Spain

Sistema de Entretenimiento ‘Sistema de Entretenimiento’

“I think they prefer to see us die” is a statement that feels lifted straight out of some sci-fi, B-movie thriller. Are ‘they’ the evil, faceless corporate giant that rules over the future fascist state, marvelling at their profit margins as the citizens breathe in the polluted fumes of its mega-factory? Perhaps it’s the roaring crowd of a dystopian gladiatorial arena where contestants fight to the death for a cash prize? A lesser, more blunt line would simply have been “we’re all gonna die!”, but the subtle twist of evocation adds an infinitely more mysterious dynamism.

Sci-fi at its best works when holding a mirror up to society and revealing our collective anxieties and fears for the future. “I think they prefer to see us die” could just as easily be speaking to the crumbling economic order which would sooner ferment fascism than risk its capital, and the increasing sense of a civilization nearing collapse is potent to anyone paying attention. El Prat artist Victor Echeverri seems to know well enough. Opening his latest EP for Spanish synthpunk outfit Sistema de Entretenimiento with the track ‘Creo que Prefieren Vernos Morir’, the arcade electro trio (including Guixi and Anna Bananna) have beamed a pulpy, comic book of an EP depicting tales of virtual suicide, lunar warriors and robots.

The self-titled EP takes cues from the rich heritage of synthpunk from Aviador Dro to Sigue Sigue Sputnik (the sleeve striking similarities with their ’86 debut Flaunt It) but inject the pacing of hardcore to create a frenzied, ticking bomb of fizzy keyboards and stinging drum machines. Errechevi’s (or to give his alias, Spiker) snotty vocals against the chewed bubble-gum production ensures that the tech-noir doesn’t teeter into total nihilism, and its choppy eleven minute length means the electro-snot whizzes past with ephemeral urgency, never outstaying its welcome. Lean, sinewy, and glowing with radiation, Sistema de Entretenimiento is a feverish and gloriously trashy little piece which wields a sci-fi front to channel the uncertainty of tomorrow.

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 technophilic 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.