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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Art of Noise July 9, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.


Was there ever a group that managed to combine chart success with avant-garde experimentation in the way that Art of Noise did? Probably not, is the answer. And were there ever more unlikely roots for a project that would in a way signpost the future of much of mid to late 1980s music to date? Again, probably not. For Art of Noise was born/constructed in the unlikely cradle/crucible of a Yes album – 90125. They share a clear lineage through, Trevor Horn’s crisp production – and 90125 is worth further examination too as a strange musical artefact.

Here’s a group that at the time I had…well no time for, until I actually listened to it and realised what a strange artefact it was. Trevor Horn and Anne Dudley must take  responsibility for this. Her aesthetic and his combined in a peerless high gloss production where every sound is absurdly clear, where stereo itself becomes another instrument. Conceived almost as a prank AON rapidly outgrew those intentions turning into something that developed real weight.

And did I mention its pop heart, because that sits at the heart of this endeavour. Great slabs of sound.

Paul Morley became an integral part of the group despite contributing next to nothing musically, his scribbled manifesto’s leaning heavily on Factory records before them, all cod-situationism, but weirdly apposite in Britain in the mid-1980s where facade became more important than reality at certain levels (or perhaps, more accurately, preferable to reality). So they cultivated a New Order like facelessness, and projected themselves with a Peter Saville like retro-classicism. But where New Order was behind the artless anonymity all about emotion AON seemed to offer a very studied detachment from real emotion.

Its very artificiality is probably what repelled me initially and attracted me subsequently. It is in a very real sense post-modern, knowingly winking at the audience while simultaneously dragging them in to engage with something close to a facade of emotion, meaning and so on.

As to the music… from A Time To Fear (Who’s Afraid) with its samples of radio transmissions culled from the invasion of Grenada by US forces in the early 1980s to Moments in Love with its seemingly straightforward romanticism that slowly, slowly turns into something else there’s so much here. Sampled voices, breathing, orchestral stabs, keyboard runs and found snippets of jazz. Beat Box (Diversion One) channels a warped rock and roll riff. Dudley later recounted how the technology of the period itself – unbelievably primitive at this remove – determined much of the sound being only able to utilise very short snippets of sound. In total it’s passing strange. Peter Gunn which somehow manages to bridge surf rock with early 1980s avant garde and works too.

I always think of Propaganda when I listen to them, again for the Trevor Horn connection, and Dollar’s Mirror Mirror (which is an under appreciated classic of its kind) and Frankie Goes to Hollywood – although in the latter instance the sound was grittier – sort of.

I’m never quite sure whether this is music more to be admired than to be loved, and yet, there’s something about that previously mentioned pop heart that still gets me. Genius.

A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid)

Close (to the Edit)

Moments in Love

Peter Gunn

Beat Box Version 1

Whose Afraid (Of the Art of Noise)


1. This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Art of Noise — The Cedar Lounge Revolution – Engineer Marine Skipper - July 9, 2016

[…] via This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Art of Noise — The Cedar Lounge Revolution […]


2. Aonrud ⚘ - July 9, 2016

I’ve only ever properly got to know the Seduction of Claude Debussy, which is altogether later. I’ve always loved the introduction though. “Imagine an actor saying the following”, and in comes John Hurt’s deep voice, “Imagine me saying the following”. It’s a great way to open an album 🙂

Liked by 1 person

Starkadder - July 10, 2016

I also liked the John Hurt piece at the start, although TSOCD didn’t really grab me.

For many years I thought there was an “Arthur” in the band and that was the source of their name (I didn’t they got it from Luigi Russolo until years later).

They actually did two songs about Robinson Crusoe * ,and this
is my fav of the two, “Crusoe”:

* Rather like OMD’s Joan of Arc fixation.


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