Robert King – Super8 (2016) review
Robert King – Super8 (Rubber Taxi, 2016)
From the first few seconds of tuning into this brand new recording by Robert King, erstwhile lead vocalist for legendary late 70s / early 80s Edinburgh group Scars, I knew that this was going to be something rather special indeed. Although King has been involved with a variety of names throughout the 80s, 90s and beyond, particularly Nico back in the 80s after Scars called it a day, this is effectively his first commercial release as a solo artist!
The main track, or that which has been laid down as the original version, or original mix of ‘Super8’ is a stunning, quite breathtaking slice of thought-provoking cinematic pop with moments throughout that can only be described as truly psychedelic! Two other mixes are also contained herein, one by Russell Burn (part of celebrated Edinburgh post-punks The Fire Engines and Win) ably augmented by the members of Opium Kitchen, the group King is currently involved in. The other is by Robert Blamire (originally with ’77 punk black-hearts Penetration).
‘Super8’ does an absolutely splendid, highly convincing job in conveying what, in the hands of others, may have been only a fairly ordinary rendering of a rollickingly great idea; the anticipation and arrival by train of friend / lover set to words and music. However, it’s King’s off-beat lyrical observations and dead-pan humour that are key to the success and execution of ‘Super8′. Also integral to the project is King’s choice of instrumentation. The drums, here played by Ravi Low-Beer with loose, locked-down precision, are big, bold and positively Liebezeit-ian in their unwavering application. This and the passages of wispy keyboard lines that float, almost dream-like, in and out of the surreal scene, lend an air of Krautrock or Kosmiche to the proceedings: think Can and Harmonia. Then there’s the efforts of King’s long-time musical confidante Robert Blamire, (Blamire, remember, was responsible for Scars’ lone album “Author! Author!”) who here provides plenty of bottom-end bass rumble. King himself then adds the extra edge – the piece de resistance, if you will – that pushes things towards an atmosphere of intense menace with his fearsome guitar volleys, the blows ministered by way of a wickedly fuzzed-out synth-patch, which are unrelenting in their attack!
Picture the scene: a girl on the Super8 train films (on Super8?) her journey during the busy three hours forty minute plus trip from somewhere’s-ville to destination Lyon, in France: “ten minutes late nearly makes it four”. It’s a journey that’s filled with the hustle and bustle of humankind, of night-light camera flashes caught in an array of kaleidoscopic reflections. The eventual consumption of comestibles has also been observed in the lyrics, as the passenger load begins to thin out: “salad, quinoa, and English-style sandwiches”, are consumed, as well as “San Pellegrino and cafe plastique that tastes so weak …”
This juxtaposition of the ordinary and mundane with the supplication of some truly, and wonderfully alive sounds takes ‘Super8’ high into the realms of the extraordinary. The just-so timing and precision delivery of RK’s lines; lucid and poetic are near perfect, and serve to draw the listener further in. We want to know more, meanwhile the (train) track’s overall pulse and rhythmic repetition suitably enhances the whole surreal vista, helping consolidate King’s concept of the song as a kind of mini-movie; a thrilling panorama of ideas!
Scars fans might also find one or two not dissimilar threads, and ideas between this latest Robert King outing and such as the group’s astounding (also French-themed) “dirty weekend” style 1979 debut single ‘Adult/ery’, who knows?
Without any shadow of doubt, however, ‘Super8’ – with the Burn and Blamire mixes demonstrating more of a trans-into-semi-industrial Euro electro pop bent – contains some of the most timeless, and most powerful electronic-based sounds heard in the world of modern music today. And it can really get under your skin too. An impassioned and thoroughly provocative sound. You owe it to yourself to locate ‘Super8’ and tune in to the seduction of its propulsive beat-poetry!
Review by Lenny Helsing/2016
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