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Martin Hannett & Steve Hopkins
The Invisible Girls

Martin Hannett & Steve Hopkins – The Invisible Girls (February 3, 2015)

    Martin Hannett & Steve Hopkins — The Invisible Girls 
♠   An important figure as the producer behind a number of influential records made between the late '70s and early '90s, the name Martin Hannett is probably best recognized in the credits of singles and albums released by Joy Division and New Order. From the Buzzcocks' legendary Spiral Scratch (credited as Martin Zero) to the first Stone Roses single, Hannett helped define the sound of his hometown of Manchester, England. He was also involved as an in–house producer for a number of labels apart from Manchester's Factory, including Rabid. A great number of myths surround the man, thanks in no small part to his erratic, compulsive, hedonistic personality. His working methods were psychological as much as they were technical, much to the chagrin of those he worked with. But when he struck gold, the trouble was all worth it. With many of the punk bands he worked with, he envisioned raw materials that could be bent, folded, and improved with his influence and manipulation.
Born: June, 1948 in Manchester, England
Died: April 18, 1991 in England
Location: Manchester ~ Durham University, UK
Album release: February 3, 2015
Record Label: Factory Benelux
01. Scandinavian Wastes
02. Huddersfield Wastes
03. Toy Of a Toy
04. Time Is Slipping
05. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
06. Procession
07. Concorde Drone
08. Collective Project
09. First Aspect of the Same Thing
10. The Music Room
11. Second Aspect of the Same Thing
12. Space Music
13. Three Short Pieces for Trio
14. All Sorts of Heroes
♠   Factory Benelux presents The Invisible Girls, a collection of rare and unreleased recordings by legendary production duo Martin Hannett and Steve Hopkins (aka The Invisible Girls), most of them never before heard.
♠   Martin 'Zero' Hannett is the legendary Manchester producer famous for his work with Joy Division, Buzzcocks, New Order, Magazine and Happy Mondays. Steve Hopkins was his musical partner in The Invisible Girls, the floating studio collective that shaped epochal records by John Cooper Clarke, Pauline Murray, Nico and several others.
♠   The first five tracks on the album are a selection of previously unreleased 'Moods' recorded at the famous Strawberry Studios between 1980 and 1987. "These were the beginnings of Martin's Invisible Girls world domination plan," Hopkins explains. "The idea was to assemble a roster of key instrumental players, produce tracks to be fronted by different singers/stars — and get some hits!"
♠   Other tracks include rare solo tracks by Hannett, collaborations with Section 25, Pauline Murray, Nico and Crispy Ambulance, as well as the complete soundtrack to All Sorts of Heroes, a short animated film from 1976 scored by Hannett and Hopkins. The 74 minute album features detailed liner notes by Steve Hopkins and others, as well as archive TIG and Strawberry images.
♠   Available on CD and download. CD copies ordered direct from Factory Benelux are delivered in delivered in a special FBN slipcase.
♠   Martin 'Zero' Hannett was born in north Manchester in 1948. Raised in Miles Platting, he completed a chemistry degree at Manchester Polytechnic (aka UMIST), and after graduating in 1970 took a job in a science lab. As an audience member he saw the Beatles and the Stones, along with a hundred others, and would himself book bands as a member of the UMIST social committee. Always a music head ("he was forever rebuilding his hi–fi"), Hannett also found time to learn bass guitar, mix live sound and work as a roadie. Eventually he would quit his day job to run Music Force together with Tosh Ryan, and others. A musicians' co–operative, Music Force booked gigs, arranged PA hire, and operated a lucrative fly–posting business on the side. At the beginning of 1977 Hannett and Ryan expanded their empire further by setting up Rabid Records.
♠   Hannett first encountered talented composer and keys player Stephen Hopkins at a Soft Machine gig in July 1976. "He was part of the social team that booked gigs at UMIST," Hopkins recalls. "He was either a student in the last year of his chemistry degree, or more likely hanging on in subsequent years to be part of the gig action. I was introduced to Martin as someone likely to be able to source some cannabis for the band that night. We got talking music and I went round to his Chorlton flat a week later for a bit of a jam. Dave Tomlinson of Magazine and Visage was also there, and he lent us his ARP 2600 synth — an amazing device, and much coveted. Martin also had an upright piano and a fine LP collection. Only a month later we were working on our first collaboration, the soundtrack for All Sorts of Heroes. I wrote the music and he arranged for it to be recorded in a 16 track studio."
♠   A native of Manchester born in 1951, Hopkins was a veteran of various bands, including one of the city's first psychedelic bands, Gemini Zent, playing at the Magic Village. He also played in the house band at the Mecca Tropicana. "The Mecca band wore large white flares and platforms, sprayed hair lacquer and Gold Spot about, and wanted only one thing: to win the Eurovision Song Contest. But playing pop covers at night in Mecca dance halls was actually rather well paid, thus allowing wannabes like myself plenty of freedom to be creative during the day." Plucked from showband obscurity by Hannett, Hopkins found himself playing on a raft of seminal records by John Cooper Clarke, Jilted John, Durutti Column and Pauline Murray. The pair became The Invisible Girls, envisaged — perhaps — as a sort of post–punk Chic Organisation. ♠   "Martin was building up his dream team behind the scenes during the course of two JCC albums and a Jilted John album, as well as working with Pauline, New Order and so on."
♠   Based on previously unheard tapes preserved by Steve Hopkins, The Invisible Girls provides an overview of their work together between 1976 and 1987.
♠   "Martin Hannett's production sorcery is much better documented than his partnership with psych veteran/keyboardist Steve Hopkins. This storeroom grab conjures Manchester's scarred wastelands, jazz–funky library music and ambient disquiet. Blade Runner via the Arndale Centre. A strange, wayward collection, just like the thought processes of Hannett's brain" (Mojo, 03/2015)
♠   "This carefully curated odds'n'sods collection encompasses over a decade's worth of work, much of it unreleased or off–radar. The pinnacle is a series of five previously unreleased tracks (described as 'Moods') of disco–inspired glimmer. Scandinavian Wastes offers six minutes of Lynchian swoon; Hudderfield Wastes plays like a wild Saturday night in the iglooteque. Also bundled is the pair's first collaboration (a beautiful, moth–eaten soundtrack for animated film All Sorts of Heroes), assorted Hannett drone sketches, surly collaborations with Nico and Section 25, and a gorgeous bit of proto–ambient techno called Space Music. There's a lot of strange, sometimes contradictory music here, but Hannett's unique vision peeks through. Essential" (FACT, 02/2015)
♠   "While acclaimed for his glacial productions for Joy Division and New Order, Martin Hannett was also a musician in his own right. With bass guitar in hand and alongside composer–keyboard player Steve Hopkins, the duo recorded as The Invisible Girls. Under that name they provided music for albums by John Cooper Clarke, ex–Penetration singer Pauline Murray and provided a sonic bed for Nico. They also contributed to Hannett–produced records by Durutti Column and Jilted John. The Invisible Girls celebrates a more under–the–radar side of Hannett, who died in 1991, and Hopkins by collecting tracks which weren't intended for release or were issued under names other than The Invisible Girls.
♠   Disentangling Hannett's musical legacy is difficult as he was more than a producer. The revealing aspects of this collection are a film soundtrack completed in 1976 and a group of tracks recorded from 1980 to 1987. Elements of funk, jazz and soul feature heavily, all of which are not usually associated with Hannett. When the duo came to record the soundtrack to the cartoon All Sorts of Heroes in 1976, punk was not on the agenda. The music they came up with was jazzy. Hannett's bass playing was slippery and sinuous. Parts of would the soundtrack not have sounded out of place punctuating a TV cop show like The Sweeney. At almost the same time, as Martin Zero, he was defining the future by producing Buzzcocks' debut, the Spiral Scratch EP.
♠   The Eighties Invisible Girls instrumentals were recorded as probable backing tracks. ♠   Again, there is a jazzy, funky feel and, despite its inappropriate title, it is not a stretch to imagine Huddersfield Wastes being reconfigured for chart funksters Shakatak or even Level 42. It also has the rhythmic lope of early Happy Mondays. By revealing a fresh side of Hannett, The Invisible Girls is fascinating and valuable. It also, though, shows that Hannett was more than the producer with the characteristic otherworldly sound. He was a chameleon who turned his hand to much–less esoteric music. With Steve Hopkins, Martin Hannett wanted to court the mainstream" (The Arts Desk, 02/2015)
♠   "During the late 70s and early 80s when they weren't producing or sessioning for the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Pauline Murray and much of the Factory roster including New Order (before Hannett fell out with the board), Martin and Steve were recording several tracks as The Invisible Girls with the express remit of dominating the world. Despite not achieving their aim, the pair still composed some excellent instrumentals, initailly to use with guest singers, that stand the test of time some thirty–odd years later.
♠   The first handful of tracks were recorded as a series of 'Moods' and sound the most representative of what both men were all about — pop music with a gritty edge and shed–loads of crisp drums, ankle-deep funky bass–lines and washes of synths or treated piano. You might recognise Time Is Slipping (from Pauline Murray's debut solo album, recently reissued in expanded form by sister–label Les Disques du Crepuscule) and opener Scandinavian Wastes has the air of Joy Division's She's Lost Control about it. References to Nile Rodgers in the liner notes might get scoffed at until you hear Huddersfield Wastes — we're talking Lose Yourself to Dance three decades ahead of its time but better by far (with added clavinet, natch) — while that aforementioned Mood, Scandinavian Wastes, references Hannett's adoration of all things Abba with a really, seriously, pretty melody.
♠   The remaining pieces are culled from previously released solo Hannett sessions including the tricky to find The Music Room from the iconic From Brussels With Love cassette/vinyl, plus a wealth of soundtrack work recorded with Hopkins in the mid–'70s called All Sorts Of Heroes (not far removed from what Joe Meek was kicking out as a soloist or the KPM Library canon) and a visionary piece of motorik galactica called Space Music. This latter piece wouldn't sound amiss on a Flying Lotus or Juan Atkins albums, I kid you not.
♠   It would be churlish to say that The Invisible Girls is a niche product for Hannettophiles only because there is such a fascinating array of styles here that almost anyone interested in '70s/'80s new–wave, electronica, synth–pop or progressive space-jazz can fill their boots with it. Martin Hannett and Steve Hopkins (and engineer Chris Nagle on other recordings) were very very clever people so indulge them — this is a must–have. 9/10" (Flipside, 01/2015) :: http://flipsideflipsidereviews.blogspot.com
Steve Hopkins: http://www.lumifont.co.uk/

Martin Hannett & Steve Hopkins
The Invisible Girls






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