Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Oliver: Transformer 2 - Whistle Tune (7 March 1992)

Inspired by Caitlin Moran's tweet about her appearance on Desert Island Discs, in which she decided that the only way to narrow down her choice of records to 8 would be to pick "bangers", I was all set to use the same phraseology on this debut release by Euro techno duo, Transformer 2.  I was all set to rhapsodise about this track, a humble B-side, as a wonderful example of industrial gronk dance; the beats thudding down like metal girders plunged deep into the ground, until I listened more closely to the metallic pain in those opening, echoey synth waves and found my comparisons moving away from dance music and more towards one of John Peel's great loves of his hippy days, The Third Ear Band.

Sometimes, when Peel played an extreme piece of music, he might undercut it by saying that he could hear traces of Pink Floyd or Little Richard in it.  I went through exactly the same feeling when listening to Whistle Tune.  It may not be easy to make a direct link between free-form Celtic jazz acoustica and industrial techno, but I couldn't avoid it.  I lived and breathed Third Ear Band music through late 2012 into early 2013 when I used their soundtrack to Roman Polanski's film of Macbeth throughout a show I directed called The Scottish Play, which I had appeared in 17 years earlier and will one day have its own section in this blog.  I liked the juxtaposition of using their tunes to soundtrack the story of an estate agent's attempts to stage a production of Macbeth while his own life was falling apart due to it becoming his obsession.  To go from from it accompanying one of Shakespeare's greatest plays to a deceptively deep tale of amateur dramatics folk was something that I couldn't resist.  Most of the album is made up of bracing, catchy Celtic melodies - albeit shot through with a creeping sense of darkness as Macbeth falls deeper into evil, but for tracks covering murders or consort with spirits, the music becomes far more intense and discordant.  There's a lot of free-form playing which reflects the unhinged state of mind of many of the play's characters.  And, in its latter tracks, there are moments when some of the earlier musical motifs, which rang out loud and clear back then, peek out through the squall of the more intense pieces, like memories of a happier time, being submerged under the foul stench of death. All of that linked to Whistle Tune, and that burst of bubbling synths which plays after that opening salvo of metal strikes, sounds exactly like Third Ear Band would have done had they made a techno album.
Taken on its own terms, Whistle Tune is a splendid piece of dance music, but if I ever get the chance to DJ at Fabric or similar , I'd have to put Transformer 2 and Third Ear Band back to back and see who else spots the connection.

Videos courtesy of 6277MISSION (Transformer 2)musick2138 and Vws Vas (Third Ear Band)

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