Absolute Body Control is the minimal synth project of Dirk Ivens and Eric van Wonterghem, better known as the two minds who later went on perform in industrial music group The Klinik. Belgian born, the pair were influenced strongly by artists such as Sheffield, UK's Clock DVA and Cabaret Voltaire, and the US band Suicide, who were all fusing the punk rock ethos with branches of newly developing styles of electronic music such as synthpop. Eric van Wonterghem discusses in a 2010 interview how in the early days he felt out of place amongst a sea of guitarists fiddling around with a drum machine, but eventually he found a like mind in Dirk and the two formed Absolute Body Control, which went on to enjoy cult success for a number of years before their break up in the mid 90's and recent reformation in 2008.
Their self titled tape Absolute Body Control
was released in 1981, and showcases the refinement of the minimal synth sound which artists such as Cabaret Voltaire, Thomas Leer & Robert Rental and The Human League had been flirting with since the late 70's. The primary instrument is the synthesiser, obviously, and all songs are stripped back to little more than this and a drum machine. The appeal of this may not be apparent at first, but the pop craftsmanship of the group becomes immediately apparent and you get the sense of a stripped back, bare form of electronic music which has the potential to worm its way into your head for hours. Opening track Waving Hands
is such an affair, with it's simple, non-cluttered structure Dirk sings in a baritone voice that recalls that of post-punk artists such as Ian Curtis. It's effective, and completely infectious. Brian Eno cover Baby's on Fire
does it even better, the repetitive nature of the music bringing out an eerie, gloomy quality to the delivery of the lyrics, echoed by a female voice. Tracks such as Touch Your Skin, So Obvious
, and Total Control
feature energetic synth lines that vary things up a little, but it is Do You Feel It Inside
and A Broken Dream
which round off the album into a special little package. The latter is my favourite on the album, a moody, distant minimal synth piece which just goes to show how much you can do with so little. Game For A Laugh
seems a tad out of place with it's Throbbing Gristle like blend of dark ambient, noise and samples, but it doesn't detract much.
Suffice it to say, I enjoy Absolute Body Control and I have been listening to this tape over and over since I first got it. It is not for everyone, but to me when it comes to lo-fi electronic pop music produced by Belgian synth gurus, what is not to love? This feels raw, energetic, distant, cold, warm, infectious all at once.