Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation – 1994

6981686597_8b18b8d8fc_oThe Entropy Circus ended in 1994. It ended again sometime around 2000 and I ended it last year in 2014 too, but 1994 was the first time that the Entropy Circus ended. There was a specific reason for ending it: I had lost interest in playing guitar music. This malaise was probably in some way connected with the fact that I bought my first substantial synthesizer in 1994.

The Kawai K1 is a digital additive synthesizer. Patches are made by combining four waveforms which can then be tweaked quite deeply and then these can be stacked up into blocks of sixteen patches, each of which can be controlled through its own separate midi channel. In terms of what can be done with it using a sequencer it is very powerful, or at least it was compared with anything that I had used before. The waveforms develop from simple sine, triangle, square and so forth through to pianos, strings, horns and other instruments sampled from the real thing. Effectively I had a small orchestra.

$_86It was here that I found the dissonance between what I had been doing up until now and what I felt that I had the potential to do. The K1 was so much cleaner than everything else. I was still recording to four track cassette using the Tascam, and while this machine was far less hissy than the Vesta Fire tape recorder that I had started with, the tape noise really noticed against a pristine sinewave. To an extent I had used the lo-fi quality of the Tascam with my guitar to make it sound filthier; a lot of my overdrive tone was generated by pushing the input levels while recording rather than through using pedals.

And so, in the face of a technological paradigm shift, and unable to afford a DAT machine or a professional tape recorder, frustrated for the first time by the distance between the potential of the K1, midi sequencing and what I could actually achieve at the moment, I did what anyone would do under the circumstances and changed the name of the project. The Entropy Circus was dead, long live the Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation.

I had seen a curious V shaped logo and the name Vitreous Enamel Development Council on the back of cleaning products during my childhood. For some reason this obscure madeleine inspired the name change. It didn’t improve the quality of my recording equipment, and I was actually still putting guitar parts on quite a few of the tracks, but it was now the Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation, or VEDiC, and that signalled a new dawn.

The cover art for the v6.0 cassette announces: Platform 5 Archives Presents Vitreous Enamel Development Corporation (VEDiC EC v6.0). The cover is another mess. It’s at least as bad as the v4.0 cover and there some blurb on here about the shift from the literature of the Vedas through to the Upanishads. It seems that when I am uncertain about what I am doing, bad mystical imagery and bad design arrive on cue to save the day.

Not everything on v6.0 is bad. A track called Moosetrap, for no reason that I can remember, seems to be a remnant from the pre-synth era and is probably the finest guitar and drum machine track that I recorded in the 90s. Really fluid contrasts between clean and fuzz guitar, possibly the headless Hohner G2T which I exchanged for the K1 keyboard, in addition to the twin drum machine combination of Yamaha RX-5 and Casio RZ-1, the latter also being part of the exchange deal I had made for the synth. In fact this track represents everything that I had sacrificed for the vitreous enamel future.

Where the new material worked, as in Lunaroom, it could resemble quiet, piano based material from the hinterlands of a Neu! album. It’s actually quite pleasant. Also, the track Tetrabasso, near the end of the second side, does some interesting things with multiple sequenced basslines, without drums, carrying the music forward on caterpillar legs; possibly inspired by Philip Glass. And here the fuzz guitar almost works in its new, more decorative role. Platform Five(5) are once again used as a background feature on this track: a field recording of a train journey on the way to an anti-nazi demonstration in south London.

Where the material doesn’t work I make no apologies. This was a highly experimental period and I was trying a lot of new things out. And here the Platform Five(5) ethos, that “music doesn’t have to be good”, is at its most liberating. I was probably fully aware of this at the time because as far as I recall I made no further copies of the v6.0 cassette.

v6.0 can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.

Next: Keystations.