New Musik: Straight Lines – US 10″ 
- Straight Lines
- On Islands
- Living By Numbers
- 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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