“Hired History +” Captured The Early Paradox Of Fiat Lux [part 3]

fiat lux - ark of embers
The orphaned album “Ark of Embers” saw release 32 years later

[…continued from last post]

I would have been content with disc one of “Hired History Plus,” personally. What made the package even better was the fact that the unreleased Fiat Lux album “Ark Of Embers” was included after the compilation of released material on disc one as disc two. This was the album that the band and producer Hugh Jones were planning to release before the wind left the band’s sails and they called it a day instead. In some ways, this would have slotted well into the 1984 UK market, but in other ways it was more eccentric.

The opener “The Moment” was subtle, with delicate washes of synths and acoustic guitars giving vocalist Steve Wright the foreground at first. But as the track built up, we had surprising brass from Ian Nelson at the song’s midpoint moving beyond the hushed nuances of the song’s beginning. Finishing with a pensive sax solo near the song’s coda.

Energy built up for “Breaking The Boundary” which sounded closer to single material with a vibrant arrangement with zesty flanged bass from David Crickmore. The heavier beat and wailing synths made room for the beatbox to fire up the listener’s ears. Leading into the band’s best shot at a hit single in the third song slot. “Blue Emotion” we’ve already discussed but I appreciated how the sequencing went from strength to strength as the vibe of the album swooped from quiet introversion to confident boldness.

After that energy peak on side one, the title track, “Embers” was a sharp retreat into the shadows. The minimal, tempo free ballad relied on bass synth and spare, strummed guitars to frame Wright’s vocal. When a clarinet loop appeared out of nowhere, it had a cataclysmic effect within the arrangement. To say nothing of the Mellotron flutes! Add some sax and this sounded like an ambient track left off of “In The Court of the Crimson King!” Think “Moonchild.”

The remixes of “No More Proud” we’d heard, but the LP mix was a succinct 2:40 and a real stylistic leap from the program thus far with the hints Mariachi Funk coming sharply from left field. Next came what has been shaping up as my favorite Fiat Lux song. Photography” seems to have been the identical track to the early 7″ version that Polydor put out as the band’s first single on that label. It’s minimal, almost haiku of a lyric were not the height of commerce but the methodical, unfurling of the song’s melodic sensibilities coupled with the light touch of Wright’s vocal keeps this one in my mind for days on end.

Yet another vibe dropped from the skies on the New Wave bop of “Splurge.” The motorik pacing of the song dropped it right into the time period where one could still get away with that trait in a pop song. Hearing Pandit Dinesh adding tablas to the cut only increased its individualism. “Secrets” was also in its 7″ form as well here, but the same could not be said of “Aqua Vitae,” which had been re-recorded in a new version, which at 5:41, seemed closer to a 12″ version than the earlier single version. The mix here certainly bore that comparison out. Like many a 12″ mix, it was good fun, but the more succinct 7″ version was the way I’d prefer to hear this funky track.

“In The Heat Of The Night” was an effervescent Pop song with enough machines and conventional instruments mixing together happily to recall what bands like China Crisis and Fiction Factory were doing around the same time. Making me sad that I had to wait decades to hear this song. It bore mentioning that Steve Wright slotted in very close to the sound that Fiction Factory’s Chic Medley delivered vocally. Wright proffered the same kind of dignified, Scott Walker styled Pop crooning. And I was hasty yesterday when saying on the first disc that “Solitary Lovers” had no 7″ mix here, as it was indeed the closing track for the “Ark Of Embers album” in in a 3:47 mix.

What I came away from after listening to “Hired History Plus” was the eclecticism of the band’s approach probably worked against their being able to get a commercial foothold back in the day. Their one lay-it-on-the line Pop hit waiting to happen had a video that supported the UK Miner’s Strike of 1984-85 so Auntie Beeb was never going to touch that one! And then the rest of the material was happy to wander wherever it wanted to explore. Sometimes with spiky indie dance tracks. Other times with subdued Pop which would have its day in the sun with bands like Black or Breathe some time later.

And then there were gleeful outliers to nowhere like “No More Proud” that recalled no one else. All of them given every ounce of polish by busy multi-instrumentalist David Crickmore, who with the aid of Ian Nelson on marimba and woodwinds otherwise was the whole shebang here! More or less. That didn’t mean that Steve Wright got an easy pass as his stalwart vocals were often multi tracked here to an effect as lush as the music demanded.

Wright met Bill Nelson when the latter was scoring the Yorkshire Actors Company’s performance of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and when the next production had no place for the budding thespian, Bill Nelson asked what was next for him. Wright had been active in a band with Crickmore [The Juveniles] and Nelson though enough of their promise to produce the early sessions of Fiat Lux while his younger brother ended up joining the band.

The group have since put out two new albums and a few singles since they reconvened a few years ago and and are active with live concerts in these days. Finally having “Hired History Plus” reminds me that I need to remember to act on the endless want list to see how well Fiat Lux have adapted to the 21st century. Samplings of the new material when I last mentioned it were highly encouraging.

Meanwhile, no one’s getting any younger and all of the Fiat Lux music await purchasers at a handy one-stop location. Just hit that button below.

post-punk monk buy button


About postpunkmonk

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