Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Atomic Ranch

Liverpool electronic music group, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, also known as OMD, produced a string of mainstream hits back in the 1980s and early 90s. However, alongside their perfect-pop tunes, in many album tracks, they had a darker, edgier experimental side firmly rooted in the German "krautrock" movement of the late 60s and early 70s, largely founded by the prodigies of the Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music by bands like Kraftwerk and Neu!

These groups, prefiguring some of the genres associated with later Punk and Alternative movements, not only focused on the sounds made possible for the first time by emerging synthesiser technology, but they also peered into the bleak nightmare worlds of past futurists such as HG Wells and Orwell and into contemporary fears of societies controlled by computer. From these bleak landscapes emerged Frankenstein-like nightmares of people isolated from each other by both the possibilities and threats of robots, computer systems and corporations. Tracks like The Man-Machine and Computer Love foretold a time where humans become eclipsed by the very technology they create. In a world of increasingly intrusive surveillance via anything from internet spying by the authorities (and by corporations seeking to profit), to tracking systems on mobile phones and supermarket loyalty cards, to the deadly payloads of automated drone aircraft, time is proving their dystopian visions to be far from inaccurate.

OMD re-formed in 2006 and produced a comeback album History of Modern in 2010. This year, returning to their experimental roots, they will release English Electric in the spring. The video below is a taster trailer and shows a return to the themes they started with long ago, when they sang about the cold warsolar energy , genetic engineering and the Hiroshima bombing.

Atomic Ranch is an ode to the supreme dangers of unsustainable consumerism and synthetic lifestyles, underpinned by hopelessly destructive energy sources (and complete with a dash of conservative sexism in the style of The Stepford Wives). Especially relevant given the current crisis in our industrialised food systems and with 1950s retrostyle graphics by German artist Henning M Lederer, it is a short but imposing piece and a welcome return by a group from a more politicised age.

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