Classic Rock Review

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Art Of Noise Daft (1984)

ArtOfNoise_DaftFrom starling.rinet.ru

Okay, I’m cheating meself (and you) a little bit out here, as this is really a compilation.

However, everybody knows that dealing with experimental bands’ catalogs is just such a tremendous pain in the rear end you just have to allow yourself some license. Daft basically combines the majority of Who’s Afraid with re-makes, little variations on the themes, and, most important, tracks taken off the band’s debut EP, Into Battle With The Art Of Noise. Since the EP is hardly available in any form, it’s kinda just that I review at least this compilation instead.

And I understand it makes this sequence slightly anachronistic, but pardon you me, it wasn’t yours truly who started fucking around with chronology in the first place. If I were to exercise my will over all the albums ever released, I would have prohibited this lightheaded approach to compiling material, along with stupidly concocted boxsets. Unfortunately, we live in a free world.

Now, anyway, this thing starts off with a shorter, seven-minute reworking of ‘Moments In Love’ (subtitled “beaten” on my edition – why?!), which I actually much prefer to the ten-minute version. It’s shorter, yet at the same time manages to be more dynamic than the long version – with a graceful, romantic, New Age-y piano intro, after which relaxed ethnic (yep, with congos and bongos and shmongos) percussion very, very slowly starts introducing the main theme – so there is some kind of development, instead of the never-ending monotonousness of the big version.

In this way, the prettiness of the theme can’t be “beaten” into the ground as easily as before. And unless my memory fails me, there’s actually more different sonic patterns that we meet on the way in this version. Then they also reprise the theme at the end of the album, where it is called ‘(Three Fingers) Of Love’, slowed down, and given additional tasty piano treatment – actually, the piano playing here is absolutely gorgeous, I only wish I knew who’s playing exactly – and additional goofy heavenly whispers, a little a la 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ (or a la generic adult contemporary – these happen to be the same thing, except that ‘I’m Not In Love’ only turned out generic in retrospect).

As for the few tracks off the debut EP, they are, of course, in the main vein of Who’s Afraid, but perhaps even more radical in a certain “youthful enthusiasm” way. ‘The Army Now’ simply pushes the sampling practice over the top – as they loop the ‘in the army now’ and ‘tra-la tra-la tra-la la’ vocal bits over and over in all kinds of different ways, you almost end up getting a picture of some overecstatic teen goofily pushing the keys while sitting over some hi-tech music-making program on his PC, making fun of all of his .wavs as he goes along. Except that, of course, in 1983 it must have taken hours and hours and hours of work to cut and paste all those bits. Anyway, the effect is hilarious even nowadays.

The short excerpt ‘Donna’ isn’t particularly interesting… even if it does manage to grasp the essence of trance, rave and house within its minute and a half as good as anything – all the while sampling what sounds like it could be a tiny bit of Dave Gilmour’s echoey guitar from ‘Run Like Hell’.

However, ‘Flesh In Armour’ is another terrific highlight, obviously influenced by industrial, as it’s arguably the loudest percussion-based instrumental that The Art Of Noise ever did. Of course, in direct opposition to standard industrial work as, say, pioneered by Einstürzende Neubauten, they don’t spend much time banging and clanging – it’s all sampled and looped and thrown together in different ways. But hey, that helps make it louder when necessary! It’s a fun little piece of work for sure, and very “militaristic sounding”, I might say – fully redeeming the Into Battle monicker.

In fact, it’s interesting how these tracks are so creepy and gloomy: one thing that doesn’t seem to stick too much to Art of Noise is “darkness”. Madness (of a positive character), hilariousness, beauty, moodiness, yes, but they never really tried to scare you in any way on Who’s Afraid. Here, there are brief moments of genuine creepiness. I wonder – could we call their early career a “gradual evolution from darkness to light”, then? Nah, that would probably be too assumptuous…

Elsewhere, all the tracks seem to be more or less the same as on Who’s Afraid (I don’t have the song lengths at hand, but supposedly ‘Snapshot’ is a whole minute longer on here, not that it really matters), so count this as, what, a review of one remix, one variation, and three additional tracks. The resulting picture, of course, is fuller than the 1984 album, so Daft – available in print – makes for a perfect introduction to the early Art Of Noise sound. And since that’s all that is needed for the review, let me just ramble on for a few seconds about the essence of this sound…

I guess it’s fairly easy to suppose that the original band did not include mass adoption of their ‘music’ into their possible plans. I mean, heck, even today this particular brand of sampling looks like it belongs alongside Centre Pompidou-style modern art or sumpthin’. Yet somehow, where Centre Pompidou-style modern art still has nothing more than obscure – and questionable – museum value, the music that these quirky guys pioneered was quicky adapted by the masses just as, say, Kraftwerk’s oeuvres were rendered accessible and popular with the upcoming of synth-pop.

If anything, it just goes to show how there’s really just a tiny step between the “mainstream” and the “alternative” (or “inaccessible”, “elitist”, whatever). Heck, you think prog-era Genesis are for the select few? Well, how’s about Styx and Journey popularizing ’em? Einsturzende Neubauten may be unlistenable to the common ear, but dress their clanging up into just a wee bit more melodic kind of clothing and you have Depeche Mode. The difference is just so goddamn flimsy in so many cases that any attempts to build a firewall between the two opposites seems kind of ridiculous to me.
Sorry for the rant.

The album’s called Daft anyway, so if you think I’m an idiot, that would fit in quite naturally, wouldn’t it?

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May 29, 2013 - Posted by | Art Of Noise Daft |

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