Album Reviews

John Foxx – B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica)

(Metamatic) UK release date: 6 October 2014

John Foxx - B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica) From Death Grips’ The Fever (Aye Aye) to the just plain awesome Lady Gaga’s Telephone, the artistic relationship between contemporary music and film is often an avenue of collaboration between filmmakers and musicians. John Foxx follows in this tradition; earlier this year, he teamed up with visual artist Karborn to create a short experimental film titled Ballardian Video Neuronica. Foxx now releases the album under his own name, titled B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica), with 18 tracks split into two different sets.

B-Movie comprises the cut-up/sound collage work of early experimental producers and Foxx’s patented analogue synthesizer sound. Geometry, Collision, and Coincidence; Velocity Logic; Crash Course; and Disaster Beat are comparatively orthodox tracks, which more semblance of beat and melody than the Dada-esque The Other Side and Obscene Chemistry. The synthesis actually works quite well, with Geometry, Collision, and Coincidence being the choicest cut – and to no surprise either, considering Foxx collaborated with fellow John Foxx And The Maths conspirator Benge.

Velocity Logic, in particular, has a pseudo-dubstep vibe in the sheer intensity of the high-frequency synths and slow but pounding bass. The six minute closer, The Other Side, begins with a series of church bell ringing and then slips into a dreamlike piano composition with soft noise flourishes. However, one persistent problem is the lack of percussion quality that a lot of the tracks have: in particular, Disaster Series is heavily compressed with little of the diversification of sounds present before. Everything sounds very clipped and compressed, which can totally be an attractive concept in analogue synth music, but here it just doesn’t quite work out. Crash Course more successfully does that aesthetic.

But there’s one problem, one fatal flaw that kills the experience: the only actual difference between the two halves is that the first is mixed together in one continuous piece and the second is the individual, non-mixed tracks. That’s it. The second set is literally the exact same set of songs, sans conjunctions. There’s nothing here that warrants that kind of release strategy: it’s not like this is a limited release with a bunch of new, improved, never-before-seen demos of a classic album. Yes, there are usually some pretty major differences between mixed and unmixed versions of DJ mixtapes or live series (eg. the Trax Records or Fabric Live compilations), but that’s not B-Movie’s modus operandi. Copying and pasting your tracklist doesn’t make your album longer. Why Foxx didn’t release the first half and just include Dashboard Melt as a bonus track is rather bemusing to behold.

Thankfully, the price range is that of a single album. So just listen to the first half that was actually part of the film, and tack Dashboard Melt onto the end. That brings B-Movie down from a 53-minute release to just under a half hour. It’s still irritating though, as consumers are expected to either purchase the entire album to make that edit, or buy each track as separate digital downloads. And if the choice is the latter, then consumers might as well just stick to the longer four or five cuts instead of paying eight pounds for its entirety. With the exception of The Other Side, the experimental tracks are all extremely short, so B-Movie is basically six tracks that are sold as 18.

The actual film is available for streaming free on Vimeo, and it’s highly recommended both for the context of the music and because it’s an enjoyable, fun experimental film, and the soundtrack is decent. A better idea would’ve been to just release the film soundtrack and not the unmixed versions, as they’re basically glorified – yet unaltered – demos. Give the music a listen and certainly give the film a watch, but don’t pay for the whole release unless you’re dead-set on having two of everything.

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More on John Foxx
John Foxx And The Maths – Howl
John Foxx – B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica)
John Foxx & Steve D’Agostino – Evidence Of Time Travel
John Foxx And The Maths – Evidence
John Foxx And The Maths: “We don’t want any pastiches. I’m far too old for nostalgia” – Interview