Contrastate were formed in 1987 by Stephen Meixner and Jonathan Grieve.
Their initial musical ventures were of a more improvisational nature,
based on noise and volume (not to be confused with power electronics).
Sounds emerged, sub-merged and re-emerged at varying painfully low frequencies
with extremes of treble tonality. The idea was physical confrontation through sound.
Nothing was ever released by Contrastate in this form, although some influences
from this era are present on the first Lp “Seven hands seek nine fingers”. There
were also a couple of live performances, one in London and one in Geneva. The London
performance had a planned duration of 15 minutes, but instead lasted only 3 minutes
as Contrastate were thrown off stage after waves of feedback had blown one of the amplifiers.
Towards the end of 1988 Contrastate’s music became more subtle and considered,
concentrating on the atmospheric rather than aggressive content. Two live performances
were done in Belgium in 1989, but these were frankly awful and very unsatisfactory for
the band. This led to a four year break from live performances in order that the band
could re-think their direction in this sphere. In that time Stephen Meixner and
Jonathan Grieve recorded the albums “A thousand badgers in labour” and “i”. Both releases
helped Contrastate gain favourable attention from the critics and an audience for
their music, which was moving forward becoming more purposeful and defined.
1992 saw the release of “A live coal under the ashes” which was inspired by
the events leading up to the changes across Eastern and Central Europe during 1989.
This release marked the change conceptually in which the group’s ideas became more
specific and more focused on contemporary political issues. “A live coal…” was
critically acclaimed not just for the music, but also for the artwork and
packaging: – a CD placed in the middle of a 12inch clear vinyl record. Stephen Pomeroy
joined the group for these recordings and became Contrastate’s third member.
There was also another side to the groups music, namely their penchant for dark
surreal humour. “I’m a clown collecting moments (and other chocolates)” was the
groups debut single released in 1993. Both the cover, music, and title are
reflections of that humour found locked inside the grooves of this particular
single waiting to jump out at you as the needle hits the record. Three more singles
were released between 1994 and 2000. All were very different, showing an alternative
side to their music.
1993 also marked the return of Contrastate to the live scene with their performance
at Festival Karlsruhe. This show was extremely well received and a spontaneous
ten minute ovation followed the 35 minute concert. With three people now in the
group the majority of the show was live with hardly any reliance on pre-recorded
backing tapes. This was far more satisfying than was previously the case. Another
change concerning the live performance is that from 1993 onwards rather, than try
and re-create studio material (which would have been virtually impossible), new material
was specifically written to be performed live at the show(s). It was also seen as a
practical matter of attempting to move on each time.
"Throwing the baby out with the bathwater", Contrastate's fifth studio album, was simultaneously released in 1994 as a CD and a limited edition pic...