New Musik – From A To B – The Sony Years review

8 03 2023

Cherry Red are releasing a 4CD box set bringing together all of New Musik’s three studio albums along with a disc of B-sides, single edits and remixes.

New Musik - From A To B – The Sony Years cover

The From A To B – The Sony Years box-set includes a booklet featuring fascinating, scene setting notes from Record Collector’s Daryl Easlea, that includes quotes from Tony Mansfield.

Formed in 1977 by Tony Mansfield, a former member of The Nick Straker Band (A Walk In The Park) with bassist Tony Hibbert and drummer Phil Towner, New Musik’s first single Straight Lines was released in 1979, and their debut album, From A to B, followed in April 1980.

Living by Numbers was the band’s most successful single and the album, which entered the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart, featured two further hit singles with This World of Water and Sanctuary.

New Musik’s first album came at the beginning of the 80s synth driven explosion that was to shape the decade, sharing a similar electronic soundscape to The Buggles, but also including guitars and bass. Straight Lines is a powerful opener and is followed by the equally commercial Sanctuary, a bright shining pop gem.

From A to B is primarily an extremely commercial electronic pop album, but with a variety of moods and textures. Slower paced songs such as A Map Of You and the fretless bass driven, shifting The Safe Side hint at the further experimentation that was to seep into the music on the later albums.

New Musik - From A To B cover

Its the singles that stay with you on the debut album. This World Of Water has dark lyrics that are disguised in the upbeat music.

“These waters have frozen
Can’t break the ice no more
It’s raining so hard now
Can’t seem to find a shore”

My favourite New Musik single from the album is Living By Numbers, a song that reached No13 in the UK singles chart, and instantly takes me back to 1979 whenever I hear it.

“They don’t want your name
Just your number…”

The band’s second album Anywhere was released in 1981 and and was the last album to feature band members Towner and Hibbert. At this point, its time to strap yourself in, as the music takes a slightly more left-field turn. The warm pop sound remains but is peppered with a darker, more experimental side.

Anywhere‘s opening track, They All Run After the Carving Knife, was chosen by Steven Wilson to be included on his curated Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue – Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89 compilation from early 2023, so is likely to have turned some new fans onto New Musik.

New Musik - Anywhere cover

Areas is one of the highlights in the New Musik back catalogue, and this is referenced by the faithful 2013 cover version by Dutch rock band The Gathering from their Afterwords album. The mood of the New Musik original is hazy and evocative, and it may have been a missed opportunity not releasing this song as a single. Churches is an evolution in the bands sound, with a more dynamic bass line, and a more natural arrangement.

This World of Walter is an obvious play on words on the single from the first album. CR-78 percussion drives this charming, short album track.

“And Walter’s sure that his world’s no more
Than just a fading dream”

In the sleeve-notes, Tony Mansfield describes this period of New Musik as his favourite, and its easy to see why. There is a playfulness and warmth to songs such as Luxury, and more experimentation with reversed vocals along with sharp tangents cutting into some of the arrangements.

Peace sees a clever use of tribal drumming, a tool often used in post-punk recordings, but here used as a tight, mechanical mechanism buried quite deep in the mix, as a way to drive the song and add a degree of tension.

Traps adds some progressive / Tony Bank’s like keyboards to the palette, and is one of the most electronic songs on the album, topped by wonderful production touches such as Mansfield’s trademark twisted, processed vocal lines.

Anywhere ends with the uplifting Back To Room One. A haunting song, crammed full of aching, emotional nostalgia and the perfect way to end an album. This track is pure pop, shorn of most of the production touches, relying on the honesty and vulnerability of the song to hit you hard.

“Take me back to my old room
It’s not there any more”

The third and final New Musik album was Mansfield with studio musicians. Warp was released on Epic in March of 1982. Digital samplers and sequencers were utilised for this album. Here Come The People features some lovely funk guitar lines and percussion that is very much of its time. A Train On Twisted Tracks includes a Wasp synth sequence similar to The Stranglers Just Like Nothing On Earth, bubbling away in the background. The use of disembodied sampled voices adds to the slightly sinister feel of this track.

New Musik - Warp cover

All You Need Is Love features twice, with the first being a New Musik original inspired by The Beatles classic, with New Musiks version coming next, topped up by a taste of Greensleeves for good measure.

Hunting features some deep synth bass and heavily processed vocals that add a layer of strangeness to this key experimental album track. The quality dips a little for the remainder of the album, with the seemingly Kraftwerk influenced The Planet Doesn’t Mind offering one of my least favourite New Musik songs.

The final song on the final New Musik album is the title track Warp. A more robotic percussion lets the synths and powerful vocal take centre stage as the band comes to its natural end, with the track slowly decaying into a series of audio errors. Warped to the final note.

Disc four features B-sides / edits and extended versions. The Planet Doesn’t Mind (single edit) works better than the Warp album version. Single B-side Sad Films (from 1979/1980) is one of the most “band” sounding tracks from New Musik, and features some late 70s harmonies and a traditional arrangement, making it quite unique in the bands catalogue.

Missing Persons/Tell Me Something New is notable for a New Musik guitar solo! Again, quite a traditional arrangement, with a killer chorus, and an abrupt ending leading into a haunting soundscape of reversed and mutated sounds to end the track.

She’s A Magazine could easily have been included as an album track. Chik Musik sounds exactly how you would imagine it to sound, and this short instrumental jam is followed by another instrumental, the short burst of Magazine Musik (aka She’s A Magazine).

From The Village was inspired by the cult tv show The Prisoner. While You Wait (extended version) is a longer take of the Anywhere era single, and the extras disc ends with an extended mix of the Warp opening track, Here Come the People – Remix.

Mansfield went on to achieve success as a producer with After The Fire, a-ha, Aztec Camera, The B-52’s, The Damned, Captain Sensible, Naked Eyes, and Mari Wilson. From A To B – The Sony Years pulls together the studio albums and the majority of the key non-album tracks, and is a perfect collection for fans of the band who don’t already own the CD reissues from a few years ago. The box-set will also appeal to the more casual fans of early 80s electronic pop.

Buy New Musik – From A To B – The Sony Years 4 CD box-set

From A To B
Straight Lines
A Map of You
On Islands
This World of Walter
Living By Numbers
Dead Fish (Don’t Swim Home)
The Safe Side

They All Run After the Carving Knife
This World of Walter
While You Wait
Changing Minds
Back To Room One

Here Come the People
Going Round Again
A Train on Twisted Tracks
I Repeat
All You Need Is Love
All You Need Is Love
Kingdoms For Horses
The New Evolutionist (Example ‘A’)
Green And Red (Respectively)
The Planet Doesn’t Mind

B-Sides / Edits / Extended Versions
Straight Lines – Single Edit
While You Wait – Single Edit
The Planet Doesn’t Mind – Single Edit
Sad Films – B-Side Living by Numbers
Missing Persons / Tell Me Something New – B-Side This World of Water
She’s A Magazine – B-Side Sanctuary
Chik Musik – B-Side Sanctuary
Magazine Musik – B-Side Sanctuary
Twelfth House – B-Side All You Need Is Love
From The Village – B-Side While You Wait
Guitars – B-Side While You Wait
The Office – B-Side Luxury
24 Hours from Culture (Part 2) – B-Side The Planet Doesn’t Mind
While You Wait – Extended Version
Here Come the People – Remix

Buy New Musik – From A To B – The Sony Years 4 CD box-set



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: