Tony Thorpe

TONY THORPE – Speaking in Tongues

 May 1995

 TONY THORPE’s new label, LANGUAGE, is designed for the release of other  people’s music rather than his own. MARTIN JAMES deciphers the codes.

Pictorial patois: MATT BRIGHT

IN the early Eighties, performance artist, part-time pop-star and renowned linguist Laurie ‘Anderson suggested that language was a virus. The idea that words take on a life of their own and spread through communities like wild fire can just as easily be attached to all kinds of information. The sprawling chaos of the modem global media nurtures a never-ending onslaught of cultures, spreading information infection to all comers of the planet. Similarly, music is also an information virus. As each new musical variation goes overground, the strongest strains grow with on unparalleled virility, influencing musicians and listeners alike as they spread their digital roots. In his West London surgery, sonic semiotician TONY THORPE is busywith the culture jar, nurturing an ever-evolving underground where eclectic is the password, and quality is the goal. As with his own exceptional projects, Moody Boyz, Urban Jungle and Voyager (among others), the A&R policy behind his latest label is straight forward. You’ve simply got to blow him away with your music.

“If you imagine the music to be like a weapon,” Thorpe explains, “you could come into my office with a gun and, if it’s loaded, you blow my brains out and that’s cool. But, if it’s firing blanks, then I’ll try and help get it sorted. When someone comes in with their track and think it could be improved, I get the old tools out and try and make it better.. . it’s almost like a doctor’s surgery really. Then again, if the track would suit another label, 111 point you in the right direction.”

The wide spectrum of electronic music which has managed to lodge a bullet in the Language brain is testament to Thorpe’s honest and varied tastes. With his net cast wide, the resulting sampler album, “Miscellaneous”, willfully denies category on all counts. With artists previewing their own full-length albums, each genre touched gets subverted beyond recognition. Subsequently, Endemic Voids junglist “Sub Ether” stretches the mind in all directions on its ether-bound astral glide, while Under Pressure’s dope beat jazzatronic “Blue Foot” is pure Nineties rare groove.

Similarly, “Lowdown” by Tranquil Elephantizer (a collusion between Slowly and the Camberwell Butterflies) and “Aea” by Circadean Rhythms are mashed up explorations into the deep space cabaret –    out of their minds and out of this world. As Fronk Zappa said, “Describing music is like dancing to architecture.” Typically flippant, it nevertheless sums up the dilemma in describing the full spectrum of the “Miscellaneous” Language virus.

“There’s no musical prejudice on this label –    we’re living in a country with such a vast wealth of different cultures and it’s a great place to be. And this is what Language tries to represent.” says Thorpe in his usual energetic manner. “We’re open to all ideas with Language, no age, colour or sex barriers exist. I don’t think there’s enough labels around with that attitude. Diversity has always been a very British thing but record labels always try to deny this.

“What we try to do is make space for the extreme edges of music, covering those areas that perhaps don’t get as much recognition … Language is about pushing the boundaries of popular music. It’s like that Motown mentality of finding and supporting unknown acts which are all connected by a certain `sour.”

Language is a Nineties “soul” imprint. Mentally, physically and spiritually uplifting, “Miscellaneous”, like the greatest “soul” musk, is like a drug, actively altering your perception of reality. Thorpe agrees, while playing me a number of stunning tracks already selected for the second Language sampler:

“This is the whole point. . . I’m just really into the music, I mean I just get a massive buzz out of someone coming in, playing me a cassette that blows me out of the window. That’s a massive high to me – better than any drugs. What better a reason for starting Language.”

Music, a universal language; Language, a universal music. Open your mind, get the virus and make an appointment with Dr Thorpe’s sonic surgery.

‘Miscellaneous’ was released on May 8 on Language via Crammed Discs

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