It’s been an exciting few weeks for archaeology fans, with the discovery of both a neolithic monument, fifteen times the size of Stone-Henge, dubbed a Super-Henge, and Home Naledia a new species of human discovered in South-Africa. So it seems rather apt that we take a look at Prehistoric, or as it was formerly dubbed Primitive Music.
Prehistoric Music is the term used to refer to any music produced prior to the existence of written material. Whilst obviously it’s a little hard to pinpoint exactly when music first started, due to both the difficulty in defining what constitutes music, and the lack of recording studios available 60,000 years ago. To get to the bottom of the origins of music, it is probably most sensible to look at the psychology behind music. Music is associated with strong emotions, and strong emotions are linked to the basics of evolution, namely sex and survival. However, whilst even in the modern world some of us find musicians irresistible and music is a powerful communication tool between groups of people, it’s difficult to find any concrete link between music and evolution. Essentially, we still aren’t entirely sure what it is that is so appealing about music, which makes it very difficult to explain why we started making it in the first place.
It’s generally accepted that the earliest musical instruments were the human voice, and rudimentary percussion instruments, such as sticks stones, and quite possibly broken bones. Indeed, our entire concept of rhythm is likely to stem from our use of tools, the noises of pounding seeds and roots into meals the inspiration for the music of many an early hominid. Melodic instruments probably didn’t come until much later, and the earliest instrument is a hotly debated topic. Some claim the so called Divje Babe Flute, found in a cave in Slovenia as the winner, whether the fragment of a femur of a juvenile cave bear is actually a flute, or just a gnawed piece of bone though remains questionable. More convincingly an instrument, but eight thousand years later in origin, is a vulture wing bone, with five holes and a mouthpiece. Whatever the origins of music and instruments, it would seem that for nearly as long as humans have existed we’ve been getting together, picking out melodies and banging stuff in a loosely rhythmic fashion; it’s worth considering next time you declare something the best song ever, that there’s been the best part of forty thousand years worth of competition.
Primitive Parts are singer and guitarist Lindsay Corstorphine, known for his work with Sauna Youth/Monotony, and guitarist Kevin Hendrick and drummer Robin Christian, who are both members of noise-rockers Male Bonding.
For the most part Primitive Parts live up to their name, whilst there’s no rudimentary flutes carved out of bone on the record, they stick to the basic components of garage rock, namely layers of clanking guitars, pounding primal drums and the insistent yelped vocal of Lindsay. Their sound is an amalgamation of punk, glam-rock and the best bits of Brit-pop. The overall sound is that of the sunshine surf-punk of bands like Wavves, Bass Drum Of Death or Bleeding Knee Club, given a cloudy British-makeover with nods to Blur or Brian Eno’s work with Roxy Music.
Primitive Parts formed in London, or to be more precise a record shop in Crouch End, where they all worked back in 2012. Crouch End is in the London Borough of Haringey, though now firmly a part of North London its origins were as a hamlet on the medieval route from London to the North of England. In the 1970’s Crouch End became a popular area for artists and musicians, due to the proximity to the Mountview And Hornsey Art College and the large amount of affordable housing built in the post-war era. As with many of London’s more arty areas, it has become more gentrified in recent years, and is now seen as a largely middle class, suburban area. The area has plenty of famous musical links, with both Ray Davies from the Kinks and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics opening recording studio’s. Ray’s Konk Studio’s has a particularly impressive list of clients including Blur, Franz Ferdinand and Elvis Costello, as well local boys done good, Crouch End’s very own Bombay Bicycle Club.
We gave this away earlier but Primitive Parts formed back in 2012, with a shared desire to make something ‘without fuss’ in the mould of new-wave label Stiff Records if they’d been around in the 1960’s. They released their first 7″ single, Open Heads via Sexbeat in 2014, followed by TV Wheels on Faux Discx. Their debut album Parts Primitive is out via US label Trouble In Mind later this month.
As Primitive Parts promised there’s something wonderfully unfussy about Parts Primitive. It’s a record of ten perfectly formed, succinct tracks, that are individually thrilling and hang together perfectly as a cohesive whole.
They speak of the band being influenced by artists as big as Mick Jagger and early-Eno, but also of Leicester new-wave band The Deep Freeze Mice (who we’d never heard of but it turns out are absolutely brilliant) and Australian Garage-rock act The UV Race. It’s arguably that collision of pop sensibilities and lo-fi leanings that are at the heart of much of the records charm. Tracks like Troubles and Open Heads have a swaggering charm, equal parts David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust-pomp and I Should Coco era-Supergrass. Single Miracle Skin recalls Dignan Porch or McClusky, but Signal is a far more straight forward rock song in the Blur mould. They constantly play with the listener, drawing you in with a hook, before unleashing something delightfully off kilter to keep you on your toes.
The attention to detail is also excellent. Whether it’s the muted guitar-strums that add a second layer of rhythm to Signal, the repeated four note guitar line that drifts in and out of TV Wheels or the ringing bass notes of the guitar that add a sense of movement to the single Miracle Skin. An album of slowly unfurling beautiful details, carved from the granite brutality of Punk-Rock.
It’s only closing track Ever Outward that is much of a deviation from the Garage-Glam-Rock template. It’s a track with shades of the Beta Band, upbeat and tuneful, with guitars that play out as cyclical pulses of sound. It breaks down first to a slight bluesy-psych tinged moment, in the style of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Brian Jonestown Massacre, then it breaks down again coming back with an improvised, trippy outro, a mash of cut-and-paste drum machine beats and buzzing tape loops, it’s like nothing else on the record, and all the more interesting for it.
Some might argue Lindsay Corstorphine is starting to spread his talent a little thin, and certainly on the likes of Being There and Eyes it’s perhaps a little close to his work with both Monotony and Sauna Youth. Although, if like us you think that’s no bad thing, you’ll love yet another great album from one of new music’s most exciting voices.
Parts Primitive is out September 18th via Trouble In Mind. Primitive Parts single launch is at Power Lunches in Dalston on September 25th.