[…continued from last post]
“Dark Projections” next had the audacity to eke out a magnificent sense of star-crossed European disquiet by capturing a vibe quite redolent of Roxy Music’s “A Song For Europe” while being less of a dip into the chanson bucket. These gents were really going places with this new music. Jan Linton’s EBow guitar had no trouble slotting into the Manzanera space waiting for him in this one. The point in the song where the drumbeats dropped out in the coda, leaving only the distant sound of heraldic synths and shimmering, slightly psychedelic strings for Mr. Jones to deliver the coup de grace was simply superb. Sample, please.
The dark throbber “Spider’s Kiss” was a bit of a throwback in that it was an attempt at re-capturing the panther-like stalk of Cab Volt’s “Just Fascination.” Personally, I’m of the opinion that there was never enough of this sound, so I’ll grant them some slack. Particularly when it comes of as magnificently as this one did. Of course the pulsating bass synth and foreboding choral patches were at the fore here, but Jan Linton’s EBow was still snaking though this one for some new strand of rogue DNA; taking the sound to places that even Cab Volt would not have done at the time.
Then the album proper wrapped up with the low-key earworm of “Toy.” Another song driven by bass synth and the only hints of the band’s Depeche Mode influence this time around with a touch of “Behind The Wheel” in the air. Even so, this was not content to merely replicate past glories of the Basildon quartet. The textures surrounding the bombastic bass were more of the subtle and diaphanous leads that Sky was exploring on this release. Jones was authoritative on his delivery where his character singing calmly stated “I’m no toy,” but then outlined his cold-eyed stance on how he was a “soldier-of-fortune, man with no heart.” I loved how the down-pitch shifted echo on his vocal emphasized certain words in the delivery.
The bonus tracks followed, and fleshed out the album, first beginning with a dub mix of the song “Loveholic.” Which was a bit cheeky considering that no one had heard “Loveholic” before! But the dub was effective, and that’s all we want here. It made for a transitional space to take us from the album to the remixes; functioning like a B-side, which I miss in these dark days. The first remix was the excellent “I Bind You [transmuted].” The 808 was dialed up several notches and the bass wobble and glitch elements, along with the dubby vocal effects conspires to make this one feel like JAPAN had invented dubstep in 1980! The Jan Linton digital guitar solo on this version was an even bigger treat for the ears.
Less delightful was the Amboss remix of “Japanese Girl.” For sure, this one was very relentless as the minimal, juddering mix, recalled a 90s remix of Yello’s “Bostich” with only a single vocal sample manipulated throughout the long, nearly nine minute mix. Alas, this sound was what drove me from remixes that decade and I didn’t venture out of my compound into remix-land [safely] until some time in the mid-noughts. I’ll pass on this one.
Fortunately, the MAuSS Costume remix of “Dark Projection” managed to take one of my favorite songs for the album into amazing new areas. If the original was suggestive of “A Song For Europe,” this time Marco Cozza took the song straight into Roxy Music disco nirvana. The intro now built up a foundation not unlike that on “Both Ends Burning” while the virtual disco ball sent shards of light spilling through the dubbed out vocals from Mr. Jones with a hundred yards of echo slathered on. And it had the class to be the same length as the original version! Finally, the Comsicomsa remix of “Rotating Angels” proffered a new beatbox heart for the song with a more synthpoppy lead line and soundbites of various temptresses dropped into the remix. Jones’ vocal was dropped out and dubbed to create new juxtapositions of the lyric [“love is…visual”] while the track got extended a couple of minutes. Not bad, but I missed the stately countermelody of the original.
If there were a surcharge on using red and black, these guys would be in the poorhouse! Only their “Hans + Liselotte” album varied from this format. They are a pair who seem to know what they like! And yet, this album sounds transitional but very coherent, due to the thematic reliance of the sort of emotional bondage that the cover depicts physically. It’s more than a half step away from the usual influences [Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire] on their way to something new and glorious. They are heading for JAPAN and Roxy Music territory where art rock goes places where synthpop cannot venture.
Logan Sky comes from a John Carpenter influence that saw him dipping into the Roland bucket on their last album for the first time in several years, but this album showcases completely new sensibilities from the keyboardist. John Foxx has stated that analog synths were chucked into the bin far too early in the race to digital, before they had been fully explored, and the rich seam of ’80-’83 vibe that he has been mining is yielding some exciting new hybrids here. And they are taking the time to do it right by exploring new sequences being injected into their artistic DNA.
Back in 2017 when “Corrupt State” was issued, I frankly wondered if this band could ever top that one, and yet less than two years later here we are. Between the band’s ambition, inventiveness, and the collaborators they have brought into the mix this time, they have come up with their most dramatic growth yet. Getting Jan Linton to contribute exotic guitar coloration that avoided guitar cliché was a masterstroke in extending their sound, but even less dramatic ventures, like getting Kevin O’Dowd to contribute lyrics to three of the songs here [“Spider’s Kiss,” in particular, sported a brilliant lyric] paid off handsomely.
The album is released tomorrow on CD but you can get a leg up on it [or just order a digital DL] at their store here. If you know me, I’m all about the hard copy and there are two hundred numbered CDs that I would normally be all over, but this time, that limited edition CD [only 50 copies] with the red obi and three postcards [as seen above] is the one that I will simply have to get. Join us in another eight to ten months to see what new rabbits this pair are pulling out of their hats to my ever-widening eyes.
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