Thomas Leer

Resident archivist Jack Dangers is reunited with a favourite 12-inch single from Scottish synth pioneer Thomas Leer

Thomas Leer’s ‘4 Movements’ – a four-track 12-inch EP released in 1981 – is not particularly rare, but it’s a brilliant record, and I’ve always loved it. I went back to it recently and wasn’t disappointed. All four tracks, which are taken from the album, ‘Letter From America’, are fantastic.

I discovered ‘4 Movements’ for the first time, like so much else, thanks to John Peel. He’d play something and I’d go and buy it. That’s how I picked up on things like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Fad Gadget.

When the EP came out, I remember thinking Leer was using really interesting synth sounds, which I’m pretty sure are from a Korg 700S. I used one on the Meat Beat Manifesto album ‘Impossible Star’. The band most famous for using the Korg 700S was probably The Cars, but it also featured on The Normal’s ‘TVOD’ and ‘Warm Leatherette’, and The Human League used it on their early stuff. It was the electro-punk synth. It came out in 1974, so they were likely coming onto the second-hand market in the late 1970s for not much money.

Leer’s first record was ‘Private Plane’ in 1978, a self-released seven-inch in a home-made photocopied cover.

He was working with Robert Rental, who also put out a DIY single in 1978 called ‘Paralysis’. Throbbing Gristle must have heard both and thought it’d be a good idea for the two of them to do an album together, and so ‘The Bridge’ was released on Industrial in 1979.

From there, Leer signed to Cherry Red, releasing ‘4 Movements’ in 1981, followed by the albums ‘Letter From America’ and ‘Contradictions’ in 1982. After that, he moved to Arista and put out ‘The Scale Of Ten’, which was much more commercial – Anne Dudley scored the strings on that one. He then formed Act with Claudia Brücken. When they split towards the end of the 80s, he withdrew from the music industry until 2001, when he started releasing archive and new material on his own label Future Historic.

You should be able to find a decent copy of ‘4 Movements’ for £10 and ‘Letter From America’ will set you back maybe £20. ‘Contradictions’ has been re-issued a few times, most recently this year by Italian label Spittle on double vinyl. For a copy of the DIY pressing of the ‘Private Plane’ seven-inch you’re looking at between £50 and £100.

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