Record Review: Ultravox – “Herr X” UK 7″

electronic sound #60 + 7" from Ultravox

Electronic Sounds #69 | UK | magazine + 7″ | ES768

¡Mamacita! Last night I made my way home, pausing to get the mail in the expansive mailbox, when I saw a thin, flat package that I was not expecting. I saw it had been sent with tracking from the UK, courtesy of Duncan Watson, who comments here at PPM. We have a history at the old OMD official forum, where we were the last two standing once that got mothballed several years back and eventually stopped working this year. He’s been a presence in the comments here for the last four years or so, but this was clearly a big favor which will net him some karma points going forward! Since he sent me not only the Ultravox “Vienna” issue #69 of Electronic Sound [which sold out in a day or two], but the bundled copy with the clear vinyl 7″ of “Herr X” b/w “Alles Klar” in their new 2020 Steven Wilson 2.0 mixes that sold out in hours. Actually, by the time I looked at my device’s email that morning, four hours later after it had been received [hey … I can get  busy!], all magazine/record bundles were sold out. Until yesterday evening, I had simply given up all notions of having this bundle of joy, so hats off to Duncan for generously providing. So let’s get down to it, then!

ultravox - herr x cover art

Electronic Sounds | UK | 7″ | ES768

Ultravox: Herr X – UK – Clear 7″ [2020]

  1. Herr X [Steven Wilson 20 2020 mix]
  2. Alles Klar [Steven Wilson 2.0 2020 mix]

These are the second Wilson 2.0 mixes to reach our ears [on clear vinyl, no less] this summer, with the “Sleepwalk” 12″ of RSD drop-1 being the first. This second release follows closely with the attack mode on the first single. In each case, the more well known A-side was given a modest remix with changes to the EQ and the recording fell in line with what I’m perceiving as Steven Wilson’s penchant for a drier mix. Though the German version of the track was a 12″ B-side of “Vienna,” it was a variation on a familiar album track [“Mr. X”] that everyone with a copy of the “Vienna” album [and that’s a lot of people] know like the back of their hand by now. So any differences were subtle.

Not so much on “Alles Klar,” the B-side to “All Stood Still.” This time there seemed to be more reverb on the sequencer oscillating in the song’s intro.  And new elements that were either mixed down to subliminal levels or ignored on the master tape completely were now in place on the record to surprise our ears. Windswept synths with Leslie cabinet effects were now adding new atmospheres to the mix, and along with them, heavy sighs from Warren Cann to compete with his rhythmic breathing hook were now evident.

steven wilson

Steven Wilson himself. With all of the 5.1 /2.0 remixes he does, when does he sleep?

The EQ was weighted towards a sharper, more trebly sound and the biggest change of all [you can’t miss it…] was the removal of the song’s distinctive foghorn deep bass hook of “all’s clear,” from whence the song’s title came from the middle of the song onward. This was disappointing since it was the element of the original that I was always anticipating on each listen to the original mix for 40 years. I find it hard to believe that its removal was considered for a minute, much less acted upon. With the overall shift of EQ to the higher frequencies, I can only surmise that Steven Wilson really hates low end. At the end of the track, as with “Waiting,” Wilson crafted a dramatically different fadeout. Bringing back the “windblown” synths and Warren Cann’s heavy, long sighs to mark the change.

The quality of the pressing was nice. Not laden with pops and noise. All of these tracks will manifest on the 40th anniversary Ultrabox of “Vienna,” which has undergone a delay and won’t be released until October 9th. I’d first heard a street date of September 25th but it’s gone out two more weeks. I suspect that the 2.0 Wilson remix of the album won’t stray too far, but the B-sides we’ve heard thus far are more radical in their reshaping. We await with interest the full package following this second taster.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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12 Responses to Record Review: Ultravox – “Herr X” UK 7″

  1. Yeah, I’m a bit conflicted about Mr Wilson. I really haven’t critically listened to enough comparisons (original/SW mix) to make a judgement, but when has that ever stopped me having an opinion?

    I can definitely appreciate the fact that every remixer brings their own sensibilities to the table, but on such an iconic album as this I think it would be wise to move the needle closer to “sonic clarity in line with growing technology, using only elements from the master tapes” and farther away from “putting my own personal stamp on it by noticeably altering the track,” particularly by removing something that was prominent in the original mix.

    I’m also naturally resistant to “flavour of the month” remixers (and always have been). So while I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s done, the idea that he removed the signature hook from “Alles Klar” seems … criminal! I hope we’re not seeing the start of Mr Wilson’s ego starting to take over the direction of his work, but I’ll keep an open mind until I’ve heard enough to properly judge.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – It’s relevant to remember that Wilson is enlisted to make a 5.1 surround mix from the master tapes; the 2.0 is a by product of that effort, and if you want to be thorough, is the reason why its given in a box as an added value. It’s Wilson’s decision what to emphasize in the mix and when to that end. He does not record anything new for his mixes. Anything remixed to 5.1 can be a dramatic shift of sonic priorities.
      peter gabriel Play DVD
      I HATE the Daniel Lanois 5.1 mixes of Peter Gabriel as heard on the “Play” video collection DVD. They eviscerate the songs for me.
      icehouse white heat 2xCD+DVD
      But the Icehouse 5.1 mixes on the “White Heat” bundled DVD [a mandatory item!] by Brent Heber and Simon Leadly [?] are much nicer adaptations of that band’s oeuvre for 5.1.

      I agree that Wilson’s judgement on removing the bass hook from “Alles Klar” seems insane on the face of it. It’s the crux of the song to me.
      Roxy Music 2020 2.0 Wilson mix
      His 2.0 mix of “Roxy Music” you’d probably LOVE since it accentuates Eno’s contribution; which in all honesty, I don’t think original producer Peter Sinfield quite understood at the time! The new 2.0 mix is actually more weird and alien.

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      • I do definitely appreciate not adding anything new to his remixes, and yes I’d love to get my hands on his 2.0 mix of “Roxy” music for the reasons you describe, particularly as I have the box set. Though I’ve long posited that 1979 was one of the best years for music ever, that is from the perspective of a young adult searching for something new; there’s a very strong argument between this and Ziggy (not to mention a fair number of other interesting releases) that 1972 needs a serious reassessment for that honour as well!

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  2. jordan says:

    Well said chasinvictoria. I am eagerly awaiting the official Monk review on this.

    There are key differences between a mix, remix and a remaster. The technology has greatly improved in the last few decades as far as analogue to digital transfers and digital mixes. Not always for the positive as the loudness wars have proved.

    By bringing out existing sounds or re balancing a mix I can see that.

    By adding or removing sounds that were never there. Changing effects by adding reverb or delay even if subtle. No I cannot.

    Not sure what the master Conny Plank would think. But it was not his music I suppose.

    Exceptions though could be: The Pink Floyd remix of Momentary Lapse… The original recording had that very mid 80s production with awful drums and effects using what was then thought of as state of the art. These drums were re recorded by Nick Mason last year and it makes for a much better sounding record. That is a positive remix.

    On the last remaster of RIE. An album I have listened to plenty over the decades in all versions. I heard new sounds that had been low in the mix but brought up in volume. It made it better.

    So I will reserve judgement until I hear it in full but from the comments so far I will remain cautious. However the live CD is something I’m looking forward to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,

    excellent, you got it after all.
    a nice addition to the collection.

    will have to get a copy at some point.
    also interested in reading what they have
    to say about the album.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – Well, all credit goes to Mr. Watson for making it happen! I am also interested in reading the cover story! I’ve had zero time to read the full story in the magazine thus far. I did start reading while I was digitizing the 7″ sides to the computer and it’s gold thus far! Lots of new info and details regarding the premature end and resurrection of Ultravox from all four members.

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  4. Interesting article as per usual. Not sure about this dry mix, would be interesting to sit down and compare. I am quite delighted with my original ’80 slightly battered LP. Love this era of the band.

    Like

  5. Duncan Watson says:

    It was an absolute pleasure to supply this ultra-rare record to our Monk for his delectation. I knew he would do it justice.

    Last night saw Midge Ure co-host the Twitter Listening Party for the Vienna album and I listened intently on headphones as the Midge imparted information about each song before my very eyes. The interaction was not as slick as Andy McCluskey’s ones for the three OMD albums so far as he did not readily answer fan questions but I wonder if he was intimidated by someone persistently asking him what his favourite cheese was. Midge does seem to attract more than his fair share of oddballs. But telling us about the backward guitar mixed in with Billy’s ARP at the end of Private Lives is something you only notice once he says it!

    On giving the album my full attention, it was clear that the original mix is limited by the technology of the day. So I hope that Steven Wilson has managed to pick out more of those hidden wonders and expand on the sonics that made that album so amazing. The sheer power of it cannot be underestimated.

    As Midge said last night “Conny Plank all over this. He loved a bit of guitar!”

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Duncan Watson – Thanks again for the generous gift. I saw yesterday that Tim Burgess was doing “Vienna” with Midge over at Steve Hoffman Forums where negative1ne mentioned it [we’re in the middle of a track-by-track thread on Ultravox that’s kind of epic] and thought it was a cool thing, even though I don’t do Twitter. I’m glad you got to listen into that and report back with your findings. We’ll find out about the Wilson mix soon enough. I suspect that it may ship any day now. My “Sign O’The Times” ultrabox arrived three days later by media mail from the same vendor, so I may have the “Vienna” ultrabox as early as Monday.

      Like

  6. Pingback: “Vienna” Gets Ultrabox After 40 Years As Synth Rock Touchstone [part 3] | Post-Punk Monk

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