Record Review: Visage – Darkness To Diamond

August Day | UK | CD | 2016 | ADAY025

August Day | UK | CD | 2016 | ADAY025

Visage: Darkness To Diamond UK CD [2016]

  1. Aurora [Map Of Human Heart Extended Version]
  2. Loving The Alien [Invasion Remix]
  3. Your Skin Is My Sin [Antidote Version]
  4. Sax Scene
  5. Star City [Instrumental]
  6. Become [Glass Houses & Stones Remix]
  7. Days Become Dark [Elimination Version]
  8. Never [Zambon Remix]
  9. Before You Win [Diamond Remix]
  10. Seven Deadly Sins Part Three [Darkness Version]
  11. James Grant – Heartbleed [Visage Remix]

We were just giving this Visage remix album a spin when the Bowie Event happened and everything got interrupted as that particular star went nova. Now that the smoke and dust has cleared, where were we six months ago exactly? Oh yes. Just weeks after the release of the compelling “Demons To Diamonds” album, Visage shocked by releasing a remixed version of that album in lieu of any singles since the lead singer’s unexpected death in February of 2015. This is significant because the brace of singles that the band released from their previous album, “Hearts + Knives” were a run of the best remixes/B-sides I’d heard in decades! How many bands had managed a similar feat in the 21st century with six physical singles; each packed with amazing, filler-free mixes and tracks?

visage - demonstodiamondsUKCDAThe remix album sported a new title and a re-colored design that was only slightly different from the original album with more vivid and saturated colors replacing the muted palette of the original “Demons To Diamonds.” The track order here was considerably different from the original listing, and when I played it back, it didn’t seem unduly jarring, so well enough, then. The lush ballad “Aurora” now led off the album instead of the driving “Before You Win.” It was one of a pair of songs here that were substantially extended in the manner of an actual single release, so I was grateful for this project in delivering at least those unmitigated 12” versions! The lush buildup took the song to the 7:00 threshold and the synthesizers were given parity in the mix with the saxophone that slightly dominated the original mix of this track.

While “Aurora” was a real extended remix, the next track was actually shorter than the original version of “Loving The Alien.” The overall beat had been streamlined here and that gave Steve Barnacle room to take the bass guitar places that the original didn’t dare to go, resulting an a much funkier “Alien.” That funkiness carried over into the next track as well. “Your Skin Is My Sin” now had a much more cinematic synth intro in addition to the slap bass that gave this number much more swing. The song’s distinctive rhythm guitar was also dialed down in deference to the synths and bass.

Two of the original sings appeared here in straight instrumentals. The first of which was “Sax Scene” which subbed for “Clubscene.” It’s still a winsome track but without the vocals to deliver its emotional playload, it is relegated to lightweight status. The other instro cut was “Star City,” which followed “Sax Scene” for two instrumentals in a row. While that seems crazy on the face of it, “Star City” was basically an instrumental to begin with. Only the Russian lady naming famous cosmonauts performing the voice over was scrubbed from this track. The Soviet Men’s Choral Society still remain on the track, so it really allows the melody to stand front and center without any of the distracting voice over from the original. This worked much batter than “Sax Scene.”

Then after two instrumentals, it was time to deliver another hit payload. While “Become” was a stunning track in its original version, the extended remix here really took the already strong track over the top. the 5:52 cut was now every inch an extended 12” remix that now sported an amazing new middle eight and a fantastic textured buildup. The drums could have been ripped out of the brilliant “Angel Eyes” 12” remix by Roxy Music and Robin Simon’s guitar has been emphasized for the swing and swagger it brings to the table. The sequencers that carry the outro here are wonderful and I love how the instruments drop out in the reverse order that they came to the buildup in for some sweet symmetry.

One listen to “Days Become Dark [elimination version]” and it was immediately apparent why they chose that name since the song’s new beat was ripped, screaming from ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin’!” You’ll hear it and wait for Billy Gibbons’s guitar to blaze through the track but thankfully for us, it’s Robin Simon front and center [though he pulls off a very Top neck slide in there]. Overall, the guitar has been mixed to the front of this track, but apart from the drum track, this was close to the original.

The original album closer, “Never,” received a major facelift here. It had a much faster tempo for a start and the song now had an extended synth intro that took the tune into full on synthpop land after originally sounding like a track from the first China Crisis album [though there’s nothing wrong with that]. In that score, the song’s original fretless bass was replaced with synth bass on this version.

Next: …Winning and Bleeding

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2 Responses to Record Review: Visage – Darkness To Diamond

  1. Echorich says:

    There’s a certain sound of intent with Darkness To Diamond. All concerned knew this needed to be a work that Steve Strange would be proud to have released. Much of it sounds as if it takes cues from where Steve planned or may have already begun to go with the songs from Demons To Diamonds.
    Whether the muscularly funky version of Loving The Alien was finished before Steve’s untimely passing can be debated, but I have to believe this is what he would have wanted to explore and this version blows me away enough to be among my favorite songs of 2016 so far. Feeling less “alienated” and more angry, the bass and very dirty synths carry the song into the stratosphere. This Alien isn’t Lost In Space, he’s soaring away from humanity, trying to break free.
    Aurora is devastatingly beautiful in its remixed form. It seems like a love letter from the band to Steve – whether that’s intentional or not, Bryan and Havilcek bring Steve right up front and center in the mix and his delivery of the lyrics is key to this mix’s success for me.
    Naming the remix of Become the Glass Houses + Stones Mix has a wry, sarcastic side, as it is a song which was much was made of when Midge Ure offered up his services and then promptly removed himself from any association with Visage. Visage make this song so much more their own on both the Demons To Diamonds version and the remix here. The band fill it with many of the familiar and classic elements of the Visage of which Ure was an original member. Where Ure’s solo version has much of his typical pomposity built into the song’s delivery, Visage create a dynamic synthpop anthem.
    Finally, my favorite song from Demons To Diamonds is given a stellar, shimmery Visage remix which takes me back to the first two albums while still feeling ever so present day. Robin Simon riffs himself into a frenzy, while Logan Sky outdoes himself in making everything old new again. The remix reminds me of all those great synth songs of the very early 80’s that had an unstoppable pulse and drive. I’ve got it on a playlist with I Travel, Europe After The Rain, The Thin Wall and (We Don’t Need No) Fascist Groove Thang – it fits that well.
    I could go on and on about each song on this remix album, but these stand out the most for me.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Now They’re Making Me Buy Cassettes In the 21st Century! | Post-Punk Monk

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