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A-Musik Presents A Program Of A-Muzak
& Replicas Rubato
Terre Thaemlitz
- Rob Young, Editor

In The Wire, September 1999, No. 187.


Terre Thaemlitz: A-Musik Presents A Program Of A-Muzak

(A-Musik A14 7") If Muzak Corp had inscribed the noise of labour into their shopfloor capital-boosting soundtracks, they might have ended up with a sound like this. Thaemlitz's angry red vinyl digs a chisel into two gently looping candy-sweet EZ Listening phrases, shock-winding the tape and letting off lathe-hum like a berserker in the General Motors DJ booth. Should appeal to anyone for whom 1001 Strings, untreated, is as unsatisfactory as kissing a man without a moustache.

Terre Thaemlitz: Replicas Rubato

"You that thing men do with ladies to have a baby," went a playground rumour the mording after "Are 'Friends' Electric?" was on Top of the Pops, "well, the Tubeway Army singer does it with a computer." Unpacking this CD of 'Richard Clayderman plays the hits of Gary Numan' is a reminder of the troubling vision this reptilian shadow of the synthi-age presented to pop audiences in 179, when his ascetic frame counterweighed against a chart full of sunny Sister Sledge disco tuntes. Inside, you find a poster, just as in Tubeway's original Replicas LP, only with a lipglossed, blackskirted Terre Thaemlitz in place of Numan. It's the kind of poster you might once have got free with Smash Hits magazine, with the lyrics reproduced on the reverse. Here, you get one of Thaemlitz's superdry electro-tractati. In Terre's proliferating metaverse, these things are important.

As a follow-up to Die Roboter Rubato, Thaemlitz's 1995 album of Kraftwerk pops for piano, this is the more immediately eyebrow raising, since the trajectory of Numan's frankly embarassing 80s career, along with his openly Thatcherite affiliations, has hindered his assimilation into any kind of 90s electro canon. On both the Kraftwerk and Numan sets, his piano versions of 'well-known' electronic tunes - some played live, mixed with programming flourishes - simultaneously proffer the originals for comic scrutiny by recasting them in an ethereal lounch piano mould, and position these transformed 'texts' as launchpads for discussion of various aspects of socio-material transformation - a subject that sets Thaemlitz's pacemaker ticking (see The Wire 180).

So, I'd love to be able to say that it doesn't matter what this record actually sounds like. If you already loathe Gary Numan, these vaporous vamps on Numan standards such as "Down In The Park", "Sister Surprise", "Cars" and "Praying To The Aliens" won't persuade you otherwise. The fact that Numan himself, through his manager Steve Malins, apparently approves of this project is neither here nor there. For Thaemlitz, Numan was his generation's chameleon king; the frequency of the word 'lies' in his lyrics evidence that the way he was juggling notions of truth and concealed identity chimes with Terre's own attempts to present a music that doesn't distract the listener with tedious details about self-expression. Numan may be a figure of fascination tooa particular age group, but despite what Ectomorph tell you, most of his music hasn't weathered well. Once you're past the tracks' superficial glister, Replicas Rubato seems something of a stale exercise.