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Test Dept were an industrial music group from London, one of the most important and influential early industrial music acts. Their approach was marked by a strong commitment to radical socialist politics.
The group formed in the London suburb of New Cross in 1981. The core members of the group were Angus Farquhar, Graham Cunnington, Paul Jamrozy, Paul Hines and Toby Burdon. Other members who played with the group at various times included Alistair Adams, Neil Starr, John Eacott, Tony Cudlip, David Coulter, Gus Ferguson and Martin King. Comedian Vic Reeves also played bass in an early incarnation of the band. The slides and film for their multi-media events were the work of their visual director Brett Turnbull.
Their discography spans a wide variety of influences and styles, including a collaboration with the South Wales Striking Miners Choir in support of the miners' strike of 1984. They were particularly notable for complex and powerful percussion, as well as high-energy live performances. Like the German band Einstürzende Neubauten, with whom they are often compared, Test Dept used unconventional instruments such as scrap metal and industrial machinery as sound sources; however, Test Dept's use of these objects was far more rhythmic than was Neubauten's, and was often accompanied by film and slide shows. The group were noted for large-scale events in unusual site-specific locations, such as Waterloo station, Cannon Street station, Stirling Castle and the disused St Rollox Railway Works in Glasgow.
The band's album The Unacceptable Face of Freedom was praised by a music reviewer for The New York Times, claiming the album was notable for a "sophisticated use of sound-collage techniques and the helter-skelter momentum of its cyclical rhythms".
In later years the band's music became less industrial and took on many of the properties of techno. The band's political stance was energised by the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The band split up in 1997, but its former members have continued to work in the fields of art and culture. Angus Farquhar re-established the ancient Gaelic Beltane Fire Festival, held yearly on the night before/morning of the first of May on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. Farquhar also formed NVA, an innovative theatre company specialising in large-scale site-specific events. Cunnington, who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, produced a one-man show in 1996 called Pain, recounting his experiences as a sufferer from this condition. Jamrozy works as an artist under the name of Satellitic. Gus Ferguson teaches music to orphans in Kathmandu, and young buddhist monks in Northern India.
- Ecstasy Under Duress - 1982
- Shoulder to Shoulder (with South Wales Striking Miners' Choir) - 1984
- Beating The Retreat (Some Bizzare Records)- 1984
- Atonal & Hamburg, Live - 1985
- The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom (Some Bizzare Records) - 1986
- A Good Night Out - 1987
- Terra Firma - 1988
- Materia Prima - 1989
- Gododdin - 1989
- Pax Americana - 1990
- Proven In Action (Live 1990) - 1991
- Totality - 1995
- Legacy [1990-1993] the singles plus more - 1995
- Tactics for Evolution - 1997
- "The Pop Life: British Rock Bands add a message to the music" by Robert Palmer. The New York Times, June 18th, 1986, Section C, pg. 18.