Somnambule - Writing About Music

Harmonic 33 ~ Music For Film, Television and Radio Vol.1

Harmonic 33 is Mark Pritchard (of Global Communication and Jedi Knights fame) and Dave Brinkworth. Even before hearing the music, the spiral forms and typography of the album cover, alongside track titles such as “Bossa Nova Supernova” and “Planet 54”, are enough to prompt particular expectations on the part of the listener. The sound of first track, “Optigan” – chirpy brushed rhythm and chimes, plucky double bass and what sounds suspiciously like a mellotron, all laid down on a wiry mattress of crackles – satisfyingly confirms those suspicions. Here is music that appears to emanate from an alternate past, one birthed in anonymous studios for a flat fee between the 1960’s and 1980’s. Harmonic 33’s inspiration comes from the countless hours of library music recorded for use as incidental soundtracks, as the title says, for film, television and radio. It’s a delightfully daffy collage of reimaginings that trigger a number of different, but related associations which include the late Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram working in primitive conditions, but conjuring amazing sounds in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, and the EMI vaults where reels and reels of radio orchestra music are slowly decaying, only small amounts of it discovered and released on cds like the Sound Spectrum and Sound Gallery compilations. There’s the same jaunty manner, the undertow of sadness to the music. Other pieces such as “Space Interval 1” and “The Shapeshifter” conjure memories of Louis and Bebe Barron’s music for the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet and of Marc Moulin’s 1970s work. Most of Harmonic 33’s music was recorded live using real instruments and the evident love with which it’s composed and performed admits no sense of cynical pastiche. Although it’s not entirely clear what these affectionate recreations add to the music that inspired them, there is a strong sense of imaginative playfulness and the music as a result is a real pleasure.
Colin Buttimer
February 2005
Published by Grooves magazine