Agony Shorthand

Friday, January 23, 2004

Among the lost artifacts of the late 1970s Australian underground that are now beginning to surface are recordings from Sydney’s PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS, a polyrhythm- and experimentation-heavy synth-attack outfit who probably tilted closer to their outré countrymen SPK and the SLUGFUCKERS than to similar combos in the UK and US. After being wowed by their berserk “Pumping Ugly Muscle” on the Australian post-punk CD “Can’t Stop It”, I then had the fortune to become privy to a CD-R containing their debut 45 from 1979, “I Can’t Stop It / Do That Dance”, as well as tracks from their 1979 live album (recorded supporting the BOYS NEXT DOOR, aka the nascent BIRTHDAY PARTY). The whole package is decidedly not for the faint of ear; there are not a few moments where the band’s funky, African-influenced slop-rock breaks down into a maelstrom of raw electronic chaos and pure gibbering idiocy. And yet it’s not so messy that you couldn’t stack it next to New York’s leading “no wave” of the day and have it compare quite favorably. A little bravery, patience, and love of well-crafted, ultra-savage electronics will go a long way here. Aficionados of early industrial racket, the aforementioned no wave, or those still bitter over what PiL should have been should check out the Calculators. There’s even a new posthumous live 45 and upcoming legit CD on the way later this year!