Today it’s time to take a look at the bonus disc that accompanies the limited edition of “The Shape of Things” by John Foxx + The Maths. It’s largely comprised of tracks of material from the preceding “Interplay” album given a coat of remix paint. Unlike a generation ago, it seems like the sonic remix abuse that drove me away from synthetic, dance oriented music in the 90s has receded from earshot. These mixes are clearly not made for an audience tripping out of their skull in a field or warehouse.
“Evergreen” is the only cut that shows up twice. The first time it’s in a succinct radio edit that shortens the song honorably.
Of more interest is the Xeno + Oaklander mix that begins with a “Blue Monday” rhythmic intensity before pulling in some random waveforms that have me going all the way back to my favorite track from the 1st period Depeche Mode album, the B-side “Shout.” Foxx has lately tipped Xeno + Oaklander’s “Sets + Lights” album as his favorite of last year.
I’d mentioned that “Shatterproof” had a thick whiff of vintage Cab Volt that pleased me to no end, so when Stephen Mallinder [with Wrangler] were seen to be mixing the track last year, I had high hopes, to put it mildly. The left leaning Maths track has been fully reconfigured in CV space now! Mallinder is singing new lyrics based on the original tune and playing funked up flanged bass as well. The end result is the first contemporary thing my ears have heard that I’ll call Cabaret Voltaire in 20 years. The vocoder abuse is particularly nasty, but not groovy, or laid back. After his first singing in 20 years [!] with Billie Ray Martin on 2010’s Crackdown Project and now this, all I can say is welcome back from the halls of academia, Mr. Mallinder.
The next track is a unique treat. The Maths tapped Tara Busch to be the opening act for their initial leg of their “Interplay” tour of last year and Ms. Busch has been compared by Foxx to being a combination of “Karen Carpenter and Bob Moog.” Foxx and Benge co-wrote “Where You End And I Begin” with Ms. Busch and though the title is pure Foxx imagery, I would bet that the bulk of the lyrics were written by Tara. The result is an infectious track with Busch singing lead that’s driven by the elegant saunter of a CR78 rhythm box, harkening me back to 1980 and records like “Flesh + Blood” by Roxy Music or “Telekon” by Mr. Numan. Foxx only joins in with spectral whispers on the title phrase in the choruses. It’s a fantastic collaboration that stands a little apart from the music of either Maths album, making this disc a perfect repository for its singular qualities. Ms. Busch adds her patented classic Star Trek vocals on the coda/fade and once heard, this song sticks in the cortex like glue of the most appreciated kind.
The Belbury Poly remix of “Summerland” is next and it adds the Old World sound to the track with its melodica and gently loping eurofolk rhythms. By the time the track is ending, you could be excused for waiting to hear Martin Gore chime in with the chorus to “Everything Counts.”
The Tim “Love” Lee mix of “The Good Shadow” radically repaints the subtle benediction of the “Interplay” closing track. Acoustic guitar and a reggae-ish drop beat compete with added synth percussion to make this track the one most changed in remixing. It sort of reminds me of what it might have sounded like on Foxx’s 1985 album “In Mysterious Ways.”
I keep hearing Cabaret Voltaire influence in this remix disc, and the Grayed Out mix by Andy Gray of “Watching A Building On Fire” takes that track to mid-period Cab Volt glory with its hyperactive sixteenth note sequences harkening back to cuts like “White Car” from “Code.” The sound is periodically shot through with pneumatic squirts of foreboding synth chords. This is the one remix here that manages the neat trick of upstaging the original by The Maths. When I think of the song now, it’s this mix that springs to mind.
In contrast, the Grayed Out mix of “Interplay” piles on the filigree in a way that makes the spartan anguish of the original only seem stronger in comparison. The Numan-esque Polymoogs lend it a nice “Telekon” air but at the end of the day, you can’t improve the emotional impact of the song simply by adding more stuff.
These remixes on this bonus disc run the gamut from good to excellent with Andy Gray scoring the clear winner here as well as the closest thing to a loser. The bulk of these tracks are sufficiently different to be worthy of a spin for certain and the care and sensitivity with which they were made give the limited edition of “The Shape Of Things” a sense of urgency behind its hardbound release of 2000 copies. The inclusion of the exclusive track with Tara Busch makes it a mandatory purchase for the Foxx faithful.
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