Boomkat Product Review:
Roger Doyle's mythical 1981 debut, a Nurse With Wound-approved tape collage classic, and a handful of the Irish vanguard's best Fairlight-powered electro-pop. Essential, obviously.
Doyle composed "Rapid Eye Movements" when he was just 19. Inspired by the GRM set and recorded between Ireland and the Netherlands, Doyle wanted to create an audio representation of the REM sleep cycle using field recordings and improvisations. He read that during REM sleep the eyes move around beneath the eyelids, and captured this sense of place between dreaming and waking by using disorienting electronic effects and repetitions intended to give the listener a sense of aural deja vu. Released in 1981 on the NWW-affiliated United Dairies label, it's technically a Doyle solo album but the Operating Theatre moniker, a name Doyle used to his ensemble electro pop project, was used all the same. The record is still a dizzying piece of work, true vortex-level tape music material that takes the basic blueprint from artists like Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani and infuses it with Irish humor and surrealism.
Even just this album would make the reissue worthwhile, but we get a bundle of Doyle's quirky electro-pop productions too. In the 1980s he teamed up with actress Olwen Fouéré, who added a little bit of theater to the mix, and Spanish singer Elena López who handled vocals. Doyle managed to get his hands on a Fairlight sampler, an expensive and rare bit of kit for the time - it was famously used on Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" if you need a reference. So the brittle, characteristic sound gives his productions an era-specific bite that's hard to recreate. All of the tracks appeared on EPs and singles at the time, including one on the U2-affiliated Mother Records, but the group weren't well promoted and splintered. These tracks are a testament to the era and to Doyle's drive as a boundary-pushing producer - who else can pivot from grungy electro-acoustic tape collage into pitch-perfect electro pop so seamlessly? Crazy, good.