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Rema Rema - There's No Light At The End Alan Rider watches Marco Porsia's compelling story of the influential band that barely existed.

Rema Rema - There's No Light At The End

Alan Rider watches Marco Porsia's compelling story of the influential band that barely existed.

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: May, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

A large part of the allure of Rema Rema, and why they have become so posthumously appreciated, is down to their short lifespan and overall lack of information, lending them a genuine mystique

Rema RemaWhat You Could Not Visualise: Rema Rema
Director: Marco Porsia
June 2024

Rema RemaAlthough I am a sucker for any music biography film, with the story and visual aesthetic behind a band being as important (in my eyes) as the music itself, there is always an element of mythologising at play. That is certainly the case here, as Rema Rema barely registering as a blip on the radar in 1979, yet with the passage of time, they have gained something of an iconic reputation. Much of that is because of the acts that various members went on to form/join after Rema Rema split up in December 1980, after barely a year together and ahead of their sole release at the time, the 12” EP, ‘The Wheel in the Roses’, having played only a handful of gigs around London, including with the early Human League, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cabaret Voltaire, and Throbbing Gristle. After Rema Rema dissolved, members went on to join Adam and the Ants, The Monochrome Set, Wolfgang Press, Psychic TV and others. Possibly their greatest legacy though, was being the inspiration for the formation of 4AD records in order to posthumously release the EP, leading to a stable of infinitely influential bands coming under 4AD’s wing. So, without Rema Rema, there may well have been no Birthday Party (and therefore no Nick Cave), no Bauhaus, no Cocteau Twins. no Lush, Mass and so on. That fact alone earns them enough attention to merit Marco Porsia’s film.

He had his work cut out though, as no video of the band existed and only a handful of photographs, gig flyers, and reviews survive. That meant the majority of the film relies on recollections by band members, or commentary by talking heads such as the omnipresent John Robb, who is on fine form here, and contemporaries such as Jim Thirwell (Foetus), the late Steve Albini (Big Black), Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire), Bruce Pavitt (Sub Pop), and 4AD founder Ivo.

Some of this is eulogising along the lines of “wasn’t it great back then?”, lending individual records a weight they may not have had at the time. However, it is clear that Rema Rema had something going on. We will never know if they could have been one of the greats. Flame haired Dorothy Max Prior (Max)’s stripped down (“no high hats”) and tribal influenced drumming, based on the technique of Can’s Jaki Liebezei, and played in high heels, marked them out as being different, along with fledgeling electronics, pugilistic bass, feedback drenched and angular guitar, and shouted vocals. The four tracks released on ‘Wheel in the Roses’ exhibited an arrogance and attitude that positively ripped out of the vinyl.

Rem Rema

A large part of the allure of Rema Rema, and why they have become so posthumously appreciated, is down to their short lifespan and overall lack of information, lending them a genuine mystique. In some ways, it is better that no video exists and few photos survive. That allows the mystery to persist into an age where everything is recorded and shared with everyone, and nothing remains hidden. As Mallinder puts it, they were “like a lost tribe in the Amazon”, so genuinely obscure were they. Robb describes the pre-internet age, where you had to order a single you had heard on John Peel from the local record shop and wait three weeks for it to arrive, having only the scant details of the band from the sleeve, or whatever the music press of the day decided to print about them, to go on. As Robb says “they didn’t leave very much DNA behind”. They had a good deal of competition too, with the average punter in 1979 spoilt for choice. You could see Joy Division for 50p, others for 75p or £1 (the equivalent of £6-10 now) almost any night of the week. To gain attention you had to do something different, such as their appearance at the Screen on the Green cinema, which two years before had hosted the Sex Pistols, Clash and Buzzcocks, where they played a set before a screening of the film ‘Things To Come’. A Rema Rematour support slot with Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure, which may have propelled them to wider recognition, was cancelled when half of The Banshees walked out. Internal tensions over direction followed soon after, resulting in guitarist Marco Pirroni (who commented to The Guardian in 2016 that “I hated the band I was in [Rema Rema]” and refused to take part in this film) leaving to form the second, chart bound, incarnation of Adam and The Ants. The end came abruptly in a phone call from Marco announcing his departure.

The band rapidly disintegrated after that. In the intervening years the myth grew, as successor bands became more influential. They were like a supergroup in reverse. Old recordings were unearthed and released, and 4AD put out what they felt would have been Rema Rema’s first album, had they survived long enough, compiled from remastered demos and rehearsal recordings. None had the allure of that 1979 EP though, 20 minutes of pure musical history frozen into disc.

The remaining band members are adamant that without Marco, there will be no Rema Rema reunion on the cards, which is actually a good thing, as that would ruin their reputation, as it has so many others, meaning this film may well remain the definitive document of the band and Porsia has done a sterling job here with scant archive material to draw on, securing their legacy for posterity and new generations.


Essential Information:
’What You Could Not Visualise’ screens in London and Brighton on June 21 and 22 accompanied by Q&As with the Director and some of those featured in the film. >Book here<

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.


about Alan Rider »»

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