Thomas Leer & Robert Rental were something of an anomaly on the list of all of the artists who released their music through the original imprint of the Industrial Records label back in the late 70's, famed for giving name to the developing genre of industrial music through artists such as Throbbing Gristle, The Leather Nun, Monte Cazazza and SPK. The mission statement of the label was to be as anti-commercial, ironic and subversive as possible, the sounds of what constituted "industrial" at the time an often difficult, highly experimental mish mash of electronic, dark ambient, musique concrète, noise and post-punk influences. Rooted in performance art, there was a definite philosophy behind what these artists were doing which they weren't afraid to discuss at length, supposedly representing something of a soulless post-modern machination left after the first wave of punk music had burnt out influenced by the themes of psychological fear and paranoia in a technological age touched upon by authors such as J.G. Ballard and William S. Burroughs (who ultimately released his own noise music experiments through the label). Though backed with strong support neither Thomas Leer or Robert Rental were into waxing lyrical about obsession with this as their peers, and only released one LP in 1979, The Bridge
. After they moved to London from Scotland around the end of the original punk explosion, they quickly formed a band but found the scene was dying out. Audiences were receptive to new kinds of experimentation, and they decided to jump on the more electronic side of post-punk which groups like Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide would become known for.
Both had different ideas about how they wanted to approach recording The Bridge
. Influenced by Krautrock, Brian Eno, Syd Barrett and what he referred to as "tape loop stuff" Leer wanted to focus on pure ambient, whilst Robert wanted more conventional song structures. Ultimately, what resulted is something of an ambient post-punk album. Attack Decay
is heavy on the electronic side of things, opening the album with fat, repetitive synths punctuated by feedback noises as Robert sings over the top it is fairly indicative of all that is to follow. Monochrome Day
is perhaps the most traditional post-punk sounding track on offer here, focusing on raw, unrefined guitar riffs angled on the rhythm of drum machines to exceptionally strong effect. Day Breaks, Night Heals
and Fade Away
chase the minimal synth rabbit further, the latter the closest the album gets to sounding industrial as such with it's disjointed, errant rhythms and loopy vocals. Over half of The Bridge
though eschews this more rock based approach for exercises in lengthy ambient, the B side being composed entirely of it. There are no vocals here, the only track approaching pure ambient which Robert sings on is Connotations
which sort of divides the album in two halves, the more traditionally song based half and the ambient half. The intention here was to capture a sound which would "encompass the harsher aspects of modern living", Leer claiming they were doing the same kind of thing Brian Eno started with his Discreet and Ambient music albums, but were attempting to take it "a stage further away from prettiness". Interferon, Six A.M., The Hard Way In & The Easy Way Out
are all kind of hit and miss, but far from terrible. Some sections are downright pretty, but it's a sort of gloomy, lo-fi electronic affair built on crude technology which is bound to sound dated to a lot of people.
is one of the often forgotten works of the immediate post-punk era, heralding the future shift of punk and pop further towards the realms of electronic based forms of music. The synthesiser based New Wave genre would overlap with and be the eventual successor to all these fledgling post-punk bands and their contributions to artsy experimentation retaining the fervour of punk rock, and indeed both Rental and Leer went their own ways with it, as did their fellow artists on the Industrial Records imprint who have all flirted with synthpop at one time or another. As it stands though, The Bridge
makes for a fine time capsule, a precursor to this and window into a bygone era of music long past.