Who, or what, is Hiroshimabend? Active since the late 1990s and originally from Texas, USA before relocating to Vienna, Austria a few years ago, it is the name given to the largely molten ambient and tempered noise soundworlds of Puppy38, a person equally known for his incredible design skills (with work adorning numerous releases and also behind the recent books on Fourth Dimension Records). Over the past 15 or so years he has largely self-released albums in small editions on CDr on his own Opiumdenpluto imprint, but there have been at least a couple of more widely available CDs released, including 2016’s Dddirzzz album on Klanggalerie and the excellent collaborative CD with Zoe DeWitt, The Earthenware Virgin, released on his own imprint in 2020. This album especially pulled me in and barely left the player for a week. A rare thing these days, especially with an album of this nature, as I’m more selective than I have ever been with music drawn from those post-industrial pools usually given to adding absolutely nothing to a genre I’d consider was mostly redundant a long time ago. The Earthenware Virgin, however, is possessed of a rare depth and enough surprises to hold your attention from beginning to end. Whilst anticipating more such work from Puppy38, I felt a good way to highlight it would be served by inviting him to take part in this occasional series. Here is what he selected.
The Durutti Column The Return of the Durutti Column LP (Factory, 1980)
I cannot begin to describe the memories this conjures anytime I listen to it. The cheap flat I lived in (ca. 1988) when I first finally got my hands on a copy, and the lonely (but quite contented) hours upon hours studying every nuance of what is still to me a very unique and monumental recording. I literally wore it out. From the opener, ‘Sketch for Summer’, whose electronically synthesised bird sounds can make you feel more like you’re outside a flat than inside, to the cuts where Martin Hannett (producer-turned expert knob-twiddler) lent experimental vibes to the repertoire; the album, Vini Reilly (and his guitar – and other machines) are indeed in a class solely by themselves.
Cindytalk In This World LP (Midnight Music, 1988)
“Vocals – Gordon Sharp – Cindytalk”… that was the only clue, and even then, on an album of mostly covers (This Mortal Coil’s It’ll End in Tears), on a different label than the band itself was on, and with me living in the deep south of the United States where music of this sort was rarely found back then, it was a nameless, faceless enigma, I thought for years an apparition, actually. “Do they even exist?”, I asked myself several times when scouring the bins of every single record shop I ever visited. But one fateful day, well over ten years since its release, I found my first Cindytalk CD, and was introduced to the beauty and terror that is the sound of this band, and most importantly, Cindy. I thought ‘Circle of Shit’ made Bauhaus seem like rank amateurs, and then, just as suddenly, a haunting dreamscape featuring an ice-cream truck (okay, it was really the interval signal for Swiss Radio International, but my mind was allowed to go anywhere with this recording), and then some of the most eloquent solo piano works I have still ever heard, which probably paved the way for my love and appreciation for Arvo Pärt (and classical music in general). I will take this one with me in whatever of an afterlife there might be, as if bearing a bouquet of roses and a sword, prepared for whatever may come my way.
Chris & Cosey Exotika CD/LP (Play It Again Sam, Belgium, 1987)
To be fair, I scored a copy of this that had the added ‘Take Five’ EP a few years after the vinyl release, and it is quite superior as a whole. It was such a favourite that when I went from being a DJ to musician (as
Hiroshimabend), it was only natural that I plug some random sounds from the track ‘Irama’ into my Ensoniq sampler (turns out Chris Carter not only had the same sampler, but wrote a review of it for Sound On Sound magazine) and used it in the third track I ever recorded. Same Mr. Carter even cleared use of the sample, telling me they had sampled it anyway, and to go for it. It says on the liner notes that “some sounds on this album are at a subconscious level”, and I can tell you that after a controlled “experiment” with two “lab rats”, this is indeed true. The title track (in its original extended form) is found here, and is still good for swaying to. But the best song on the album has to be ‘Sleeping Stephen’. Never had I heard such a haunting, sad, and beautiful tale put to record.
Sun Electric Present CD (Apollo, Belgium, 1996)
This is another of those “memory-conjurers” when listened to; wintertime, cold, and hopeful. The happy accident around discovering this band was mistaking the design on the ‘O’locco’ single for a new
release by 10CC. From then on, yes… I bought everything I could find by them. Present is, from start to finish, a story without words, but a story with such an experience to bring the listener through. Ambient
techno at its best… every single track.
Maeror Tri/Troum (everything on any label, any time)
Any and everything you can find (be forewarned, big catalogue!)…probably my biggest influence as a recording artist.
David Sylvian Gone to Earth 2LP (Virgin, 1986)
I have always thought that the first of the two pieces of vinyl included with this release was “okay”. It has songs that highlight one of my favourite vocalists, on sometimes “difficult” tracks much different
than those found on the former Japan frontman’s debut release Brilliant Trees. That said, ‘Taking the Veil’ is breathtaking. It has always been the second record which forever sticks with me, and along with the Plight and Premonition collaboration with Holger Czukay released two years afterwards, has been the most inspirational to me as an artist …so that’s what I am focusing on here. It is almost a separate album of ambient instrumental works unrelated to the first two sides of this release. In the early 2000s, I started a project (more of an homage) consisting of the tracks from the ambient set remixed. After two fared quite well on davidsylvian.net (being downloaded thousands of times), Mr. Sylvian informed me that Virgin was unfortunately in complete control over the original, and would likely not be so keen on doing anything with a whole album of remixes from it. So I put them up on my own website for free download, and keep my fingers crossed (as always for good luck) that someone from the label eventually finds it and it makes their day. Still… one can always dream, and this album is perfect for just that.
Skinny Puppy Last Rights CD (Nettwerk, Canada, 1992)
Did I mention I lived in the deep south of the U.S. for a time back in the day? I spent some time back and forth between Louisiana and my native Texas, and managed to miss a Skinny Puppy gig (with support by Edward Ka-Spel) in 1987 at a club in Baton Rouge. Not that I would have or should have known, because I had heard nothing of the band at all… nada… zilch… until I found an interesting looking record in the bins at the club I worked at (which happened to be across the street from the venue I had missed said performance) to play while I was painting the dancefloor one day. It terrified me, and I went out and bought it immediately. The album was Mind, the Perpetual Intercourse, and to this day, I always say it is the best place to start to have an idea of the weight of this band sounded like when they went past their inspirations of the industrial genre and delved into something completely different. Ah, but the full fruition of the band came with the final release featuring (my greatest inspiration as a digital synthesist) Dwayne Rudolph Goettel, Last Rights. I had so many copies of this stolen from me that I always kept two around and just gave one away when there was an interested party present. To me, it is their magnum opus. Favourite track (probably of all time by the band): ‘Download’. The name itself implied the future rather adequately. I have said it before and will say again… Trent can say he wants to “fuck you like an animal”… Skinny Puppy just says. “we are all fucked”…
The Neon Judgement General Pain & Major Disease LP (Play It Again Sam, Belgium, 1989)
I’ve half a mind to list each of the singles and EPs this collection represents, ‘cos a reissue would surely include not only ‘Kid Shyleen’ (first TNJ song I ever heard/favourite tracky) from A Man Ain’t No Man
When A Man Ain’t Got No Horse, Man…, but also the compelling b-side ‘Wandrin’ Star’ cover. And it wouldn’t hurt to add the studio-wizardry oddity ‘Billy Tcherno And Pretty Petrouchka’, which has two separate songs being sung simultaneously in the left and right stereo channels. But this one… this one has what you need. DDD and TB Frank made a lot of great records, but this is where to start.
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures LP (Factory, 1979)
What could be said that already hasn’t? I may go out on a limb and say there will never be another debut as prolific or timeless. Producer/God Martin Hannett on this one again, and he shaped a masterpiece from nervous ideas.
Virgin Prunes The Moon Looked Down and Laughed LP (Baby Records, 1986)
When I lived in west Texas, back in my high school days, I don’t know if it was ‘cos the town was so small (pop. 108,000) or what, but I managed to have stuff not too many people heard of from around there. But the local college had a radio station, and four nights a week, from 9pm-midnight, hosted Radio Free Texas. They tried to play cool/crazy/weird stuff, but I found it almost too pop/accessible (for 1985/86), so took it upon myself to bring some of my stuff for them to play. I ended up being there a lot. I don’t know if it had to do with my talking them into playing (in full) the ‘Conspiracy International One’ EP by CTI, but the programme got a bit crazier. Then one night I noticed this flyer for a gig by a band that looked cool, but I somehow hadn’t heard of before this time. They were called Virgin Prunes, and it was for a tour supporting this album. Suffice to say (it’s a way longer story than I could do justice here), audience and band shared a mutual “who/what/why/where-the-fuck” look throughout the entire show. Not only did this album convert me into a true believer, but I swear if I had any more of those sell-your-soul-to-the-devil forms, one would be filled out and signed in blood if it would mean this band getting back together again (and, besides, they still owe us an unreleased Sons Find Devils… so, how about it, Gav, Gug, Daveid, Dik, Strongman, Mary?)… Additionally, I know that If I Die, I Die is the goth go-to, and it is another bloody brilliant album, but this was my introduction to them, so it kinda embedded itself.
Revolting Cocks Big Sexy Land LP (Wax Trax! Records, USA, 1986)
Aside from the fact that this is an ‘albums’ list, the big guy, Luc van Acker would have been on it just for the strength alone of his self-released ‘Untitled’ EP, which has one of the best vocal performances on the
cathartic ‘Samadhi’, but he is here for a different reason. Legend has it that Mr. van Acker had himself smuggled into Tibet and lived for a while at a monastery. It sure sounds like he brought it back with him, at least in spirit. The first time I ever saw Big Sexy Land, I was flipping through the bins at a shop I used to frequent often. I saw ‘Revolting Cocks’ and thought to myself. “Okay, punk band” and moved on. Not that I have anything against punk. I grew into this person you are reading raised on a steady diet of Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, and my all-time favourites, JFA (my faves, and btw, goddamned if ‘The Day Walt Disney Died’ isn’t the best would-be punk-rock anthem next to ‘God Save the Queen’, but for Americans on skateboards). Anyway, fast-forward a couple of weeks later when I’m on the dancefloor and this amazeballs rhythm and screaming vocals pumps through my entire being with a message: “Someone, somewhere, WAKE ME UP!” I fly to the booth and ask DJ Joe what the fuck it is we are listening to, and he holds up that same record I thumbed off previously. ‘Attack Ships on Fire’… well folks, this is where the trouble really started for me. I’ve spent a lot of time with this one over the years. It got me over some rough spots, inspired some insane spots, and the logo as well as the number 38 (from the title of the first track) ended up permanently inked onto my body, with the latter also becaming part of my ‘professional’ name. The ink was suggested by Jeff Ward (Lard, Low Pop Suicide, NIN, and Revco tour drummer) who told me backstage after a Nine Inch Nails’ gig that if I wanted to get backstage for the ‘Cocks, I would need the logo tat as an “identifier”. This led to me being brought in (thanks Jeff, and RIP, mate) to their entourage for the Texas dates of the 1990 Beers, Steers + Queers tour just a few
months later. It is the only release featuring founding member Richard 23 (Front 242), making it even more special and original. (I know, it’s supposed to be 10, but hey… I like odd numbers)
NOTABLE MENTIONS: Test Department The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom, X-TG The Final Report, Hiroshimabend (yeah, shameless plug) J10C, Muslimgauze The Gulf Between Us, Einstürzende Neubauten Strategies Against Architecture II, Voices of Kwahn Peninsular Enclosure, Negativland Escape from Noise, Flat Duo Jets s/t, Bauhaus In The Flat Field, The Damned Damned Damned Damned and tons more…
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