Excavations

EXCAVATIONS #2 Aviador Dro ‘Alas sobre el Mundo’

In the 1913 avant-garde opera Victory over the Sun, ‘The Aviator’ crashes into the Tenth Country and is greeted warmly by the ‘New Men’, beings of geometrical abstractions courtesy of Russian stage designer and founder of Suprematism Kazimir Malevich. A futurist allegory on the natural and material shackles man eternally tries to shake, its rejection of aesthetic decadence set the precedence with which Soviet constructivism was to follow, an evolution of futurism deemed so dangerous by the later Stalinist state many of its key figures were persecuted and arrested.

From the ashes of the Franco regime in Spain was another generation of kids hungry for the ‘new’. Concurrent to the emerging German Neue Deutsche Welle and New York No Wave came La Movida Madrileña, a hedonistic and transgressive counter-cultural movement intoxicated with punk rock and hungry to form a new Spanish identity.

With a shared love of Dadaism, sci-fi, cinema, and technology, Servando Carballar and Arturo Lanz (later of Esplendor Geométrico fame) formed Aviador Dro, or to give their full name: El Aviador Dro y sus Obreros Especializados (The Aviator Dro and his specialised workers). Armed with a constructivist ethos and the subversive synthpunk of Devo, the new musical explosion witnessed in the Madrid scene provided a nascent appetite for their anti-system, man machine ‘tecno-pop’.

Forming the legendary independent label DRO records to issue their first single Nuclear Sí as well as theatrical side-project Los Iniciados, pamphlets were issued in various EP’s and live performances announcing the ‘Dynamic Revolution’, a pledge to fight authoritarianism, fascism, and Catholic dogma, all crystallized in the mantra ‘Action against tradition! Death to the past!’.

The cult surrounding Aviador Dro had already gained traction by the time of their 1982 debut LP Alas sobre el Mundo, meaning ‘Wings over the World’ (or should it be into the sun?). While the comparisons with Devo were present, the shining anthem to the Utopian harmony between man and machine becoming one and dismantling the corrupt old order is more indebted to the German ‘music workers’ of Düsseldorf than the arch-cynics of Akron, Ohio, as radiantly beamed on album opener ‘Brigada de Demolición’. A hopeful and celebratory Kraftwerkian vision of the future distinct from their post-punk contemporaries and capturing the excitement of the national transition to democracy, the spirit of Lissitzky glows amid strong synth melody’s and crisp enthused drum machines.

European mythology is referenced throughout, adding an air of, dare we say, romance to the futurist vision. Ethereal undines grace the gorgeous second track ‘Ondina’, enchanting synth pop with expert subaqueous vocoders gliding in and out of Carballar’s stirring vocals. ‘Kraken’ is all electro-funk, wah guitar against thick analogue bends and ripples, the creatures of the lake resurfacing once again, before the Minotaur ‘finds a new maze’ in the garbled jittery establishment critique of synthpunk bolt ‘El Laberinto del Nuevo Minotauro’.

The soak of Pere Ubu and Devo provide shades of biting satire amid the technocratic vigour. Sardonic fizz bubbles acidicly on the biting ‘La TV Es Nutritiva’, anticipating U2’s Zoo TV with it’s examination of junk television addiction, and the weary aforementioned aviator laments past glories on the urgent and soaring ‘Selector de Frecuencies’.

Italian futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella’s manifesto, revered by the band, featured the point: ‘To promote new work in preference to old’. Celebrating their 40th anniversary and still drawing fascination with a new generation of Spanish music aficionados, Alas Sobre el Mundo is a brilliant document of the exciting possibilities of Spanish popular culture that arose from the death of Franco, and still points to the future as optimistically and thrillingly as it did in 1982.

EXCAVATIONS #1 Cccandy ‘Lonesome Berlin’

If you ever wanted to know what rotting, dead, pop songs sounded like, Cccandy’s Lonesome Berlin would be a good start.

A bedroom DIY synth project conceived by Stefan Sehm (drummer for Berlin punk band Bikes) in 2008, little else is known about the cryptic Cccandy. His self-described ‘morbid pop’ was well evident on his preceding Necrosis 7” and self-titled debut, but its 2010’s Lonesome Berlin, issued on the brilliant Avant! Records, which best realises his acerbic murk.

Lo-fi fog permeates through the album, with choppy drum machines and muffled synths adding to the miasma. Its skeletal minimalism avoids Martin Rev style brittleness, with every bassline and melody feeling thick and turgid. The title track, and arguably Cccandy’s signature song, encapsulates the subterranean dank beautifully. Spooky pitch bends haunt the monotonous arpeggios, all held together by the punch of fuzzy snares.

Despite the pervading dread, he doesn’t let electro-sludge get in the way of a good tune. Each track belies its smoggy shroud with a keen ear for catchy pop sensibilities, albeit a skewed and warped one. The fizzy synthpop of ‘Woman’, or the muffled disco of ‘Teacher of Lust’, adds a smart dimension to the LP which stops the doom becoming dirge. He even gets anthemic on the re-recording of ‘I’m a Punk’, first heard on his 2009 debut.

‘Acid squid, bottomless pit…’ Beefheart surrealism doesn’t dilute the visceral potency, acrid snapshots of violence, paranoia, blood and alienation, this is a worm’s eye view of Berlin. A cool view of humanity made all the more disconcerting by his monotone, sexless, distorted vocals, at times unintelligible within the mire. A gallows sense of humour runs throughout. ‘Bourgeoisie, no thank you’ he pleads in ‘Bourgeoisie Nie’ feeling like an attack on the slow death creep of gentrification, and the final mantra of ‘I need blood and guts’ on ‘Blood and Guts’ perhaps pokes fun at his more earnest post-punk contemporaries, much like Aphex Twin’s mockery of death metal on ‘Come To Daddy’.

Cccandy remains active on Soundcloud, sporadically releasing tracks and various other projects, but never followed up with another significant LP. Lonesome Berlin still stands as a caustic synth-punk gem, and festers in the seamy underbelly of Berlin, waiting to be excavated.