Sunday, August 8, 2010

A is for Beginning - Influence by Art of Noise

If you're a fan of Art of Noise, you owe it to yourself to get their recently released anthology, Influence.  If you're a rabid fan, you probably have it already.  This 2 CD set features 19 previously released but recently reworked tracks than span their complete career and 20 unreleased experiments. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with AoN's work, I'm not sure how to describe it.  Dubbed into one of the tracks on Influence is someone describing them by saying "they nobly attempt stupidly impossible things."  For a less abstract description of their work, I'll borrow Anne Dudley's words from the 36 page booklet included with Influence.  " could be anything you wanted it to be - a collage - a scrapbook - jump cutting between styles."  "I can hear the freshness - the joy of experimentation - the inspiration of a sound sample that takes you places you didn't expect to go - the 'mistakes' that open yet more doors."

The first CD (The A Side) of released tracks goes beyond a compilation.  All these tunes have been taken apart, broken down, cleaned-up and remixed.  After all, when your oeuvre consists of experimentation and sampling, it wouldn't do to simply release a "best of."  In particular, Paranoimia (The Paranoid Mix) featuring Max Headroom is particularly well done (redone?) with Max's vocals slowed down in places to near imperceptibility.  At the same time, a new drum track drives the song forward with a renewed energy.

The second CD (The AA Side) opens the door on some of AoN's in-studio experimentation with several tracks that feature multiple takes of the same vocal line or alternate vocals back to back to back.  I'm tempted to compare the work to Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (another personal fave), but there are vast differences.   Eno and Byrne build a coherent song around a single bit of "found" vocals, usually recorded off radio.  But AoN's work weaves multiple styles and samples into a song, albeit one that's nonlinear in its jumps.

That is not to say that AoN's work lacks melody.  Influence begins with perhaps their most well-known song: Moments in Love, and ends with a variation thereupon, The Invention of Love.  Their music is fun and wonderfully so and Influence is a fitting tribute.

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