Catching Up With Jan Linton: “Melatonin” EP And “Byzantine Remixes” Showcase Point Where Dance And Art Rock Meld Together

jan linton monktone
the never obvious guitar of Jan Linton

While Jan Linton contributed guitar atmospherics on the new Steven Jones + Logan Sky single, Mr. Sky returned the favor and mastered the new Jan Linton single. Symmetrical. I got the notice recently that Mr. Linton had issued a new EP called “Melatonin” and so last weekend, I went to his Bandcamp store and bought this single as well as the last EP of remixes that came out late last year, as I’m rocking a low music budget in these tricky times.

But I always think that money spent on Jan Linton music is stoking that art rock hunger that is often neglected in ways that few artists are serving these days. And certainly not with his impressive facility with so many instruments and voice. He’s fully capable of going full Prince/Rundgren if need be, though this time Todd Lewis contributed bass and synth strings.

jan linton melatonin cover art
Bandcamp | DL/CD | 2022

Jan Linton: Melatonin – DL/CD [2022]

  1. Melatonin [radio mix]
  2. Melatonin [extended version] • CD only
  3. Crosses of Light • CD only
  4. Goodnight Mr. Ginger • CD only

Begining with a vocoder intoning “melatonin,” the implacable rhythm track cut right to the heart of the affair with a brash motorik variation based around squelchy samples that made me recall the similarly powerful beats to the London mix of Dolby and Sakamoto’s “Field Work.” So right off we knew what was at stake here. The sustained synth string built an eerie calmness amid the prominent beats and then Linton delivered the coup de grace, with an elegant descending eBow figure undulating through the song. Giving the song a bold, confident, yet sensual demeanor that showed that it was earning its call outs to Dolby and Sakamoto.

As impressive as that synth pair were, they lacked the guitar finesse that Linton carries across the finish line here. Todd Lewis’ bass guitar was also more than keeping up with the program here with some powerful, melodic playing. And Linton’s vocal was floating above the calm center of this mantra of a song. I loved the impossibly sustained eBow drone note that the radio mix ended on, but the extended version won further plaudits for its impressive coda which gave the bass guitar time in the spotlight for a potent solo before a recursion back to the intro motif. Why not check out the radio mix, below.

The other two songs were quite different with “Crosses of Light” working within a freeform space where the luscious reverb of the guitar licks glinted like sunlight dappling on the surface of a shady lake before coalescing into a slow-paced march tempo. The pulsating bass synths moved us forward, but the billowing clouds of guitar harmonics diffused the energy of the song into dozens of eddies and currents.

The pizzicato strings and the drumbox rim hits brought a crystalline pop sensibility to “Goodnight Mr. Ginger” that made me recall China Crisis. And the intro featured some of the highest pitched frequencies I’d ever heard in a song. Not since “Pretty Little Things” by Shriekback in 1986, actually! After the intro, the mood turned melancholy, with a cavernous acoustic space swallowing up the music and giving it a coloration of bittersweet nostalgia.

Then the juxtaposition of a rather funky rhythm track, redolent of Cabaret Voltaire’s “Shakedown [The Whole Thing]” shocked me from left field! This song was taking in a lot of sonic territory, while the assured crooning of Mr. Linton ultimately cast a languid spell on the song. The expansive, instrumental middle eight went for full eclecticism as the flute solo harked back to the Mel Collins era of King Crimson! If these songs were a glimpse inside the current head of Jan Linton then I can only ask, “more, please!”

Right now the DL is just of “Melatonin [radio mix]” and it’s yours for $1.00, but this weekend there will be a hard copy CD-R option with all four tracks we’ve discussed here for $5.50. But there’s also a bundle 2xCD option with the EP we’ll discuss next.

jan linton byzantine remixes cover art
Bandcamp | DL/CD | 2021

Jan Linton: Byzantine Remixes – DL/CD [2021]

  1. Byzantine 2021
  2. Byzantine – Desert Skies [dance mix]
  3. Loving You Is Hard [forever mix]
  4. Byzantine [ambient reprise 2021]
  5. Byzantine [urban shuffle mix] • CD only
  6. Byzantine [gothic garage mix] • CD only

This was a revisit of a vintage Linton song, “Oinaru Sekai [true nirvana]” from a 1991 song from a Japanese release by Linton. It began with a laid back acoustic ballad version recorded last year on the 30th anniversary of the song that featured curiously stentorian backing vocals at the climax, though buried in the mix.

The remixes from Frameshift moved the song outside of its box considerably. The dance mix brought a Eurohouse sensibility to the no longer laid back track. The string synth loops circled their vibe while the urgent rhythms raised its energy levels higher. Linton’s voice was filtered and chorused for some emotional distance. I’m thankful that the full vocal was employed here, keeping this a song while functioning as dance music as well. As we know, the two disciplines don’t always overlap. The 5:55 dance mix was a completely different track that explored a darker vibe.

The isolated guitar in the intro to “Loving You is Hard [forever mix]” was the only instance I can recall where Linton’s guitar was actually brash and engaged Rock guitar tone. Though the song eventually had plumes of guitar synth that was more of what I’ve come to expect from the hands of Mr. Linton. Meanwhile the new, urgent rhythms managed to unite ambient Rock and Electronica into a coherent whole.

The Urban Shuffle mix of “Byzantine” was the most radical visage yet for the A-side. Synth string stabs punctuated the nearly Reggae drum pattern for a quick trip into Dub territory. The vocals were still there; keeping it a half-step away from true Dub, but tell that to the rest of the instruments. They might think otherwise. The Gothic Garage mix was built on top of an enervated house beat with the fastest tempo here. The minor key Arabic scale melody was emphasized here for a throwback to the Worldbeat-meets-Dance-Music ethos of the early 90s; not coincidentally, the origin point for the song to begin with. The program closed with a gossamer ambient reprise of the new 2021 version of the song that lasted only slightly longer than this sentence takes to read.

So right now we get something old and something new from Jan Linton. The “Melatonin” EP charted a course that showed that there was an eclectic surge of styles competing for Linton’s time and attention, and we were the beneficiaries of his willingness to investigate them all. I certainly hope that this is a precursor to another fine album since it’s been four years since “I Actually Come Back” first made a potent case for his talents. The work as it sits now fills a sweet spot in the spectrum that points to Bill Nelson and both Thomas Leer and Dolby as touchstones for the artistic targets he’s aiming for.

And the “Byzantine Remixes” reveal an artist revisiting their past both through their own eyes and those of others willing to further mutate the work…without mutating it beyond recognition. If you hear the siren call and want to indulge, then there are several interconnected ways to do this.

Bundles Of Joy

  • “Melatonin” DL – 1 track @ $1.00
  • “Melatonin” CD-R EP – 4 tracks @ $5.50 [on sale this weekend on Bandcamp]
  • “Byzantine Remixes” DL – 4 tracks @ $4.00
  • “Byzantine Remixes” CD-R – 6 tracks @ $8.50
  • “Melatonin/Byzantine Remixes/Buddha Machine Music” 2xCD-R+CD-3 bundle @ $10.00

The big bundle has both new EPs in their longest form with the CD-3 of “Buddha Machine Music” added as a bonus. It’s definitely the best value. The songs on the hard copy of “Melatonin” are too good to pass up, so if you are going to dive in, dive deep. You know what to do.

Melatonin DL/CD-R

post-punk monk buy button

Byzantine Remixes DL/CD-R

post-punk monk buy button

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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