Glimmer: The Best Of
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Originally a child intellectual John Foxx subsequently joined the Royal College of Art before forming legendary outfit Ultravox. After 3 albums he went solo in 1979 forming his own label (Metal Beat) for the purpose. He continues to work in the arts to this day and recently performed his debut solo album (Metamatic) in it’s entirety at the ICA, Bestival and other key dates in the UK. This selection put together by John draws from his entire solo career.
· A comprehensive 2CD retrospective featuring original hit’s, demo’s and alternate versions.
· The most comprehensive overview of his career to date.
· Compilation and sleevenotes by John Foxx.
|| ||No-One Driving|
|| ||Quiet City|
|| ||Twilight's Last Gleaming|
|| ||Sunset Rising|
|| ||Cities Of Light|
|| ||Europe After The Rain|
|| ||Hiroshima Mon Amour|
|| ||The Garden|
|| ||Through My Sleeping|
|| ||My Sex|
|| ||He's A Liquid|
|| ||Car Crash Flashback|
|| ||Dancing Like A Gun|
|| ||Just For A Moment|
|| ||Burning Car|
|| ||Miles Away|
|| ||Stepping Sideways|
|| ||Free Robot|
|| ||No-One Driving (Early Version)|
|| ||Plaza (Extended Version)|
|| ||Burning Car (Version)|
The original lead singer of Ultravox, John Foxx left the band to become a pioneering synth musician in his own right. He released four acclaimed albums for Virgin, all of which are now reissued in remastered, expanded two-CD editions with previously-unreleased bonus tracks by Edsel. Sister label Music Club Deluxe hoovers up hits, demos and alternate versions for its own double-disc set, which was compiled by Foxx himself. Quirky, original and enjoyable.
Mojo, December 08
Imperious 2CD career retrospective of the electro maverick.
Having spent the past three decades as a sort of low-level cult act, John Foxx has been able to do just about anything he wanted, without the pressure of having to appease a record company. As a result he’s pretty much stayed in the same place, his love for and continued surprise at the potential of primitive drum machines and synths remaining at the core of a lifelong work. The more recent songs selected here, such as Cities Of Light 5 and Quiet City from 2001, and 2007’s Car Crash Flashback V2 (both in collaboration with Louis Gordon), show that same fear of/fascination with modern life first exhibited back in 1980 on the record which defines him, Metamatic. Songs culled from that album – including Plaza, Underpass and He’s A Liquid – still exhibited a haughty menace rarely achieved by his electro contemporaries.
Art Rocker, November 08
Let’s start as we mean to go on. John Foxx was ousted as frontman of 70s electro-punks Ultravox! before they reasserted themselves as electro-popsters who captured the golden electronic dreams of New Romantics in the early 1980s. Foxx’s incarnation was jerky and uncomfortable as a pair of tight pointy suede boots, a strange razor balance between Bowie and Kraftwerk, a wavering rope bridge between Roxy and Iggy. More influential on post-punk than you’d care to realise, what with their fangled keyboards and jazzed up haircuts and all that. His solo career, although slightly overshadowed by that of fellow alien and Balladeer Gary Newman, carved out some stunningly bleak pieces of voltage hum, static click and, damn yer eyes, pre-techno. This collection accompanies the reissue of related early albums and offers insight into the twilight zone of Foxx’s imagination, a sparsely populated world of dystopian nightmare, super-saturated science fiction and the occasional repetitive twinkle. Ambience, beats, textures, minimalism, robotic funk, electropop. Whatever may be in yer bag for life, if it crackles and pops feel free to add this alienated synthetic futurism, although listeners should be wary of the EuroPlop influences on later material.
Uncut, December 08
Solo survey of the original Ultravox man
A photographer, filmmaker, writer and graphic artist, Foxx perhaps isn’t as desperate to have his underrated early electronica albums rehabilitated as fans (like, say, Klaxons) might imagine. Any excavation of these glacial, prescient albums is certainly welcome, though. The earliest of these reissues, 1981’s The Garden, is airily atmospheric, while The Golden Section has psychedelic undertows and In Mysterious Ways feels staunchly romantic. A fine compendium of Foxx’s work, Glimmer is given additional gravitas by his post-Ultravox reworkings of some of the band’s best songs: his swooning “Hiroshima Mon Amour” strips the original bare, yet matches its intensity.
Q, December 08
John Foxx declined an invitation to front an early incarnation of The Clash before forming the hugely influential Ultravox in the late ‘70s. Glimmer: The Best Of John Foxx focuses on his early solo career, the icy, Kraftwerk-inspired electronica of classic 1980 single Underpass a model of cinical art-rock perfection.
www.remembertheeighties.com, November 08
With an Ultravox reunion imminent, it goes without saying that without Midge Ure there would have been no 'Vienna', but without John Foxx there would be no Ultravox. The founding and forgotten member has released Glimmer, a best of collections featuring some Ultravox tracks, solo material, collaborations and rarities.
The opening title track is a haunting film score type, instrumental, but it's not until the trilogy of songs from his debut solo album Metamatic that we hear the pioneering sound that Foxx was influential in creating in the late 70s.
'No One Driving' and 'Underpass' sound like the same song while 'Plaza' is reminiscent to 'Enola Gay' but with better lyrics 'I remember your face from some shattered windscreen' sings Foxx. 'Dislocation' from the third Ultravox album sound s Bowie-ish while 'Twilight Last Gleaming is vocally similar to Andy McCluskey, probably due to the fact that they shared the same producer Mike Howlett.
The best track on here is another of the old Ultravox singles 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' (from Ha! Ha! Ha!). A five-minute masterpiece of pleasant music mixed with drum machines that show Foxx was definitely well ahead of his time.
The second disc isn't as strong, but it does have 'My Sex' from the debut Ultravox album, which opens with a gorgeous electric piano and continues with Foxx sounding cyborg-ish throughout with several spoken quotes, including 'my sex…spark of electro flesh'. Very deep and mythical, while 'Burning Car' is the other standout track on this great collection. There's certainly a mix of Gary Numan and Kraftwerk diluted amongst these tracks, and for the die-hard fans there's an early version of 'No One Driving', an extended version of 'Plaza' and some other remixes.
While Midge Ure and Ultravox will receive all the applause and media publicity headlines, it's worth remembering that it was John Foxx who put the oxx in Ultravox, and like Syd Barrett with Pink Floyd, was creating something that would bear fruit long after his initial input. Foxx deserves his 15 minutes of fame again and Glimmer is an essential album for anyone excited about the Ultravox reunion.
Classic Rock, December 08
‘The Numan it was cool to like’
For those of us who ended the 70s dressed in European grey poncing about like a bunch of nanas, pretending to be in some bleak French art film, it was John Foxx and late Ultravox who really articulated the fashionable romantic despair of the times. Although a pioneer of electronic music on the still-astonishing Metamatic, Foxx was at heart a northern romantic and this compilation charts a course from the proto-industrial Ballardian Plaza and No-One Driving, through tracks from The Garden like Europe After The Rain, through to the more recent remixes and collaborations ranging from ambient composer Harold Budd to Dubterror/Karborn.
www.musicomh.com, December 08
Since what we loosely term as the 'summer of love' of 1988, the stock of John Foxx has grown considerably. Cited often as an influence by peddlers of such machines as the 303 and the 808, the electronic pioneer does of course have far more on his CV.
Right now though he's in the studio, preparing some videos for live performance. Even though the event is less than a day away, he seems relaxed.
"We're just editing some videos for a show tomorrow, and have just finished the editing of The Quiet Man," he says.
So how does he intend to perform? He considers briefly. "There's a grand piano that I'll be playing, and a synthesizer also. I think it's alright to be using the two, and since I've been working with Harold Budd I find I really enjoy working with grand piano, although in this case it is treated with reverb and so on. I just like the sound of the piano, and I always have done. I think it's a very minimal sound, yet it's so rich that it carries, and all the harmonics get multiplied and fill a lot of space. It's rather like looking down a microscope."
Though he likes altering the sound of a piano, Foxx admits he's unlikely to go the whole hog as composers such as John Cage have done. "I like some treated piano, but the Cage method - that's more destructive, it's using noise rather than music or harmonies. I like what Cage did, and the theory that music is organised noise - well, it's actually true. I'm very interested in all of that, and there are a lot of people like Holger Czukay from Can who are pupils of Cage."
He concedes to rather liking elements of musical instruments other than just the pitches they make. "Absolutely - I always enjoyed the noisy side of things. If you use synthesizers you're forced to think about all those elements, the idea of working with and creating building blocks."
The Foxx catalogue has grown considerably of late, with several albums reissued and a new best of, entitled Glimmer, released. I'm interested to know if he had any say in its running order. "I did, yeah, and what I like to do is ask around me and see what people think. I'm not the best person to judge my own work, and so I asked people like Louis Gordon and Steve Malins what they thought."
And was it a process of rediscovery as the reissues were ironed out? How does Foxx feel an album like The Garden has fared over time? As it turns out, he doesn't have an answer, though he considers carefully. "I don't listen to my stuff very much at all if I'm being totally honest, and when I do sometimes it's a bit of a shock. Some things seem to have worn well, whereas others don't. I think that until you get to the stage where someone else did them, you can't be objective. The hardest thing is viewing them objectively, and that's why it's not important what I think about the music."
In amongst the recoating of old material, Foxx is working on new material, new collaborations. "I've been working with Paul Daley, of Leftfield, also with Steve Jansen, David Sylvain's brother, and an album with Robin Guthrie that we've just finished. Harold has been working with a piano again which is nice, so he's sent some things over for me to work with and on."
Exploring the Daley connection, Foxx confesses to a liking of dance music. "I like stuff that's beat driven, and I particularly like elements of that slightly punky side of dance music, the very London street feel." On Daley's input, he says, "He travels a lot and DJs, and he hears a lot when he's doing that. That scene is still very intact, it grows and shrinks but these ideas are all fascinating to listen to. I like working with Paul because he knows about sounds, about what makes that scene and about real craftsmanship."
While he's name checked by current electro heads, Foxx pitched in when the late 1980s was causing a rethink of electronic music's direction. "It was one of those things, I found people had been calling me up a lot. I had all the kit - the 909 and the 808, and at the beginnings of acid house, people wanted to work with these sounds but didn't have all the equipment, so I used to get loads of calls from people. Tim Simenon and LFO were the most interesting guys I worked with though, and Tim in particular I found very open minded."
And what of today's open homage to the era? "The danger is making pastiches and imitating them. Every genre does this - they look at what they grew up with and use building blocks for their own construction. What you have is something that needs its own new bit of grammar for another generation. It eventually grows into something that's fit for the modern age. When it turns into something else it becomes interesting. I think it's true to say all musicians start imitating their heroes, then end up killing them!"
A specific name-check for Foxx came from 2007's big band Klaxons, for which the subject is grateful. "It's nice when people do name check. I like their music a lot, and the way they were doing it as well. I found it a spirit of refreshment after the style that people were calling 'shoegaze'. They take a lot of elements and have made an interesting sound and approach."
We move on to talk about a love of Foxx's, the idea of music through natural noise. "In modern life you get these tremendous rushes of sound. I remember recording an underground train once, and I was astounded at the levels of bass. The power of that sound was incredible; it illustrated what's always going on in the city. All these things we filter out selectively." He pauses. "You know, there's a whole movement about tuned buildings where you mic buildings up - there's a whole group of people who do that, tuning cities if you like. You set up an atrium. I remember hitting that with a choir once, where we sung a note that suddenly got much louder because of the natural frequency of the building we were in. I didn't understand for so long how that happened, and how when you talk in a pub you talk at a certain frequency to make yourself heard."
This taps into another love of the Ultravox founder - cities. "City scapes have always interested me from day one. For some reason it was always the urban landscape for me!" Which is where we have to leave it - for Foxx's current landscape is a darkened room somewhere in London. "It's looking like an all-nighter tonight" he notes ruefully - but deep within lurks the conviction he'll get it all finished.