Ultra was an influential Dutch movement that flourished from 1978-1983. Ultra embodied an artistic attitude to life in which music, visual art, design and literature merged. It originated as the afterlife of the Amsterdam punk and squatters movement, but never received that attention and recognition.
- The representatives of the genre were called the ultras, which is short for the ultra moderns.
- Ultra stood for deviant music performed by double talents who subsequently became known as visual artist, designer or writer. It is not without reason that a compilation album from that time was called ‘Does de Rietveld make better music than paintings?’ The music magazine Vinyl, clubs like de Koer, Mazzo, and – in the long term – Club RoXY and festivals like Sonic Acts and 5 Days Off emerged from Ultra.
- One of the first Dutch bands from the Ultra movement that started making electronic dance music was Necronomicon. Besides their activities as musicians, they also started Fetisj; a short-lived DIY cassette-label in the early 1980s.
THE EARLY BEGINNINGS OF NECRONOMICON
Lovers of the work of the American writer H.P. Lovecraft may recognize the name; Necronomicon, the forbidden book. There are more references to the science fiction and horror master in the existence of this Dutch band. Like the title of their self-released cassette “Messenger Of The Dark” refers to Erich Zahn, the mad Hungarian.
The admiration was also clearly incorporated in the music in the past; Morbid, Horror, Aggression, Fear.
A menacing rhythm, vocals like screamed cries and a wall of noise around it. Melody was avoided, although at a later stage the first steps towards greater accessibility were made, which immediately led to differences of opinion within the group. Discussions about emotionality in music were obvious, as were the conclusions drawn from them. The departure of first time members Bob and Karel became an important new starting point. A turning point that completely changed the direction of Necronomicon; from post-punk to No Wave – Mutant Disco.
The first recording by Necronomicon was a track called ‘For Neil Young’, recorded live at the venue Paradiso in Amsterdam on 18 november 1980.
The track was included on the compilation “Maakt De Rietveld Betere Muziek Dan Schilderijen”, a manifest of the Audio Visual department of the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam to showcase the diversity of their students.
Interview with Necronomicon
source; VINYL magazine- FEBRUARY 1982
Text; Mark Tegefoss and Andre Bach (adapted)
Photo; Roy Tee © 1981
The dance of the dark has begun
Necronomicon ; VACHE voice, GERHARD V. synthesizer, JUDYTEEN, drum synthesizer, YOUNG BOY WONDER, bass synthesizer
Vache: “We want to become accessible, not just make music as a kind of self-gratification. We want to work harder”.
In any case, an attempt had to be made to throw off the stamp of being another Ultra band. Musically this meant a transition to a disco-inspired form of music. Experimenting with keywords such as Dadaism and the underground turned into experiments with more accessible elements.
Gerhard V: “Our aim is now to make music with a clear direction. In the Netherlands we have no such thing as cult formation. Actually, only something that comes from abroad is being appreciated and imitated. We would like to become the foremen of a new cult. We have been inspired by Hungarian gypsies. Their music, based on a disco rhythm, while the melodies should be just as exciting as the Hungarian violins. “
Vache: “The gypsies use the voice as a kind of bass part and we convert that into electronics.”
Those electronics then provide a basic tape of drum composition, sequencer and synthesizer. On stage, the melody line is added by using a synthesizer, supplemented with syndrum and electronic bongos. The disco line is continued by playing extended songs of about ten minutes, following the 12 inch disco format. Actually these extended sessions are similar to gypsy music.
Vache: “A clear concept has been chosen. No more freaking out and improvising. Not even in the rehearsal room. You need to have a good foundation to start with. We have therefore kept the rhythm tapes very tight. You can reduce accessibility by the texts you use and they can be very obscene to us. “
The more serious approach, getting behind your music more consistently, four to five days a week in the rehearsal room, is typical of what is currently happening.
Necronomicon is working live towards a total program that should last about an hour and a half. The presentation on stage becomes very important. And that goes further than just the external characteristics of the gypsies.
Gerhard V: “We want to have different artists with every performance. Groups of dancers, singers or a percussion group. A total program of which the music makes up 65%. “
Vache: “In the past, the audience at our performances became aggressive and we were pelted. There was never any dancing. But now we have become kinder and nicer and it is great fun when the audience reacts to the dancing and moving what we do on stage and also starts dancing. “
Gerhard V: “We really were very bored at the time performing for a stagnant audience.”
02-JUDY TEEN (HUNTED ANIMAL)
03-ETURNAL LOVE SONG
09-SMELL OF POVERTY
VINYL EDITION IN PROGRESS
1982 Originals -previously released as cassette on the Fetisj label
℗ + © 2021 Testlab Records
More on the Fetisj label in a next post….
sources; VINYL magazine- FEBRUARY 1982, Trouw -STAN RIJVEN 8 maart 2012