“Hired History +” Captured The Early Paradox Of Fiat Lux [part 1]

I had written about this one when it was released on Cherry Red in 2019 but it remained until last month when I got a copy; owing to my good friend Mr. Ware acting on my recent birthday. So after a protracted period where my company had to shut down for electrical repairs [and hence no lunch hours] let’s get back into the swing of things with a dive into this extremely luxe 2xCD set!

Cherry Red | UK | 2 x CD | 2019 | CDBRED 742

Fiat Lux: Hired History Plus – UK – 2xCD [2019]

Disc 1 – Hired History +

  1. Secrets
  2. Photography
  3. Blue Emotion [12″ Version]
  4. Comfortable Life
  5. Sleepless Nightmare [12″ Version]
  6. Aqua Vitae
  7. Feels Like Winter Again
  8. This Illness
  9. Photography [Unreleased Bill Nelson Version]
  10. Comfortable Life [Unreleased 12″ Bill Nelson Version]
  11. House Of Thorns
  12. Sleepless Nightmare
  13. Three’s Company
  14. House Of Thorns [12″ Version]
  15. Solitary Lovers [12″ Version]
  16. No More Proud [Proud Mix]
  17. No More Proud [Dub Mix]
  18. Sally Free And Easy

Disc 2 – Ark Of Embers

  1. The Moment
  2. Breaking The Boundary
  3. Blue Emotion
  4. Embers
  5. No More Proud
  6. Photography
  7. Splurge
  8. Secrets
  9. Aqua Vitae
  10. In The Heat Of The Night
  11. Solitary Lovers

The first disc was a deep dive into the many singles that Fiat Lux had released in their busy ’82-’84 period where Bill Nelson produced their earliest cuts, before Polydor signed them and put them in producer Hugh Jones’ care. Some of these had been compiled into the Dutch “Hired History” EP which [miraculously] I found in a Washington D.C. record store nine years ago! I had another handful of singles, but had stalled in recent years at the 60% line but this 2xCD is far more than even the previously complete released output of the band. It began with the contents of that sic track EP.

fiat lux secrets

The single “Secrets” was a somber, downtempo ballad with a prominent treated piano figuring in its game plan. The instrumentation featured synthetic violin as played by Mike Timony and and actual marimba as played by Ian Nelson. The web of vocal harmonies was down to the dignified crooning by Steve Wright and the superhuman support of David Crickmore who played almost all of the non-reed instruments as well as providing backing vocals. It was a pensive mood piece; daring as a single pick even for 1983.  Only the sampled pan pipes let this one down in the end.

fiat lux - photography

The band’s debut single for Polydor was the crystalline “Photography” with clockwork 808 programming and voluptuous flanged bass from  Mr. Crickmore while Ian Nelson once more added marimba and his buttery saxes. Meanwhile, Wright’s assured [possibly square-jawed] baritone crooning suggested implacability among the abstract concerns of the lyric. Making their first two singles for Polydor intriguing and complex, if less than immediate sounding singles.

fiat lux blue emotion

Fortunately, on single number three for Polydor, the band pulled out all of the stops to deliver hooks and songwriting united to make a surefire Top Ten single for the 1984 UK market with “Blue Emotion.” Slamming drum programming and ping-ponging sequencers immediately threw down a dancefloor gauntlet with a glorious verve in Wright’s multi-part harmonies. The soaring melody was icing on the warm, fresh cake …until the band filmed a video for this one expressing solidarity with the Miner’s Strike. Thus endeth the chart run. Which was big-hearted of them even if if hobbled their best chance at a hit.

With the three A-sides accounted for, now it was time to hear the B-sides, and they were a deep dive into extremes that the A-sides barely hinted at! “Comfortable Life” was based on aggressive drum programming with the band citing the influence of “Blue Monday” as tipping their hands here but the chaotic touches that undermined that incessant beat here were the stentorian, declamatory vocals from Wright and the copious use of backward tapes and Dub ready bass.

The chaos ante was upped even further with “Sleepless Nightmare [12″ mix].” It was a tumultuous blast of Swing Jazz and mid period Cabaret Voltaire? The synth bass and big beat hinted in that direction. Maybe it would slot in next to what Yello were doing around the same time as the nearest point of reference? In any case, it was a bracing, decidedly noncommercial chimera of a song! Once Ian Nelson started blowing Free Jazz skronk licks all bets were off! By this point, the dance floor ready group who had recently proffered “Blue Emotion” just a few songs ago on this disc seemed a distant memory.

Then “Aqua Vitae” which could have been an A-side leapt into the program like the mutant offspring of Duran Duran and Level 42. With Crickmore’s muscular bass playing taking the front and center position as Nelson’s horns swirled amid the upbeat energy of the song before the power plug was pulled in the last seconds of the song as the tapes ground to a halt for the shocking climax.

Next: …The Bill Nelson Portion Of The Program

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to “Hired History +” Captured The Early Paradox Of Fiat Lux [part 1]

  1. schwenko says:

    When I first heard Blue Emotion I immediately thought it was the Human League

    Like

  2. Paulie says:

    I must admit… I too have never heard the Human League in ”Blue Emotion’ but it’s great to hear how someone else interprets it.

    I sent Steve Wright the link to your post last night which he read… and he said ‘it’s good to know that someone out there analyses our music in such detail!’

    He also said that everything you wrote is true… ‘apart from the bit about ‘artificial pan pipes’ on Secrets! He thinks it was David C. on the keyboards, it was never meant to be pan pipes, just a melancholy, wistful sound’… but as always, music is open to all interpretation’

    So there you go Mr Monk!

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Paulie – Welcome to the comments! Well, after another listen with that frame in mind, I could sort of hear the “Heart Like A Wheel” Human League, which was another beast entirely to what I think of as “The Human League!” I mentioned the pan pipes sample only in that by 1985, it was one of the Fairlight Library Clichés™ that in the more innocent days of 1983 wouldn’t have raised any flags. Of course, I’m hearing it 39 years later! Thanks for letting Mr. Wright know that there are people out there who still care. And detailed analysis is what I’m compelled to do. More to come on this thread when I get the time to follow up on Monday. Right now is a very busy time for me and it’s affecting my lunch hours when I scrawl this blog!

      Like

      • Paulie says:

        Actually… that’s a really interesting call with ‘Heart Like A Wheel’! I can hear a touch of that now! I read all your posts, I have done for several years now but I’m a bit lazy when it comes to commenting (sorry!). But Fiat Lux are right up there for me, and I saw them at their reunion gig in Yorkshire nearly three years ago now (having first seen them in 1984). Looking forward to the next Fiat Lux post (whenever that happens!), and I will let Steve know too… he’s a top bloke!

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