“In London” by Vangelis and Neuronium, 1981

Exhibit / August 1, 2018

Object Name: “In London” by Vangelis and Neuronium
Maker and Year: Musical Express, Carlos Guirao, Michel Huygen, Vangelis, 1981
Object Type: Live musical performance
Image Source: Unofficial Carlos Guirao Website
Description: (Richard McKenna)

This atmospheric piece, which would later be given the name “In London,was part of an improvisation session featuring Greek synthesizer musician Vangelis and Spanish electronic group Neuronium. Filmed in 1981 for Spanish TV program Musical Express as part of “Serie Amigos” (the “Friends Series”), the performance was recorded at Nemo, the London recording studio that Vangelis had established in 1975 and where he would continue to work until 1983.

Then little-known outside their native Spain, Neuronium—helmed by Belgian-born Michel Huygen and Spaniard Carlos Guirao—formed in 1976, the year after the death of dictator Generalissimo Franco. From its inception, Franco’s nationalistic militaristic Catholic dictatorship had repressed cultural diversity in the country, promoting only that which the regime considered “Spanish” and prohibiting, among other things, divorce, contraception, and abortion. Franco’s death released long-stifled currents of creativity, one of the best-known expressions of which was the Movida Madrileña, the countercultural explosion that took place in Madrid during the country’s transition to democracy. Initially a psychedelic rock group, Neuronium shifted into electronic music for 1977’s Quasar 2C361, their debut LP—released the same year as the first free election in the country since 1936. This was followed by 1978’s Vuelo Químicowhich featured Nico reading Edgar Allan Poe’s Ulalume—1980’s Digital Dream, and 1981’s The Visitor.

Vangelis too was familiar with oppressive military dictatorships, and had in fact left his homeland of Greece shortly after the 1967 coup d’état during which the right-wing military junta known as the Regime of the Colonels took power, erasing civil liberties and dissolving political parties. Despite allowing superficial freedoms, the junta instituted a brutal police state where torture, deportation, and murder were often used as methods of control. At the time “In London” was recorded, Vangelis’ star was rising rapidly thanks to the soundtrack he had composed for 1981 British film Chariots of Fire, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Soundtrack the following year. “In London” takes as its template the style of Neuronium, by far the lesser-known of the two acts, evoking a muscular blend of Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre—and allows Vangelis to limit himself to adding melodic counterpoint to the cosmic throb.

“In London” was eventually released by Huygen in 1992, with cover art featuring a photograph of Vangelis and Huygen in the studio—Guirao had somehow been excised. Other “Serie Amigos” segments included interviews with Ashra and Klaus Schulze, studio performances from Neuronium, footage of Tangerine Dream playing in Reims Cathedral, and a live session featuring Neuronium and Ashra Tempel.

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