Hearing The Beatles for the first time in a serious manner was the gateway to a world of sound I had never known at the age of nine. The Beatles may have been “before my time”, but I fell in love what they did and I’m forever grateful for their existence. If there is one group that create music “in my time”, one that moved me to want to make music as an artist, to move me to want to become a producer and recording engineer, to give me my “sample ear”, then that honor belongs to Art Of Noise.
In 1983, I remember when MTV played a video called “Beat Box” and I was immediately floored. This was nothing like what I was listening to, or I should say, it was music I always wanted to hear but didn’t know. I loved soul and funk, I was into Kraftwerk but at 12 years old this was “next level shit”. After seeing and hearing the video, I remembered who this group was, and rode my bike to Tower Records to find it. The cassette was there, an EP on ZTT/Island called Into Battle and absorbed it like a sponge. I was not aware at the time that the song was making an unintended impact in various parts of the U.S. The music of Art Of Noise was meant to be abstract, sonic art, complete with stolen sounds done in a fashion that was rhythmic, unlike anything anyone had ever heard. It wasn’t pop, but it had the potential to be. Its unintentional funk made young kids want to pop and break to it, and it even made people in Seattle melt. As the story goes, it went to #2 on a dance chart in the Emerald City, and a group that was meant to be against everything pop stood for was becoming an underground pop sensation. Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, J.J. Jeczalik, Gary Langan, and Paul Morley laughed at the notion, for the group were enjoying being anonymous, making themselves wear clown make-up and performing on television shows behind make-up and masks. They were somehow entering a world they were, perhaps, making fun of, if not mocking, and by the summer of 1984, they actually had an industrial-sounding summer jam.
This brand new, single CD deluxe edition of the Into Battle EP (ZTT/Salvo) remasters the original EP, but what some fans will want to get this for is to hear the album the group had originally planned to release after this, a project called Worship. If you have the AoN box set And What Have You Done With My Body God, everything that was to be Worship can be found there. Truth be told, Into Battle is experimental pop at its best, it just so happened that their practices of chopping up sound and making it funky caught up to people who were hungry for a new, unique sound that had nothing to do with Duran Duran or ABC. The Worship album was meant to be even more experimental in nature, and when presented in this manner, you can hear what the group were trying to do. In sequence, it is an obvious bridge between Into Battle and the actual album they eventually released, (Who’s Afraid Of) The Art Of Noise. The album had a church sequence on side 2 that may have seemed out of place compared to songs like “A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid)” and “Close (To The Edit)”, but the group’s purpose was not to make music with a hit song or two in mind, but rather to add to the fabric of unique sounds they could create with the technology (of the time) provided, which was Fairlights and Synclaviers. Whether they knew it or not, AoN would end up influencing thousands, of not millions, of artists, musicians, and producers to experiment with the potential of digitally manipulated sounds.
The segment of Into Battle I always loved was the three-song medley that’s “Bright Noise”, “Flesh & Armour”, and “Comes And Goes”. One can consider Worship a planned expansion/exploration of those three songs, but in long form. It’s hard to tell if the album is a success, and since I had already heard the elements on the AoN box set, I still hear it as random pieces towards an idea that didn’t solidify. Nonetheless, it is an essential piece to the AoN puzzle that will make fans go “oh, now I get why they used those sounds”.
There are slight differences on this version of Into Battle that will be of interest. As an American, I grew up with the EP and hearing the 10 minute version of “Moments In Love”. The UK EP had the song in a 5 minute edit, and that is what is used here. If you had the U.S. cassette, you may not have heard “Moment In Love”, a very sparse mix of “Moments In Love”. It was released in the U.S. as the B-side to “Beat Box”, but you hear “Moment In Love” in all of its 1:25 glory. Also, “Flesh In Armour” ends with the last note having a touch of reverb, where previous versions ended cold and went right into “Comes And Goes”.
28 years later, Into Battle sounds as fresh and futuristic as it did back in 1983, and it will no doubt sound this way in 2039. If I’m lucky enough to be around in 28 years, I hope I still rock and nod my head as I did as a pre-teen in Honolulu, looking to Art Of Noise as the key towards exploring the world of music and sound. In fact, I can easily say that is exactly what I have been doing for the last 28 years, and my journey will never stop. Art Of Noise were and are an incredible inspiration to me, and as I’ve said many times, I’m eternally grateful for their contributions to the fabric of sound, the world of pop, and to my life. I bow down to the temple of AoN, creators of the Incidental Series.
Tra-la, tra-la, tra-la, tra-la-la.
elephants are big