REVIEW: Art Of Noise’s “Into Battle (Deluxe Edition)”

Photobucket 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.

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elephants are big

SOME STUFFS/RECORD CRACK: Art Of Noise “Into Battle” gets deluxe treatment

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What started out as nothing more than borrowed bursts of other people’s sounds mixed in with a few classical touches turned into something its creators probably did not expect. Okay, maybe Paul Morley had a sense of the perfection, but other than that inner circle that was Morley, Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, J.J. Jeczalik, and Gary Langan, no one else could have predicted the after effects of the first release on a silly-sounding label called Zang Tuum Tumb. It was an EP called Into Battle, released under the name Art Of Noise. The group consisted of a producer, his 3-piece production “theme”, and a silent musician who didn’t actually play any of their music, but was the group’s “hype machine”. He played a very important role in not only how the “group” were perceived, but how they’d like to be heard. Their music was a huge influence on what I wanted to do as a producer, and as for that manipulated perceptions in text form, I loved it.

Into Battle ended up being called “the blackest white music ever made” to “one of the most influential records of the 1980’s”, even though there were only two proper songs on there, the solid “Beat Box” and the anthemic romance of “Moments In Love”. Nonetheless, “Beat Box” would become an underground sensation without getting any mainstream airplay, to where it reached as high as #2 on a dance music chart in Seattle. As the legend goes, Kool DJ Red Alert played it on his radio show and while people had no idea what the sounds were, it would become a track that would impact what breakdancers and poppers would be doing on pieces of cardboard. Keep in mind that in 1983, rap music still sounded like its soul and disco predecessors, with little of the abrasiveness it would become known for from 1985 on. With a surprise embrace of “Beat Box” by a young hip-hop community, and how “Moments In Love” would become a surprise love jam for a generation, Art Of Noise found itself reaching places that were not expected, not bad for a group who were doing this while waiting for the guys in Yes to get their shit together. Or so the story goes.

28 years after the release of Into Battle, ZTT will be releasing a deluxe edition version of the EP with the previously unreleased album Worship, which is said to be a musical link between Into Battle and what would become 1984’s (Who’s Afraid Of) The Art Of Noise). If you picked up the Art Of Noise box set And What Have You Done With My Body God, you’ll know that the group kept a constant archive of everything they recorded, even if what was left was a few rough drafts and sketches. Now fans will be able to hear an album that never materialized to the general public.

The new deluxe edition, completely remastered from the original master tapes, has been released as a 2CD set and in time for this year’s Record Store Day, a double LP on blue vinyl. While UK and US vinyl pressings of the original 1983 can easily be found these days, this new blue vinyl pressing is sure to be quickly snatched up, so if you find it, buy it.

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REVIEW: Art Of Noise’s “Influence”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Almost 30 years after they formed, Art Of Noise’s impact on music is still being felt, defined, and discussed. They were there when Malcolm McLaren wanted a hint of Afrika Bambaataa’s swagger, and arguably gave hip-hop, through sampling, its initial boom bap. Influence (ZTT) is a 2CD collection that explores the hit songs of a group that never intended to be embraced by radio, and unreleased artifacts from their library of sounds. It is comprehensive for old and new fans alike, but also doubles as a gift for devotees who have absorbed the known. This is the group supplying uncut crystals of the unknown.

Art Of Noise were very much experimentalists who combined a love for soul, funk, classical, and opera with the avant-garde, and musique concrete. While some artists had constructed songs that made attempts to give rhythm to the rhythmless (interpret as you wish), no one had quite done it the way Anne Dudley, Jonathan Jeczalik, and Gary Langan did, all of whom were overseen by producer Trevor Horn. Music journalist Paul Morley became their “voice” and initially the human persona of a group who originally were represented as masks, photographs, and wrenches. It was the unintentional funk of “Beat Box” that made legendary radio DJ Kool DJ Red Alert take notice one day, offering it to a community of listeners who seemed to be waiting for something more distorted and abrasive than the sounds supplied by Sugar Hill Records. It was “Close (To The Edit)” that made people hear the ignition of a car in a different way, but it was also “Moments In Love” that made people hear electronic music as something seductive with the use of only four words (the song title and the repetition of the word “now”).

When the group had internal struggles with their record label, they jumped ship to a new label (China), but it did not take away their heart. Fans will get a chance to “Legs,” “Peter Gunn,” “Paranoimia,” “Ode To Don Jose,” “Dragnet,” and their surprise hit with Tom Jones, their cover of Prince’s “Kiss.” It seemed as if the group made a conscious effort to create properly structured songs, perfect for radio, television, and motion pictures, a slight shift from what they originally started out as. Perhaps for AoN, in order to manipulate art, they in turn had to be artists too. Disc 1 features songs from their last album, The Seduction of Claude Debussy, which also doubled as their return to the ZTT empire.

Even if you have the 4 CD box set And What Have You Done With My Body God?, everything on Disc 2 of Influence will be new to you, as all of it is unreleased. The songs are a mixture of unreleased tracks, alternate mixes, rough demos, and variations of the familiar, not unlike classical music where one might here variations of a theme, or variations of the variation. Some spoken pieces heard in AoN songs are isolated so you’ll get a chance to hear what was recorded without instrumental interruption. Even what was discarded could be turned into new songs, but that will be for the diehard fans to create and mash-up.

Comedy and tragedy: symbols that have represented Art of Noise even when they might have had the last laugh. Influence is the audio story of a group who weren’t a group, but perhaps architects of buildings everyone would end up praising long after its creators went home. Yet within its construction were sounds of hope, fear, sarcasm, shame, and fame, intentional or not.

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SOME STUFFS: New audiophile vinyl pressing of Yes’ 90125 to be released in late March

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It’s an album that brought Yes into the 1980’s with a sound that split old Yes fans while bringing in an all new audience. Yes90125, named after the American catalog # that Atco gave the album, spawned such hits as “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”, “Leave It”, and “It Can Happen”, plus great album cuts like “Hold On” and “Changes”. The album introduced guitarist Trevor Rabin to fans, but many also know the album for its production by Trevor Horn, worked on it by his “production theam” which happened to include Anne Dudley, J.J. Jeczalik, and engineer Gary Langan, a/k/a Art Of Noise.

The album is being remastered by Joe Reagoso and Ron McMaster from the original 1983 master tapes, and will be released on vinyl-only through Friday Music. Even though the original Atco LP can be found at thrift stores and dollar bins, it’s an album that deserves to be heard and reheard again, especially this forthcoming pressing.

The new vinyl remaster of 90125 can be pre-ordered through Acoustic Sounds.