Thursday, 28 January 2010

St. Etienne - Foxbase Beta

Basically what it says on the packet: St Etienne's 1991 album Foxbase Alpha re-produced by Richard X, ie. not just re-mixed but *re-produced* indeed which seems to involve shaking the whole thing up and turning it into something new .. the same but different. And although the whole album is thoroughly 'modernised' (like we used to do with old kitchens) some tracks benefit from this treatment, others less so. Makeovers of Love Will Break Your Heart and Nothing Can Stop Us lose much of their original charm, whereas a couple of Alpha's more tedious tracks like Wilson or Etienne Gonna Die become more interesting. Like the Swallow comes through well with (artificially generated?) kiddies' choir and elaborations of the TV and radio samples from the original, (eg. the marvellous "Countdown Conundrum") plus some surprising new bits (OMD geeks look out) fill it out nicely. And all outer-wrapped in a kind of a rather contrived, virtual taxi-ride.
Bonus disc includes commentary and a couple of rarities from the Alpha days. If you're familiar with Alpha you will probably appreciate Mr X's re-make, and if you're not then now's the time to discover a whole new album.

Buy here

PS As Richard X is such a fan of early Human League, I wouldn't mind hearing what he'd come up with when re-producing, say, the aptly named Reproduction....

I Love 1980 - 1

Well, it's slowly dawning on me that since we're in 2010, it's been 30 years since....1980. Yes, that magic year which, at least in the seventies, sounded something like 'year 2000' which it wasn't but still had something new and futuristic about it. So much was happening to me - physically, mentally and spiritually - and also around me ..and oh yes, music. A brand new sound had already emerged late 70s with Gary Numan and his new electronic-pop as well as other more timid attempts to make pop music with things called 'synthesisers' and 'drum machines' .. year 2000 was already here.

Fittingly, John Foxx's brand new almost total electronic album emerged during the first weeks of 1980, firstly with the single Underpass then full-on with the Metamatic album on the Virgin label.
Ironically I bought neither at the time (lack of funds?) although distinctly remember seeing and hearing Underpass in a record shop window and on the Kid Jensen show respectively.
Although not an overwhelming commerical success (as Numan had been months earlier) Foxx's debut solo would prove to be a benchmark reference point for electro music and musicians in years to come and the recent 2 cd deluxe edition re-issue is proof alone of its lasting power over the years.
I didn't get to hear the full album until a year later (a tape copy off a girlfriend's older brother), and weasn't really taken by Foxx and his "metal beat" music until the life-changing No-One Driving double 7" single, which I bought and played constantly during the summer of '80. I joined the fan club and got an autographed photo back ... fan for life.
I was blissfully ignorant of JG Ballard, (he didn't come into the O level syllabus) but Foxx references his work throughout, combing new minimalist sounds with a pop consciousness and intelligent lyrics. Many would try to copy the style of Metamatic although it has never been equalled, not even by Foxx himself who almost immediately turned his back on the total-electronic approach, only to return toit years later and electro became fashionable again, thanks to the legacy of Metamatic itself. Listen to it now, it could have been made yesterday.
I love Metamatic.

LP back cover: I never saw it

Metamatic on wiki

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Human League in record deal shock

First of all Happy New Year to all our readers.
And we start 2010 with some news which was already out last month but just thought we'd document it too. Sheffield based electro-band The Human League signed a deal with Wall of Sound in December and even threw a secret gig at Battersea Power Station to celebrate and showcase new material the day after. The deal with Mark Jones' London label will allow the League to continue at least with their post-Virgin one-new-album-a-decade policy. Little or nothing is known about the new material although the waiting will soon be over "we DARE you to check back for exciting new signing announcement at the start of Jan 2010." says WOS's official site.

Uhm no... not that Phil and not that wall of sound.