Thursday, 13 May 2010

Review: JOHN FOXX - MY LOST CITY


"My Lost City" is a collection of pieces recorded by John Foxx in his Shoreditch studio, "The Garden" during the timeframe of 1981 to 1985. These recordings lay forgotten in storage and gathering dust over a twenty year period until the latter part of 2008 when they were "rescued" and prepared for release. Other than some seemingly minor retro-spective re-mixing, this material is presented as it was - raw analogue musical sketchings of a time when parts of London, and in particular Shoreditch, the area in which Foxx had his studio, were like abandoned ghost-towns, replete with derelict buildings and deserted streets. To quote John Foxx:

I hadn't listened to the recordings that are being released as the My Lost City album since they were made, over twenty years ago. When I played them I was struck by the way they evoke a time and a place - and how I d been unaware of this when they were made. Then they seemed like fragments, unfinished and unsatisfying. A stop on the way to somewhere else. Now they seem like a time capsule discovered from under the streets. Made by someone else. Like an old radio tuned into a long gone station. Curious psychic electricals, crackling distantly from the speakers. They were recorded in East London. Back then, Shoreditch and Spitalfields were abandoned, dark and forgotten, yet only a step away from the City of London, the country s financial dynamo. I built a studio in the basement of an old Edwardian department store trees growing from the upper storeys when we moved in. I remember trying to make connections in this little laboratory between synthesizers and hymns and cities, churches, electricity and memory.

John Foxx is a master of ambience and tone-poetry, like some kind of audio alchemist, he brews electronic atmospheres, ambient washes and meaningful riffs that long ago put him on a par with the likes of Brian Eno. This was so ably demonstrated with the sublime "Cathedral Oceans" series and the collabaoration with Harold Budd - within this framework, "My Lost City" is no exception.

Merging the borders of electronica and ambience, Foxx paints a picture of that lost time before the re-development of London's East end, his passion for places and his sensitivity to everything around him act as sonic brushstrokes providing detail over simplistic and minimal ambient backdrops - his trademark use of dense and extended reverberation comes to the fore here, showing the pathways that would ultimately lead to the "Cathedral Oceans" albums. Each piece is a small piece of art in it's own right, sometimes delicate, sometimes mournful, sometimes desolate, but each conveying the sense of an urban snapshot. The music suggests a deep-rooted spiritual aspect; the monophonic unaccompanied melody lines that seem to be free rather than measured, dowsed in lengthy reverberations and the ensuing resonant modes that create naturally conceived harmonies, relate without question Anglican plainsong. The influence of medieval choral composers such as Thomas Tallis, John Taverner (not to confused with modern-day composer, Sir John Taverner) and William Byrd shine through when Foxx layers his voice which carries an ethereal air with it's almost sacred chanting in Latin.

John Foxx has often cited J.G. Ballard with the latters' written images of dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments, as an influence in his work, and "My Lost City" provides further evidence of this with titles such as "Hidden Assembly", "Hawksmoor Orbital" and "City Of Disappearances". The urban atmospheres of the pieces, alongside the liturgical ambiences, give the listener a sense of displacement with an underlying and often inconsistent vein of hope.

All in all, "My Lost City" is one man's musical snapshot of a place in time now past. This album is replete with floating and rising synthesizer patterns, heavily reverberated vocal chanting, electronics that almost flutter and synthesised church organs. It is also something of an historical roadmap to future projects, s kind of evolutionary stepping stone from the time of "Metamatic" and "The Garden". It's also an important addition to the John Foxx time-line, showing where he had been, but also where he was about to go.

Track Listing:
01. Imperfect Hymn
02. Holywell Lane
03. Magnetic Fields
04. Just Passing Through
05. Barbican Brakhage
06. Hidden Assembly
07. Hawksmoor Oribital
08. Piranesi Motorcade
09. City Of Disappearances
10. Umbra Sumus
11. Scene 27 - Intro To The Voice Behind The Wallpaper, Trellick Tower 3am

Catalogue Number: META21CD
Release Date: 23rd February 2009
Label: Metamatic Records

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