Alien Brains was the brainchild of Nigel Jacklin, formed in 1979 while he was a pupil at Oundle public school, near Peterborough, in the UK. Although primarily a solo project, Alien Brains was to become what Jacklin describes as, 'an abstract non-collective’ (rather than a group.) There was no fixed line-up and everything was spontaneous. The locations where Alien Brains appeared or recorded were as important as the tools they used. There was no definitive Alien Brains sound which has been described as a cross between Throbbing Gristle and Moondog, although Jacklin took inspiration from a wide range of sources including Musique Concrete, avant garde Improv, Drone and even Dub Reggae.
Initially inspired by John Cage, who put forward the notion that any sound can be considered music, Jacklin set about recording what would become Alien Brains’ debut, Menial Disorders, which was recorded in the school’s chemistry laboratory, consisting of both ‘studio’ and live material. Menial Disorders was issued on cassette by one of the UK’s first DIY cassette labels, Deleted Records, on the 1st January, 1980:
'Menial Disorders almost defies classification. Jacklin has put together a deviously, disordered collage of compositions. Tape manipulation, radio, random voice, electronic effects and segments of a live performance combine to form an industrial journey through a disordered brain.' Aeon
From 1979 to the mid-‘80s, Jacklin worked with a wide range of musicians and non-musicians including Mark Lancaster (Instant Automatons, 391), Allen Adams (The Blanks, The Destructors, Methods Of Execution), Philip Sanderson (Storm Bugs), Richard and Philip Rupenus (primarily known for their work as The New Blockaders), David Jackman (Scratch Orchestra / Organum), Nag & Bendle (a.k.a. The Door & The Window), Harold Schellinx (The Young Lions), Truus de Groot (Nasmak), Lionel Jarlan (Ptose Production) and Dominic Guerin (SPK.)
The highly-acclaimed Encyclopaedia of Industrial Music describes Alien Brains as, ‘A seminal English group, pioneers of the Industrial genre. Their work employed elements of Musique Concrete and the Industrial avant garde which was often subjected to Dadaist modifications. The tools of their trade included everyday objects, unconventionally applied acoustic instruments and urban field recordings. Through the use of tape collage, Alien Brains made references to surreal sensitivity, subconscious fears and the chaos of contemporary civilization.’
Following Menial Disorders, Alien Brains issued several cassettes either privately or via various DIY cassette labels (see discography) and performed live in the UK and Holland (see live performances.)
Since their disappearance the mid-‘80s interest in Alien Brains has increased and unauthorized (mainly poor quality) downloads have been made available for free on various blogs and other file-sharing sites. Copies of original cassettes have sold for considerable sums which has led to some unscrupulous individuals issuing numerous counterfeits and bootlegs.
In 2006, an Alien Brains track was included on the Snatch Tapes compilation LP Snatch Paste, issued by German label Vinyl On Demand. The following year, Swedish label Tub Of Guts officially reissued the Live At The Basement cassette (albeit in edited form) on LP which introduced Alien Brains to a new audience and created further interest in the group, as did an article which appeared in As Loud As Possible magazine (2010.)
In 2012, Frank Maier (Vinyl On Demand) approached Jacklin with a view to issuing an Alien Brains' retrospective. This resulted in the It’s All History Now 4LP (which includes an extensive biography by Jacklin) appearing in 2014. In 2016 a brief excerpt from Menial Disorders was included on the Close To The Noise Floor compilation 4CD (Cherry Red.)
A 40th anniversary edition of Menial Disorders is to be issued on CD by the Austrian Klanggalerie label. Also due soon is a reissue of Live At The Basement on CD (VLZ PRODUKT, Japan) and a further 'best of' collection, Excerpts Of Alien Brains, to include previously available and unreleased material 1980 - '85 (VLZ PRODUKT.)
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