The revival in interest in early electronic music produces an awkward paradox. Salisbury
From Veronica Vasicka’s ‘Minimal Waves’ series to the forgotten proto-house classics
loved by the UK bass scene and the legacy of industrial revived by Carter Tutti Void, it’s an
eternal summer of early ’80s retromania
Geoff Barrow and BBC composer Ben Salisbury encapsulate that
with this imagined soundtrack for the 2000AD comic. A vintage Oberheim Two Voice synthesiser
dystopian grid-eyed world of Judge Dredd.
revival is partly a fan fetish, ‘Drokk’ has an authentic commitment that can’t be knocked.
Only Damon Albarn. Only he could create an album as self-interesting and openly obscure as
one about Dr John Dee – an Elizabethan mathematician, polymath and advisor to the Queen, born 1527.
Only Albarn could make it tinto an operatic
production (his second) and present it to the English National Opera for this
summer’s Cultural Olympiad. Only Albarn could get an 18-track record of choral singing,
medieval instruments and a whole load of “hey nonny nonny” released by a major record label.
with his eclectic (often) genius and prolific output has come total carte blanche.
gleefully grab the past and tweak it so that it appears externally fresh bodied.
A different ship for a familiar cargo, this record sails a safe path that
doesn’t end up near any rocks.
Albarn himself refers to this music as “strange pastoral folk”, which is at least accurate,
English hills and dales materialised for the rise and fall of Dee, as the album begins and of birds nattering. Dee died in poverty, by the
way, having mucked about with séances and
wife-swapping. Like the continual references to
religion (Dee, like all Elizabethan’s, was never far
from matters of God), it’s all here, I’m sure.
Although to really be aware of that you’ll need
to not constantly be questioning what on earth
to make of Albarn’s latest anti-popular record.
On one hand, his defiance to create anything
other than what he wants at this stage in his
career is as valiant as it is daft; on the other,
sparse and splintered, you can’t be sure that ‘Dr
Dee’ makes for good opera either.
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