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Quotes and reviews for the 2004 re-issue of the Self-Title Live Album on CD

When putting out the CD, we asked people to give their impressions of the band. Here are the comments we got.

"The first time I saw the Primitive Calculators was at the Crystal Ballroom at a gig which, I think may have been WhirlyWhirld V.1s first gig. The spectacle of Stuart's individual performance was, of course, the first thing that impressed me. Actually it really put me on edge and made me feel very uncomfortable. The extent to which he seemed to be as much tortured, as glorified, by his own performance made me feel physically threatened. However, and more interestingly, underlying the ferocity of the music was a carefully coordinated, precise and highly sophisticated musical structure. I remember you telling me about what a rigorous process learning to play the music was. You know, the only other thing that I've ever seen that was anything like in the same ballpark as the PCs was bluesman R. L. Burnside's performance at the Basement here in Sydney in 1998. Both had a very deep trance inducing effect whilst simultaneously being sensual and extremely abrasive. The PCs were the finest boogie band I ever heard."
Arne Hanna

"Primitive Calculators..one of the most innovative, ahead of their time ,radical and creative musical acts ever to crawl out of the nightmare suburbia of underground OZ.."
John Murphy

"When I mastered the Primitive Calculators LP with Groper in 1979 I didn't have a clue what I was doing and Stuart said maximum bass and treble so we did that but then we had to reduce the bass when we cut the acetate as it cut right through to the plate. The Primitive Calculators always cut right through."
Alan Bamford

"The first time I saw the Primitive Calculators I was totally surprised, transfixed by the irresistable intensity I was witnessing."
Janis Lesinskis

"In a time when synth based "new wave" was losing its edge, the Primitive Calculators made clangor that sounded like the destruction of a collapsing building. They took to the floor in a convulsive dance of sweat and fury, then jolted you with an urgency that typified the word punk."
Kilynn Lunsford

"If the Primitive Calculators were based in New York at the time these recordings where made, they would be as (in)famous as Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, Dna, etc... By bringing there recordings to cd a whole new audience can appreciate how ground breaking, abrasive, experimental and original the Calculators were."
Gavin Catling

"The Primitive Calculators were so far ahead of their time that neither the technology nor audience could keep up with them; they were a great band."
Clinton Walker

 

Reviews of the CD.

From PBS 106.7FM - Easey Magazine No. 6, 2005:

There was a lot more happening in Melbourne in 1979 than the Boys Next Door / Birthday Party, But here we have evidence: a live recording of a Primitive Calculators gig in North Carlton, where they supported the Boys Next Door.

This unlikely bunch of record junkies from Springvale, having absorbed the disparate sounds of ‘60s psych, boogie, disco, reggae and then, perhaps inspired into action by the likes of the Saints and Suicide, somehow managed to come up with a kind of gleefully abrasive electro-punk that sounds unique to this day.

It’s all jerky stabbing rhythms, angle-grinder synth noises, shrill slide-guitar scrapes, whistles and squeals, impassioned, jeering vocals, delivered with a precision and intensity required by the unforgiving drum machine throb. But despite the dour “proto-industrial” music these words might evoke, there is an unmistakeable sense of humour behind their antagonism, and I’m sure the live show was loads of fun—for the band, if not for the scanty crowd evident on this recording. I suggest playing at offensively loud volume for the full “being-there” effect.

This Chapter Music re-issue includes six previously unavailable tracks, including an early recording from a pre-Calculators band called the Moths, and a video for the song I Can’t Stop It. The only thing that seems to be missing is their debut single (and sole studio recording)—which many owners of the original LP would have found stowed inside the sleeve. Understandably, it was left out of the CD to avoid repetition of songs from the live set. But completists will be glad to hear that there are plans to re-issue the single and the Little Bands EP, recorded around the same time in 1979. Adrian Ockerby

 

From Aquarius Records mailout:

"PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS "s/t" (Chapter Music)
During the fall of 2004, I (Jim) had the privledge of travelling to Australia for a month or so. Well, I guess that technically makes it *spring* of 2004; anyway, I met a lot of great people who had some amazing record collections, including a bunch of Australian post-punk and new wave stuff that probably never made it outside of Melbourne or Sydney. Of everything that I heard, there were a few bands that stuck in my memory: the Laughing Clowns, Microfilm (which happened to be the first band of Lisa Gerrard who later went on to found Dead Can Dance), and then there was the Primitive Calculators which was by far the best thing I heard. After asking around about those recordings, it became clear that I was probably going to be out of luck or out of a ton of money. So, I simply filed those band names away in hopes of coming across them somewhere, sometime, somehow. You could imagine my surprise when I discovered a compilation from the Primitive Calculators in a box from one our distributors. It's sort of like Christmas when you get that cool gift that you forgot you asked for, instead of the ugly sweater or pair of wool socks from Grandma. Anyway, The Primitive Calculators were Melbourne's answer to the Screamers, although I'd be hard pressed to believe that they actually heard that legendary techno-punk ensemble. It was more likely that The Primitive Calculators came to their sound through Suicide and the No New York compilation, in particular DNA and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Their intense, throbbing post-punk songs centered around the raw electricity of twin synthesizers and drum machines hammering out noxious arppegiations whilst the lead singer / guitarist Stuart Grant screamed, grunted, and scraped up and down his guitar in short, sharp blasts of epileptic energy. This CD documents their one and only LP, which was a live recording in which the audience appears to dwindle despite the fact that their set gets more and more intense, culminating in a ridiculous cover of Lloyd Williams' soul standard "Shout." Fortunately a bunch of their studio recordings round out the CD, giving their exceptional songs a much fuller sound. Even without the serendipitous experience of re-discovery, I'd still love this record!"

 

From Maximum Rock n Roll magazine:

"PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS - S/T CD
If anyone can tell me what 'art punk' really specifically refers to anymore in 2005, I'm game to listen. It's a lot easier to discern on this discus, a reissue of a previously impossible-to-find live lp by Australia's prime synth-buggerists the PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS. The first 11 tracks are the original record, recorded live in front of several folk (apparently) clapping at gunpoint, in 1979. It should be noted that this live LP functions as an effective bookend for the 'Live at YMCA 10.2.79' LP recorded by the UK's similarly inclined CABARET VOLTAIRE for Rough Trade. But unlike VOLTAIRE, most of whose stuff works on a level that most of ya’ll would not consider ‘punk’, the CALCULATORS maintain their dour aggression at all costs and the result is very, very punk, like if VOLTAIRE had recorded an entire LP in the vein of their ‘Nag Nag Nag’ EP. The bonus tracks, from hoarded shoebox cassettes, are even rougher and more, uh, punk. Call it synth-garage-muck. Anyone who picked up the SLUGFUCKERS or METAL URBAIN reissues last year should do themselves a favor and spend some meds dough on this as well. To have been at one of their cranky-aggro shows in 1979, especially compared to the mainstream sounds of that time, must have been like a visit to Mars, generating a totally uncertain audience response. This is 'art punk'. (RW)"

 

From Inpress Magazine, Melbourne, January 2005:

"Primitive Calculators played testing music and quite frankly it's a great thing. Meeting in Springvale in the early 1970s the various members of Primitive Calculators had an appreciation towards bands such as The Fugs, 13th Floor Elevators, The Godz and the Holy Modal Rounders. Much like those late 60s acts, Primitive Calculators effectively attempted to create rasping and rudimentary experiments that freed them from traditional song structures, and after repeated listens to this reissue of their 1982 album, it starts to emerge that Primitive Calculators were creating something completely new-found, yet unfathomable and mysterious; in fact the pneumatic drill-like sound that opens the album is almost a seditious auditory assault that makes contemporaries of Primitive Calcuators (bands such as New York's Suicide and France's Metal Urbaine) seem like apparitions of puppy dogs.
Primitive Calculators are a lopsided and capricious tension-dream that perfectly encapsulates the searing audacity of the Australian countryside as much as it does the inner city. To these senses the Australian "outback", just as much as the begrimed alleyway or barroom, is an engineering, cold and manipulative environment, and one feels that the Stuart Grant's distressed outpouring in Do the Ice Pick (sample lyric: "I need a good shit - I wanna go home") is a decisive abstract about the imperfect and confrontational situation which is life.
This compilation, released by local Melbourne label Chapter Music, pulls together the Primitive Calculators' full length album, (11 tracks recorded live in 1979) plus bonus material scrouged together from archival cassette tapes; there's also a seldom-seen video for the track I Can't Stop It.
"Post-punk" or "proto-industrial" are descriptive misnomers that rarely assist any review, and, equally, the band's inflexible starkness and musical extremity make such misnomers redundant. It's a testament to the band's scraping foresight that their prescient mix of punk, synthesizer and drum machine can still cast a bottomless shadow over today's "now sound", but if that doesn't hold any interest, their version of the Isley Brothers' Shout should, mainly because it comes with a free paramedic to help conduct a heart massage.
The Primitive Calculators' nausea is a very rare thing; it's palpable, enjoyable and serene." Shane Jesse Christmass.

 

From Vice Magazine (Australian Edition), February 2005:

Best Album Of The Month ~ 10/10
"Before this re-release, this album resided in some sort of mythical territory; I had heard snippets of it on mix-tapes and at friends' houses, and it appeared like some pure stream of completely honest art-punk that would instantly satisfy all musical apathy, but I couldn't find a fucking copy anywhere. Thanks to Chapter Music, this 1979 Australian classic can finally be snatched from the sweaty palms of elitist indie boy record collectors and be played at full volume for the people, man." Hugo Klang.

 


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