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Art Of Noise In Visible Silence (1986)


No Trevor Horn? Well, what’s in a name but a little-known Yes member who couldn’t even turn an album like Drama into a timeless masterpiece.

Turns out that Dudley & Co. can function as a functional function even without their spiritual mentor. There have been made subtle changes, though. And the subtlest change is the most painful: they don’t sound nearly as.. uhh… juvenile on this record. It’s darker and denser and at times, it’s fuckin’ serious. And it’s just not as captivating to hear an avantgarde record that takes itself seriously as hearing an avantgarde record that just goofs around with you.

If only for the reason that there’s way too many records that fall into the former category and way too few that fall into the latter. Still, it’s a good album, and as every good album, it grows on you from the minute you have firmly established that this just might be a good album. The big temptation about it was the single ‘Peter Gunn’, released at the same time and featuring Duane Eddy himself on guitar. Actually playing, not just sampled, unless I’ve got something wrong.

It was, of course, an excellent choice, and today, along with ‘Close To The Edit’, it just might be the most “quotable” AON track of all time. Eddy’s basic guitar riff is, of course, used as the spine for all the usual AON gimmicks – synth loops, electronic drums, sampled effects a-plenty and hilarious dum-dum-dumming vocals. Perhaps the most telling moment is when they actually try to reproduce the melody with a sequence of their favourite sound – that of the automobile engine revving up! That moment just got to be heard. And for the diehards, this new CD edition that I am reviewing actually adds an extended six-minute version of the track as a bonus (with Eddie muttering ‘oh you don’t think I should do one more?’ midway through).

However, great fun as it is, ‘Peter Gunn’ just isn’t very typical of the rest of this album – in terms of atmosphere, it hearkens back to the debut, and the only thing that it has in common with the rest of In Visible Silence is that it’s much more of a compact musical performance than any of the early numbers. Only the opening track – ‘Opus 4’ – is “anti-musical” (just a bunch of overdubbed Dudley vocals sounding occasionally not unlike a stoned Beach Boys outtake from the Smile sessions); most of the rest not only have rhythms, but actually melodies. And they’re much more openly danceable, too. In fact, ‘Paranoimia’ definitely has a disco glitz to it, although, of course, a weird one.

Keeping up with the tradition, much of the album’s second side is given over to ‘Camilla – The Old Old Story’, a moody, half-ambient (but rhythmic) instrumental that looks like the yonger sister of ‘Moments In Love’. In fact, it’s almost as good as ‘Moments In Love’, but lacks the major hook of that monster, and the 10cc/’I’m Not In Love’ connection turns out way too strong (those deep hushed vocals singing gibberish I can’t decipher are hardly a coincidence).

And then there’s ‘Instruments Of Darkness’, another huge epic that more or less matches its name – it is dark, starting from the ominous overdubbed political commentary throughout and ending with the sometimes almost Wagnerian “orchestral” whomps and swooshes. Maybe a ‘Hey! Hey!’ or a ‘can I say something?’ would help somehow alleviate the atmosphere, but instead of that, we only get proto-Rammstein yells of ‘come on!’.

If we prefer to speak in terms of catchiness, the best song after ‘Peter Gunn’ would have to be ‘Legs’ – an almost mainstreamish synth-popper… then again, wait a minute, I keep forgetting that at this time Art Of Noise pretty much were mainstream, right? Weren’t they supposed to be selling out the electronic underground and all? Well, on ‘Legs’ they’re doing it nifty fine, and it’s a terrible pity that so few Eighties’ synth-poppers bothered to study their approach – with numerous overdubs, diverse keyboard tones, and repetitiveness based on cyclic development rather than on… well, on repetitiveness.

There’s a whole slew of catchy moments on ‘Legs’, and the biggest problem is you’re gonna have to fish them out, just like you have to fish out the best 10cc hooks off their classic records – there’s just so many of them they can’t bring themselves to repeat them more than a couple times.

‘Backbeat’, in the meantime, rises to almost epic heights at times – it’s definitely ambitious, what with all the Quadrophenia-like synthesizers giving the track epic (or mock-epic) majesty it probably doesn’t deserve, but, to give them their due, they never really sound pretentious. You know, after all, that it’s all just one big quote, and that if sometimes the synthesizers swirl around in pseudo-violin phrases that really belong on ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, this is totally intentional. (The band’s Who fetish is pretty interesting, actually – remember the ‘Baba O’Riley’ sample? Hmm, could it be a masked tribute to Pete Townshend as one of the big “electronic sample” innovators of the early Seventies?).

All in all, the “Hornless band” are still going strong, but whereas that earlier 12 was afforded by me out of true inner devotion, this here 11 is afforded rather out of respect and curiosity (plus there’s ‘Peter Gunn’). That said, I can see where serious fans of AON and similar music could prefer this over the debut – provided they actually respect their idols more when they’re serious. Because, honestly, these are no longer naughty kids messing around with their dad’s electronic toys.

These are stern conceptual artists making some kind of point (although it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of point). And since I honestly believe that this kind of music is at its best when it’s openly silly, well, you get me drift here. ‘Peter Gunn’ is silly, so I love it. ‘Instruments Of Darkness’ ain’t silly, so I… uhh… feel it’s sorta respectable.

But really, this is a good album.

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Art Of Noise In Visible Silence | | Leave a comment