[sic] Magazine

Rema-Rema – Fond Reflections

“It was the first point I knew that we were actually doing something serious.”
Ivo Watts Russell

40 years after disbanding comes Fond Reflections, the debut album that never was from cult 4AD band Rema-Rema.

Rema-Rema featured former members of The Models and Siouxsie and The Banshees, and their much-loved Wheel in the Roses EP (1980) was among the first records to be released on 4AD. Their only contribution to the label’s storied history, they split-up before its release, going on to form or join bands as diverse as Renegade Soundwave, The Wolfgang Press, and Adam and the Ants.

Fond Reflections, collects music salvaged from the band’s archive of reel-to-reel and cassette recordings, restored by vocalist/guitarist Gary Asquith mixing engineer Takatsuna Mukai.
For hardcore 4AD fans this sought after material is something of a Holy Grail. According to the label Fond Reflections, “reflects the band’s live set and is the closest to what their debut album could have sounded like.” 4AD add that “although all their 1980 EP tracks are present on this album, they are different recordings.”

As expected the music here is edgy and abrasive. 4AD wasn’t always the fluffy, ethereal beauty of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. For its first year and a half 4AD was distinctly dark and atonal, like a London branch of Factory searching around for their own Joy Division.

This Mortal Coil fans will be aware of the track ‘Fond Affections’ which was eventually covered on the astonishing It’ll End In Tears opus. With vocals bordering between disaffection and anguish, ‘Fond Affections’ here in its original form sound like it is being played in the basement on a vacuum cleaner. This is a world far removed from the looped shimmer that graced This Mortal Coil.

Other tracks such as ‘Lost My Way’ and ‘Rema Rema’ are more ballsy sludge rock in the vein of The Stooges. ‘Murdermuzic’ is a prototype of the Renegade Soundwave song. I particularly like ‘Instrumental’ (which isn’t)

According to 4AD reports, the arrival of Rema-Rema provided Ivo a reason for continuing after the early ‘Axis’ singles failed to garner much traction in the marketplace . Returning to the Beggars shop one afternoon to find five people about to play Peter Kent their demo tape, Ivo was immediately struck by the post-punk quintet’s music, later saying, “It was the first point I knew that we were actually doing something serious.” The band consisted of Gary Asquith (guitar/vocals), Marco Pirroni (guitar), Mick Allen (bass/vocals), Mark Cox (keyboards) and Max (drums). Their sole EP, Wheel In The Roses, featured one side of studio recordings and another of live material. Their songs ‘Fond Affections’ and ‘Rema-Rema’ were later covered by This Mortal Coil and Big Black respectively. Rema-Rema split up shortly after the EP’s release in April 1980. Pirroni later hit the big time with Adam And The Ants. Asquith, Allen and Cox formed the short-lived Mass with Danny Briottet. Asquith then moved on to Renegade Soundwave, while Cox and Allen stayed with 4AD as part of The Wolfgang Press. Drummer Max Prior went on to form El Trains (with Jay Strongman) and worked with Genesis P Orridge and Industrial Records as a solo artist under her real name (Dorothy), eventually joining Psychic TV full time.

Rema-Rema have a niche following, it has to be said. This release is unlikely to add to those numbers. Therefore I say, good on 4AD for permitting and facilitating such a release. Fond Reflections is a comprehensive anthology of this short-lived project. It is out now.