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Transparent Illusion - Still Human

Transparent Illusion was the work of Roy Young, an elusive and mysterious figure. It took Anna Logue Records years to track him down for this reissue. Often referred to as the "Holy Grail" of minimal electronic music, Still Human was released on Young's own label, Vex Records in 1981. It didn't sell well and over the years it acquired something of a cult status commanding exorbitant sums on the collector's market whenever copies did appear for sale.

Simply recorded using just one synth and one drum machine it's an interesting piece of vintage electronics. Recorded between 1980 and 1981 it married a bleakly, depressing dystopian vision with bleakly depressing synthesizer music. Still Human was created from wavering synths and melodic leads over primitive beats. Its inventiveness overcomes the crude technology used. Young's idiosyncratic voice is something of a deal breaker. Pitched somewhere between Robert Wyatt and John Cooper Clarke, even stretching towards Syd Barrett at moments, his vocals attempts to follow the electronic melody with varying degrees of success. Sometimes it's weedy, sometimes it's off-key but it all adds to the one-off take of Still Human.

Some points are closer to the nascent strains of electro-pop. With its beaty tones 'Nuclear Release' and 'The Human Cage (Still Human)' almost touches upon the electronic sounds of Gary Numan. The instrumental 'Demented' is much lighter in tone than much of the material on Still Human. Yet Still Humanisn't by any means polished and futuristic, this is raw and primitive electronic music.

The discordant scales of 'Killing Time' leads into deep throbbing tones as the wailing voice of Young decries "drowning in a vortex, everyday losing my reason" recalling the alienation and boredom felt by the youth in the UK in the early eighties. The dark electronics reach a pinnacle on 'We': "Dead bodies decaying all over the town, no bomb has fallen, remains of a regular age".

In the later tracks there's a distinct (post-) punk feel. The frantic drum rolls and incessant electro beats of 'Is There Hope' is infused with a punk energy, as is 'Vortex', the sole single from Still Human, a careering vocal laden track merging electro beats with analogue distortion.

There's a real DIY aura to Still Human with a back-to-basics approach shot through with imagination that makes this 1981 release of raw, simple and primitive electronics appealing. The "holy grail" appellation may be misleading but this is a more than worthwhile reissue that anyone interested in early synthesizer music really ought to track down. For more information go to www.annaloguerecords.com