Dalis Car: The Waking Hour UK CD 
- Dalis Car
- His Box
- Cornwall Stone
- Create And Melt
- The Judgement Is The Mirror
I remember hearing about the Dali’s Car project in the music press after the ruptures of Bauhaus and Japan, respectively. By that time, I’d already heard Mick Karn’s troubling single “Sensitive” and I marveled at how this supremely talented musician could be so creatively off track. I’d hoped for something better with Dali’s Car, but the truth of the matter was that I did not run out and immediately buy it on import LP. It remained until the album belatedly got a release on CD four years later until buying a copy became a priority. Mea Culpa!
By that time, I already had the second Karn solo album, “Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters,” which I had immediately bought on its release two years prior to considerable awe and astonishment. Further, I had also bought the debut Peter Murphy album “Should The World Fail To Fall Apart” at roughly the same time as the second Karn solo and I marveled at the huge artistic leap that it figured for the former Bauhaus singer who, it must be said, [whispered, perhaps] smoked his old comrades roundly, as undeniably great as the Tones On Tail material was. Perhaps I would not have been so floored by the respective triumphs of Karn and Murphy solo in 1986 had I heard the Dali’s Car album on its original 1984 release.
Because the artistic groundwork for each of those seeming quantum leaps was fully contained within the grooves of this platter. All of the hallmarks that make those two later album stand out to my ears; their lithe combinations of Eastern drone and Western classicism, the dry, arid, yet compulsive rhythms are all here to point the way forward. When the eponymous title track began, it was clear that Karn had little need of the full compliment of JAPAN to realize his full ambitions. He played all instruments here save for “rhythm construction.” True, Steve Jansen was a phenomenal drummer, who pushed far into the outer reaches of art rock and was a master at using off-meter rhythms to advance the music dramatically, but I must give credit for the metronomic beatbox programming of Paul Vincent Lawford for providing the unsung glue that held this album together.
“Dali’s Car” immediately builds considerable tension by juxtaposing the stiff, mechanical [and in one’s face] rhythms of Lawford with the languid, serpentine probings of Karn’s fretless bass. It’s not a million miles away from the vibe of “Tin Drum” but the vocals of Murphy convey none of the world-weary pain that Sylvian brought to the mic as the singer of JAPAN. Murphy’s dour pronouncements inhabit a different; less personal world.
This work presages his equally accomplished next album to the point that he also employed Lawford in a similar role on that opus. Strangely enough, this album and the first Murphy solo album are Lawford’s sole credits that I can find in Discogs.com. Lawford is not only about thunderous beatbox. His tablas invest “Create And Melt” with the circular logic that the title implies to a perfect realization. Probably my favorite track here was “Cornwall Stone,” which features more of the solemn formalism that typified the vibe of “Dreams Of Reasons Produce Monsters.” Arid synths and deep bell tones work exceptionally well with the methodical pacing of the track to create a ponderous foreboding, as if the accompaniment of to the slumber of some terrible giant.
It is somewhat slim as an album with just seven tracks, and a running time of about 35 minutes. That there was a single pulled from this was astonishing; particularly since “The Judgement Is the Mirror” was not a track that had much resonance with me. The cocaine imagery of the lyrics marks it as somewhat out of place here, though it’s musically a solid enough album track. Still, it’s clear that Karn was working out some ideas that would come to full maturity with his next album, as did Peter Murphy. This makes the Dali’s Car project a fruitful workshop for the concepts that would fully mature two years hence as well as a fairly compelling piece of work in its own right. I really need to get the posthumous “InGladAloneness” EP that was released posthumously after Karn’s death in 2011.
– 30 –
First off Monk, yes you need InGladAloneness! It is a final coda to the creativity which Karn and Murphy invested on The Waking Hour.
The Waking Hour changed the game for Karn and Murphy. Experimenting with structure and rhythm were things both Japan and Bauhaus did masterfully to these ears, but the Dalis Car album took this exploration in an at times tough and other times ethereal plane. The Waking Hour is not a quiet album. The gorgeous, languid artwork belies the power recorded on the vinyl. Emotions, like the rhythms, are raw. But it’s not a rawness of unbridled power – the power is generated within strict boundaries, and this gives The Waking Hour a pent up and haunting quality. Cornwall Stone is mysterious and dank. It has some of Murphy’s most beautiful lyrics but they are wrapped around an ominous, constricting ascending melody and circular rhythm, giving a feeling of tightening around Murphy as the song progresses.
Artemis is a blueprint for Karns Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters, an album. like Sylvian second solo album, Gone To Earth, I feel fits well into the progression of sound from Tin Drum through to Rain Tree Crow.
Create And Melt finds Murphy referencing his love of Glam and twisting it with a cat like jazz prance and Middle Eastern flavor. If only David Bowie could have spend 84 – 87 exploring this musical terrain instead of looking out from record company boardroom windows for inspiration.
Moonlife, to these ears was the “obvious” single on the album, but maybe obvious was the furthest thing from point for Karn and Murphy. After all it chooses a clarinet solo over a guitar solo.
Where The Waking Hour opens with the richness of Dalis Car, it ends with the arid, repetitive rhythms of The Judgement Is The Mirror. As if the pair had traveled far and wide, scaled the peaks only to see desert sand. I agree Monk, the lyrics are probably the most direct in their imagery, but knowing Murphy, he was thinking far beyond the obvious.
Echorich – Yes. Power within boundaries. That to me is the allure of this album. Restraint. It’s my middle name.
I neglected to mention a gorgeous Dalis Car track, the b-side to THe Judgement Is The Mirror. Lifelong Moment is an instrumental that is both emotional and shimmering. It has to be a Karn composition as it is full of his Asian influences, rubbery bass and wind instruments. It’s just over 4 minutes of perfection.
Echorich – Hmm. I bought the 12″ of “The Judgement Is The Mirror” many, many years ago but as per usual, have sadly not gotten the chance to spin the wax. The story of my life.
The video they shot for “The judgement is the mirror” is an absolutely fantastic vision of Dali and the Blues Brothers meet Antonioni and The Men in Black in Chroma key-wonderland.
For some reason I was getting a bit tired of that specific sound (the metallic, gated drums, the fretless bass and those slightly de-tuned melodies) all those Japan/ex-Japan records featured around the time. I sounded like they all used the same studio with the same set-up.
stellaVista – That is the first time that I ever heard anyone invoke The Blues Brothers when discussing Dali’s Car! But, they did have the suits for it. I always loved the gratuitous use of the laserdisc in that video. I had a few that I would have thrown off a cliff as well! The laserdisc market was strange. I’d say about a third of the material produced for it was programming no audience of any kind would ever want to sit through. Considering that it was a niche video format, I would have thought that there would have been more releases that someone – anyone – might have wanted to buy one day. It seemed like every C movie ever made got a laserdisc release while classic films were always missing. The same thing happened with music releases [my area of interest]. Bands that had no popularity with any audience always seemed to get laserdiscs released. No wonder I had to buy from Japan to get anything interesting.
An interesting observation stellaVista! Yes there was certainly a shared musical aesthetic among the ex members of Japan that lasted pretty much up until they reconvened as Rain Tree Crow – save for the musical manners of the Fripp Sylvian releases. This sound can be heard among many of their contemporaries as well – David Torn, Mark Isham certainly come to mind. But I have to admit that I am a sucker for that sound and all that contributed to it.
By odd coincidence I was just getting reacquainted with this album recently myself! It was prompted by my explaining to young whippersnappers that Love & Rockets was badly-sung FEH compared to even the members’ earlier work, which led to a discussion of Murphy, which lead to a discussion of Japan, which lead to a discussion of Karn and Sylvian and thus to my citing Dali’s Car as the fountainhead of all the good later work, which of course the punk kids of today (note: they were actually in their mid-30s) knew nothing. Ah, you L&R kids GET OFF MY LAWN!
chasinvictoria – ToneOnTail’s Eponymous/Night Music albums promised so much (Go! is one of the great dance tracks of the 80’s!) that I was rather deflated by Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven – the album title should have warned me enough…while there was still some interesting experimentation on the first L+R album, by Express, it was sort of pop Goth by the numbers. Thoroughly marketed to the US Goth fans who were beginning to have a big impact on Alt/Modern Radio programming by the mid 80’s.
I’ve always felt you could piece together a rather lovely Japan album from the best parts of Karn’s Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters, Sylvian’s Secrets Of The Beehive and The Dolphin Brothers’ (Jansen/Barbieri) Catch The Fall. As three separate entities, they fell into a very complimentary direction. The fact that Karn and Sylvian worked together on Buoy and When Love Walks In, with Jansen on drums is a testament to this.
Karn makes every collaboration he’s involved with better. Two words: “Glow World.”
zoo – I’d aaaaaalmost agree with your hypothesis unequivocally except for that hook up with Kate Bush. Even Karn couldn’t help “The Sensual World.”
I think The Sensual World needs a reappraisal. I find it much more listenable in the past 2 years.
Gee, PPM – that’s a very harsh appraisal of “The Sensual World”. I’ve always enjoyed it – I rate it alongside “Never For Ever” and “The Dreaming” as her best work.
Otherwise, I enjoyed your review of “The Waking Hour” and agree on your choice of “Cornwall Stone” as the standout track – an austere masterpiece!
milkyjoe – Welcome to the comments. Well, maybe it’s time to bust out my “This Woman’s Work” box and give it a spin. It’s been a looooong time and I should give it another shot.