Hard Breakfast - Exploration - Experiments With Environments - Metropolis - Silicon Valley - Synthesize LP
The story of Autumn covers a 5 year period, during which several milestones
display the evolution. These major events are :
Hard Breakfast (1981), Experiments With Environments (1982), Metropolis (1983-1984) and Silicon Valley (1984). All produced tapes are listed in the Micrart Catalog.
As young kids, Geert and Peter (Sen and Ense) we intrigued by the experimental and cosmic music scenes, and wanted to explore further in that direction. At first, they had to rely on family and friends to supply them with primitive keyboards, organ, and other synthesizer-like instruments. About 1980, they were able of putting a band together and doing some performances, which resulted in the first tape 'Seven Days Autumn'.
They were able to rent a 2 voice, 8 step analog sequencer by Yamaha (CS30) for a week, which they used to produce a pile of compositions at their rehearsal locations, which were subsequently baptised 'Atem' and 'Attne'. The best recordings of that era is to be found on the first tape and 'I Invite', released in the same year.
In the mean time, they kept on performing with the band which became quite known in a wide area. It ignited the idea of setting up a special event, 'Hard Breakfast'. Hard Breakfast was built around the electronic music of Autumn, but assisted by live jazz-dance and live computer graphics art : and all that dated 1981 ! Hard Breakfast required a team of 11 people of which 5 on stage, and the guys were only 17. From that period on, graphics will be playing an incresing role.
On stage, Autumn used the brand new Roland CSQ600 sequencer with the SH-2 2-voice monophone synth as melodic rhythm unit. The sequencer had 4 memories (which was a revolution at that time : computer memory instead of analog knobs), and had to be reprogrammed during the 2-3 hour show. It was synced manually with a Godwin Organ rhythm section (check out 'Paraselcus' on the Hard Breakfast tape !), which provided also a bright range of keyboard sounds such as lovely smooth strings and a clavichord sound. Next to that, they used a Yamaha C40M as huge effect generator, manipulated live, the Roland Vocoder, and a 12 channel mixing desk - completed by some mikes, acoustic and electric guitar, flute. O yeah, there was also 1 delay machine which was able to produce a single echo effect ! And most of the equipment was rented : they never even used it before !!! Keeping all this in mind, Hard Breakfast was an even more amazing achievement. Some old graphical Hard Breakfast material has survived and you can look at it here.
In that same period, Autumn wrote some original tracks for the soundtrack of the first 8mm movie by Jan Verheyen, a classmate of Peter and Geert. For this occasion, Autumn records in a professional studio, using the world famous roland System 7 modular system, in combination with the ARP 2600 synthesizer and sequencer. Some of these tracks are included on the tape 'I Invite' Jan would later found his film distribution and production firm, and started directing movies.
A major heritage from this period, is the band's capability of producing great improvised music. When you listen to the tracks, one can hardly believe that most of them are created on the spot and they were lucky the recording tape was running. Many nice things were therefore lost. But improvisation was also a need, as they hadn't access to the instruments all the time. Nevertheless, they were capable of producing music that was interesting, well made, good melodies, and with content.
Shortly after Hard Breakfast, Geert and Peter were able to buy some synthesizers for themselves, allowing them to drastically increase their musical creativity and productivity. It soon resulted in many tracks, which were released on several tapes, and performed live in many concerts. They bought (as one of the first) the revolutionary Roland TR 808 rhythm machine to synchronise with the CSQ 600 sequencer and SH-2 bassline synth. The Roland Jupiter-4 was used as basic polyphonic keyboard (4 voices, 8 memories), and a Teisco synth was chosen for lead synth sounds. Additionally, they used 2 syndrums (electronic percussion), 2x6 channel boss mixing desk and hired an echo machine.
In those days, Autumn was a loose initiative rooted by Peter and Geert, but most often joined by Peter Koutstaal. It also allowed them to get into different styles again, which resulted in the formation of two other bands, Linear Movement and Twilight Ritual. The even released a single 'Synthesize' which became a modest summer hit in 1982, which was recorded in a professional 24 track studio in only 7 hours (for both sides !).
As Autumn, Geert and Peter used the artistname 'Sen' and 'Ense', which became identified with the band. Being Autumn, they continued to produce many great tracks, of which the tapes 'Experiments With Environments' became a landmark in their history. This tape is of very high standards, and shows how much the band evolved in only a year. Having all material at hand, it allowed the band to explore in depth the limits of the equipment.
During the months before EWE, Autumn built up a communication channel with many other musicians in the independent and alternative music scene. From that moment on, Autumn appeared on many compilation projects. EWE is not really a project as such, rather a gathering of experiments with environments, which is an expression chosen afterwards to become the title of the tape.
After EWE, Autumns activities are reduced to give time to the other projects, Twilight Ritual and Linear Movement.
During 1983, Geert initiated the idea of writing a soundtrack to the classic Fritz Lang silent movie 'Metropolis'. After searching a long time to get a good copy on video, they spend over 6 months to write a soundtrack and prepare it for LIVE performance. On februari 22nd 1984, Autumn perfomed their soundtrack live during video-playback of the movie at the Leuven University. It was an instant success and plans were made to tour. But they had no luck : somebody else had also made a soundtrack, and bought the copyrights of the movie : Autumn was officially forbidden to perform their soundtrack again.
The Metropolis soundtrack by Autumn however was considered by many to be better fitting and respecting the original work. Autumn took a minimalistic approach to this project, and wished to add music in the same expressionistic way as Fritz Lang had used to make the film. So, key values were minimalism and expressionism, terms derived from graphic arts implemented in sound. They wanted to increase the power of the movie, not use it for irrelevant promotion of a commercial song.
The second big challenge was the desire to perform live. Getting a valid movie reproduction wasn't easy, but they finally got a fine 2-hour copy, which contained more material than most remaining copies of the movie. They equipped studio Attne D with a videotape and TV monitor, hired some more equipment, and started analysing the story (even discovered some discontinuities and wrong editing) and preparing a storybook for the music. It took them 6 months to write the music, including leitmotifs and returning melodies, and tracks fully supporting the movie's dramatic images.
During the performance, the video was projected on stage on a big screen, below which the 3 musicians followed the movie and played live. They sat down with all their instruments piled in front of them on the floor. In the midst of it some TV-monitors showed the same movie image so they didn't have to look up to the big screen all the time. Each had their storyboard and detailed instructions on which part to play on which moment (the last rehearsal lasted until 5 o'clock in the morning the day of the concert). It was a very complex performance, especially because everything had to be timed exactly. Some parts were pre-recorded on a 4-track tape because the guys didn't have enough equipment to program all sounds and sequences... It was a fantastic performance, which was granted a standing ovation. The performance wasn't recorded on video, but the music had been registered live in sync with the movie. The audiance was provided a guide for the show. A booklet that explains it all was made for the original tape release. You can read all about it here.
Autumn planned to go on tour with this performance, but was held back by the release of a commercial Metropolis soundtrack release. Because of that, only the tape remains. Later, they rearranged some meoldies and recorded them in a professional studio, meant to be released in vynil. The album however never made it.
The Metropolis setback discouraged the band a bit, and they started taking different initiatives : first Twilight Ritual, later A Split Second. Being Autumn however, they continued until the end of 1984 with the last tape 'Silicon Valley'. It contains some lovely tracks on the Valley side, and very high standards tracks on the Silicon side. Especially this last side has been worked on for a long period, even from before the Metropolis adventure. The single theme is the bright twinkling sequencer that takes control over your mind. Nowadays, peope would call it New Age music or something to put your mind at rest : a kind of sonic medication.
Silicon Valley is a great tape, a lovely last fact from Autumn. The heritage from Autumn will be recovered by Twilight Ritual, 15 years later, in a contemporary ambient style.
New York based minimal electro label Minimal Wave releases "Synthesize" in 2011 as compilation of original Autumn material between 1981 and 1983.