Hastings of Malawi are Heman Pathak, David Hodes and John Grieve. They recorded the album in one night in 1981 with no plan and no idea of what they were doing. They played drums, clarinet, synthesiser and piano but also made use of things that they found lying around the studio – old records, cookery books, telephone directories and a telephone. The recordings were played down the phone to randomly dialled numbers and the reactions added to the recording. All three had been involved in the recording of the first Nurse with Wound album Chance Meeting On A Dissecting Table Of A Sewing Machine And An Umbrella and had contributed metal scrapings, piano, effects, clarinet and guitar during the session.
Their debut album, Vibrant Stapler Obscures Characteristic Growth, is a masterpiece from 1981, re-issued on vinyl by Sub Rosa and on CD by Klanggalerie. Originally 1000 copies pressed on orange/red vinyl. 120 copies were sold through Rough Trade and Virgin Records. 800 copies were bought and later destroyed by the United Dairies label, making this record even more rare. 35 years later, the British dadaist group Hastings of Malawi have released a new album - an epic sound poem entitled Visceral Underskinnings. It is a 40 minute film without light that reflects on the human condition, on modern society, on the nature of telephony and electricity and an attempt to make sense of the world in which we live that provides no answers. It is a sound collage of diverse elements including the voices of George Washington Johnson (First African American star of the phonograph 1846-1914) and Dr Hastings Banda - the first president of Malawi.
It includes randomly generated computer music, voice synthesis, recordings of cold war number stations, American military sound weaponry and recordings of the some of the many sound sculptures produced by Hastings of Malawi over the last 30 years. Hastings of Malawi produce sounds that sit in that grey area where sound art and music meet but they reject both labels and cannot be comfortably placed in either camp. This is not an easy album to listen to but persevere and you may or may not be able to decipher its meaning.