Becoming a work of art in his own right, the new record by heretical futurist and ultrasonic androgyne Art d’Ecco, dips into the glam rock cauldron to produce a compellingly vivid montage of erotic joie de vivre and postmodern ennui. Frothing fountains of bejewelled synth and kick drum embellish the glamorous ballads and provocatively hammy anthems of In Standard Definition, offering escapism from the lumpen brutishness so beloved by the colourless modern day indie rock scene. Beneath the corny flamboyance and exaggerated phrasing lies an album of killer tunes that may be mannered to within an inch of its life, but are crammed full of wit and bravado.
His revisionist myth making all means that he has all but excluded his first album Day Fevers, with its sullen Anton Corbijn aping cover art, from his discography, instead claiming 2018’s Trespasser as his debut statement of intent, much as David Bowie fans claim Space Oddity to be the start of his career, eradicating what came before. And indeed that album proved a turning point for his aesthetic, visually and musically. Submerged in the hyperbole of early ’70s rock ‘n’ roll, his high gloss, lipstick smudged persona blossomed into a heightened conceptual mannequin for the millennial demi-monde.
Embracing the arch pronunciation so beloved by the Mael brothers of Sparks, d’Ecco flippantly declares on first track Desires that he’s not in control of his urges, that he wants the spotlight to glow upon him once more, and he lets those impulses run riot over the track as it phases in and out of the speakers. The innuendos return on TV God as he channels his inner Iggy Pop cavorting on the Sunset Strip. Cathode rays flicker as he poses and struts, fulfilling a dream of being some inverted cross dressing small screen deity. Predicated on the idea that we are all susceptible to the channel hopping allure of banal entertainment, on the enthusiastic sax led stomper Bird Of Prey he warns of the dangers of addiction and self destruction.
On the glimmering metallic downer Nothing Ever Changes, d’Ecco’s quirky vocals start to recall Suede’s Brett Anderson, circa Animal Nitrate. Displaying a knowledge and fondness for all things Tony Visconti, Brian Eno and Bowie related, and intended as a concept album about television, there are two instrumental interludes, Channel 7 (Pilot Season) and Channel 11 (Reruns) that hark back to the ambient breaks in the Berlin Trilogy. D’Ecco’s producer of choice for this record was Colin Stewart, whose analogue warmth has elevated albums by Destroyer and Black Mountain. Assembled in Stewart’s Canadian studio The Hive, d’Ecco’s songwriting has been brought to the fore, his anti-monochromatic get up providing the ideal conduit for him to channel some energy from his musical heroes in their numerous manifestations.
In her 1964 essay Notes On Camp, author Susan Sontag claimed that “Camp taste turns its back on the good-bad axis of ordinary aesthetic judgment. Camp doesn’t reverse things. It doesn’t argue that good is bad or that bad is good. What it does is offer for art (and life) a different – supplementary- set of standards”. And so, with In Standard Definition, Art d’Ecco gives us an 8k experience for a black and white world.