Bands we miss – I Start Counting

We’ve written before about the enormous influence discovering the Mute Records catalogue in a mid-80s Depeche Mode 12″ import had on shaping Softsynth’s musical boundaries. Never has this been more true than in discovering I Start Counting. As obscure as any Mute band, this UK duo sounded interesting from their band name to the song titles, to the photos that made them look like the prototype synth-nerds. We were intrigued. On first listen to their 1984 single “Letters to a Friend” and their 1985 single “Still Smiling” we were hooked. It was straight-ahead synthpop with an eclectic edge. Kraftwerk influences were apparent but they were oh, so British in their manner and vocal delivery.  On b-sides like “There is Always the Unexpected” we saw their more experimental side, and while it wasn’t always pretty to listen to, you heard a band pushing at its outer edges, trying to find its way.

Their first album, My Translucent Hands was a master class in electronic music blending elements from their pop and experimental sides. David Baker and Simon Leonard released a string of singles from the album, each accessible but surrounded by oddness on the album itself. The followed this up with the more experimental “Lose Him”, largely made up of samples and then the pinnacle, an amalgam of the theme from Rawhide and Boney M’s “Rasputin”, titled, “Ra Ra Rasputin”. Genius in concept and execution. They opened on tour for Erasure, released a marvelous second album, Fused in 1988, and then flamed out.

In the 90s they would reconstitute themselves as Fortran 5, a more dance-oriented project with vague blues and Syd Barrett influences (and had a club hit with “Heart on the Line”), and then, before becoming too comfortable in this guise, again as Komputer, releasing three albums in the aughts. This most recent incarnation owes much to Kraftwerk and is as much a sonic experiment as “music” as we know it, and it seems to be the end point of the journey the boys have been on all these years. They finally seem to have arrived at that musical juncture they’ve been striving for.

While it’s nice to see Baker and Leonard still working together and keeping the dream alive, it was their first incarnation that rests in Softsynth’s heart in all it’s (albeit odd) synthpop glory. There were moments in Komputer’s most recent, excellent album, Synthetik, when the pop shone through and it looked as though we might be touching on the greatness that was ISC, but those moments are now few and far between and as a result we look back fondly on this short-lived version of this band and sigh sadly as we realize how much we miss them still.

Watch: Catch That Look

Watch: Lose Him

Watch: Million Headed Monster

Watch: Ra Ra Rawhide

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