The Dead Goldfish Ensemble – Fishy Tales
From the label who previously brought us reissues of Japanese underground deepcuts from Pale Cocoon & World Standard, comes... a collection of UK 80s DIY electronics from Steve Hartwell's Dead Goldfish Ensemble. On first look, Conatala might be a slightly unexpected source, since you'd usually expect somebody a little closer to home to be picking up on what is undoubtedly quixotic and odd early electronic experimentation. Nonetheless, it does also reveal a little of the DGE story, which managed to propagate its own subterranean life, with tracks finding a place on tens of pan-European compilations spread across numerous labels and fanzines. This is music that seemed to find an international reach, in spite of its origins and the occluded paths to industry of the era. On closer inspection of the music itself, it becomes a little more obvious why DGE might have been appealing to a certain, albeit diffuse, audience. There's the same preternatural charm and musical instinct, and not to mention subversiveness, as displayed by Colin Potter, Morgan Fischer, Robert Rental, John Bender et al. Mostly, though, I'm reminded of Warren Defever's comment about wanting to make Music for 18 Musicians but not knowing 18 people, so falling into the solo musings of His Name Is Alive out of necessity. Fishy Tales displays a similar minimal realisation of grander ambitions, Reich's influence all over polyrhythmic compositions that are glazed with a toy shop innocence (which does draw a neat line back to Japan via Cornelius, Pizzicato 5 et al). There's a lot said for virtuosity, but it's more intriguing when someone gets there on their own by some other unexpected means. And Hartwell seems about as unexpected as they come.
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