Concept City was a low-key release in 1985 that surfaced on Cordelia Records, an underground favourite for lovers of esoteric ruminations from bedroom producers tinkering with technology. That makes it no surprise this reissue of work from Mr Concept appears on Platform 23, the perfect home for such charming collages of sound recorded on lo-fi four track. The mood veers from track to track on "November" but there's a generous nod to The Durutti Column in the lingering guitar refrains that appear on many tracks. The scratchy, stuttering samples take on a hypnotic quality in their manic triggering, all caked together on tape and now lovingly repressed for fresh, inquisitive ears.
Please find enclosed one 'Deluxe' stereophonic gramophone record from Concept City, containing thirteen recordings of musics entirely produced upon 4-track portastudio for your pleasure and discourse - the sole work of Mr Robert Grant of this parish.
So states the photocopy insert from the 1985 November LP on Cordelia Records. Home to R. Stevie Moore, Rimarimba – recently reissued by Freedom To Spend - and label owner Alan Jenkin’s The Deep Freeze Mice, Cordelia was home to a menagerie of sound collage plucked from the ether.
Included is the only vinyl release from “Concept City”, spreading across 13 instrumental tracks of samples and noise. The Welsh choir and robovox meets hypnotic bass of Open The Network glides to the acoustics of Jayne Andrews and Filament, before Steam amasses TV ad cassette archives. As Etruria and Lapse Wine’s Durutti meets reel-to-reel to the cold wave of War, Children and wasp synth of Helsinki, Grant slowly unfolds a masterpiece.
Looped drum samples, multiple layered to tape, sped up and slowed down for phasing, the title track is a pinnacle of 80s DiY genius. ‘Crossroads’ multi-sampling Meg leads to the exotica ‘muzak’ closings of Penetration and Friends. With just 5 albums over 40 years the music of Mr Concept can be a discovery and cherished.
Excerpt from 'Virtual Concept City'.
13th September 1985:
The master tape was created at Barkby Road Studios - As well as a large reel of empty tape Mr Concept took his cassette recorder and a pile of cassettes in readiness. A possible unlucky combination of timing and recordings was observed by Rick Willson (13 tracks at 13:00hrs on Friday 13th). He was also amused to hear that effects had been applied quite heavily on some tracks and was heard to say "tch - you've even echoed your own Grandmother"... Luckily all went well. The cassette recordings were dubbed onto reel-to-reel tape and then Rick carefully spliced white tape in between each track so that there would be no hiss in the quiet bits. He's a stickler for perfection... Later that afternoon Mr Concept stepped out, a proud man, into the bright sunshine with the completed master tape for his first album...
3rd October 1985:
Mr Concept was taken on a day trip to London by Cordelia Records executive 'Alan Jenkins' to see the record industry first hand. First they went to 'Rough Trade' who were to be the distributors. There were lots of people walking around with bits of paper. They were shown a list of pre-orders for his album from specialist record shops around the world - 10 copies for the San Francisco office - obviously word had already got out about the imminent release. Next was a visit to the cutting engineer at 35 Portland Place. Here the music on the master tape would be played through a machine that cuts a groove onto a metal disk which would become 'the master disk' for all the LP's to be pressed from. They entered the building through a large posh entrance and went through corridors towards the back of the building - the decor deteriorating the further they went. They arrived 40 minutes early and so went straight out the back of the building to 'The Dover Castle' pub. At 1:00pm they returned and met the cutting engineer who turned out to be George 'Porky' Peckham. Mr Concept was thrilled to see that only the finest engineers were being employed by Cordelia Records, as of course is the norm here in CONCEPT CITY. The studio was a single room with a cutting deck, a tape deck and racks of equipment and what a mess! Boxes of acetates everywhere, empty glasses, posters and fag ends. George went through every track and carefully noted the optimum settings ready for the final run. Mr Concept paid particular attention to the mastering process and decided to instruct his engineers to 'master' the new stuff in future. Once he had decided on the settings for each individual track he started up the cutting machine and began playing the master tape into it and the disk was slowly created. This was repeated - once for each side of the LP. Mr Concept was by now feeling drowsy and busting for a wee-wee. After he had finished doing the complicated stuff George scratched some messages in the center of the master disks for Mr Concept. Mr Concept's diary says that 'George Pecham's a cheerful bloke'. Another Porky Prime Cut...