A newborn subdivision of Abraham Toledano’s freak beats-savvy imprint Mind Records, committed to shedding light on long-lost sonic artefacts from various eras and scenes, Mind Reissue will land its first outing in June – a debut 12″ courtesy of short-lived early ’80s new wave duo Onyx.
Formed by Boston-based songwriter and instrumentalist Judd Stone and British vocalist Beveur (pronounce Bevoir), who was then working as a fashion model on the East Coast, Onyx put out a mere pair of 7″ platters along with a tape between 1981 and 1982 – each of them released through the equally ephemeral Nu-Age Records, before fading into oblivion. With the originals trading at indecent prices on the second-hand market, the long-overdue publication of ‘Complete Works 1981-1983‘ (it took Toledano five years to track Stone down) fills a gaping hole as much as it unlatches a comprehensive view into the pair’s definitely unique mutant punk-wave universe.
"'Complete Works 1981-1983' fills a gaping hole as much as it unlatches a comprehensive view into the pair's definitely unique mutant punk-wave universe."
Starting with the aggro live-played drums, chirpy Hammond organ chords and languidly hypnotic vocal accompaniments of the pulsating ‘Call Of The Wild‘, the retrospective immediately finds its tone and background colour; Onyx is a band to dance and sing to, with the sound tuned to the max. Straight out catchy yet undoubtedly bold in the way it meshes a saturated Robert Smith-compatible vibrancy along sludge-like riffs – think the heavier side of Fugazi and Mouth for the drums. Next, ‘SOS‘ further pushes the limits between a fierce big beat thump, low-slung bass moves and a broken mirror of high-pitched melodic interplays as a whorl of electronic abstraction and distortions takes the track off to a more experimental climax.
‘Jet Set‘ and its falsely candid chorus (“I just adore Saint Tropez“) evokes the very ’80s friendly appeal of sun-kissed destinations for the leisured class but instead the track fills its ballasts with a mix of stomping drums and barrel organ-like synthwaves sounding more menacing undertones. Veering off, ‘Saturn 09‘ transitions from little electronics-incorporating instrumentals to an openly synthetic meltdown of heated components. That’s where the anthemic ‘Robot World‘ gets into the swing of things – fusing the intense churn of its extra-emphatic bass with incandescent synth arpeggios, steadily running the acid and electro gamut at breakneck speed as Beveur’s sensuous voice robotically hammers the track title as some dystopian mantra. Hands down the most club-friendly slab of the package, and what a treat.
Given all tracks were made using live-played instruments – except for a primitive drum machine used on the last cut, the steamrolling cosmo-funk number ‘Planet X‘ (in short, without the help of any syncing or sequencer) you easily get the technical prowess and sweat-inducing struggle that recording these tracks may have been. Yet, the result is not only a much convincing combination of archival tracks shining thanks to its variety and strongly alive feel, or coherent because the said cuts were recorded in the same timeframe. It all boils down to the talent and visionary musical thinking of Stone who, in addition to having carved a sound both unique and time-proof, laid the foundations to a short but nevertheless highly ambitious body of work, which makes this LP a truly treasurable item.
Complete Works 1981-1983 is released via Mind Records on 10th June, pre-order a copy from Bandcamp.
1. Call of the Wild
3. Jet Set
4. Saturn 09
5. Robot World
6. Planet X