In 1977 Giampiero Barlotti opened a small record shop on Via Verdi in Florence. The name he chose was very appropriate 'CONTEMPO' since he wanted to supply new music that wasn't readily available in Italy at that time.
What was really unique (and still is) about the CONTEMPO shop was simply the music, always on the cutting edge. When it started its focus was on the punk explosion which was raging at the time. It then expanded to new wave, electronic, heavy metal, progressive, rarities and everything uncommon.
CONTEMPO soon became a reference point for alternative music lovers. People from all over Italy made special trips to Florence so they could find all the latest releases by new bands. Things started to get a bit cramped, so in 1982 the shop moved to larger and more comfortable premises. At that time Giampiero employed two music specialists to improve selection and service to customers.
Meanwhile, the Italian underground scene started to grow and several bands began to flourish. The Contempo shop had friendly reletions with many of these bands so it soon became apparent that it should start a label. The first record to be released was 'Altrove' in 1983, by the legendary Italian cult band DIAFRAMMA. Its singer, Nicola Vannini, joined CONTEMPO's managing staff a few months after the release of the record. 2,000 copies were pressed of 'Altrove' and sold out immediately.
In the early and mid-eighties Florence was the capital city of Italian alternative music. Particular merit should be ascribed to CONTEMPO, both label and shop. As a label, it has brought to the public's attention some of the best Italian bands. As a shop, it has been a meeting point where both musicians and fans have discussed new ideas, planned new projects and listened to the latest records from abroad.
Things grew very fast and the next step was to create an independent and autonomous distribution for the small but enterprising label. Even foreign bands were contacted, which resulted in releases on CONTEMPO by VENUS IN FURS and THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE.
The distribution widened its range of products, managing to have exclusive distribution deals for Italy with some of the best alternative labels. Among them, 4.A.D. is certainly one of the most prestigious. Most of its catalogue has been licensed to Italy through our label: CLAN OF XYMOX was the first album, then came releases by PIXIES, COCTEAU TWINS, DEAD CAN DANCE and THROWING MUSES. Not only 4.A.D. bands are licensed to Contempo: the release of 'Catastrophe Ballet' by CHRISTIAN DEATH on CONTEMPO gave both band and label the occasion to start a constant and fruitful collaboration.
CONTEMPO interesting and diverse catalogue has aroused interest in many foreign distributors and our records are therefore exported worldwide. Among the most successful bands on the CONTEMPO label are CLOCK DVA, PANKOW, ATTRITION, CHRISTIAN DEATH, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM and BLACK ROSE, the name a few. In the beginning CONTEMPO releases sold around a thousand copies a piece, now, as in the case of PANKOW, their releases have sold more than 70,000 copies. In May 1991, another move was in order. This time to the larger and more hi-tech space of its present location on Corso De1 Tintori.
This move has also meant additions to the staff, a new team of professionals have joined CONTEMPO and started a fresh new company.
But this last move won't be the last. During 1992 CONTEMPO will move the distribution department to an even larger warehouse.
CONTEMPO is one of the most interesting and successful experimental labels around. With bands like CLOCK DVA, PANKOW and ATTRITION, listening to a 'weird' record this year, most likely means you will find our signature on the sleeve. It has taken quite along time (and a lot of effort) to focus the label on the present sound, but it has definitely been worth it. To follow you will find an introduction to all of our bands. Keep in mind that even the most imaginative words will never convey all of their intricate meanings and feelings. So my advice to you is to keep an open ear.
The latest offspring, and the one which makes us the most proud. Adi Newton, Dean Dennis and Robert Baker are not simply musicians but scientists. Their hearts and minds beat simultaneously at every new discovery. As one of the band that started the industrial movement back in 1978, in Sheffield, they soon felt dissatisfied with it and started exploring other uncanny musical territories. In 1981 they released their first masterpiece, 'Thirst', a milestone for the black-clad generation of white souls. Thirst is their perennial state, in their never ending quest for knowledge. A couple of years later 'Advantage' is released through Polydor.
Needless to say that it's another masterpiece, this one of cold poetry, noir stories, and free jazz... black suits all over the world started giggling. At this point Adi felt quite uneasy: first dealing with a major label, then with the direction his music was taking (too safe for his own fulfillment).
He disbanded the group and devoted himself to other more experimental musical areas with The Anti Group project Then in 1987 with a completely different approach, Adi and friends decided to return to their first love, Clock Dva. Years spent studying cybernetics, mathematics and similar disciplines (besides the usual literature and cinema) culminated in an electronic version of Clock Dva, obsessed with the future and the possibilities of exploitation of computers and technology applied to man. The result was a series of EPs and the album "Buried Dreams". Press and audience alike were ravished by this unexpected futurist comeback. People started to look at music in a different way.
But this was not enough. Taking it to the furthest extreme, Clock Dva prepared a new act of digital terrorism under the name of "Final Program", a single, and "Man- Amplified", an album. The music is pushed so far forward that "soundtrack for the year 2001" is an apt definition for these two new releases. Clock Dva have re-written the way in which electronic music is to be done in the future.
The first offspring, and the one which makes us the most proud (did I already say that?). Pankow are the only Italian underground band that survived (to say the least) from those 'golden years'. I'm getting quite ungenerous here. They are the only Italian band with a huge following abroad, possibly more so than in Italy. Singer Alex has a simple theory for that, but it is not very flattering for Italy. Their most peculiar characteristic is that they have always gone their own way, carefree of fashions and waves, they are always true to themselves. One thing is for sure: there's no tag you can put on Pankow, since they have managed to find a very personal style that doesn't fit any definition. Originally founded in 1981, after usual line-up changes they found their true form.
This is all thanks to the creative nucleus of Maurizio Fasolo, responsible for all the sounds and Alex Spalck, italo-german singer responsible for all the lyrics. The first record, 'God's Deneuve', was so before its time that it could easily be released today and nobody would notice the difference. The band then signed to Contempo and released the techno monster 'Freiheit Fuer Die Sklaven'. Produced by Adrian Sherwood, it features a wonderful cover by H. Giger. The album was so perfect that people were at a loss with words. It was apparent that these guys had gotten it right. Several foreign labels came like vultures to have their bit of Pankow. And all of a sudden their records were available everywhere. After a couple of killer singles 'Kunst Und Wahnsinn' and 'Me & My Ding Dong') Pankow unleashed the follow up to 'Freiheift' was called 'Gisela', an accomplished piece of madness. People went totally crazy and even the poor child on the cover found thousands of prospective parents ready to look after her. By the way, this time the cover artwork had been done by Gottfried Helnwein, continuing in the tradition of very refined sleeves. The release of the album was followed by an extensive 70 date world tour which covered all of Europe and included 28 gigs in the United States and Canada. This was faithfully recollected on the live album 'Omne Animal Triste Post Coitum'.
After recovering from the fatigue of touring, Pankow went dancing. Their next single, 'Rememberme' was in fact remixed by dancefloor kings Goh Hotoda and Alan Friedman (of Madonna/Depeche Mode fame).
Shooting the video in Czechoslovakia for 'Rememberme' gave them the occasion to meet important people and to strike a deal for a compilation album of new dance remixes to be released in Eastern Europe. Fed up with releasing the same tracks all over again, they went straight into the studio to put to tape a huge amount of material Then they took a plane to London to have it mixed by Paul Kendall (Laibach, Wir(e), etc...). Their new release 'Treue Hunde' is going to surpass even the astonishing beauty of 'Gisela'.
This band has the sound of a sparrow in a windy thicket. Or maybe the colours at dawn in a misty moor. Do you think that I'm getting too poetic? Listen to Mara's poems and Erri's atmospheres and you will agree with me. They are probably the most unlikely Italian band to ever happen. Their songs are so melancholy, forlorn and bereft that sometimes an enjoyable listening turns into a traumatic experience. On first listening to Black Rose, the people at Contempo got so mindwashed that they started to follow them around Italy. Until then they had only released a tape, 'Encounters', and a self-financed album, 'Silent Tears'. These were recorded on such ridiculously low budgets but their honesty and essence still came through. The album got astonishing reviews and this fact convinced us further that we were doing the right thing (but we already knew that). So in 1991 Black Rose came to Florence to record some tracks to be released on our label.
In Florence they met FM (Pankow) and discovered they had a lot of shared interests and common views. These included a passion for a mysterious Scottish band called Cyndytalk, so they asked him to be their producer. The newly recorded songs completely blew Contempo's heads off. Black Rose was so delicate that we were afraid to touch it, lest we break it, Mara's voice gave (and still gives) us the shivers and with Erri's craftsmanship, silence aquired a new musical meaning. From these sessions came 'Twilight', a little jewel, and 'The Room Inside', the definitive Jewel. The album was dripping with melancholy and poised between apocalypse and the sublime. It also featured a very special guest appearance by Gordon Sharp, (the brains behind Cindytalk and one of the singers on the first This Mortal Coil album), who contributed to make this record jump towards heaven, I hope to recover soon.
Attrition are surely the leading electronic-art-rock band worldwide. We are not talking about college students here, but artists in their true meaning. Born in the English Industrial Heart, to be precise Coventry, the band has existed since the early '80$. The band evolved through line-up continued to be centered around founding member Martin Bowes, ('the only one that ever slept and breathed Attrition'). In 1984 the band moved to London which coincided with the release of their debut album, 'The Attrition Of Reason' on Third Mind Records. In that same year they started to tour intensely, an activity which saw them playing in every part of the world. After a couple of additional albums for Third Mind, they released a one off record for an Italian independent label (I can assure that it was not Contempo). Then they moved to the Belgian label Antler, which specialized in Electronic Body Music.
During that time they participated on the Animal Liberation compilation album (alongside the likes of The Smiths, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Chris & Cosey) with the antivivisection track 'Monkey In A Bin'.
It was soon clear that the limited musical scope of Antler didn't give Attrition the freedom they needed, since they have a 'faible' for perfect harmonies, bittersweet melodylines and surrealistic, ambiguous lyrics. Therefore after the release of 'At The Fiftieth Gate' they decided to leave Antler. This led to a quiet period in which they just released a compilation album, "Recollection" on the american experimental label Projekt. In 1991 Attrition came back with a single and an album for Contempo. 'A Tricky Business' was the culmination of two years work, a record which drew from their experimental past and put it into an accomplished hi-tech present. From left field dance rhythms all the way to epic sweeping soundtrack textures, and all places in between, 'A Tricky Business' is a surrealistic observation of life and those who sail in her.
Distant Locust are a three piece band from Sydney, Australia (no, we donft have talent scouts over there). What happened was, Steven Moore (bass) was spending holidays in Italy, and being a craving record collector, he couldn't help but find a specialized record shop like Contempo. He came in and dropped off a tape of their debut album and went back to Amsterdam, where the band had moved. In fact, they felt very misplaced in Australia, a country which didn't suit their musical style, so they came in Europe to find a musical environment more suited to their introverted souls. Steven, Brian and Matthew soon returned to Florence to sign a record deal and indulge in the glory of their record artwork (FM) and in real rock-star-type laziness and debauchery. The name of the band comes from the noise of their old drum-machine, which recalls the feeble call of a locust It fits perfectly with the music they produce, which is both melodic and catastrophic: a blend created out of a dedication to making accessible music and a love of fuzz pedals and outdated musical electronics.
"Chemical Wedding Feast" got mixed reactions: some illuminated journalists called it their favourite record of the year, while other critics dismissed the band as dodgy goth rockers (completely missing the point). But, you know, critics have often been misled by this band, mistaking their distinctive sound made up of a vortex of distorted bass and keyboards for guitars!
The Locusts are now in the distant land of Australia preparing their new hallucinated sonic assault. Maybe we will hear from them in 1992.
There are bands which you listen to which give you no emotion or feeling, while there are others which are violently compelling. Volume Sick belong to the second category, and I'm going to explain to you why. This five-piece combo has got only one aim: FUN. Both for them and for the people who listen to their music. These guys are not just mad, they are deeply into folly, craziness and every other definition you can think of describing an unnatural state of the mind.
Volume Sick do not refer to any particular trend or sound, heterogeneity is what they are all about: the result is a lethal blend of rock, dance, techno, body, house and punk. Try to imagine Alan Vega on speed watching a porn movie! In fact pornography, together with loudness and sickness derived from heavy drinking and sexual (ob)sessions, are their essential characteristics. The lyrics, in English, tell tales of delirious sex and assorted absurdities, even quoting porn magazines.
All of this is clearly evident when you see them live: the energy transmitted is like a bolt of lightning through the helpless listener. After having listened to them one feels so dirty that he needs to take a shower. In this way they recapture the primal meaning of rock'n'roll as music of transgression.
One brief historical note: Alessandro (bass & drum machine) and Michele (vocals) were the spine of Rinf, an Adrian Sherwood produced Florentine band that had success in the period between 1985 and 1987. This belongs to the past...
Contempo is the only Italian independent label seriously in love with the music of the '70s. Because of this reason, Contempo has made available the best records of the Italian 'musica leggera' which have been deleted over twenty years ago: the original Primitives debut album, the psychedelic trilogy by Trip and masterpieces by Rovescio Delia Medaglia, Cervello, Acqua Fragile, Museo Rosenbach, Reale Accademia Di Musica, Rokes, Ricky Shayne and his Skylarks, Pierrot Lunaire, II Balletto Di Bronzo and even a 12" EP of unreleased material by Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, recorded before their debut album.
Contempo's intervention into the music of the '70s is not just a valuable re-release of Classics but also a discovery of new bands dedicated to that style of music (i.e. Nuova Era, Atonvs, Arcansiel and Leviathan). The success of these new bands has been immediate, both in Italy and other parts of the world (especially in Japan and Korea where most of them have been licensed to).
Of all the new bands playing this kind of music, Nuova Era is certainly the most successful.
Formed in Florence in 1986, when the new wave of Italian prog. hadn't started yet.
In 1987 they were brought to Contempo's attention by the demo 'Io e il Tempo' ('Me And Time'). At the time, their musical style was completely different to that of other Contempo bands.
This led to the recording of their first album 'L'Ultimo Viaggio' ('The Last Trip'), which waspressed also on CD for the Japanese market. As with King Crimson, the poignant lyrics are written by a member outside of the Ixsnd. Ivan Pini, a poet since he was 16, is the author of their songs: they deal with the story of a drug addict who finally gives up drugs only when he faces death.
In 1989 Nuova Era released their second album, 'Dopo L'Infinito' ('After The Infinite'), which tells the story of a spaceman who gets lost in the space and also in his own existential ravings which follows.
1992 will see a new album for the band and also a wonderful videoclip which they have just finished shooting in Czechoslovakia.
In the past their records have been licensed licensed to King in Japan and to iigu in Korea. Also some tracks have been used as a commercial soundtrack by Mitsubishi in Japan. Nuova Era are the brightest example of how a band can set its roots in the past, transforming and interpreting it according to their personal feeling. They are now set to conquer the world.
ROSEMARY'S is the name of CONTEMPO's heavy metal subsidiary label.
Being a successful Heavy Metal distributor for a long time, last year Contempo started its own H.M. label. The first band of its catalogue is undisputably the best Italian band. Because of Contempo's worldwide distribution, their music is now available all over the world.
DEATH SS (in Death of Steve Sylvester) is the No. 1 Heavy Metal band in Italy and one of the few bands which gave birth to the New Wave of Italian Heavy Metal in the late seventies. The band was formed in 1977 by Steve Sylvester, who thus wanted to express his interest in the occult and black magic through rock music in a totally original way.
He applied the "glam" concept of a strong visual characterization of the five band members. Dressed in costumes inspired by horror stories, mixed with the iconoclast power and negative ideological aspects of punk, the band developed in the direction of Heavy Metal. The first line-up was soon possessed by this evil ideology. This philosophy went too far, causing serious damages, resulting in the death of the bass player and the hospitalization of Steve. He then decided to rest for a while.
It was only in 1987 that the singer, having recoverd both mentally and phisically, decided to reform Death SS. Stronger than ever (with an even more shocking look) and a more technically updated musical format he set out to be better than before. All of this while remaining faithful to the occult influences of their first recordings.
So in 1988 came the first proper album by Death SS, '...In Death of Steve Sylvester' for the Italian label Metal Master. This was re-released by the italian EMI after its initial success (more than 8,000 copies sold in Italy in the first few months).
In 1989 DEATH SS released 'Black Mass', a record which had huge success (selling more than 15,000 copies). They won all the end-of-year polls of heavy metal magazines and were ready to take the world by storm. They have since signed to the newborn ROSEMARY'S releasing the single 'Where Have You Gone?' and the critically acclaimed album 'Heavy Demons'. Produced by Sven Conquest (Rage, Ozz, Aggressor, Destruction), it also features spoken word from the famous English actor Oliver Reed. 'Heavy Demons' is a beautiful progression both lyrically and musically, which confirms them as one of the most interesting bands around.
CONTEMPO's link (as a label) with the rest of the world has always been on a large scale both licensing to Italy and from abroad. Many titles in the Contempo catalogue have been licensed to important foreign labels all over the world. Italian AND International act as PANKOW, ATTRITION, CLOCK DVA, CHRISTIAN DEATH, NUOVA ERA, ATON'S, ARCANSIEL, LEVIATHAN, PERIGEO, STEVEN BROWN etc. have had their records released on foreign label such as WAX TRAX, ROIR, PROJEKT (USA), B. MIKULSKI/ZYX, ZOTH OMMOG, CASH BEAT, NEW ZONE (Germany), PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, KK (Belgium), ABC, CONCRETE PRODUCTION (UK), GENNEX (Czechoslovakia), JIGU (Corea), KING RECORDS (Japan), NMC (Israel) and others.
On the other hand CONTEMPO has always had an open eye to pick up a selection of the best music in the world and make it available in Italy. Starting in 1984, CONTEMPO was licensing a resonably big number of records from foreign and Italian labels. We have licensed records by SUICIDE, VENUS IN FURS, THE ROSE OF AVALANCHE, CHRISTIAN DEATH, FILIPINOS, LASSIGUE BENDTHAUS. The labels that assigned their artists rights to CONTEMPO were numberous. To name just a few: RCA, LiL, MOVEMENT, NOSTRADAMUS, ROIR, WILD RECORDS, PARADE AMOUREUSE, ANTERIOR RESEARCH, DISCHI RICORDI, IDL, ELECTRIC EYE...
By licensing all these internationally established bands, CONTEMPO not only played an important part as pioneer for the independent music scene in Italy; it's early involvement in alternative music also layed the foundations to CONTEMPO's high profile and it's todays top position in the Italian independent music market.
Unlike most of European distributors, Contempo has got its own promotion department. This assures promotion to both Contempo and all the distributed labels. The department, which employs three persons full-time, is divided into two offices, one in Florence and one in Rome. These two offices cover the whole of Italy, guaranteeing the maximum coverage on: the five specialized indie and the other major oriented magazines, fashion and culture magazines, national and local newspapers, the best independent and open-minded commercial radio stations, the only Italian video television (Videomusic) and the first Italian telematic network (Videotel). The promotion department has seen very goodj results, due to the fact that it works very closely with the record labels we distribute. Not only Italian labels but also labels from England, Germany, United States and Holland.
Thanks to our experienced staff and the tight network of contacts in Italy we will provide your records with the exposure they need. The promotion department provides the Italian media with fresh information through a weekly bulletin sent via fax. Every month several pages of advertisement are bought with the best indie magazines, and our graphic department conceives and actually produces all of the films at the Contempo site. At the moment the Florence office has the capabilities to provide promotional services (promo copies, tour updates, advertising copy, information, etc.) to all Contempo label representatives abroad, creating a tight network all over the world.
The exclusive distribution of foreign labels in Italy has always been one of CONTEMPO's major strength. We always succeeded in offering to the Italian audience the best music from abroad. Now with more than 40 labels in our catalogue, CONTEMPO is certainly the No. 1 independent distributor in Italy.
CONTEMPO started up its distribution company in 1985. The idea was to better distribute the CONTEMPO catalogue and also work as a direct importer of independent records from around the world. One of CONTEMPO's first licensing deals was with the English label 4.A.D. This proved to be a major success. Since then our position in the Italian market has gotten even stronger with the wide array of labels in our roster (see list). 1991 was a banner year for CONTEMPO and it hopes to keep growing successfully and offering more excitement in 1992.
Bi-weekly newsletters keep accounts informed about many other Italian labels (major and independent), whose styles range from jazz to pop to classical to hardcore to progressive. There is a massive selection to choose from.
Wherever you may be, the export department can set you up with competitive prices and fast shipping. For a full export catalogue of all distributed titles, please contact Michael or Alex at CONTEMPO INTERNATIONAL or at the CONTEMPO booth at Midem.
Our wholesale department covers the whole territory of Italy, supplying all the big shops and also the smaller ones specialized in indie music.
Our specialized staff sends out two newsletters each week via fax, they also call each shop three times a week for orders. CONTEMPO is able to make available to shops, new releases coming from every part of the world. Once the wholesale department receives an International release date, it is able to take pre-orders, thus guaranteeing up-to-date and quick service.
In May 1991 Contempo moved its main shop to the new premises on Corso De' Tintori 8r-16r. This was done to meet the ever growing needs of our customers and to install a more technologically updated vision of a record store.
The new shop covers a surface of more than 300 square meters. It is divided into three large halls, each with appropriate facilities: one exclusively for CDs, one for vinyl and the third one for cassettes, videos, T-shirts and magazines. But what makes the shop unique is its futuristic concept: the store is provided with a computerised searching system for both general and new releases catalogue items. It also enables the customers to consult biographies, discographies and detailed notes on the record they are looking for (including replicated picture sleeves and band photos all in living colour).
And, with several listening points, the customer can make the right choice. CONTEMPO is going to be the most important independent megastore in the world, the first supported by such a high degree of technology.
If you are not a technology freak and you are only interested in rarities and reissues, don't panic! The old CONTEMPO shop on Via De' Neri is still going, crammed with all the most sought after records you can think of. There you will find titles ranging from original copies of old sixties records to long deleted singles of the punk and post-punk era.
CONTEMPO computerization (Contempo INFO) consists of three parts:
GRAPHICS: the system includes one Apple Macintosh II FX equipped with a series of peripherals such as laser printer flat bed scanner, still camera (for tridimensional images), page layout and graphics programs. The system has been conceived in order to design any kind of graphic material (inner & outer).
COMPUTERIZED POINTS: the system includes 4 Macintosh LC connected in ETHERNET network. Through a Touch Screen it is possible to navigate in a database made of records, artists, labels etc...
MULTIMEDIAL VIDEOGRAPHICS: a system to integrate video materials with Macintosh graphics (still and in motion) made of a Macintosh II CI, PAL encoding and decoding board with video effects, two VTRs controlled by software Macromind MEDIAMAKER.