A Young Person’s Guide To: The Absence Of A Canary

Mannaquin Records | Canada | LP | 1981 | MANLP1

Mannaquin Records | Canada | LP | 1981 | MANLP1

Ceramic Hello: The Absence of A Canary CAN LP [1980]

  1. The Diesquad
  2. Ex / Im
  3. Climatic Nouveaux
  4. Conversation Between Units
  5. Geometry
  6. StatiCarnival
  7. Symphony Of Shudders
  8. A Grey Man
  9. Footsteps In The Fog
  10. Ringing In The Sane
  11. Trio
  12. Gestures
  13. Little Tune (Warlike)
  14. Dig That Crazy Beat

This was an album that haunted me ever since 1981, when I chanced to read a very positive review of it in the pages of Trouser Press that claimed that the Canadian synth duo offered an antidote to Gary Numan clones while concluding that is these guys were English they’d have been the toast of London. Well, that perked my ears right up, so I kept an eye out for the album, which was released on a Canadian label I’d never heard of called Mannaquin Records.

I rarely saw many Canadian imports that made it all the way down to Florida, the furthest appendage of the Lower 48, so I kept looking for a way to buy this album. In the intervening years, I discovered that Brett Wickens of the band was a talented graphic designer who was part of Peter Saville Associates and in 1983, I bought a record that he played synths on; the delightful “Light Years From Love” by Martha Ladly, ex-Martha + The Muffins and also a member of Peter Saville Associates. I thought that this bade well for the quality of the Ceramic Hello album, should it ever manifest itself. I looked for the album in stores, in catalogs, and online… to no avail. <insert 25 year gap>

Vinyl-On-Demand | GER | 2xLP | 2006 | VOD 30

Vinyl-On-Demand | GER | 2xLP | 2006 | VOD 30

Ceramic Hello: The Absence of A Canary GER DLM RM LP [2006]

  1. The Diesquad
  2. Ex / Im
  3. Climatic Nouveaux
  4. Conversation Between Units
  5. Geometry
  6. StatiCarnival
  7. Symphony Of Shudders
  8. A Grey Man
  9. Footsteps In The Fog
  10. Ringing In The Sane
  11. Trio
  12. Gestures
  13. Little Tune (Warlike)
  14. Dig That Crazy Beat
  15. Theatre Matrix
  16. A Pale View Of Hills
  17. A Song For Laurie
  18. Between Two Frequencies
  19. Binary
  20. Sampling The Blast Furnace
  21. Clocks
  22. Dark Rain
  23. The Stadium

Finally, in 2006, my search, which by this time had included the internet for a solid decade, bore fruit! Vinyl-On-Demand, a boutique, label out of Germany who specialized in reissuing what was now being retroactively labeled “minimal synth” music, had just reissued the album, with a startling new cover design by Wickens and a second LP of unreleased material. Actually, “Theatre Matrix” was the B-side of “Climatic Noveaux,” but who’s counting? So, hey-ho, all I had to do now was to buy a copy and… not so fast. Vinyl-On-Demand was one of those elite, boutique labels, and the limited edition pressing was sold out [they have an insanely expensive subscription model that I would not have sprung for] with aftermarket prices for the title beginning at the very high two figures and sprouting northward from there! Longtime readers may know that I’m not hip-deep in moolah, so I put it out of my mind and got on with my life After all, I’d lived without the album for a quarter century by that time! I’d proven that it could be done. <insert 7 year gap>

Suction Records | Canada | CD | 2012 | SUCTION024

Suction Records | Canada | CD | 2012 | SUCTION024

Ceramic Hello: The Absence of A Canary CAN CD [2012]

  1. The Diesquad
  2. Ex / Im
  3. Climatic Nouveaux
  4. Conversation Between Units
  5. Geometry
  6. StatiCarnival
  7. Symphony Of Shudders
  8. A Grey Man
  9. Footsteps In The Fog
  10. Ringing In The Sane
  11. Trio
  12. Gestures
  13. Little Tune (Warlike)
  14. Dig That Crazy Beat

Just last month, I was perusing my Discogs.com home page [like I do several times per day, at least] and what should I see in my feed of new additions to the database but Ceramic Hello, who was probably there because I had other released with Brett Wickens on them! So I looked up the release master and saw that our friends at Suction Records had re-issued the album on limited edition LP [1000 copies 200 gray/800 black] and boy howdy, a CD run of 500 copies! I went to the Suction Records website/shop and saw no sign of the Ceramic Hello release. Thinking that it had sold out, I put that CD on my Discogs.com want list immediately! Imagine my surprise when in as little as a fortnight, the title appeared in one of the lovely lists of “available in your want list” messages that Discogs.com helpfully sends my way on my Discogs home page several times per day.

Examining it closer, revealed that the dealer was offering a sealed new copy for $14.99! retail price at last for this incredibly scarce title! I immediately bought, got served my invoice, paid, and waited. And waited. After three weeks, I contacted the seller and explained that the CD had not arrived yet in spite of his ship dates of three weeks earlier. He offered to send another copy, but I told him to give it another week, and in any case, if I ever got two copies, I’d send one back. So having waited 32 years, another week wouldn’t kill me.

But nothing happened, so on the eleventh of this month, I said “ship that extra copy” and within days [this time] the colorless little CD arrived as expected. When I popped it in the player after after the Longest Wait Ever®… I was seriously underwhelmed, to put it mildly! The high water mark of this album is the opening cut “The Diesquad,” which as one might guess from the title, sub-Numan cant of the worst kind. It has the grace to sonically resemble the Numan attack on “Telekon,” one of my favorite of his albums, save for the noticeable lack of musical compositional skill on the behalf of graphic designer Wickens. No wonder he’s stuck to his day job in the years afterward! And it got more dire from that point onward.

The album is almost a parodic masterpiece of the “Minimal Synth” style, such as it is. For those who do not know, the term was employed in the last decade or so by record dealer vermin who were trying to unload unsold New Wave synthpop records by people with more technology than talent that would be otherwise filling landfills 30 years later. Lo and behold, the scam seemed to work! Records that might appeal to me and were selling for pennies on the dollar in the 80s and 90s have shot up on value as a result.

Some of these records are justly famous. The Vice Versa records are also textbook examples of Minimal Synth; except that they bear listing to. Repeatedly. The connection with ABC never hurt and the forced lack of emotion by musicians who were jumping the Numan robo-train for the piles of cash that they imagined would flow their way only adds to their charm. And charm, is one of several things that this aptly gray album is lacking.

Wickens’ partner in crime was Roger Humphreys, who Wickens employed to fill out the program with his brief instrumentals between the proper songs [such as they are]. None dare call it filler. After a single listen, this album would be going on my “sell” list, as it’s so underwhelming, but I think I’ll sit on it for a while. The Mannequin LP must have had only 500-1000 copies pressed in 1980. The VOD reissue was 500 numbered copies. The Suction LP added another 1000 copies to the world’s toll, with the 500 CDs probably being potential collector’s items before long, if history is any thing to judge. Wish me luck that the Minimal Synth market doesn’t collapse before I get to unload this.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in A Young Person's Guide, Designed By Peter Saville and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To: The Absence Of A Canary

  1. Echorich says:

    I must have read that same Trouser Press article way back when. A friend of mine actually got the album way back when I couldn’t get through it.

    Like

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