Odd that I’m reviewing this album today, since the band is called Null and Void, and my most recent prior post also included a review of a band called Null & Void. Though the two bands couldn’t be much more different. And not just because of the ampersand. This Null and Void did synthy weirdness in the early 1980s. The other Null & Void is a black metal band from Iceland. Both are certainly outside the mainstream, but even if they had been contemporaries I can’t fathom them ever being on the same card (though it would probably be an intriguing night, and I would absolutely go).
This is actually sort of double re-release by Seattle’s own Medical Records label, who may be single handedly trying to keep the 80s art electro-pop dream alive. Thank god someone is doing it. It consists of the complete Happiness and Contempt (1980) and Montage Morte (1982) albums, each of which consisted of six songs. And it’s some trippy business.
The Happiness and Contempt side is truly bizarre. “Procreation” may be the best example of just plain weirdness, with sampled vocals and sounds, then with what I’m almost positive is a plink-plonky version of “Anchor’s Away” imbedded into it. Enough to make your brain start to slightly liquify. There are a few more normal sounding poppy numbers on this side as well, such as “Dogs of Christ,” but it still manages to get in some extended periods of the same vocal line being repeated over and over and over and over again to the same chord, which is a bit nails-on-the-chalkboard (and it’s called “Dogs of Christ”). I’ll confess to preferring the other side over this one, though Happiness and Contempt certainly has value as an experimental piece that gives a good sense of the space and time – sort of post-punk moving away from new wave but towards synth-pop.
Things take a bit of a darker turn in Montage Morte, but despite this I still find it to be the much more approachable side. If you’re into some of the more moody 80s stuff of say The Cure, I think this will be kind if your ballpark – though this isn’t nearly as rich as The Cure, by any means. Null and Void retained their electronic structure, but they also got more advanced both musically and vocally. This isn’t just about making noise; it’s about making songs. “Party Filled With Theives” is a synth-pop version of The Doors’ “The End” (not a cover… I mean in spirit), and might be the most interesting song on this collection.
Medical Records does a great job in curating these re-releases, picking intriguing, obscure acts and giving them a first class treatment from the vinyl to the jackets to the inserts. Really top notch, and they do it at a very reasonable release price, so make sure to check them out.