Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 8]

Metamatic | UK | CD3/3 | META63BX | 2018

John Foxx: Metamatic DLX RM – bonus material disc 3 [2018]

  1. A Frozen Moment
  2. He’s A Liquid [instrumental dub]
  3. Mr. No [alternative version]
  4. The Uranium Committee
  5. A Man Alone
  6. Over Tokyo
  7. Terminal Zone
  8. Urban Code
  9. A Version Of You
  10. Glimmer [alternative version]
  11. Fragmentary City
  12. Metamorphosis
  13. Approaching The Monument
  14. Critical Mass
  15. Almagordo Logic
  16. Touch + Go [early version]
  17. Miss Machinery
  18. No-One Driving [early version]
  19. Burning Car [early version]
  20. Like A Miracle [early version]
  21. No-One Driving [alternative version]

Now we get to the Monk-bait. Having had virtually all of the contents of discs one and two on other CDs, the tunes on disc three were largely relegated to multi-gen dupes passed among the Foxx fan community – which I had not even bothered with. My thought was that if Foxx thought it was material worth selling at this point, then I’ll go for it. Especially at the modest price [£ 14.99] this reissue was going for [though my wife bought it as a gift for me in any case].

It began with “A Frozen Moment,” a brief, tingling sample of the random wave patch that kicked off ” He’s A Liquid,” but extended for slightly longer than a minute. Then that gave way to a brief, two minute dub mix of that same song, which actually came closer to an instrumental mix. It whetted my appetite for more. Much more. I would have liked to have heard a real dub workout on this material by an actual pioneer like Adrian Sherwood. As much as Foxx was inspired by Lee Perry for this album, he does not live in that zone. This was mild stuff. [Memo to self – propose this to Foxx HQ for a genuine “Metamatic In Dub” disc. One that might likely anchor the 4xCD DLX-RM of this album which drops in 2022.]

The alternative versions of familiar B-sides “Mr. No” and “Glimmer” feature alternative mixes that accentuate different elements of the song. In the case of the former, the Elka synth strings are used with block chords that change the complexion of the song, and the fadeout is much more vague than the cold ending we all know and love. In the case of the latter, the two melodic threads have their emphasis switched in the mix. I can understand why both were kept out of sunlight until now.

The cover of this disc shows the tape reels that simply have “Music For Film #1-2-3” and “A Man Alone” was definitely one of these tracks, probably unnamed until this release. The simple 4-track themes developed here seem surprisingly maudlin and kitschy next to the rest of this material. “Over Tokyo” was another cinematic bit of Elka string synth that clearly formed the basis for the coda used in “Touch + Go.” Waste not, want not!

“A Version Of You” was one of the shocking tributaries to the “Metamatic” sound which was kept in the closet until now. That was one of the gratifying things about this release; the way it put the Foxx established within the period within the larger context of his career that cam, in some cases, as much as a quarter of a century later. The music bed here was simple. It was just piano and synth, and while piano is hardly what we associate with the “Metamatic” era, it was buried deep within “No-One Driving” if you listen hard for it. That makes this excursion into Satie-esque soundscape from [presumably] 1979 Foxx all the more fascinating. Particularly because on the B-side of Numan’s best single [there… I said it…] was a then-surprising cover of Satie’s beguiling “Trois Gymnopedies.” As you may guess, I’m deep within a chicken/egg scenario here. I have to wonder if Foxx was riffing of of Numan’s cover or had Numan seen perhaps a Foxx interview extolling the virtues of Erik Satie? Are there any clues out there?

Similarly, on the track “Fragmentary City,” Foxx tips his hand with a full blown trips into Harold Budd territory with piano only. It would be over twenty years before Foxx’s great interest in Budd’s delicate piano work manifested in the Budd/Foxx “Translucence/Drift Music” project of 2003; where Foxx acted as Lee Perry on the behalf of Budd; radically shifting the pianist’s work in time and space.

“Approaching The Monument” was one of the more “Radiophonic” workouts in this collection. Just a foreboding white noise patch with a sub-bass hum that recalled the scenes in “Alien” when the crew of the “Nostromo” were investigating the planet that was the origin of the infection. At nearly 4:00 minutes, perhaps it overstays its welcome by half. Similarly, “Terminal Zone,” “Urban Code,” “Alamogordo Logic,” and “Critical Mass” are cut from similar cloth. These were further excursions in sinister sci-fi soundscaping which one could easily imagine being used as cues  in Doctor Who, but with a comparatively brief run time that leaves them more interesting.

While Foxx has been long an enthusiast of the early work of The Pink Floyd, he’s not really come close to that particular brand of psychedelia until hearing “Metamorphosis,” which to these ears sounds as if Foxx was performing his more sinister take of “Several Small Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict!” The track began with a melange of synthetic insect trills and bird calls that were almost corny until the dread hum that threatened to obliterate the initial mood entirely did so; thus inspiring the tracks name, undoubtedly.

The previously unknown vocal composition, “Miss Machinery,” was one of the more fully realized tracks here in that it actually sorted a Foxx vocal, but looks can be deceptive. The music bed was similar to that which eventually became “20th Century,” but the differences were profound. The vibe here was less severe, with a much warmer, cinematic sound on offer. A far cry from the ping-ponged computer game soundtrack sound of that B-side. The music certainly was well developed; which can’t be said for the vocal, which was probably just layed down by Foxx as a placeholder, since the lyrics seem half-baked [“let me introduce my army…”] for Foxx and seem to have zero in common with the “Quiet Man” scenario which generated almost all of his lyrical content by that time.

The demo tracks on offer here only serve to confirm how tight Foxx’s vision of his art was at the time. The early version [read: demo] of “Touch + Go” was remarkably congruent with the finished eight track final version. Foxx didn’t need much more than the four tracks he had here to achieve his end results. The only thing that this version lacked was high end fidelity. It even had the distinctive synth glissando at the end of the middle eight.

Next: …Familiar Faces

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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1 Response to Record Review: John Foxx – Metamatic DLX RM [part 8]

  1. Gavin says:

    Interesting review.
    I have not handed over my hard earned cash for this yet,but did listen to Disc 3 on Spoify (ugh!)
    I find it to be disappointing personally,several pieces are not really worth putting out there in my opinion (I’m looking at you,’Approaching the Monument’)
    As I already own two copies on CD and two on vinyl I think I will give this a miss for now-if the tracks had really grabbed me,I may have bought it as the artwork sounds interesting.
    There is still plenty in the Foxxian canon that I do not yet possess in any format (though today for £3 I nabbed a promo cd of ‘The shape of things’ which I have never even heard!


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