Boomkat Product Review:
Remarkable collection of home-baked British electronics from the ‘70s, issued for the first time on vinyl by Public Information, fresh from their two year snooze.
A very welcome return from Public Information, revisiting the obscure annals of early British electronic music with the first ever anthology of Malcolm Pointon’s visionary, avant-garde explorations, mostly created using self-built equipment and manipulated on tape c.’74.
Born 1940 in Stoke to working class Methodist parents, Malcolm Pointon grew up with a passion for the organ sounds he heard in the cinema and at church, with teachers and parents quickly realising his prodigious talent during primary school organ and piano lessons, leading him to form modern jazz combos in the Stoke area, and subsequently gain a First in his music studies at Birmingham University and working for the BBC’s Third Network (BBC Radio 3) until joining the music department of Homerton College, Cambridge, in 1969, where he specialised in non-Western, modern and improvised music, and remained until early retirement in 1992.
Despite this illustrious career, it’s perhaps testament to Pointon’s quintessentially english modesty, and that of the hobbyist Practical Electronics network, that his work isn’t yet hailed as the important part of British electronic history that it stands for. However, thanks to an ITV documentary following Malcolm during the later stages of his struggle with Alzheimers disease, and the careful curation and dedication of his wife, Barbara Pointon, Public Information and Ian Helliwell, Electromuse goes some way to asserting his place in the pantheon of pioneering British composers.
The collection is perhaps most notable for the keenly inquisitive Symbiosis, a warped and totally abstract beauty, prefaced here by Pointon’s own introduction which, as Barbara states, “reflect(s) his sharp wit, love of surprise” in its mix of alien tone and almost jazz-wise arrangement. But that’s only one of eleven aspects, which range from the air-wave surfing abstraction of his first ever electronic transmission, the haunting Radiophonie, thru to pulsating pre-echoes of proto-techno in Sonata Elletronica and the Conrad Schnitzler-esque oscillations of Boogie, or the truly wide-eyed wonder imbued in his more panoramic pieces such as Trojan Woman or the primordial ambience of Study 2.
We could offer other explanations for the outright oddness of of Pointon’s work - Stoke is well known as lying at a nexus of leylines, and also has a higher average of occult phenomena and religions in that area - however, it’s more likely that he was one of those great, if little-known, British obsessives who made music for the sake of it, and their own mental exploration, expression and gratification, rather than chasing fame or fortune - a vital lesson that should be heeded or adopted by so many young electronic composers today.
Sadly Malcolm Pointon died in 2007, aged 66, after a debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s disease - as sensitively but unflinchingly covered in Paul Watson’s elucidating documentary, Love’s Farewell - but he thankfully left us with a totally compelling early cornerstone of British electronic music.