John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

30 04 2018

meta500John Foxx releases a 3 CD deluxe edition of his Metamatic album on 25 May 2018. The original 10-track album, recorded in 1979 and originally released in 1980 was remastered from analogue tapes back in 2014, along with various B-sides. A few tapes full of instrumental music from the sessions were also set aside for remastering but these revealed further discoveries, including alternative mixes and the song Miss Machinery – a mutant, electro-punk twist on Foxx B-side, 20th Century.

Jonathan Barnbrook (regular Foxx collaborator and Bowie’s Blackstar designer) worked on the new 2018 reissue design as the project grew to 49 tracks across 3 CDs. This includes the 15 instrumentals contained on CD3 which collectively sound like a lost electronic soundtrack with echoes of Quatermass, BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the dark DIY electronics of Thomas Leer and Robert Rental.

Metamatic is one of the most influential electronic albums from the early 80s. Following his departure from Ultravox, Foxx stripped the sound back to just voice and electronics. The stark, at times industrial electronica still sounds like the future, 38 years after the albums original release. That is some testimony to the quality of the material.

johnfoxx

Most people will be aware of the singles Underpass and No-one Driving, but dig a little deeper and there is much more to savour.  He’s a Liquid is a key track, with lyrics that have always made me feel ill at ease.

“She’s elusive
He’s adhesive”

A New Kind of Man ups the tempo and hearing this track, I am instantly transported back to the late 70s / early 80s. A sense of detachment and isolation drip from Foxx’s lyrics on most of the songs on Metamatic. The off-kilter Tidal Wave conjures up the spirit of J. G. Ballard and would have sounded great as part of the soundtrack to High Rise.

Blurred Girl is almost a template of the sound of 1980. The classic Roland CR-78 rhythm and the plaintive synths add a rare warmth to what is often an icy cold musical landscape.

“Standing so close, Never quite touching…”

Touch and Go is probably the most commercial track on the album. I love the way that the synths rise like waves in the songs outro, smoothing the metronomic beat. The end section is by far my favourite musical performance on the album.

“There’s motorway sparks
And meetings in the park
And fires from years ago
You can watch your friends
Through this tiny lens
Then you’ll know that there’s no way home

John Foxx would leave the sound of Metamatic for his next studio albums but returned to the cold electronica for some of his more recent work, particularly with Louis Gordon and The Maths.

Discs 2 and 3 of the deluxe Metamatic are a treasure trove for Foxx fanatics. Disc 2 brings together B sides, radio edit / single mixes, the wonderful single Burning Car and alternative versions of album tracks. Like A Miracle (Alternative Version) is an early version of the song that was released as a single in much fuller form in 1983. Underpass (Extended Version) and Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version) are another two highlights of the second disc.

Another key track from Disc 2 is My Face, originally a flexi-disc release, and almost acting as a hint to the sound of the second John Foxx album (and my personal favourite) The Garden.

Disc 3 includes 15 instrumentals – some more fully formed than others. The sparse instrumentals are interesting to hear as part of the history of the album, but I don’t think I will return to them often. My favourites on disc 3 include a mournful alternative version of Glimmer, and the haunted ballroom piano of Fragmentary City (that predates the work of The Caretaker aka James Leyland Kirby by several decades).

Disc 3 is rounded off with Miss Machinery, a cold twist on B side 20th Century, a fascinating Giorgio Moroder-like take of No-One Driving, and an early version of Burning Car (with a Fade To Grey like bassline).

Disc 3 ends with a lo-fi Like A Miracle and a warmer , more fully realised and piano under-pinned take on No-One Driving, that feels like it was recorded nearer to The Garden.

This definitive version of Metamatic is released by Metamatic Records on 25 May 2018.

Disc: 1
1. Plaza
2. He’s a Liquid
3. Underpass
4. Metal Beat
5. No-one Driving
6. A New Kind of Man
7. Blurred Girl
8. 030
9. Tidal Wave
10. Touch and Go

Disc: 2
1. Film One
2. This City
3. To Be With You
4. Cinemascope
5. Burning Car
6. Glimmer
7. Mr. No
8. Young Love
9. 20th Century
10. My Face
11. Underpass (Radio Edit)
12. Non-one Driving (Single Version)
13. Like a Miracle (Alternative Version)
14. A New Kind of Man (Alternative Version)
15. He’s a Liquid (Alternative Version)
16. Plaza (Extended Version)
17. Underpass (Extended Version)
18. Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version)

Disc: 3
1. A Frozen Moment
2. He’s a Liquid (Instrumental Dub)
3. Mr. No (Alternative Version)
4. The Uranium Committee
5. A Man Alone
6. Over Tokyo
7. Terminal Zone
8. Urban Code
9. A Version of You
10. Glimmer (Alternative Version)
11. Fragmentary City
12. Metamorphosis
13. Approaching the Monument
14. Critical Mass
15. Alamogordo Logic
16. Touch and Go (Early Version)
17. Miss Machinery
18. No-one Driving (Early Version)
19. Burning Car (Early Version)
20. Like a Miracle (Early Version)
21. No-one Driving (Alternative Version)

Pre-order Metamatic Deluxe 3-CD from Amazon
meta500





Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia

3 09 2017

Mary CasioMary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia is the follow-up to 2016’s Awake But Always Dreaming. Peel’s third full-length solo release heads off in a very different direction to recent album and EP releases from the electronic composer.

The music on Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia was performed by Hannah Peel and Tubular Brass, and was recorded live in The Civic, Barnsley by Real World Studios. The album artwork is by Jonathan Barnbrook.

This mostly instrumental album is a mixture of warm analogue synths mixed with a traditional colliery brass band. On paper this should not work, but in reality the mixture of machine and brass band works surprisingly well.

There is a strong sense of nostalgia running through the veins of this album. Hints of the early 80s work of John Foxx blend with the 70s aesthetic of Jean Michel Jarre.

Colliery bands always conjure up a feeling of the early 70s to me. I always think of the late Peter Skellern and also the work of The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. The only other recent album I can recall using colliery bands is the wonderful Diversions Vol.2: The Unthanks With Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band. Though you will not find any synths on The Unthanks album!

The brass swells offer a real emotional pull, especially on album opener Goodbye Earth.

The celestial sounds of Sunrise Through The Dusty Nebula is an album highlight. There is a moment when the analogue bass synth hits a peak with the brass that sends shivers.

The theme of the album is the story of 86-year-old Mary Casio and her lifelong stargazing dream to leave her South Yorkshire home in the mining town of Barnsley and see the star constellation of Cassiopeia. As the album progresses, you get the feeling that the journey may not be rooted in reality.

Deep Space Cluster uses the brass in the way that electronic musicians often use the slow-building repetition of sequenced synth riffs to build the tension towards the songs climax.

Andromeda M31 takes me back to the days of the 70s London Planetarium. I love the use of the often bubbling beneath the mix ambient bumps and noises that really help built the tracks mood. The synths add a real sense of the huge expanses of space, and makes this track one that 70s / 80s synth music addicts will really love. I’m sure Giorgio Moroder must have snuck into the studio when this track was being recorded.

Life Is On The Horizon is a sad refrain, that has a little of the feel of The Last Post about it. The bubbling analogue noises sound like comets or space debris flying past.

Hannah Peel Live

Archid Orange Dwarf lifts the mood, and is one of the only tracks with a noticeable human vocal element – no lyrics, but a warm vocal hum that adds to the joyful feel of the song.

The album closes with its longest track, The Planet of Passed Souls. Reverb-heavy organs usher in a song that includes a sample of Peel’s grandfather as a choirboy from 1928, mixing reality with fantasy, the distant past with the present. The end section of The Planet of Passed Souls is simply beautiful.

I might take a trip to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which is not too far from where I live, with Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia as the perfect headphone accompaniment. The album was built to be played in one sitting, in the original sequence. So turn off shuffle and enjoy your journey with Mary Casio.

I really hope she made it to Cassiopeia.

Buy Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia on CD from Amazon

Buy Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia on vinyl from Amazon








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