Album Reviews

John Foxx & Steve D’Agostino – Evidence Of Time Travel

(Metamatic) UK release date: 6 October 2014

John Foxx & Steve D'Agostino - Evidence Of Time Travel Even if you’ve not heard of John Foxx before now, you’ve almost certainly heard him. Foxx had his hands in a number of projects over his four decade career in music production, including Tiger Lily and Ultravox, the latter of which became one of the most famous new wave bands of the ’70s/’80s. He’s also worked as a graphic artist and educator, and for a while had left the music industry to pursue these careers before returning to create works of experimental electronica and scores to short films, such as the simultaneously released B-Movie (Ballardian Video Soundtrack). Evidence Of Time Travel was made with Steve D’Agostino, with whom Foxx has oft collaborated, and was produced alongside an identically-titled experimental film by visual artist Karborn.

Evidence Of Time Travel was entirely produced via vintage analogue synthesizers and a drum machine. It harkens back to old computerized music experiments of the early digital age, such as those found on the Manhattan Research Inc. compilation of Raymond Scott compositions. Some tracks are influenced by industrial music, especially the jackhammer beats of Surgical Precision.

There’s little in the sense of melody here; a lot of the work is intensely abstract, not unlike Stygian Stride. The Tearing Sound Of Smiling has Arthur Krieger (perhaps best known as the source of the clicks and whirrs on Radiohead’s Idioteque) written all over it, down to the almost imperceptible song structure and audible computer distortion. The angular nature of the songs is a little jarring at first to listeners who may be used to Foxx’s ’90s output that was further in the ambient/New Age spectrum, but they grow over time. Rhapsody In Flames is straight up creepy in a lovely, engrossing way.

But, sadly, Evidence Of Time Travel can’t help but sound like a release that is several decades behind the times. These kinds of works were pioneered in modern classical compositions via Ilhan Mimaroglu’s Agony and John Cage’s Fontana Mix; the sounds on Foxx and D’Agostino’s works simply don’t hold up to their electronic music predecessors. Brian Eno & Karl Hyde’s collaboration for Someday World was similarly disappointing.

The clicks and cuts here aren’t sonically derivative, but they do fail to stand the test of time in comparison to other artists, and even to Foxx’s older works such as Cathedral Oceans and Metamatics. Foxx and D’Agostino feel constrained by pop song structures here when surrealism wishes to rule; Who Could Resist A Twisted Kiss (there’s your next album title, Morrissey) is lacking its industrial spaciousness simply by conforming a little too close to standard tempos. The choice of compressed production for the drum machine was ill-advised: the percussion is certainly interesting, but the product is bland, as on Impenetrable Inevitable. The two are at their strongest when the ideas run free, as on closing track Empty Clothing Blows Across A Beach, which demonstrates Evidence Of Time Travel’s diverse sonic palette.

Evidence Of Time Travel is missing its video and accompanying art, that’s the long and short of it. Karborn’s expository artwork and more information about the project may be found here; the sound sculptures of The Forbidden Experiment and Rhapsody In Flames simply make more sense when viewed under the context of the whole project. Evidence Of Time Travel is devoid of cues. That’s all fine and dandy in the world of minimalistic music, but that doesn’t appear to be Foxx and D’Agostino’s goal here.

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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