Originally active during the decade spanning from 1981 through to 1991, Ipswich, UK-based electronic post-punk band Nagamatzu were formed around the core duo of Andrew Lagowski (synths, guitar, drum machines) and Stephen Jarvis (synths, bass, programming), who originally bonded at secondary school over a shared love of The Human League, Clock DVA and Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark. Three years on from Dark Entries’ reissue of Nagamatzu’s ‘Shatter Days’ album, this latest collection ‘Above This Noise’ compiles together three tracks previously only available on rare cassette compilations alongside six previously unreleased tracks.
Comprised primarily around stripped-back synths, programmed rhythms and angular guitar and bass textures, the nine instrumental tracks collected here certainly call to mind the likes of Clock DVA and Cabaret Voltaire more than anything else, though there’s a definite New Wave pop sensibility that suggests the influence of New Order and The Cure filtering through a fair chunk of the material here. Originally taken from the ‘Life ’85’ cassette compilation, ‘Der Gute Kamerad’ sees all of the hallmarks of mid-eighties industrial in place as sampled German dialogue plays beneath a droning Joy Division-esque bass pulse, stiffly clattering beats and muted analogue synth mutters, and even though the chiming Cure-tinged guitar chords introduce traces of light towards the end, there’s sense of the constantly building tension never really being released.
Despite its title, ‘Melancholy Oxide’ proves to be a far brighter proposition, its shimmering layers of chiming guitars and sheeny synths leaning far closer to the optimistic widescreen landscapes of mid-eighties OMD or Simple Minds as jagged guitar bends peel off into the horizon. Elsewhere, ‘Shroud’ offers up a crisp dancefloor excursion as flickering drum machines, vaporous synth pads and a high-strung bassline take things straight out into New Order circa ‘Brotherhood’ territory, the flexing rhythm section injecting warm blood into the colder atmospherics, before ‘The Sunlight Home’ closes this album with its most eerily spectral moment, as icy synths and heavily treated guitars prowl over a sparsely throbbing drum machine pulse, sampled chorale voices trailing in like ghosts as the background harmonies bleed out into a droning mass. While it’s often easy to spot the influences here, ‘Above The Noise’ offers up plenty of interesting moments for those on a minimal wave tip.