(c) John Rose 2021
(c) John Rose 2021
Filmed at The Barrett Browning Institute in Ledbury on 30th May 2021
Taken from the new Pink Drone LP ‘Modernism’ out now on Hip Slang Records
Filmed and edited by Stuart Newnham
Samuel Newnham as the ‘Somnambulist’
Pink Drone – Fluxus album review
Louder Than War March 2021
(Hip Slang Records)
CD | DL
Pink Drone recorded and released the hypnotic, synth-driven album Fluxus late in 2020. It’s recently picked up attention from 6 Music, with Gideon Coe playing a few tracks in the evenings. Iain Key investigates for Louder Than War.
Pink Drone is the solo project of John Rose, formerly of Urmston, Manchester, now residing in the picturesque Market Town of Ledbury, Herefordshire. John is an all-round creative, be it art, music, poetry or podcasting.
Although now living in the Midlands, his musical roots are firmly Mancunian. “The first band I ever saw was The Clash at Manchester Apollo and I’ve never forgotten the life-changing impact it had on me…one hell of a gig. I was a member of the Hacienda in the early 80’s and saw some great bands over the years and ended up following The Stone Roses around the country from their early gigs at The International in 1987. I loved Afflecks and Piccadilly Records and Vinyl Exchange back in the day and I worked at the Manchester Evening News and as a printer”.
The rhythm of the printing presses and the influences of someone growing up in Manchester at that time can clearly be heard throughout the album. Rather than being nostalgic for the post punk years, John has created an occasionally haunting soundtrack for a film, one of unseen silent movies of urban landscapes with the only narration being an Anthony H Wilson voiceover opening the piece explaining; “Fluxus is an international avant-garde collective or network of artists and composers founded in the 1960s and still continuing today”.
It may be a good point to mention, as well as the sound being very Factory-esque, aesthetically the look of the release gives a nod to the likes of Linder Sterling and Jon Savage.
It’s hard to select one track I’d recommend listening to. If I was forced, today, it would be the instrumental European. It’s edgy and slightly disturbing, like John Carpenters soundtrack to Assault On Precinct 13 but set in Moss Side rather than Los Angeles.
For all the obvious electronic influences on the sound of this release; Kraftwerk on Signals and also The Underground; Wire on The Truth or early Human League on Communication; there are also elements of Biting Tongues, Section 25 and The Normal. It’s a rich selection of songs which rewards repeat listening as there are so many layers to each track.
For those who know their art history, the album’s title Fluxus – yes, I had to research the name and art movement – highlights the knowing erudition of John Rose aka Pink Drone. The idea of a constant “flow” of art or “anti-art” was at the core of the Fluxus art movement and accordingly, this album. Pink noise is the name given to the background noise of our lives; the hammering of rain on window panes, the whispering wind rustling leaves or the perfunctory humming of a fridge in the background. Alternatively, with the help of synths, guitar, bass, percussion and “voice,” Pink Drone (see what he did there?) has brought the noise of the human predicament to the musical forefront…
Opening with The Light this “electro -psychedelic” opus with, just out of ear shot, incantations seems to cast a hex over the entire album and resultantly the listener. You have to reposition yourself sonically to grasp the nuanced trippy (sorry) approach of the track. Contrastingly, despite the track’s name the sonic murkiness…is rather hypnotic.
European has already achieved air time on Radio 6 with an access all borders performance played by Gideon Coe. I wonder how many stopped and stared mesmerised at the radio as the track flowed forth…
The impatient percussion, and rolling Hooky bass notes of Signals intro, complimented with the euphoric synth notes reflect a more accessible rhythm and beat – offering the opportunity to dance. So go with the…
The signals are referenced throughout this silver disc of Electronica as “Fluxus” is on a musical journey calling at Devo, via New Order, changing stations at Kraftwork, Joy Division and Depeche Mode before alighting at a destination of his own choosing. Respect to Pink Drone for sitting in the sidings for a period as John Rose planned his journey with meticulous detail.
If the pandemic, that has affected all our lives, has one minor positive aside it is the inspiring impact on art in all its forms. Repetition articulates the ennui that has socially crippled most if not all. The swirling synth chords frame the opening confession: “Take me back to how it used to be….” I guess it is not a universal spoiler to concur that we feel this too. However, the upbeat flow of the track offers, at least the opportunity, to raise the heart beat as we slump comatose in front of daytime repetitive reruns on TV.
Health workers and mass & social media insist that we communicate as individuals to ensure a healthy mind. The background riff of Communication represents the mental rut one can find ourselves in if we “disconnect”. The constant repeating of the word “communication” throughout is both an order and sage advice; delivered in a voice designed for public service broadcasts.
The synthesised voice of Pink Drone is both human and digital. Rose’s circuited voice reflects for me the modern insistence on automated responses…“this vehicle is reversing…your call is important to us…cashier number 7…you are number 13 in the queue and we will be with you shortly…” At times Rose’s lyrics are indecipherable (anti-art?) but, at times, we all mumble, chunter and grumble our way through conversations before we tail off without (…)
The troubled “spirit of the period” is captured at its foreboding best in the instrumental track Zeitgeist.The mood music rises up from the speakers like a spectral entity. Of course the track contains no lyrics as the recent events in these “world beating” and “great” countries leave most speechless.
For me the speech marks around the phrase, “anti-art” will have to stay in place because this is art. The subtle nuances, the nod to art history and the awareness of the austere present have created a stimulating soundtrack to accompany the “movie” of our existence.
By: The Swilgate Scuttler
Pink Drone – Fluxus
Hip SlangReleased: 23rd November 2020
Pink Drone is the solo project of Herefordshire-based John Rose who took the opportunity to focus on his music over the 2020 lockdowns resulting in the release of his debut album, Fluxus, near the end of the year. This was the culmination of a prolific few months for the multi-instrumentalist who released the five-track Sleeper EP before the troubles began in January and followed it up with the seven-track Visitors EP in July. Fluxus contains twelve tracks and comes in at just under forty minutes, being very classical in form with most of the songs hovering around the three minute mark. Pink Drone’s sound also borders on the classical, being synth-driven post-punk with plenty of references leaping to mind, including early Human League, Wire and Joy Division. The overriding mood here is one of disconnection and no doubt the crisis bought about by the pandemic has helped in this, though it can’t be said that Fluxus depicts total darkness with Rose on occasion offering up some lighter touches. Opener ‘The Light’ offers a deep contrast between the coldness of the music and the lyric which encourages us to “feel the light in your heart”. The synths are remote, the drum beat distant and lonely, and the mood is maintained by the second track ‘Radiation’ which inevitably sounds like the Joy Division classic that used our (then) record label’s name. The vocal is again disjointed and fits well in front of the doomy synth that plays music for a robot dance. Just as it appears that everything in the Pink Drone world is in shadow, the light synth pop of ‘Signals’ bursts through the gloom as it chimes along jauntily. ‘Zeitgeist’ also is inherently uplifting despite some wooshing and moaning. Back on the dark side, ‘Doppelganger’ is hopelessly dislocated and the ominous, flickering instrumental ‘European’ is particuarly edgy as it brushes off waves of distortion. It’s certainly one of the highlights here, as is ‘The Underground’ in which the plangent guitars add a welcome new texture. It has been so long since we have heard an album like this that it took us by complete surprise. It’s the sort of record that could have been put out by Factory Records in 1980, but is a very welcome addition to the 2020s. Available on CD from Bandcamp.
Listen / Buy here.. https://pinkdrone.bandcamp.com/album/fluxus
‘Airmail’ collage… (c) John Rose 2020
‘Downtime’ collage.. (c) John Rose 2020
‘Streetmap’ collage..(c) John Rose 2020