Don't Be Afraid Of The Art Of Noise
January 10, 2012 8:12 PM   Subscribe

The new orchestra will achieve the most complex and novel aural emotions not by incorporating a succession of life-imitating noises but by manipulating fantastic juxtapositions of these varied tones and rhythms. Therefore an instrument will have to offer the possibility of tone changes and varying degrees of amplification.
In 1984, inspired by concepts outlined in The Art Of Noises, a 1913 Futurist manifesto by Luigi Russolo [HTML version, PDF pamphlet version] and new music technology , a musician, a audio engineer, a programmer, a producer, and a music journalist came together to form one of the most influential music collectives of all time. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present for you, a definitive look at the Art Of Noise.

Before Diversion 0, we must: Meet The Players:
Trevor Horn (the producer):
Trevor Horn got his start in the music business in the mid-1970s with forgotten acts such as Fallen Angel And The Tina Charles Band, Boogatti, and Christopher J. Trevor And The Gnasher Bashers. The first production effort by Horn easily located online is from LIPS, Say Hello To My Girl. Many of these early efforts were done with Bruce Wooley and Rod Thompson (members of the first two acts already listed), and the three of them created The Killers, who released the single Killer (On The Dance Floor) in 1978. His other early production work includes John Howard (I Can Breathe Again/You Take My Breath Away, Big A (Carribbean Air Control), and Tina Charles (Makin' All The Right Moves). He achieved wide early success as a songwriter with the Dusty Springfield hit Baby Blue.

In 1979, Horn, Downes and Wooley recorded a demo for a song which they submitted to Island Records. It was immediately accepted, and eventually Video Killed The Radio Star would become a number one hit in 16 countries.

(Wooley left the band before this success, to form Bruce Wooley And The Camera Club (a band which featured long-time drummer Rod Thompson, Matthew Seligman, and a very young Thomas Dolby!). They recorded their own version of Video Killed The Radio Star, but the band only ever released one album.)

The Buggles' first album, The Age Of Plastic, was a concept album examining modern life in the face of rapidly changing technology. It wasn't a huge success, but the strength of the lead-off single combined with its airing as the first (prophetic?) video on the first day of MTV two years later cemented its place in pop music history. It did become an early litany of the production which Horn would use throughout his career. It also set into motion a chain of events which would lead to Art Of Noise.

While working on a second album for The Buggles, Horn found he was working in the studio next to the band Yes, who were working on their first album after the departure of Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson. Chris Squire was a fan of The Age Of Plastic, and asked Horn and Downes to sit in with the band in the studio. They were eventually invited to join the band, and Drama ended up being the first Yes album produced by Trevor Horn. This blending of bands resulted in tracks being recorded by both bands for their respective albums (The Buggles - I Am A Camera, Yes - Into The Lens), and cemented a relationship between Yes and Trevor Horn which would last across several albums.
Anne Dudley (the musician):
Anne Dudley seems to have first worked with Trevor Horn on 1979's Star To Star, a space disco album by Chromium (The Chrome in the US), where she played keyboard along with Geoff Downes. This was remake of some tracks from the Big A project (including the space disco classic Fly On UFO), and is regarded by some as the proto-Buggles album because of the Horn/Downes collaboration with the songwriting and production style.

Dudley was quickly taken into the Trevor Horn fold, adding keyboard work to Beatnik, a track on The Buggles' second album, Adventures In Modern Recording.

It was during the recording of ABC's The Lexicon Of Love, however, where Anne really began to shine. She wrote the orchestrations for songs such as The Look Of Love and played keyboard across the album, including on hits such as Poison Arrow. It was during these recording sessions where Dudley and Horn cemented a mutual interest with Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik in exploring the possibilities of the Fairlight CMI.

Other examples of Dudley's early 80s work as a studio musician can be heard on Wham's Bad Boys and Young Guns (Go For It!).
Gary Langan (the audio engineer):
Gary Langan got his start as an assistant in the control room during the recording of Queen's A Night At The Opera album. He was soon an engineer in his own right, and he helped shape the sound for many albums mentioned above, including The Buggles' second album, Yes' Drama, and ABC's The Lexicon Of Love. The working relationship he had developed with Trevor Horn during this time as his go-to engineer led him to be involved with many of Horn's projects such as Dollar (e.g. Mirror Mirror).
J.J. Jeczalik (the programmer):
J.J. Jeczalik met Geoff Downes early on and began programming his Fairlight CMI (one of the first few ever made), even serving as roadie and production staff for Downes when he went on tour with Yes for the Drama album. He became Trevor Horn's personal Fairlight programmer soon after that, and developed skills in the brand new art of sampling and sequencing which would form the bedrock of Art Of Noise.
Paul Morley (the music journalist):
Paul Morley began writing for New Musical Express around the time Trevor Horn got started in music. He was instrumental in promoting what was known as New Pop, and his articles had influenced not only fans but also musicians during the post-punk transition in the UK. His writing of this period has been collected in the book Ask: The Chatter Of Pop (sadly out of print). His 2005 book Words And Music: A History Of Pop In The Shape Of A City was adapted into a collaboration with DJ Food -- Raiding The 20th Century: a sweeping epic across popular music which is enlightening, stunning, and a bit of an endurance test.
Fairlight CMI and Page R (the technology):
The Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument) was developed in 1979, and was an attempt to generate sounds by modeling waveforms in real time. This really was pushing the limits of technology at the time, but the real strength of the device was it was that real waveforms could be sampled and played back using the device. Early models could only sample at 24kHz, so the sounds were raw, but the results were unlike anything ever heard before. Truly, if any single development were crucial to beginning to fulfill the ideas of Russolo, this was it. A demonstration of the Fairlight CMI from 1980 shows how it operates. Peter Gabriel plays with his new toy in 1982. Herbie Hancock demonstrates his Fairlight CMI on Sesame Street in 1984, and then later to Quincy Jones.

The real secret of the Fairlight CMI was Page R, the sequencer which allowed programmers like Jeczalik to create complicated arrangements of different sounds which the instrument would then play back on demand. Watch a Page R sequence in action.

Today, anyone with an iPad can download either a basic or a Pro Fairlight app and have access to cutting-edge 1980s technology which revolutionized the way music is made.
Zang Tuum Tumb Records (the label):
ZTT Records was founded in 1983 by Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair, and Paul Morley. It achieved phenomenal success right out of the gate with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, and Propaganda. Over time, they would also release works by Grace Jones, Seal, and Kirsty MacColl, to name a very few.
The stage is set, the people and the technology and the wherewithal have met; now we just need a triggering incident.

Trevor Horn was producing Yes' 90125 album, which featured a lot of Fairlight CMI work. Jeczalik was programming the device for Tony Kaye, and Langan was working in the control room. One evening, Langan asked Jeczalik to feed a discarded Alan White drum track into the CMI and started messing around with it. Trevor Horn was looking to start his own record label and was scouting around for a lead-off single to launch the company. Langan played this demo tape he and Jeczalik had been working on for Horn. He found the results terribly exciting, and soon the two-man project expanded to a five person collective with the addition of Dudley, Horn, and Morley (who provided art direction). The musical creation started that night would eventually become Beat Box, and Art Of Noise (and ZTT Records) was born.

The Zang Tuum Tumb Years

The first Art Of Noise album (well, an EP really) was released on ZTT Records in 1983, Into Battle With The Art Of Noise. (Complete album -- Side 1 [Tracks: Battle, Beat Box, The Army Now, Donna], Side 2 [Tracks: Moments In Love, Bright Noise, Flesh In Armour, Comes and Goes, Moment In Love])

Beat Box (music video, 7" edit version) was quickly picked up as a favorite of the breakdance/popping community especially in the US, while Moments In Love became a staple of the (then still unnamed or even really invented) chillout music scene.

Beat Box proved popular enough for AON to rework it significantly. The maxi-single Beat Box was released in early 1984, with Beat Box (Diversion 1) and Beat Box (Diversion 2) [an early version of the track which would eventually become Close (To The Edit)]. A music video was also created, featuring a highly truncated version of the track. Already it was apparent that AON was not going to be content to allow their creations to remain completed, and that they were experimenting heavily with studio techniques and pushing the Fairlight CMI as far as it would allow.

As any fan of Frankie knows, ZTT Records loves themselves some maxi-single. The next from AON was the Close (To The Edit) EP, which featured Close (Edited) [another version of Close (To The Edit), Close Up (Hop), and A Time To Hear (Who's Listening?). Not content with one such release, ZTT also put out Closely, Closely (Enough's Enough) [an extended mix of Close (To The Edit)] b/w The Time To Hear (You're Listening) and Moments In Love.

Finally, Art Of Noise released their first full-length album later in 1984. (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise! was made up half of recycled material (Moments In Love, the reworked Beat Box (Diversion 2) now named Close (To The Edit), and Beat Box (Diversion One)). But never mind that -- the album was a success, both with the critics and with album sales.
(Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise!:A Time For Fear (Who's Afraid?), Beat Box (Diversion One), Snapshot, Close (To The Edit), Who's Afraid (Of The Art Of Noise?), Moments In Love, Momento, How To Kill, Realizaton

Bonus Track: A Time For Fear (J.J.'s 12" Remix), Close (To The Edit) live (performed in masks, as AON did in their early years)
Art Of Noise had obviously begun to achieve their goals -- they had hit songs in various corners of the globe, they had redefined music and music production, and they were continually confounding anyone who wanted to put them into a box and define them. Thanks to the Fairlight CMI, they were indeed making noise musical, and making music into noise. But what happened next is a moment which will live forever as a true rock-and-roll moment for such a post-punk synthesizer-based avant garde band.

In May of 1985, it was announced that ZTT Records would be doing two weeks of concerts showcasing their talent (apart from Frankie, who was beyond such things even already). On the evening of May 25, 1985, Anne Dudley, Gary Langam, and J.J. Jeczalik didn't show up for the performance, leaving Trevor Horn and Paul Morley to improvise a performance involving spoken word readings over dancers performing to pre-recorded tracks. Art Of Noise had left the building, leaving behind it one member who was instrumental in bringing all the pieces together, and another who had seemingly forced his way in simply to be there for the ride. As one eyewitness reports it:
When it was announced that they were going to perform as part of a ZTT package show entitled The Value Of Entertainment for a two week run at a London West End theatre, it seemed too good to be true. And sure enough, it was. Too good to be true, that is. The Art Of Noise's contribution to the show was a trio of dancers performing to a backing tape of Beat Box and Close (To The Edit), bookending a hilariously bitter stand-up lecture by Paul Morley. His theme was the tension that existed between the Art Of Noise as a concept and as a group of working musicians, and how we'd obviously come to the show expecting the latter when we were only going to get the former.

In fact, the truth only emerged a few weeks later: Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan - the three people in the band who actually, you know, did the music - had walked out before the show, leaving Horn and Morley in the lurch and forcing them to improvise wildly. The show officially marked the end of the Art Of Noise as a concept.*
But this didn't spell the end of Art Of Noise. Not by a long shot. Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan moved over to China Records. And while AON entered an era where their pure influence waned, their pop hit making power reached its full potential.

The China Years

The trio quickly went to work on a new single, and in 1985, they released Legs, in the form of two EPs which featured 4 tracks total -- Legs, Legs (Inside Leg Mix), Legs (Last Leg Mix), and Hoops and Mallets. The song became a minor dance club hit, especially in the US. These interviews from right around the release of Legs give a good overview of the band and its attitudes about the recent events in their history. This profile of Jeczalik from the same period of time gives insight into his approach to the Fairlight CMI and more context about AON's history up to that point.

In March of 1986, Art Of Noise found their first outside collaborator. Duane Eddy had already had some hits 25 years or so earlier, with songs such as Rebel Rouser and Peter Gunn. AON met with Eddy in his living room to remake the Henry Mancini television show theme, and the resulting single became a hit, reaching #8 in the UK charts, #3 in New Zealand, even hitting #50 on the US Hot 100. It also earned AON a Grammy. The single contained Peter Gunn (The Twang Mix), Peter Gunn, and Something Always Happens. Bonus: Peter Gunn music video, Live performance by AON and Duane Eddy on The Tube.

A month later, AON released their second full album. In Visible Silence was more structured than their previous releases, of course featured the two singles which had already been released, and eventually reached #18 on the UK charts. The album features much more complex programming from Jeczalik than ever before. The lead-off track, Opus 4, is based on the poem November by Thomas Hood.
In Visible Silence: Opus 4, Paranoimia, Eye Of A Needle, Legs, Slip Of The Tongue, Backbeat, Instruments Of Darkness, Peter Gunn (featuring Duane Eddy), Camilla: The Old, Old Story, The Chameleon's Dish, Beatback

Bonus: Deconstruction of the vocal samples used in Instruments Of Darkness
Art Of Noise was commissioned to do a new theme song for series two of The Max Headroom Show. This led to a new mix of Paranoimia featuring Max Headroom, which spent nine weeks on the charts, topping out at #12 in the UK and at #34 in the US. The single contained Paranoimia (Extended Version), Paranoimia, Why Me? and A Nation Rejects. The success of this single led to the US release of In Visible Silence being reworked, replacing the original instrumental version of Paranoimia with the Max Headroom extended version. CD releases of the album also included Peter Gunn (The Twang Mix) as a bonus track.

Art Of Noise embarked on a world tour covering the US, Japan, and eventually landing at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. A glimpse of this tour: Opus 4/Paranoimia. At the end of this tour, Gary Langan officially left the group (but continued to work with them).

In October 1986, AON released the single Legacy. A heavy reworking of earlier single Legs, it included the tracks Legacy (Extended Version), Legs, Opus III, and Legacy (Edit). Also released was Re-Works Of Art Of Noise, which was bundled with copies of In Visible Silence in the UK and sold separately elsewhere. It featured the single version of Paranoimia, the extended Legacy, the extended Peter Gunn, and three live tracks: Legs (live), Paranoimia (live) and Hammersmith To Tokyo And Back.

In Visible Silence: We Do What Others Don't, a VHS and Laserdisk release of the AON tour recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon was released. A bit of it can be seen here.

ZTT Records still owned the early years of Art Of Noise, and they weren't about to let that remain stagnant. In December 1986, they released Daft, a collection of tracks from the first two releases. This is widely regarded as the best in-road for beginners into the world of the ZTT years of Art Of Noise. The album featured two new tracks, Love (aka Moments In Love (Beaten)), and (Three Fingers Of) Love (aka Love Beat).

Hollywood took notice of Art Of Noise's success, and drafted the band (now consisting only of Anne Dudley and J.J. Jeczalik) to remake the theme song of the television show Dragnet for the movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd. The single contained the tracks Dragnet (Art Of Noise 12" Mix) [sadly not available online!], Dragnet (Arthur Baker 12" Mix), Action Art [a collage of sounds from the as-yet-unreleased new album project], and Dragnet (The Art Of Noise 7" Mix) [music video a sequel (of sorts) to that for Close (To The Edit)]. Bonus: Dragnet (Arthur Baker 7" Mix) [sound quality terrible]

True to form, a new single from AON meant there was a new album in the works. In late 1987 In No Sense? Nonsense! was released. A seamless tone poem, the album retained many of the live players who worked with AON during their tour, and featured a wider palette of instruments and sounds than any previous release. It performed only moderately well on the charts, and was trounced by critics, but many fans feel it is the most coherent, unified offering from Art Of Noise.
In No Sense? Nonsense! [played here from vinyl -- cd versions differ in running order and length]: Galleons Of Stone; Dragnet; Fin Du Temps; How Rapid?; Opus For Four; Debut; E.F.L.; Ode To Don Jose; A Day At The Races; Counterpoint; Roundabout 727; Ransom On The Sand; Roller 1; Nothing Was Going To Stop Them, Anyway; Crusoe; One Earth
The following year only saw two new releases by Art Of Noise. The first was Dragnet (The '88 Mix), a single put out to coincide with the UK release of the film. The single featured Dragnet (Arto Of Noise '88 12" mix), Dragnet (Arthur Baker House Mix), and Action Art. The second single from 1988 saw Art Of Noise once again taking on an outside collaborator and covering a song which had already been a hit. Kiss, featuring Tom Jones, recast Prince's slinky falsetto sung, sparsely instrumented track into a giant bombast of a track, and it had immediate worldwide appeal, reaching the top 20 or even the top 10 in many countries. The Kiss single featured the tracks Kiss (The Battery mix), Kiss (7" Version) [terrible video quality], and E.F.L. [DailyMotion links because Prince gets grumpy about having his music on YouTube] Other versions included Kiss (Art Of Noise Mix) and various other tracks from earlier AON releases as b-side tracks.

Dragnet '88 and Kiss were included on the 1988 compilation album, The Best Of The Art Of Noise. This disk included tracks licensed from ZTT, and which were removed from later releases once the licensing contract had expired. A myriad of versions of this album have been released at various times and in various countries.

Paranoimia '89 was an extended single released in 1989, featuring Ben Liebrand remixes of the original (non-Max Headroom) version of Paranoimia. New tracks included Paranomia '89 (Dance Mix), Paranoimia '89 (7" Edit), Paranoimia '89 (Dub Mix), and Locus Classicus I.

Also in 1989, AON teamed up with Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens to create the single Yebo!. True to form, several versions of the single were released. The tracks included across various releases included Yebo! (Album Mix), Yebo! (7" Version), Yebo! (Chicago's Joe Smooth Remix), Yebo! (Underground Mix), Yebo! (Mbaqanga Mix), and To Add To The Confusion.

The release of Yebo! was, of course, the warm-up to a new album release. Below The Waste was released in late 1989, and was largely ignored by critics and the public. It saw the splintering of the two remaining members of Art Of Noise beginning to form, with Dudley contributing ambient, orchestral tracks and Jeczalik doing more hard-edged electronic numbers. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens also contributed to the tracks Chain Gang and Spit. Their cover of the James Bond Theme was submitted for the film License To Kill and rejected.
Below The Waste: Dan Dare, Yebo!, Catwalk, Promenade 1, Dilemma, Island, Chain Gang, Promenade 2, Back To Back, Flashback, Spit, Robinson Crusoe, James Bond Theme, Finale

Bonus: James Bond Theme (The Living Daylights Mix)
In 1990, Art Of Noise announced they had completed the last two tracks they would create. Cassandra and I'm A Stranger Here Myself were created for the film Alien Nation, but were never used. With Below The Waste as a goodbye, and Finale as their last formal track, AON bid the world farewell.

When they started, sampling and sequencing were entirely new concepts in music production. Now it had become commonplace. Not in small part to the potential of the technology which Art Of Noise had demonstrated so eloquently across the past (could it be only?) six years.


Before Art Of Noise disappeared, they did work to promote yet another compilation album, 1990's The Ambient Collection. This disk featured one new track, Art Of Love, a track created by Youth remixing many AON elements. (Art Of Love 12" Youth Mix) This proved successful enough that China released another collection the following year, The FON Mixes. An album of techno remixes of previously released material, it proved interesting enough to spark two singles and was promoted by a film by George Snow entitled Motorway (Part 1, ).
The FON Mixes: Instruments Of Darkness (All Of Us Are One People) (The Prodigy Mix), Shades Of Paranoimia (The Carl Cox Mix), Roller 10 (The Rhythmatic Mix), Yebo (A Mark Gamble Mix), Back To Backbeat (The Robert Gordon Mix), Dragnet And Peter Gunn Have A Day At The Races (A Mark Gamble Mix), I Of The Needled (The Sweet Exorcist Mix), L.E.F. (The Mark Brydon Mix), Legs (The Graham Massey Mix), Catwalk (The Ground Mix), Ode To A D.J. (A Mark Gamble Mix), Crusoe (The LFO Mix), The Art Of Slow Love (Compiled, Remixed And Additional Production By Youth) (Slow Concept By Phil Barber), No Sun (A Mark Gamble Mix)
Other compilation albums were released, including new, reshuffled versions of The Best Of The Art Of Noise and new remixes of Yebo! (Yebo! (Ollie J Remix), Yebo! (Arkama Dub Mix))

1996 featured the release of The Drum And Bass Collection, yet another remix album. Most of the tracks stripped the original songs down to barely recognizable forms. This album was bundled with The Ambient Collection and The FON Mixes into State Of The Art.
The Drum And Bass Collection: Something Always Happens, Ode To Don Jose, Art Of Love, Yebo, Opus 4, Island, Camilla The Old Old Story, Kiss (Haitian Vampire Mix), Eye Of A Needle, Peter Gunn, Crusoe
State Of The Art would be the last Art Of Noise release from China Records, as it was swallowed by Warner Music and vanished.

The years following the dissolution of Art Of Noise saw continued success for its individual players. Without wanting to gloss over the mammoth excellent and award-winning output by the various members, there is one project which reflects most directly on AON and its legacy and potential: J.J. Jeczalik's 1996 release It offers a glimpse into where the programmer might have taken Art Of Noise if he had continued with the group, given evolving tastes in electronic music. [sadly not as much available online as one might hope]: West 4, 4:34 AM, Who Are You?, Giant Below, Giant Above, Giant Within, Messenger Of Heaven, Fear No Malice, Some Other Dream

Bonus: West 4 Video, West 4 (Crowd Control Dub)
After the release of this album, J.J. Jezalik announced his retirement from the music industry.

Again with ZTT

In 1997, Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn, and Paul Morley got together with Lol Creme (of 10cc and Godley & Creme, for whom Horn produced an album which featured the hit Cry) to start a new project. After some work, the group gained permission from now-retired Jeczalik to use the Art Of Noise name, and the public first knew a new Art Of Noise album was coming when the promo-only release Dream On With The Art Of Noise All Mixed Up In Bed With Way Out West was sent out. It featured three new tracks , early forms of a song from the impending album: Wet Dream (Way Out West's Excellent Extended Mix), Your Dream Or Mine (Way Out West's Clubbable Club Mix), and Day Dream (Way Out West's Very Own Radio Edit). Also released was a 12" promo-only featuring Dreaming In Colour remixes Art Of Noise Via Brothers In Rhythm (Dreaming: Colour Red) and Brothers In Rhythm Via Art Of Noise (Dreaming: Colour Silver).

The first Art Of Noise single in in ten years soon appeared in shops. Metaforce featured rapper Rakim, and was a two-part single which featured the tracks Metaforce, Metaforce (The Size Of A Metaphor), Metaforce (The Beat Of A Metaphor), Metaforce (The Seduction Of A Metaphor), Metaphor On The Floor (Plan 138), and Metaforce (The X-Ray Of A Metaphor). Also released was Mixed Metaforce, which included new mix Metaforce (The Sighs Of A Metafilter).

Two weeks later, The Seduction Of Claude Debussey was released. The album spanned a giant range of musical genres from classical to drum and bass and featured John Hurt narrating the story of Claude Debussey, and included guest appearances by vocalists Sally Bradshaw, Donna Lewis, and Carol Kenyon. Unlike anything AON had done before, it was a unified work about a single subject.
The Seduction Of Claude Debussey: Il Pleure (At The Turn Of The Century), Born On A Sunday [here in a live version], Dreaming In Colour, On Being Blue, Continued In Colour, Rapt: In The Evening Air, Metaforce, The Holy Egoism Of Genius, La Flûte De Pan, Metaphor On The Floor, Approximate Mood Swing No. 2 [YouTube user created video], Pause, Out Of The World (Version 138)

Bonus: EPK for The Seduction Of Claude Debussey featuring interviews with the band and John Hurt, Born On A Sunday (life on Talk Music), The Holy Egoism Of Genius (live on Talk Music)
The album was highly regarded by critics, but didn't make much of a splash with the record-buying public. Some editions came with a second disk (later made available for individual purchase), Reduction, a group of outtakes and remixes from the album.

AON embarked on a limited tour which included a stop at Coachella in its inaugural year in 1999, and that performance along with shows they did in London were filmed and form the basis of the concert DVD Into Vision. The soundtrack for this concert DVD was later released as Reconstructed... For Your Listening Pleasure.

The next anybody saw of Art Of Noise was at the 2004 Prince's Trust Concert, where Dudley, Horn, Creme, and Paul Robinson, along with Alan White from Yes, performed Close (To The Edit).

ZTT is never content to let old content just sit idle, and in 2006 they released And What Have You Done With My Body, God?, a 4-disk collection of demos and outtakes and unreleased versions from the (Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise! sessions [which I won't try to recreate here]. The set is notable for containing the full run of tracks from the original UK cassette release of the Into Battle With The Art Of Noise, which includes a five-minute version of Moments In Love which had been available in any other format until its release. As part of that release, the very first (and apparently only) ZTT Podcast episode was released, featuring interviews with band members (used to create the book which came with the set), and has a few otherwise unavailable versions of tracks. (Soundcloud version, direct download, iTunes link)

In 2010, the two-disk set Influence: Hits, Singles, Moments, Treasures… was released. A full career best-of collection spanning their work on both ZTT and China, it includes tracks from abandoned projects and soundtrack work not found anywhere else.

2011 was the year that Art Of Noise's catalog began to be remastered and expanded. The new Into Battle With The Art Of Noise includes the long-ago abandoned follow-up album Worship. The rest of the albums will be released in similar expanded formats in the years to come.
Bonus: Trevor Horn talks (for three hours!) in 2011 about his early work up to and into his Art Of Noise years [Part 1, Part 2]. Shockingly extensive Art Of Noise Discography.
posted by hippybear (66 comments total) 189 users marked this as a favorite
Holy shit. I love both Luigi Russolo and the band he would give name to several decades later. This is a treasure trove. Now I know what I will be doing in the office instead of working tomorrow ;-P.
posted by theartandsound at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2012

posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this a buffer overflow attack?
posted by gwint at 8:23 PM on January 10, 2012 [15 favorites]

Holy shit.
posted by Jairus at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2012

posted by figment of my conation at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2012

Um, holy motherfucking crap?!
posted by latkes at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2012

As a fan of Yello instead, I am aware of their work.

Srsly, tho -- excellent post.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:38 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was always a bit weirded out by the way the video for Beat Box V2 omits a single Asian or Caribbean face. It's an interesting a very specific construction of Englishness.
posted by meehawl at 8:39 PM on January 10, 2012

Amazingly good write up btw! I know what I will be watching for the next hour or so...
posted by meehawl at 8:39 PM on January 10, 2012

I found a typo.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:43 PM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Seriously, though. That's an obsessive masterpiece of a post. You are personally making MetaFilter great.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

[leans back in chair with mouth agape]

posted by CynicalKnight at 8:47 PM on January 10, 2012

Whoa whoa whoa now. All of these pixels spilled on the origins of the Art of Noise, and there's no mention of Duck Rock???

In 1982, before 90125 and before Into Battle, Sex Pistols producer Malcolm McLaren pulled Art of Noise's Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, J.J. Jeczalk and Thomas Dolby together into a room with an endless series of African musicians to produce an album of scratchin', hip hop, mbaqanga and of course, sampling. Duck Rock was the trigger, not 90125.

But don't take my word for it. McLaren talks about it here, accompanied with the deep vocal samples that only Jeczalik could coax out of a sampler and the kind of lovely piano lines that only Anne Dudley could improvise. AoN fans who haven't seen the promo video for Duck Rock should definitely check it out.

For the lead single, McLaren mashed up an early American square dancing hit with the scratching of The World's Famous Supreme Team and the sampling of the Art of Noise, and somehow scored a huge hip hop hit with Buffalo Gals. You've probably heard at least some of it, if not the whole track. It's been sampled by Public Enemy, Nenah Cherry or Eminem. Check out the video.

It was enormously influential (while being rarely acknowledged in the US), and in many ways, shaped pop music as we know it.
posted by eschatfische at 8:48 PM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Art of Noise and Then Some. Dwarfing hippybear's previous post about a 1980's Trevor Horn project, Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

I spent an evening recently going through YouTubes of the Trevor Horn-centric 2004 Prince's Trust Concert... every time I turned around, I found another way Horn influenced pop music in the last 30-odd years... I look forward (with some horror) to your post about everything else Trevor Horn.

One side issue on a minor player: As a 10cc fan all the way back to 'Rubber Bullets' (their delightful 2nd act to Elvis Presley's 'Jailhouse Rock'), it was nice to see Lol Creme involved with AON. But seriously, why have we not seen that 'perfect for this era' name on some recent hit music?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:52 PM on January 10, 2012

...and if this post doesn't get a few hundred favorites, it'll only be because it's so hard to find the bottom of it...
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I know I left out Duck Rock.

This post was enormously difficult to create, not just for the research you see here, but for the research which happened that I DIDN'T include.

As soon as you start writing about Trevor Horn and Co., you begin to take in much of UK pop music from the past 30 years. I was trying to keep the focus tight on the progression toward AON in the player introductions, and what you see here is actually a lot shorter than what I had planned to begin with.

I also didn't go into all the projects which various current and former members were involved in outside of AON. Many of them were influential, all of them are worthwhile, most of them showed influence by AON or influence on AON, but given the gigantic length of what I finally did post, be glad I didn't even try to include everything which I had originally envisioned.

But yes. Duck Rock is definitely part of the story. If nothing else, if it hadn't been for that, then they probably never would have used Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens on Below The Waste. Etc, etc, etc.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

This post could be a several hours long VH1 show. Incomparable!
posted by furtive at 8:55 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there could only be one thing about The Art of Noise, it would be those little ice curlicues the tip of the figure skate makes during the harp glissando section in the swell ice capades video for 'Moments In Love'.
posted by ovvl at 8:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

My hat is off to you hippybear, masterful post. The competition for best post of 2012 is on ladys and gentlemen.
posted by arcticseal at 9:03 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is crazy.
posted by Skygazer at 9:10 PM on January 10, 2012

I've always maintained that Beat Box (Diversion One) was the best thing they ever did. The piano at the end is magic.

Oh, and --- [This is GOOD]
posted by googly at 9:13 PM on January 10, 2012

YES! Brilliant post!
posted by erebora at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2012

Hippybear, y-y-you are my-m-m-my you are m-m-my *horn stab* hero he-he-he-hero. You are my hero *electrodrum fill*.
posted by vverse23 at 9:41 PM on January 10, 2012

The piano at the end is magic.

The piano at the end of Backbeat is equally enchanting. Dudley has great instincts overall. Her career with AON and apart from them is full of amazing moments. At some point I hope there's a recording available of the opera she wrote with (Monty Python alum) Terry Jones about a doctor who is celebrated by the town he serves but who is cast out by the system at large because he is a dog. If other classical compositions of Dudley's are any indication, it is probably musically great.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 PM on January 10, 2012

I not only applaud this massive post, but also your efforts at neatly side-stepping the bottomless void that is the career of Trevor Horn. Once you start diving into all that Horn has touched since the late 1970s, you'll never hit bottom.

(Drama is a pretty good Yes album, though as mentioned earlier on the blue, Trevor Horn simply cannot sing like Jon Anderson. He tried, and even with Chris Squire and Steve Howe accompanying him on vocals, it just didn't work. It's still mind-boggling to think that in four short years, Trevor Horn could go from The Buggles to Yes then back to the Buggles and then on to the Art Of Noise.)
posted by stannate at 9:45 PM on January 10, 2012

posted by Artw at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2012

Well, if you're not going to cover everything, here's a few interesting rarities for the Art of Noise completist:

Expanding the Business, in which AoN remix the Godley and Creme catalog.
Spies, in which Duane Eddy revisits the Art of Noise.
Spies Like Us, in which AoN remix Paul McCartney.
D'Ya Like Scratchin', in which McLaren, Horn and AoN's Duck Rock is remixed into itself.
The Max Headroom Show Theme, in which AoN introduce the 80s to itself.
posted by eschatfische at 9:55 PM on January 10, 2012

Hmm, my Spies link didn't work. I'll try again.
posted by eschatfische at 9:57 PM on January 10, 2012

It's still mind-boggling to think that in four short years, Trevor Horn could go from The Buggles to Yes then back to the Buggles and then on to the Art Of Noise.

...while creating Frankie Goes To Hollywood, producing albums by ABC and Yes, the aforementioned Duck Rock, Propaganda, and then following all that up with producing and writing and playing on Grace Jones' Slave To The Rhythm.
posted by hippybear at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by not_on_display at 10:02 PM on January 10, 2012

This post makes me happy. Thank you. I'm going to be digging through the links for a long time.
posted by immlass at 10:07 PM on January 10, 2012

Fantastic post.
posted by borges at 10:08 PM on January 10, 2012

This is astounding and absolutely amazing, thank you so much for contributing this.
posted by armisme at 10:09 PM on January 10, 2012

LOVE the Art of Noise. What an amazing post you have created! Can't wait to clear out some time so I can read it with the proper attention. this is gold !!
posted by seawallrunner at 10:18 PM on January 10, 2012

Any thoughts on whether the 59 track (!) collection And What Have You Done With My Body, God? Is worth the 40ish dollars?
posted by Artw at 10:23 PM on January 10, 2012

Any thoughts on whether the 59 track (!) collection And What Have You Done With My Body, God? Is worth the 40ish dollars?

If you like early AON and appreciate the less musical sound experiments they were doing back then, and if you want the book that comes with the set, it's pretty good.

If you're only mildly interested, there are alternate, less legal methods to obtain the sounds without the book.

It's certainly part of my collection, but am I the best person to ask?
posted by hippybear at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2012

Also, if you do a YouTube search for the title of that album, you'll find a lot of it is available there. You can compare the track titles with the discogs link in my post and possibly find a good portion of it is available for free preview that way. That's a good way to judge whether you want to spend the money on it or not.
posted by hippybear at 11:00 PM on January 10, 2012

Very nice work. I can add one thing, which is that Anne Dudley wrote the theme music for the Fry/Laurie series of Jeeves & Wooster.

If you've ever seen that, you are now hearing that theme.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 11:01 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great composition hippy. If you're taking requests, I'd love to see a bio-op of Laibach someday.
posted by stbalbach at 11:06 PM on January 10, 2012

Fabulous post, to be sure.

I loved both AoN and ABC, but never realized that Anne Dudley arranged the strings and played keys on the Lexicon of Love.

Also, if anyone cares to have a licensed go at remixing, there's this too.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:29 PM on January 10, 2012

This is righteous.
I am happily blown away.
posted by dougzilla at 12:00 AM on January 11, 2012

I'm lucky enough to still have original vinyl of much of this, including a wonderful tortoise shaped picture disc of Moments in Love. Spent most of my late teens in second hand record shops and record fairs tracking down endless variants of everything. Three battered issues of Record Collector with a ZTT collectors guide were my bible. Four versions of the Close Up 12", all in exactly the same sleeve. *shudders* I see they're released another round of re-issues, with yet more new-old material? Oh God, here we go again...

If you have any interest in music production, then the three hour interview with Trevor Horn at RBMA is utterly fascinating, and well worth watching.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:52 AM on January 11, 2012

Wow. A winner, 11 days too late.
posted by davemee at 4:21 AM on January 11, 2012

I'd like to state for the record that I'm the AoN megafan who finds Moments in Love to be the most tedious 5+ minutes of music imaginable. Puts the Zs into ZTT.

Fairlight samples sound really ropey now. Your phone's ringtone has better resolution.
posted by scruss at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2012

I concur with dougzilla: [This is righteous.]
posted by steef at 5:22 AM on January 11, 2012

Art of Noise did an extremely short tour in support of "Seduction": LA, New York, Boston, London. I was in Boston at the time and only a gunshot wound might have slowed me down from making it to the show.

I wrote about what happened there and show photos of my insane Art of Noise Vinyl collection in this weblog post.

Fantastic work!
posted by jscott at 5:31 AM on January 11, 2012

Once upon a time, there was an entire live performance by AoN in New York on Apple's website. This would have been around 2000, based on where I remember living when I watched it. I never made a recording and I still kick myself because it was streaming only and it expired and it was amazing. Off to buy a copy of The Seduction of Claude Debussy at long last.
posted by mkb at 5:50 AM on January 11, 2012

Jesus. This could be the single greatest music related post of all time. Hello 2012!!
posted by spicynuts at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This calls for a Metatalk callout for being the best poster ever.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

And making everyone else look bad. :-P
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2012

I think I actually appreciate this post more than anything linked to!
posted by lumpenprole at 9:38 AM on January 11, 2012

That Herbie Hancock link alone is worth the price of admission.
posted by latkes at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2012

AON made me regret my year of birth.

Every so many moons ago, they were playing a gig at a San Diego club/bar. I was (well, still am) so into them that I am wishing beyond wishing I can get there. English test the next day be damned, I work out a ride to the club and a bullet-proof alibi for the familia.

I get to the gig, and promptly get turned away by the bouncer for being under age.

I sulk out of the area, find a near by theatre, and catch an R rated movie as weak consolation.

The truly sad thing is that I could most often get in anywhere, including places like the F Street Bookstore, without ID checks, just by carrying myself right (usually with my freshman uniform sweater from the Catholic high school I attended - Represent St. A's! - in my back pack.)

Anyway, that was one time ID checks sucked. Not like I was going to drink and miss the most awesome show ever... Jerks...
posted by Samizdata at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2012

AoN also did a fab session on the BBC (Saturday Live? can't remember) where they sampled and mercilessly took the piss out of the clueless Beeb DJs.
posted by scruss at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2012

Great post.
With each successive version of Beat Box/Close to the Edit you posted, I kept thinking, "oh yeah, this is the version I remember."
I think I have one of those 12" EPs somewhere and it's all just mushed together in my brain.
I loved AoN back in the day. I did curse them, however, for putting that synthy-fake trumplet blast on everything which was cool for about five minutes until it was absolutely everywhere in the mid-'80's.
And man, they sure got a lot of mileage out of that Alan White sample.
posted by chococat at 11:17 AM on January 11, 2012

By the time I read down (and clicked all the links) through the part about Fairlight, I was already thinking "Epic Post." Then I realized that we hadn't even gotten to meat of the post yet. Amazing.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:39 AM on January 11, 2012

Think I'd better dance now...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:50 AM on January 11, 2012

Yeah, totally amazing work here, Hippybear. I saw AON when they got back together for the Seduction of Debussy tour and it was pretty incredible. I already loved Debussy, but what they did made me love his music even more and this post reminds me there's a lot a still need to listen by both Debussy and AON.
posted by Skygazer at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2012

/copypastes this to Wikipedia

posted by Fezboy! at 1:28 PM on January 11, 2012

Gulp. OK so I guess I better give AoN a listen, then!
posted by Twang at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2012

The stories and mythologies of McLaren and ZZT are the book-end chapters in the Simon Reynolds book 'Rip It Up And Start Again', which describes these constructed ideology youth movements which suddenly have massive pop hits, and then gently fade into disregard or loss of ideology.
posted by ovvl at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2012

Speaking of ZTT, I like Propaganda.
posted by ovvl at 6:34 PM on January 11, 2012

Much love for Propaganda, have to go dig the tapes out next time I'm visiting my parents in the UK.
posted by arcticseal at 6:44 PM on January 11, 2012

More than awesome.
posted by Zangal at 12:27 AM on January 12, 2012

Long time AoN fan here. Thank you x 1000 for an excellent post.
posted by 00dimitri00 at 5:17 AM on January 12, 2012

How on earth did I miss this the first time around. I was "brought up" on AoN, but like all the "bands" I like, never really knew anything about them. What a mess! I also had no idea about an AoN II. Really fantastic post.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:31 AM on January 24, 2012

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