MFH were formed by Andrew Cox (Maths) and David Elliott (Geography) at Sussex University in November 1979. The former had a home-made synthesizer, the latter a large record collection, and between them a guitar, some circuit boards and a few effects units. Neither could really play, but in the just-do-it spirit of punk they pooled their influences and made some noise-bordering-on-music like countless other ‘bedroom bands’. This was the ‘era’ of new wave experimentalism, Cabaret Voltaire, TG & Industrial, guitars & drums giving way to synths & drum-machines, abrasive short instrumentals, 4-track portastudios, and the advent of cassette labels. It was a great time to be in music when the term ‘music’ was up for grabs.
"First Move" was recorded in bedrooms and under a campus laboratory in the middle of the night using the most basic material, including short-wave radio, calculator and electric razor. It became the first cassette album to be released on their own York House Recordings (YHR), the name of their campus accommodation, in January 1980. "Within 30 Miles" followed in the early summer, recorded at Sussex University’s tiny radio station where David presented a radio show to an occasional audience. The tracks were a lot shorter, simpler and cleaner. "Masks" – an abrasive mix of very short and very long tracks – followed in the autumn, by which time Andrew had dropped out of college and both were living off-campus in Brighton.
1981 saw Andrew return ‘home’ to Cornwall where he would continue his own music. He’d already released a solo, Arioch (recorded on two purpose-built oscillators – which, coincidentally, came out at the same time as Pete Shelley’s very similar Sky Yen) and Methods. Their next recording session together was in April 1981 in a Cornish bungalow where, hermit-like and with a week’s worth of beans & beer, plus David’s new Korg MS10 (but alas no air-fresheners) they produced "Ground Zero", an almost polished work.
There followed a long gap in which David concentrated on his Neumusik fanzine and released a wide range of other artists on YHR while supposedly studying at Strasbourg University, while Andrew continued his ‘solo career’, releasing "Hydra" and "Songs from the Earth" (both 1981). It wasn’t until April 1982 that they reunited back in Brighton for a week, together with a rented ARP Odyssey and a 4-track portastudio (everything previous to this had been recorded straight to stereo cassette), resulting in two-thirds of what was to become "Head" (the other third stemming from a separate session in the summer). It appeared in February 1983 along with Andrew’s Songs from the Earth, in what turned out to be the final batch of YHR releases.
Later that year, tracks appeared on several compilations, including Dave Henderson’s infamous The Elephant Table Album, and they finally got around to playing live, kicking off in the very un-rock-&-roll surroundings of New Park Community Centre in Chichester. 1984-85 saw them increasingly estranged with very little recorded output. David, meanwhile, was writing for Sounds and Andrew was making plans to move to nearer London. This prompted a name change to Pump and a couple of ‘proper’ albums, The Decoration of the Duma Continues (Final Image 1987; re-released on Forced Nostalgia 2011) and the 1993-recorded, incredibly delayed Sombrero Fallout (Plague Recordings 2010).
York House Recordings
Cassette culture was, at least in the UK, a fairly short-lived but nonetheless influential phenomenon. One could say it started with TG’s Industrial label in the late 70s and ended with the NME’s C86 in 1986. YHR was extant somewhere in the middle (1980-83), releasing 31 cassette-albums by the following: Cluster & Farnbauer, Conrad Schnitzler, Maurizio Bianchi, Asmus Tietchens, Gunter Schickert, Andreas Grosser, Fondation, Duallein, Yin Yang, Peter Schäfer, Cinema Vérité, Rüdiger Lorenz, Paul Nagle, Nik Lumsden, The Klingons, DAS, Ping-Pong the Bear, MFH and Andrew Cox. Some of these have since been re-released on other labels & formats.