ADD N TO (X) have heard the future, and it sounds old. These three merry pranksters inhabit a dimension dedicated solely to unearthing the most impractical, obscure means of electronic production, then fiddling until their analogue innards burn. This is new music created entirely from antiques. Messrs Moog, Theremin and whoever on hell’s payroll invented the Wasp, might scarcely have conceived of their pioneering bleep modules being put to such misuse — but you rather suspect they’d approve.
It’s become a truism, but that doesn’t make it any less true: old-age synthetics just sound better than whatever the state of the digital art happens to be this minute. And on their second album. Add N To (X) exploit the human qualities — wooo, paradox alert! — of these machines to a demented degree. On The Wires Of Our Nerves heralds the advent of Skronk Rock, where the contrasting disciplines of the avant-garde and pop collide, squabble a fair bit, then decide to spice up each other’s respective worlds, both of which tend instinctively to retreat behind long-established walls of convention.
Thus, for all its moments of abstruse silliness, On The Wires… is a never less than personable and strangely warm record, especially given its creators’ art schooling and spooky boffin personae. This must be due to the trio’s utter disdain for the basic tenets of so-called ‘future music’.
There is nothing arch or coy about the way they wrestle with the pitch-shifting sonic shrapnel of ‘Murmur One’ (portentous intro accelerates through sustained breakbeat clatter before dissolving in own acid-junglist rhetoric), nothing particularly big or clever about ‘The Orgy Of Bubastis’, which loosely equates to taking the riff from ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and dribbling squelchily all over it like an epileptic Aphex Twin who’s just shagged both his teddy bears. Sounds amazing, though.
Ringside ghouls won’t want for bloody excitement, as Add N To (X) engage their primitive instruments in hand-to-hand combat. The eponymous hero of last year’s ‘King Wasp’ single (Kraftwerk do 12-bar blues) returns to plague ‘Hit Me’, only this time he’s brought a swarm of mates.
‘Nevermind’ lobs distended 303isms against what must be a homage to John Williams’ masterly Jaws theme. If Star Wars were ever to be remade as a horror film, these people have already written its soundtrack.
If this all sounds a tad Bleak House for yer average retrotronic ceilidh, then fear not, for both the title track and ‘Sound Of Accelerating Concrete’ are bound to the hilt with sweet melodic twine. The latter has the unkempt gait of Serge Gainsbourg, an irrepressible gyroscopic electro dynamism and features generous helpings of ersatz zither; conclusive proof that these people are as much influenced by Cannon & Ball as Can.
Granted, both of 1997’s acclaimed 45s are included, but this hardly upsets a 60-minute flow. The sleeve depicts the two male Add N To (X)-ers as sonic surgeons, removing a Moog from their stricken female colleague’s belly. Lovely. On The Wires Of Our Nerves sees pop’s body politic force-fed to destruction on pure viscera. This bleep’s a booster. (8)
© Keith Cameron, New Musical Express, 31 January 1996