to a mere 300 copies on CD and been out for a while. Go and buy this. For more information go to