The Art of Noise: A Slow Beat to China
11th May 2017
Title: In Visible Silence
Label: Warner Music
Some music fans might see Trevor Horn as the Buggle who killed the video star or the struggling Jon Anderson replacement as the cracked voice of prog band Yes or the ambitious ZTT label owner or the chap who unleashed Frankie Goes to Hollywood/Grace Jones/ABC onto the frightened masses or – for the nerds out there – the young backing vocalist to tiny, teeny popster, Tina Charles: he was all of those things. More than that, though, his full unofficial title was this: ‘Trevor Horn – Techno Porn’. Unofficial because I’ve just made it up. Nevertheless, it was true. Our Trev just adored early samplers.
Back in the early 80s, Horn held a band of creative geniuses (geniuii?) in his back pocket or, more likely, locked in the back room with nothing to eat but Pot Noodles. In that room, struggling to escape the freeze dried hell, were Anne Dudley (arranger), Gary Langan (engineer), programmer J.J. Jeczalik and Paul Morley (journalist), a sort of Trevor Horn studio band who would form a techno-pop group that was just as Porny as Horny as they dabbled with synths, beats, tape splicing and other studio pizazz. The group formed The Art of Noise and art was their forte. Even more than the attractive images on their LP covers, the art from the group was about the blending of musical genres, combing the new (technologies) with the old (musical genres) to create a level of music that was almost reverentially intellectual.
Horn sat as the producer behind the four during the band’s early years at ZTT. After the release of their debut, (Who’s Afraid Of) The Art of Noise! Horn and Morley left the scene and the rest released this album, In Visible Silence on China in 1986 featuring the singles Paranoimia, Legs and the multi-award winning Peter Gunn featuring Duane Eddy.
The group seemed to roam in all directions at once with this release, exploring a range of styles in a sort of ‘kiddie opening presents on Christmas morning’-kinda way. That is, the group seemed to approach this LP with a child-like delight and the results showed in both the sprawling nature of the content and the almost ‘hopping from one foot to the other while pressing random buttons’ approach to the song-writing. What it might lack in focus and consideration, the album made up in terms of fun.
This 2CD edition includes the remastered original album (from the original tapes) plus the original A-sides and B-sides from the LP including Hoops and Mallets (first time on CD, folks) plus an unreleased version of Backbeat. The second disc features 11 previously unreleased tracks from the album sessions, the first time that any outtake material has ever been released from The Art of Noise. There’s a host of 12” mixes too. There’s also a hidden track/message from the band.
In mastering terms, apart from the slight digital edge from the CD itself plus a touch of compression across the upper frequencies, the remastering has been pretty successful with no offensive stridency, midrange smearing or bass bloom. Tonally, the music is admirably balanced with enough dynamic range to express a host of incisive detail.
Expect more reissue album releases like this in the near future.