I was very excited to receive the new album from John Foxx and the Maths this week from the kind people at Metamatic. Its called Interplay and is the result of a collaboration between Foxx and Benge the artist behind 2008's Twenty Systems album.
Benge's studio is home to an amazing collection of analogue synths and other antique gear, and its this incredible array of equipment that provides the rich sounding backbone to this album. I'd be the last person in the world to deny that recapturing the warmth of analogue studio sounds and tape is still something of a holy grail in the modern studio, but its an irony that modern digital recording techniques capture the fullness of analogue oscillator sounds far better than could be done when they were cutting edge technology. Don't even bother listening to this record on ear buds - turn it up on your dad's proper hi-fi and prepare to have your trousers or skirts flapped. I have no problem at all with the "vintage" presets of the fun little plastic synths that parp and poop away in a lot of contemporary electro pop, (indeed I have been known to do some plastic pooping myself) but its always instructive to be reminded of the gap between cheap emulation and heavy reality.
In places Interplay harks back to Foxx's first solo album, the classic Metamatic - especially the tracks Running Man and Watching A Building on Fire (which features Ladyton's Mira Aroyo). As well as the stark Ballardian worlds of Metamatic there are hints here of the dreamlike mysteries of The Garden (for example on Summerland) and the romantic glories of the The Golden Section (especially on The Good Shadow).
However, this is by no means part of the 80s road show come back brigade biz though. On one hand this is because Foxx was never very mainstream in the first place and on the other, because those of us who have always followed his career know that his output has been continuous, varied and endlessly (foxx fan ref there) creative. There is freshness and continuity here in equal measure, just as there is both analogue noise and great pop music.
Obviously I'm a big fan and at the risk of making this review seem even more partisan, I'll share the news with you that Jon Brooks (of The Advisory Circle) and I (of Belbury Poly) will be collaborating with John Foxx on a few tracks, for a project that will see the light of day on Ghost Box sometime in 2012. Yeah I know !
Here's an interview with Mr.Foxx and a little nose around Benge's studio courtesy of Electric Independence.
With my thanks to Steve at Metamatic.