What better breeding ground for Electronic Music than a detached garage in Merchantville, New Jersey? Both unworldly sonic visionaries and conscienceless musical innovators, decades ago The Nightcrawlers offered a new view across the release of three accomplished LPs and 35 homemade audiocassette albums. Most active during the decade of 1980 this group was more than just three isolated figures functioning in a mythic hinterland of technology and expression; underlying the wires, amplifiers, speakers and gear was their tale of a better tomorrow. Biophonic Boombox Recordings attempts to chart their larger story with a pure invitation to listen.
As studio standards did not matter much to The Nightcrawlers (Peter D Gulch, Tom Gulch and Dave Lunt), their raw, consumer grade, open-mic recordings contained a great number of extraneous sounds from the room (or even the surrounding neighborhood), a lack of fidelity, as well as a healthy helping of tape hiss. Thanks to the careful application of modern audio treatments, the experience of listening to the music selected for inclusion on this anthology has now become a bit more enjoyable.
Fueled by the illusion that an artist's potential is limitless, The Nightcrawlers perfected live, improvised, real-time composition - the three musicians fully realizing their work in its commission. Possessing a brutish edge, they exerted a serene, secure authority and their numerous jams and live concerts became the learning ground for many emerging artists.
Beginning with a great number of interconnected music machinery, and ending in a vivid sphere of atmosphere, at every outing The Nightcrawlers managed to produce a fantastic netherworld of floating forms, bristling nodes and torrential electronic energies. Their quiet, smooth space interludes were more works of imagination than invention - and relied heavily on the chemistry between the three members, as opposed to conventional virtuosity or song structure. As they wind out in riotous pulsations, each piece gains power and depth. Guided along a plot arc which was devised on-the-fly and in-the-moment, each one of their numerous synthesizer ceremonies gave rise to a realm of eerie beauty. Alternating between sequencer bustle and space-age grandeur, their prolific performance sessions came out different at every new beginning. Through the generation of rich textures and hushed tones, nothing more than our own thoughts now guide these minimal movements. To see the stars we need a dark core, but with warp-drive we may touch them - and most of the tracks on Biophonic Boombox Recordings exemplify these kinds of explorations. Energy builds as sequencer patterns deploy, and synth lead lines unfurl - all in service to the kinetic zone through which we are traveling. Granted, this music is a bit unusual, even by Spacemusic standards, and we will benefit from any adjustments made to our expectations. But their creations are more than an assembly of minor-key notes and moody timbres. Whether augmented by the presence of a substantial audience, or just the three musicians together feeling their way through uncharted space, each track found on Biophonic Boombox Recordings ranks among the most open and honest music ever played live.
While we may be better off not trying to fathom the inner mysteries of The Nightcrawlers, it is undeniable that they were responsible for music that captured moods, expressions and atmospheres in ways that still has us re-thinking our relationship with live performance. Free, unfettered and alive, their vitality, intimacy and courage carry their work on well past the time of its inception.
The Nightcrawlers were not ever conventionally ambitious, and took an eccentric path through musical expression. Listening to Biophonic Boombox Recordings we may feel as though we have encountered the collective unconscious of a lost underground movement. A questing trio, they made forward-thinking Spacemusic that commanded our attention, music that asked to be listened to. That was how the future looked to us back then. And now today... we cannot help but wonder - how is it looking now?
- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END 22 February 2018