Low Noise: Jungle Line UK 12″ 
- Jungle Line
- Urban Tribal
- Jungle Line [inst.]
In anticipation of the Thomas Dolby show imminent at Moogfest 2012 in two days, thoughts have turned to this little gem nestled in the deeper folds of the Thomas Dolby discography. Having issued his first indie single “Urges” on the Armageddon label in 1981, he was signed to EMI who also released his classic “Europa and the Pirate Twins” later that year. I don’t have release dates on any of these records, but there was a third single by Dolby that year which slithered out on the Happy Birthday label, home to Dolby subsidiary group The Fallout Club [home of singer Trevor Herion – late of yesterday’s Peter Saville slideshow] as well as the fabbo New Wave combo Girls At Our Best.
Released under the crafty nom-du-disque of Low Noise [low noise = noise reduction = dolby, geddit?] it was a 1981 state-of-the-art cover version of Joni Mitchell’s “Jungle Line” as crafted by Dolby with his longtime cohorts Matthew Seligman [synths] and Kevin Armstrong [guitar] with John Johnson of Gardening By Moonlight on drums/percussion. This version is thick with programmed Burundi beats which were dé riguer in the heady 1981 zeitgeist [just ask Malcolm McLaren]. It’s a powerful cover version that hits like a ton of bricks. Though Mitchell was years ahead of the curve by including Burundi drummers on her 1975 original, the treatment here on drum machines has an impact that sounds like it may have influenced Peter Gabriel’s “Rhythm Of The Heat” the following year. Dolby’s lead vocal takes the song more than a half-step away from the jazz space where Mitchell was living in the mid seventies.
I remember first hearing this song on the “Live Wireless” concert film that was shown on MTV back in ‘1983 and at the time, I didn’t have a clue as to where it came from. That concert also featured the B-side to this single, “Urban Tribal,” a wistful number that seemed to presage the better moments of Dolby’s spotty sophomore album. The DLX RM of “The Golden Age Of Wireless” features this track, but not the A-side to this single. Presumably, EMI balked at paying royalties to Mitchell’s publisher. The 12″ single of this title differs from the 7″ only in that it includes an instrumental version of the A-side. There is no 12″ mix. But the split second juxtaposition of the instrumental version of “Jungle Line” as the last notes of “Urban Tribal” is fading out” with no dead air between the cuts is fantastic sequencing.
It’s a bit of a shame that the tasty A-side remains secreted on this hard to find record and not more widely known. I have suspicions that the single may have been a lo-profile one-off that Dolby may have released while in negotiations with EMI or possibly already under contract, hence the “Low Noise” moniker. Maybe it was his last ditch attempt to see if he could make it at the indie level or possibly it was a bit of guerilla warfare from within the EMI trenches.
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