They describe themselves as being born ‘in the decaying docklands of South London’ and have stated that they and their music were ‘an urgent reaction to the materialistic drift and reactionary conservatism of the prevailing musical and political culture’ of the 1980s. Test Department, or Test Dept, may have ceased to function in its original – often mutating – state, but a new version of the group has emerged to engage with the current cultural and political climate. Having carried on with their own work in a similar spirit – in NVA (Angus Farquhar), C33 (Paul Jamrozy) and Gray C (Graham Cunnington) respectively – over the last couple of years they have been sifting through their own and other people’s archives and selected artwork, photographs and film, and have invited contributions from ex-colleagues, collaborators, helpers and those who were affected by the group (including Robin Rimbaud, Laibach, Stephen Mallinder [ex Cabaret Voltaire], Mike Pearson [Brith Gof], Alan Sutcliffe, Malcolm Poynter, Jonathan Moore, Marek Kohn and many others) to compile a book that assesses and documents the group’s history and trajectory across Europe and beyond.
Test Dept, Total State Machine is due out in autumn 2014. It is the first book to be published by PC-Press, a new independent publisher of sound, ideas and the visual, initiated by Peter Webb and Alexei Monroe. Various events will lead to and happen after its publication.
I’ve been involved on the sidelines, as a copy-editor/proofer. It’s brought back many memories of 1980s music and politics, while at the same time offering insights in the complexities of our current times. The book is designed by Cactus.