Robert Donnachie is as influential as he is overlooked – not many people know his name and yet he did so much to pave the wave for electronic music. A British pioneer of the post-punk, DIY and electronic scene, he recorded under the name Robert Rental – though his actual solo catalogue only extends to a couple of 45’s! Born in Scotland he often collaborated with Scottish musician, Thomas Leer and Daniel Miller (producer and founder of Mute Records).
Rental emerged in the late 70’s, armed with his own home-recorded release, Paralysis, a single that was produced by Thomas Leer and first released on the homemade, Regular Records (It was later released on Company Records in 1978). The record was a fantastic DIY project, laid down with the assistance of Leer in the council flat that Robert lived in. Using an assortment of budget electronics, the single was recorded using only a Roland drum machine, a Stylophone, an Electroharmonix DrQ, and a TEAC A3440 4-track recorder. The record’s sleeves were then secretly photocopied after hours at the offices of Virgin Records by Robert’s partner Hilary Farrow (and the labels were hand-stamped).
Double Heart, b/w On Location, followed in 1980 and was released on Mute Records. I love that Joy Division sound it has. Robert Rental only released a handful of offerings before he retired from music to raise a family, sadly passing away in 2000. The fact that so little of Rental’s output exists is tragic, given the influence his music and recording methods had! Listen above.