Pink Drone – ‘Modernism’ (Isolation Records review June 2021)
With his debut collection, Fluxus, appearing near the end of last year, it hasn’t taken long for John Rose to record the follow up album, Modernism, which is again released under the Pink Drone banner. When you hit a creative wave, it is important to take the best advantage of it and, as Bowie moved straight on from recording Hunky Dory to starting on Ziggy Stardust, Rose barely stopped for breath after finishing Fluxus before returning to the studio to lay down the eleven tracks featured here. The ideas he developed in the early recordings continued to flow, and there is a keenness to experiment with new sounds, so while this record remains in the post-punk-synth field, it has a wide scope and a heavy punch. ‘Modernism’, ironically, is a century-old concept now, the desire to create something new not by ignoring the past, but by revising its context and re-writing it into something contemporary. Thus Pink Drone’s Modernism retains its classical shape, averaging just over three minutes a track, and borrows the sounds of the late 1970s and early 1980s in order to reflect the mood of today. And it is very much a single concept that needs to be taken on board as a whole and not as a series of throwaway moments.
The occasional vocals are perfect, distant and drained of emotion, the drum patterns are achingly archaic, and the synths swirl hauntingly out of your memories. When guitars are used, they capture the same mood. On ‘Blackout’ they sound like Robert Smith creating a Bond theme, while ‘Somnambulist’ has more than a hint of early PiL about it. There are even nods to the German electronic bands of that era in ‘Dusseldorf’ and ‘Antenna’, both draping layers of retro synths over unflinching beats. Fluxus was a breath of fresh air when it first appeared; a genuine post-punk record the like of which nobody makes any more. Modernism is very much more of the same and it can’t fail to grab you. The familiarity of some sounds will make you both smile and yearn for days gone by, yet as a whole Modernism will encourage further exploration into what can be achieved today with a good ear and a good vision.
Pink Drone – ‘Modernism’ Slap Mag review 17/06/21
This is Modernism with more than a nod to the past. If the DC comic book artists’ had smoked crystal meth this is the monochrome version of modernism we would have discovered. John Rose – the one man art movement – has submerged himself into the world of art, albeit a niche corner and he is not afraid to borrow wholesale. Infamously, Pink Drone, unlike the unfussy Magpie, is not interested in the bright and shiny; The Drone’s attention is drawn to the trail of dissatisfaction that leads to the unknown lurking in the shadows…
The first track lurking in the corner and is the Catalyst for the album is the conduit which introduces the hypnotic electronic formula that is PD’s modus operandi…
Disorder drifts from Modernism into post-Modernism as the synthesized maelstrom emanating from the speakers reflects the swirl of 5G conspiracies, anti-vaccine polemic, GB news satire, career criminals in costumes and the incoherent ramblings of the reasons for all this dissatisfaction. The political parties rely on three word slogans or phrases to get their message across. Disorder requires one: “OBSESSION”.
Empires: is an angular fascistic marching song. It is easy to envisage the gathering dark forces congregating on the outskirts of Gotham City. The track is aptly titled as the creeping electronic threat is invasive and all conquering. However, we can’t protest.
Blackout starts off all feverish and soon degenerates into much worse: a monosyllabic musical diatribe which captures the curtain fall of darkness descending.
Antenna’s rudimentary bass intro is awkward and clumsy; the drum beat is frenetic and impatient and is reminiscent of Salford’s finest. Joyless and divisive the relentless trope of the musical narrative reflects for me our predicament; the antenna feeding the radar of our lives as we enter into the relentless pursuit of the unobtainable. You can almost hear the Joker passing his maniacal judgement on us all…ha ha Ha Ha HA HA!
Parachute’s synthesized “backdrop/frontdrop” almost echoes a church organ in its execution thus adding another dynamic to the album. The ensuing track lets us down gently and is aided by his sidekick Jeannette McCulloch. Be warned though, the album’s insistence on returning to the shadows is never far away.
For me the one word song titles are practical and ergonomically polished. These succinct track titles themselves suggest the “less is more” mantra of the minimalist movement. [In this company I needed to prove my credentials.]
Somnambulist adds genuine credibility to the album. Intense and unflinching with a brooding menace, which only the darkness can summon up; this track does not sleepwalk through the 3:52 seconds allowed: the track creeps, stalks and intimidates. The unsettling collection of jarring noises would not be out of place in the soundscape of our modern day fears. These fears are visually captured in the accompanying video and please do seek out the performance. Of course the video also flirts with light and shadow – chiaroscuro for the enlightened – the light and shadow playing across the set, the track, the album and across our sub-consciousness. Believe me, not even the Dark Knight himself can save you from the expressionistic world of Dr. Caligari…darkly hypnotic!
Modernism is available now from bandcamp on CD, MP3 and limited edition 12” vinyl. The track Somnambulist has already been played on radio 6 by Gideon Coe.
By: The Swilgate Scuttler
Pink Drone – Modernism (Louder Than War Review)
(Hip Slang Records)
Limited Edition Vinyl / CD / DL
Pink Drone have just released their second album, Modernism, on Hip Slang Records, following on from last years Fluxus.
Featuring 11 tracks, Modernism was recorded by Mancunian born multi-instrumentalist John Rose between January and March in Ledbury this year. Anyone listening to this ‘of a certain age’ should instantly be able to tell a lot about John’s childhood viewing and listening habits. After a couple of listens I’m taken back to 70’s and 80’s school programmes; Tomorrow’s World and the BBC Sound Effects album series.
I put this to John and he agreed, “that’s the sound I was going for, honestly. It’s a whole range of influences as usual and primitive equipment with guitar effects. The Krautrock motorik 4/4 beat on tracks like Catalyst, Antenna and Düsseldorf; Underworld on Disorder; mutant Doctor Who theme on Iso; Young Marble Giants on Parachute and Metal Box era PIL on Somnambulist.”
Somnambulist (meaning a sleepwalker, I had to Google it so hopefully have saved you a job) was the first piece released to promote Modernism along with a slightly surreal and unnerving video. “The video was filmed inside the partially abandoned Barrett Browning Building in Ledbury late at night with its creepy dark corners, decaying walls, spider webs and the spooky cellar, attic and grand staircase. We wanted to evoke an air of mystery with shadows, odd camera angles, projected effects and a strobe light, influenced by films like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Carnival of Souls and early Bauhaus videos, no one seems to be making videos like that anymore with that element of theatre!”
As mentioned, this track is also very PIL influenced, and probably my favourite track. John explains, “it was one of the last tracks recorded for the album and was kind of the missing piece I needed. It began with the repetitive bassline and I wanted it to sound something like Metal Box era PIL and Ghost Town by The Specials. I added the spooky synth, which was an accident really as the track on the recording desk was partially broken and created that eerie sound. The guitar bits were added very spontaneously, the track seemingly taking on a life of its own.”
With Modernism, John has expanded the Pink Drone sound, even bringing in his partner, Jeanette McCulloch, on the track Parachute. I asked him how this had come about, “Jeanette, who is also an artist, wanted to collaborate on a song, kind of with the minimalist feel of Young Marble Giants, who she loves and introduced me to many years ago. I had the tune first and then Jeanette wrote down some poetic lyrics on a notepad. After I added a couple of lines and before you know it we had the song. Just a very simple melody with a vintage synth and guitar. It has that kind of dreamlike imagery of walking out in the countryside and escapism, letting your mind wander.
Whilst there are clearly several influences and echoes of the past in Pink Drone’s music, it sounds contemporary and fresh. As with the Fluxus, it really does reward repeat listening as it’s easy to get lost in its soundtrack-ish nature.
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.
Pink Drone – Fluxus album review in Slap Mag Jan 2021
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 (Isolation review Jan 2021)
Hip Slang Records Released: 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.