Fronted by vocalist Samy Birnbach (aka DJ Morpheus, freestyle DJ extraordinaire and compiler of the Freezone series), Minimal Compact were one of the most inspirational bands of the '80s. They blended funky rock rhythms and incisive guitars with flavours from their native Middle East. The band were active from 1981 to 1988, and released 6 studio albums and a live album. They had a large and fanatic following all across Europe and the USA, where some of their tracks became underground club favourites.

The band's line-up consisted of Samy Birnbach (vocals), Rami Fortis (vocals, guitar), Max Franken (drums), Berry Sakharof (guitar, vocals, keyboards) and Malka Spigel (bass, vocals).

 The first-ever compilation of their work (6 studio albums and 1 live album, all originally released between 1981 and 1988) has come out in 2003 as a boxed set ("Returning Wheel") also containing a collection of brand-new remixes by top electronic music producers, selected -naturally- by DJ Morpheus.

(see complete Minimal Compact history below)

Minimal Compact in the press

"Samy Birnbach's voice rises above the synthetic mist like laughter on the edge of morbidity, taking souls away on a journey to the confines of Europe and Asia. Oum Kaltsoum and Ian Curtis must have had intercourse to produce such an unclassifiable offspring" (Best, France, '86)

"A powerful brew of oriental sensuality, white urban funk and revitalised post-Joy Division atmospheres. Sprituality and sensuality find their point of equilibrium; industrial harshness and popular melody generate new sonic dimensions, violence and tenderness merge with suggestive power. Minimal and compact, as the name indicates. Between groove of the desert and mist on the canals." (Rock & Folk, France, '83)

"One of the most powerful and original groups of the decade. Few bands have managed to generate such emotions and to leave the listeners in awe and disbelief, like when waking up from a dream which has been too beautiful and too intense" (Best, France, '89)

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Minimal Compact - A Chronicle

1981 Having left their hometown in search for a more stimulating musical environment, four enthusiastic Israelis try forming a band in Amsterdam. They had met at the core of the then-tiny Tel Aviv scene. Rami Fortis (vocals, guitar) and Berry Sakharof (guitar) are confirmed musicians, Malka Spigel has just started learning to play the bass, and Samy Birnbach is mostly known as a poet and a songwriter, he has collaborated with Fortis on his provocative “Plonter” album, Israel’s first punk-rock opus (1978). After several months, Fortis returns home, and the other three record a couple of tracks in their living room: “To Get Inside” and “Creation Is Perfect” (the latter based on a text by beat poet Bob Kaufman). Samy sends these demos to an old friend, Marc Hollander, who has just founded his Crammed label. Marc invites the as-yet-unnamed band to come and record these songs in a little studio out in the Belgian countryside. With the help of coproducers Marc H. and Dick Polak, what was intended to be a one-off 7” single quickly develops into a groundbreaking mini-album. Five songs are recorded, including “Statik Dancin“, which will become a classic. The self-titled mini-album (rechristened “One” when it was later re-released on a single CD also including the “One By One” album) comes out at the end of ‘81. It draws a lot of attention from the UK, French, Belgian & Dutch press, and immediately puts Minimal Compact in their own, unique position on the musical map.

1982 Amsterdam drummer Max Franken joins the band. MC perform live for the first time at the opening of an exhibition of Dick Polak’s paintings, in Dordrecht, Holland. Dick was the leader & singer of Mecano, a Dutch band which drew some of its inspiration from Russian Futurists. MC start touring around Benelux and France. A real cult begins to develop around the band. By now, each of the band members has developed a distinctive and charismatic style: Malka’s deep bass and lofty vocals, Berry’s incisive guitar, Max’s relentless drum beats and Samy’s convulsive demeanour and prophetic voice all contribute to the uniqueness of their concerts, during which fans seem to experience a quasi-religious experience. Their first full-length album (“One By One”) is recorded during the spring & summer of ‘82, first in Dordrecht then in London’s Berry Street Studio. Dick Polak and Marc Hollander co-produce and guest on various instruments. The MC sound of that period is best exemplified by a song like “Babylonian Tower”, with its driving rhythm, funky guitar, apocalyptical lyrics and Middle-Eastern flavouring.

1983 The release of “One By One” is extremely well received. More concerts around Europe. MC take part in several label events in France, Switzerland, Austria, alongside other Crammed bands. First encounter with Tuxedomoon at a legendary double-bill concert at the Bataclan in Paris. The two bands are very different but share a certain common spirit, a relationship is struck, which will result in several collaborations. Later in the year, Peter Principle and Gilles Martin (respectively Tuxedomoon’s bass player and sound engineer) produce four Minimal Compact tracks in Brussels. Steven Brown guests on saxophone. These songs are recorded for “Pieces For Nothing”, a ballet by choreographer Pierre Droulers, and for inclusion in the “Made To Measure Vol.1” album (the first volume of Crammed’s series of instrumental/ambient/soundtrack albums).

1984 Rami Fortis (guitar and vocals) joins the band, who decide to leave Amsterdam for Brussels. They settle in a large house, in which each of the members occupies an apartment. They record what probably remains their most adventurous album: “Deadly Weapons”, again produced by Peter Principle and Gilles Martin. The musical spectrum broadens, there are several sombre ballads, and a successful excursion into dance music with “Next One Is Real”, which also comes out on a 12” (with a remix by Disc O’Dell) and swiftly becomes an underground club favourite across Europe and the US, where it climbs the college radio and club charts. For a number of reasons, the band come to be perceived as an epitome of a certain spirit of the times, a mixture of pessimism and energy coupled with a sense of ‘not belonging’ anywhere, of being universal refugees. This is partly a fantasy on the listeners’ part... but also a result of what the band’s music and lyrics actually project. After all, they do live ‘in exile’ in Europe, and their respective families’ backgrounds may also not be totally unrelated : Berry was born in Turkey, Malka in Poland, Fortis’ parents are Iraqi & Italian and Samy’s family originates from Eastern Europe (while Max seems to be a bona fide Dutchman). Shortly after the release of “Deadly Weapons”, the band’s career almost suffers a fatal blow when Berry is arrested and jailed during a trip to Israel. The other members are fortunate to quickly find a replacement in their immediate vicinity: Crammed mainstay (and Aksak Maboul/Honeymoon Killers member) Vincent Kenis replaces Berry and tours with the band during the next few months. At the tail end of ‘84, MC and the Honeymoon Killers embark together for a 10-day tour in Japan.

1985 Berry is back, and Minimal Compact write songs for their next album. They’re searching for the right producer, and get in touch with Wire’s Colin Newman. Colin accepts the invitation and spends the best part of the summer in Brussels recording and mixing what will become Minimal Compact’s most commercially-successful album: “Raging Souls”. The band’s sound has become broader, and their writing has attained a kind of classic quality, with a series of great songs such as “My Will”, “When I Go”, “Autumn Leaves”, “Raging Souls” and “Returning Wheel” all crammed into the same album, which also includes a foray into electronic dance music (“Shouts & Kisses”) and “Sananat”, a very catchy Levantine-sounding track in which Fortis and Birnbach sing in an imaginary hybrid of Hebrew and Arabic. Malka (then living with Fortis) and Colin Newman have fallen in love during the recording, so the album is finished in an atmosphere of emotional crisis, which probably contributes to make some of these songs even more poignant. Like its predecessors, “Raging Souls” is fervently received by the band’s ever-growing fan base.


1986 MC are invited to appear at a Crammed festival at the Kitchen in NYC, but have to cancel their trip when they are refused a visa. Wim Wenders uses “When I Go” in his film “The Sky Over Berlin”. A new EP is recorded: “Immigrants Songs”. It contains a surprising cover version of the famous Led Zeppelin song, which once again hits the US college radio and underground club charts. Colin Newman moves to Brussels, get married with Malka, who plays an important role in the recording of his “Commercial Suicide” album. The band continues their relentless touring across Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, the UK, Scandinavia

1987 “The Figure One Cuts”, MC’s last ‘official’ studio album, is produced in Brussels & London by John Fryer (Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode etc). It further develops the directions explored in “Raging Souls”. Multi-layered guitars and voices, splendid melodies, ample sound and a touch of neo-psychedelia. Minimal Compact release a second album that year: recorded partly for a ballet soundtrack and partly as a special session for Dutch radio VPRO, “Lowlands Flight” is a largely instrumental and abstract. It derives from the loose, experimental sessions the band were conducting in their attic studio (which are documented in “Music From Upstairs”, the 3rd CD from the present set). The band seems to have entered a phase of artistic maturity, but cracks are beginning to appear. The internal tensions between the members are increasingly acute. They’ve been living and working too close together for a long time, and some of them (namely Berry and Fortis) have never really adapted to the European lifestyle. The band are invited to play at New York’s New Music Seminar, and a US tour is booked around that date. This first visit to America is extremely awaited by press and public alike.The band have developed a real cult status there, and they feel that this tour is crucial to their development. Alas, for the second time, the US authorities refuse to grant them a work permit and the whole tour is cancelled. It’s only a meagre consolation for MC to know that English bands such as Martin Stephenson & The Daintees and the Weather Prophets have also been refused entry.

1988 Berry and Fortis start recording an album as Foreign Affair. During a visit to Israel, Fortis is offered to record a pop album in Hebrew. he records “Tales From The Box” in collaboration with Berry. The album is released there and is extremely well received. Malka teams up again with Colin Newman for a new album entitled “It Seems”. The band’s morale has degraded since their second failure to get to the States. They finally decide to go their separate ways. They go on a last, farewell tour in the spring of ‘88, during which they record the “Live” album (in Rennes, the French city which had so warmly welcomed them very early on in their career).

1989 Samy releases two very different records: “When God Was Famous”, an album in which he pays tribute to some of his favourite poets, recorded with Benjamin Lew, and “Hallucination Generation” one of the first 12” on Crammed’s fledgling dance division SSR, recorded with Norwegian producer Per Martinsen under the name The Gruesome Twosome. The Foreign Affair album is released, Berry and Fortis form a band and do a brief European tour.

1990 “1990 ?" the first Fortis & Sakharof collaborative album. Their Israeli career picks up speed, they abandon the Foreign Affair project and make a permanent move back to Tel Aviv. Malka, Samy and Colin Newman start working on a project in which they venture further into the territory of electronic dance music. These recordings will lead to the release of the Oracle album in 1994.

1991 At the request of their Israeli fans (who haven’t seen a Minimal Compact concerts for many years), the band briefly reunites to do 3 shows in Israel. They write and record a new track for inclusion in a local compilation (this track, entitled “Dedicated”, is featured in the present set). Berry releases Hakol o kloum (All Or Nothing), his first solo album.

1992 Samy teams up with Frenchman Bertrand Burgalat to pursue and complete the Gruesome Twosome album. Malka and Samy take part in Hector Zazou’s “Sahara Blue” project, a tribute to poet Arthur Rimbaud, in which Malka duets with Algerian star Khaled, and Samy appears alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto. New album by Fortis, and second Fortis-Sakharof album.

1993 Malka’s first solo album, “Rosh Ballata” (“Concrete Head”). Malka and Colin (who have now established their base in London) launch their Swim label, which releases innovative electronica and outrock. Second solo album by Berry. Minimal Compact are again invited to reform for a short series of concerts. They get together in Brussels, rehearse, write new songs, but do not complete the project. The five demos they’ve recorded during the process are included in the “Music From Upstairs” CD.

1994-2002 Malka Spigel, Berry Sakharof, Rami Fortis and Samy Birnbach are pursuing their separate careers (see discography). According to the rumour, Max Franken plays drums (still) and football (again).

2003 sees a conjunction of events: 1. Crammed and Minimal Compact go ahead with the long-planned tribute release (i.e. the "Returning Wheel" boxed set). . 2. Rennes’ famous Transmusicales festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and its organizers have convinced Minimal Compact to perform during the celebration, 15 years after the band’s official split. 3. A host of young DJs are falling for Minimal Compact’s early club hits, and tracks like “Next One Is Real” and “Statik Dancin’ “ are heard again on dancefloors, on both sides of the Atlantic, which causes a a new generation of fans to discover the music of one of a handful of bands which can rightly claim to have had a deep impact on people’s lives.

News

MINIMAL COMPACT "One (Statik Dancin')" ON VINYL AGAIN!


The vinyl reissue of Minimal Compact's debut mini-album (1981) comes out on Nov 18. It's been remastered from the original tapes, pressed on 180 gr vinyl, and contains a download code.

Live Dates

No current live dates available!

Releases

MINIMAL COMPACT - Returning Wheel
MINIMAL COMPACT
Returning Wheel
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MINIMAL COMPACT - Raging Souls
MINIMAL COMPACT
Raging Souls
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MINIMAL COMPACT - Minimal Compact
MINIMAL COMPACT
Minimal Compact
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MINIMAL COMPACT - Deadly Weapons
MINIMAL COMPACT
Deadly Weapons
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SOUNDS, Visuals & More

Contains videos & live footage, free mp3s & streams, pictures, press quotes & clippings, and maybe even personal contributions from the artist.