synthesizer exponent re-releases his debut solo album.
The beginnings of John Foxx’ musical
career are well-documented. A former member of the group Tiger Lily
that would eventually morph into Ultravox (Ultravox!), John has been often
cited as an influence on mainstream synth music for almost forty
years. Clearly a major inspiration on the vocal style of Gary Numan
and with obvious parallels made to Kraftwerk (which synth act doesn’t?), his
debut album has been re-packaged at a three disc, forty-nine track compilation
almost forty years after its original release in 1980.
Make no mistake, Metamatic sounds dated
and very much so in places but, given the advancing technology in its genre it
is hardly surprising. What it does show is a distinct ear for sound,
experimenting and ultimately writing songs which had the ability to be
commercial successes. European hitchhiking in his late teens clearly
left its mark as several tracks referenced automobiles and transport –
Underpass, No-One Driving and Burning Car - and cultural references from
France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia combined in his attempt to create
a parallel future.
At the time, Metamatic was
astonishing. It fused the previously underground sound of electronic
music from the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, pre-fame Human League and The Normal
with chart potential via almost minimalist tracks which resulted from six-track
recordings creating a sparse almost dystopian end product.
The album’s first single, Underpass is
style commonly regarded as one of the most iconic of the synthesizer
movement. Robotic vocals and memorable electro strapline it also
contains a sound not dissimilar to one used by Ultravox on their 1981 hit All
Stood Still, not the first time that each other’s music had been ‘plagiarised’
with He’s A Liquid and Touch And Go previously being performed by John at
Ultravox shows and the latter being adapted for Mr X on the Vienna album.
Opening with Plaza, the track contains
sweeping synth sounds and light percussive accompaniment (a characteristic of
the album) making it simple but addictive at the same time. It
creates an almost empty, echoing atmosphere filled with suspense and eerie
proportion. Underpass is grandiose in the extreme, a gripping
bassline and single-word chorus of anthemic status, the track appears on many
compilations of the era as a benchmark track. For the teenagers of
the early 80s it still holds special memories and significant importance in
their musical upbringing.
Metal Beat holds an amount of irony as
it feels anything but metallic, fluid in its feel it gurgles and reverbs with
several interesting effects before giving way to No-One Driving, possibly the
albums finest moment which is has a pure, classic sounding pop
buzz. Its perfect pop formula fused with enough originality to make
it an especially memorable moment. The album closes with Touch And
Go, an almost unkeqsue affair maybe akin to Cabaret Voltaire or A
Certain Ratio in some respects – a funky, electro track which allows for blips
and beeps to make it a catchy finale.
The bonus discs, maybe for Foxx
purists, contain several b-sides, edits and alternative versions as well as
non-album single Burning Car, whilst disc 3 concentrates on unreleased
instrumentals from the Metamatic period which were ‘lost’, named and compiled
to sound intentionally or not, like a movie soundtrack. Some of it
is crude but does hold a certain affectionate charm and interest to be able to
stand by itself as a worthy Foxx collection.
In summary, Metamatic is a must
for all electro connoisseurs. It stakes its claim as an early
landmark in the genre and whilst it has since been overtaken in sound by
continuing leaps in technology (of which Foxx is still at the forefront), it
will remain a reference point for many a year to come.
deft and electronically assured minds of Bernholz and Neil Arthur comes Ideal
Home,a sharp and sparkling album of futuristic beauty.Or is it a darkly
horrific analysis of the shape of things to come for the human race? The opening
and title title Ideal Home begins with a quite unnerving and searing note.The
lyrics are as unsettling,asking at one point, "Should I be full of regret
for wanting things I do not have?" Clearly a question that plenty of
people ask themselves every day.
make us glance at ourselves in an inquisitive,almost unearthly way.It is like
being analysed by a robot version of ourselves,coldly digging away at all of
the little secrets that we bury deep within our souls.It is a sound that comes
from the future and the past.Simple,minimal and brilliantly frightening.
takes on the baton and retains a steady and disturbing rhythm of doom filled
beats and haunting vocals.
of samples and sound effects is stripped and perfect throughout this entire
collection.They have not only made us look at ourselves but given us an insight
into their hearts and minds too.It sounds familiar because it is.It is about us
all.Everyone washes up.Everyone gets fed up.Everyone gets pegged down by the
daily drudge.Everyone gets Overwhelmed.
There is a
sonic lushness to Ideal Home.At times it is lyrically comforting while somehow
managing to also be musically angular and cold.It reminds us what it is like to
be warmly welcomed and harshly rejected at the same time.
It is an
electronic masterpiece that reflects not only the state of the nation but where
it seems to be heading.Near Future have wielded a huge mirror at humanity with
this album,it is now up to us what we do next.
Arthur's staunch and fluid voice is the blood flowing through Bernholz'
machines.The pairing and tightness of this duo is inspired and sumptuous.
Home is what we have been led to believe that we should be toiling for and Near
Future have brought us a shining example of what we can attain if we wish to
dedicate our lives to the machine of life.
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