The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Sisters Of Transistors
At the Ferranti Institute Mick Middles , December 1st, 2009 11:53

A big sound in the city of Manchester... literally. Sisters Of Transistors began life as a research project at Graham Massey's (808 State, Massonix) curious South Manchester Museum of Keyboard Technology. Imagine, if you will, the scenario: You step out of the contemporary pulsebeat (literally, by handing over your iPods at the entrance). You relax into a pre-digital age and encounter this curious band of four girls armed with vintage transistor organs and powered by the ferocious percussion of Massey himself.

The notion – an odd one, I know, but bear with me - is to replicate the work of Lillian Meyers and, the blurb informs me, reference the sound of such artists as Ennio Morricone, the B52's and The Shangri-La's. It has been noted elsewhere that bizarre glimpses of Mud and Squeeze can be found herein, though I struggle to locate them. More obviously – and more bizarrely perhaps – as the powerful chunks of music roll by like sonic tanks, one begins to hear Rod Argent, Keith Emerson and Yes. The Keith Emerson suggestion is not flippant, for an ELP monster lurks mischievously within though, admittedly, rarely seen.

Of course it's hugely ironic to encounter (and enjoy…it IS hugely enjoyable) music with disguised prog roots and naturally regard it as a refreshing, innovative process. (As if punk never happened indeed…nor disco and acid house, come to that). More so as the chief motivator here is the man part responsible for one of the greatest dance legacies of the past 20 years, (It is work re-discovering the sheer depth and scope available on the four 808 State recently remastered CD's ….they step away from genre in numerous instances). With Sisters of Transistors, the power lies not in the fact that they sound most unlike anything else on the planet (not quite true) but in their ability to stretch across to wider if, thus far, localised audience.

All here is surge and stretch. Even the vocals pitch in with the force of 12 full-throttle female choirs. All is attack, with organs howling from the past and serving to highlight our pre-conditioned disco ears. Like a latter-day Bob Dylan album, the music is dismantled and reassembled without those mainstream clichés.

What separates SOT from similar experiments that might championed in small print in eclectic organs, is the flowing accessibility. (Another Massey trick, perhaps, but one senses me has merely helped enhanced the sound of the four girls). The songs carry titles that are equally idiosyncratic. 'Tiger Ghee', 'Solar Disco', 'Unicorn Light Brigade' and 'Berdu Mi gut Ad Ajo'. The latter, which closes the disc, offers a dizzying arpeggio fizz, leaving you hungry to catch this most extraordinary act in the flesh. Wild, weird and untamed by trend.