Pump (band)

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Pump was an experimental, pre-electronica, band, active between 1979-1993. They released five cassette albums as MFH on the YHR label before changing their name to Pump in 1986 and recording the LP “The Decoration of the Duma Continues” in 1987 (Final Image) and “Sombrero Fallout” in 1992 (released by Plague Recordings in 2010).

History[edit]

Andrew Cox (born 14 July 1961) met David Elliott (born 14 March 1961) at the University of Sussex in October 1979. The two lived on the same corridor of campus dorm York House and quickly realised they had similar left field musical interests, particularly krautrock and the newly happening industrial music scene. Elliott had written for a few music fanzines and, with Cox's help, decided to start his own, Neumusik, together with a campus radio show of the same name. Cox had a synthesizer and circuit boards and Elliott had some musical ideas so they also formed a band, MFH. Some thought this referred to the term Master of the Fox Hounds but in truth they were named after the author of a teach-yourself German book by Margaret Frohlich Hardy.

These were the days of cassette culture when legions of bedroom-based bands across the UK, taking a leaf from punk's Do-It-Yourself ethos, set up independent cassette labels to distribute their own music. MFH's "First Move" became the first release on York House Recordings in January 1980, comprising rudimentary sound collages and four synthesizer pieces by Cox. This was swiftly followed by a Cox solo, "Arioch", recorded using two radio oscillators. The duo's second album "Within 30 Miles", released in the summer, showcased shorter, more minimal pieces.

MFH's third album, "Masks", released in early 1981, represented what might be called a more mature affair, taken a step further with their fourth, "Ground Zero" which was recorded in Cornwall and released in the autumn, along with a second Cox solo, "Methods".

The combination of Elliott moving to France for a year and Cox dropping out of university altogether put MFH on hold for a while, although Elliott continued to build an impressive YHR catalogue including albums by Conrad Schnitzler, Asmus Tietchens, and Cluster & Farnbauer's Live In Vienna, all of whom he had interviewed for Neumusik. It was not until the spring and summer of 1982 that Cox and Elliott were able to record their fifth album, "Head", mainly using ARP Odyssey and Korg synthesizers. During this time, numerous tracks appeared on compilations, including The Elephant Table Album, inspired by the Wild Planet column in Sounds.

On graduating Elliott briefly moved back home to Chichester - where MFH played their first and (according to them) best ever concert, playing a variety of live electronics and guitar - before moving to London in 1984 where he started writing for Sounds and ZigZag amongst others. But with Cox still based in Cornwall, recording was sporadic, although they did record with Nurse With Wound and perform with Attrition (band) in 1985. The following year Cox moved to Southend, thus enabling more frequent sessions, not least a week at the relatively sophisticated Unicorn Studio in north London. It was also at this time that Elliott met Andrew Hulme of O Yuki Conjugate and founder of the Final Image label, who offered to release an LP.

Cox and Elliott continued recording on and off into 1987, enlisting guest appearances by Karl Blake and Malcolm Lane of Metabolist for sessions at IPS Studio in west London (where Nurse With Wound had recorded their early albums). The duo then decided to change their name from MFH to Pump and the album, "The Decoration of the Duma Continues", was finally released in the autumn. It featured a more sophisticated palette as well as two songs, fairly accurately described as "bad-mood music" by Simon Frith in The Observer. The LP was promoted by a few concerts at the London School of Economics (supporting Danielle Dax), London Musicians Collective and UK Electronica festival.

1988 saw a new track "Do This" for the Final Image compilation, "Nightlands" (also used in a BBC documentary about a railway line between Carlisle and Settle) and more sessions in Southend, but their day jobs were becoming more demanding: Elliott worked at the British Council, Cox as a computer programmer in the City. In 1991 they contributed tracks to Laurence Crane's and Johnny Miller's "30" cover versions project (30 cassettes of 30 songs each) and also formed a Nick Cave-inspired spin-off group, Henry, comprising Cox (guitar), Elliott (drums) and Paul Woods (vocals), although nothing was ever released. It was not until the autumn of 1992 when Pump traveled to Colin Potter's ICR studio near York, that they finally completed their follow-up album, "Sombrero Fallout" (named after a Richard Brautigan novel). Trident Music International (God, Test Department, etc.) offered to release the album the following year but for inexplicable reasons it never happened.

The group never officially dissolved but when Elliott moved to Japan in 1999 it was effectively the end of Pump. And tragically, Cox died of drink-related causes in January 2009. It was not quite the end, however. Plague Recordings released "Sombrero Fallout" in April 2010.