Record Review: New Musik – Straight Lines

Epic | US | 10" | 1980 | 3E 36450

New Musik: Straight Lines – US 10″ [1980]

  1. Straight Lines
  2. On Islands
  3. Living By Numbers
  4.  Sad Films

I’ve alluded as to how US record labels resorted to gimmicks like low priced samplers and the like to help flog all of those New Wave records that radio definitely was not playing back at the time that disco, Fleetwood Mac, and Boston ruled the US airwaves. One of the more intriguing gambits employed by record labels was the return of the 10″ record; which was something of a rarity following the move from 78 to 45 rpm singles in the 50s. As the eighties dawned, Epic Records released a quartet of 10″ EPs with four tracks by a trio of unknown UK New Wave acts and, hedging their bets, platinum selling chart-toppers Cheap Trick.

My friend Charles bought all of these in a frenzy of format fetish. I played it cool and listened to the records when he played them! One of them immediately distinguished itself from the pack, so I made sure to buy the New Musik “Straight Lines” EP right off! The record had the four songs above and they were enchanting, synth-heavy New Wave that always seemed to associate itself in my mind with The Buggles.

Like that group, the records were positively thick with synthesizers, yet also featured conventional instrumentation. The arrangements both proffered were redolent of a high level of musicianship and an instinctive grasp of what qualities made a record memorable. And when all was said and done, vocalist Tony Mansfield even had a similar vocal range to The Buggles’ Trevor Horn. Both Horn and Mansfield began their careers in pop bands to eventually begin production careers at pretty much the same time. Both had hit singles with their productions, but Horn’s were ultimately more successful [to put it mildly].

“Straight Lines” begins with a gradual fadeup of a synth chord that’s topped off with a reverse hi-hat before positively gorgeous guitar riffs begin to propel the song forward with a warm, rhythmic chug. The resulting track is an all-time favorite of the period that I’ve never tired of hearing. It offered a lush, warm, human, yet technological sound that was miles away from sterility.

“On Islands” was a sci-fi pop scenario that had the temerity to add acoustic guitars to the synth heavy palette, years before Pete Shelley thought to do the same on “Homosapien.” “Living By Numbers” is enlivened by a brace of different vocalists each speaking a line or two of the lyrics following the bridge for a unique effect. This record primed me to be a New Musik fan, but it was always difficult finding the group’s music. I never saw any imports, for some reason.

I bought their US album, “Sanctuary” when it hit the racks in 1981 and it featured a severely groove crammed program that was drawn from their two UK albums at the time. Almost 54 minutes of material drawn from “From A To B” and “Anywhere,” though I would not obtain those albums discretely until they were released on CD in the Netherlands in the early 90s. I read about their third album, “Warp,” in the Trouser Press Record Guide, but I never found a copy until 2002! I got the vinyl in a fantastic record store and the very next day, a trip to a Tower Records in Washington D.C. netted me the Japanese RM CD – which I did not even know existed at the time! New Musik faded away in realtime by 1982. As I said, I never saw anything other than the US vinyl at the time it was contemporary. But Tony Mansfield made quite a name for himself as a record producer of note, but that’s another topic for another day.

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6 Responses to Record Review: New Musik – Straight Lines

  1. Echorich says:

    I too was 100″ vinyl crazy in those days…I have the Epic releases, the Clash’s Black Market Clash, A Fall release, Slates that had Leave the Capitol and Fit and Working Again – my fave two Fall tracks… I have a Nina Hagen 10EP and a Lene Lovich 10EP as well.
    New Musik were a wonderful band. All I have are the 10EP and Sanctuary but both are so satisfying. Tony Mansfield is a fave producer of the ear for me as well. From Naked Eyes to Yukihiro Takahashi, a-ha to Aztec Camera and Jean Paul Gaultier he is a master of the New Wave. His work may not have had the chart impact of Horn, but he’s worked on some really classic works.
    There will always be something very 70s/80s cross over about New Musik’s sound – similar to The Buggles, there is definite line that can be drawn from 70’s glam pop. They even looked very 70’s as a band.
    Oh and yes please to more discussion of Mr. Mansfield!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Then you need the current RMs of all three New Musik albums before they go OOP again and back into the stratosphere! I lucked into the 2001 JPN “Warp” and got it at commercial cost the one time I saw it in a store! Several years later it was three figures, but right now, our friends at Cherry Red have the only non-JPN pressing of “Warp” [same tracks] for 10 bob! And they have a 2xCD of “From A To B” and “Anywhere.” These all have bonus tracks, but the 2001 JPN versions of the first two albums have twice the number of B-sides added for the full New Musik discography! But these are co$tly.


  2. Ron Kane says:

    Columbia did make some weird 10″ releases back then – Gary Glitter?

    New Musik were hard to collect. I found almost all of their albums and 45’s here, but not everything. For instance, the cassette release of “Anywhere” has 2 tracks not on the LP! And, yes, the JPN re-masters are the way to go, re: getting it all on CD.

    Mr. Mansfield also produced Lio, eventually. They were definitely popular in Japan!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Ron Kane: I got the Dutch CDs of the first two, since they were the first appearances on CD anywhere. I really lucked into the JPN CD RM “Warp” just hours after dropping $30 for the never before seen UK LP of that title! The first day, I was ecstatic. The second day, wildly so. I didn’t know at the time that Sony also did the full monty on “From A To B” and “Anywhere.” The current Cherry Reds on the first two are exactly the same as my Dutch copies from the early 90s, but the Cherry Red “Warp” is exactly the same as my JPN copy from 2001. Wha…?


  3. VersionCrazy says:

    Ahhh… New Musik. I so loved this lot at the time and they still remain a fave to this day. Bizarrely enough, in one of Soho, London’s trendier vinyl outlets a few weeks back I heard a dance track that sampled ‘Hunting’ from ‘Warp’ pretty much wholesale! I’ve been aware of that 10″ single for a long time and love the new wave stylings of the sleeve – weren’t these 10″ Epic singles marketed as Nu-Disk or somesuch? Like yourself, I was lucky enough to snap up the Japanese editions when they appeared and went through the roof price-wise…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      VersionCrazy – That’s right. Epic had a branding of “Nu-Disk” for their 10″ers of that time period. But that only got used for 10″ers for The Continentals, Propaganda [not the German act], New Musik, Cheap Trick and The Clash. Other Epic/CBS 10″ material like the Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich promo live album lack this descriptive branding. Actually, I got the Dutch issues of “From A To B” and “Anywhere” since they beat Japan to the punch by nearly a decade. Tony Mansfield wrote great songs about the human condition. I miss his work. Come back, Tony. All is forgiven!


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