The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Mel Croucher & Automata UK Ltd
Pimania Spencer Grady , June 3rd, 2010 10:15

The 80s weren't all doom and gloom. They might have heralded the onset of Fukuyama's "end of history", but pioneering bods like Sir Clive Sinclair envisaged a futuristic reinterpretation of the plateau, albeit one elevated by rubber keys and ridiculously flimsy transportation systems. Mel Croucher's software company, Automata UK Ltd, was determined to be part of this visionary wobble into the unknown, supplying animated bullets for Sinclair's computerised artillery.

The bawdy surrealist scenarios of Pimania were recorded by Croucher between 1982 and 1985, to serve as backing tracks for games released by his company during the days when such things were still distributed on cassette. These curious sketches, populated by an unnerving pink organism with a pendulous proboscis, along with a bevy of other bizarre agents, document a fantasy utopia with pastiches of popular tunes (The Kinks' 'You Really Got Me' and The Shangri-Las' 'Leader Of The Pack' are revisited here as dirty Piman-centric innuendo) and endless period referencing (Benny Hill raised to deific status). Quite what the parents of any kids playing these games made of it all, heaven knows.

Listen to Pimania and the diverse arts of Laurie Anderson, Monty Python, Robert Wyatt, The Shadow Ring, Daniel Johnston and, ahem, Jim Davidson (check the ill-advised ersatz Jamaican accent on 'Pi-Balled') readily spring to mind. But this album also represents a bona fide artefact exhumed from the age, and imbued with the spirit, of hypnagogia. While retro-futurists like James Ferraro and Daniel Lopatin refashion the cultural debris of their adolescent pasts into fresh meditative forms, here we have a taste of the genuine article, with a side salad of saucy seaside humour thrown in.

But, zeitgeist referencing aside, this record is a remarkable one-off. You'd be hard-pressed, for better of worse, to find another record quite like Pimania. It should be fêted, not so much for its music, but for what it represents: a resilient archive of unique outsiderdom. The sense you've tuned into a broadcast from a separate universe is heightened by Feeding Tube's magnificent packaging job – extensive liner notes that outline the chronological contours of this corny cosmos; a bedsit-friendly pixel poster and sumptuous gatefold sleeve art by Robin Evans, the original artist of the advertising graphics of Automata. Right, I've said enough, I'm off to go build my Piman mask.