In a world of independent oddities, this is exactly how the humble 7” deserves to be delivered – high-concept, low-frill, electronic punk from the wonderfully named German duo I AM THE FLY… And the name was, of course, the instant attention-grabber when I first randomly stumbled upon this somewhere in digi-land. There’s a definite audacity in repurposing an iconic Wire song title to present new and original art. It could go wrong if your product was shit… and this was either going to be remarkable, or yet another entity in a long and tiresome line of adequate bands masquerading as “shining lights of post-punk” according to some studious Quietus penfold.
Keeping things basic and old school, I AM THE FLY is on the pulse of something very raw and revitalising. It reminds me of the excellent bootleg series I’ve mentioned a couple of times before in various reviews – the 7-part Synthesizers Rules 1978-1983 compilation series that was published by I Was Saved By Music blog c.2008-2009. This collection of electropunk, synth-based new wave and weird shit remains the most attentive curation of this stuff I’ve come across, official or otherwise (The links are long dead but the blog is still up here if you wish to nerd-drool over the track listings).
I AM THE FLY’s self-titled debut is a very short 7” – three tracks in seven minutes and two seconds, and while there’s not a wide variation in tone across these offerings, that’s part of the charm. There’s a very measured and dour stiffness to AXOLOTL as it grinds through two minutes and 20 seconds of granular fuzz keyboards and distorted driving bass. No virtuosity, no unnecessary frills, just solid hooks, economic songwriting and stoic, detached lyricism.
WONKO THE SANE’s brief but solid chorus makes it the earworm of the three tracks and at this point the stark beauty of it all becomes apparent – The drum patterns run without change throughout the tracks and are either cheekily employed presets from old equipment, or programmed to sound that way. It should be kind of crap, but it works within the I AM THE FLY aesthetic.
Finally, HERESY is led by a propulsive organ sound, stomping through a kind of dystopian gloom trapped inside a pop song. This stops dead on 2:21 as if something idiosyncratic and curious necessitated it be the same length as the other tracks.
I AM THE FLY is an exercise in artful minimalism. If this wasn’t from Germany, there’s little doubt that the band would pretend to be from there anyway. The members are listed as “MUSCA domestica male” and “MUSCA domestica female”, and promo shots depict them wearing large fly-heads in a pantomime of anonymity somewhere between the Residents and Frank Sidebottom. The music itself succeeds as a binge on everything great about the disharmonious early days of raw bedroom synthesizer music, and I could make a long list of comparisons and influences for this, but the truth of the matter is that for all its retro syphoning, I AM THE FLY sounds refreshingly timeless…
…A gloriously brash, colourful and unpasteurised debut!