John Foxx & Jori Hulkkonen ‎– European Splendour


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Autumn is a season which comes upon us gradually, in subtle shades of shimming gold it descends. You walk amongst the Birches and Poplars, their offerings gently lilting to the ground beneath you, where we all will eventually rest. Perhaps you have a mug of nicely spiced rum steeped in cinnamon while you make your way through this panorama of decay, or maybe you’re not there at all, you lie in a dimly lit room in the Hydrocodone haze… either way, this EP is what you’ll be listening to through the months of August to November. Before the ice sets in, before the howling winds cut against your face, John Foxx and Jouri Hulkonnen will provide the soundtrack to the sparing allotment which is fall.

They continue their collaboration of down tempo electronic noir with fantastical results. I had wondered where this version of Foxx had gone, the quiet man given new form and shape through these cavernous rooms of brilliant night time reflection. This does not have the urgency which his material with the Maths contains, we find him slowly unraveling his words while Hulkkonen composes stunning minimalist backdrops absolutely drenched in atmosphere. Foxx casts his net far and wide on ‘European Splendour’, but never do his lyrics show more than a silhouette of an entity. Alienist synthesis? This could be the finest inklings of it. What I’m hearing on here is some of the catchiest he’s done since the 80s. You know, those albums after ‘Metamatic’ where he, along with Zeus B. Held showed us a world which remains incomprehensible to anyone on the outside.

I’ll happily go against the grain and say the lead track “Evangeline” is the feel of leaves crackling underfoot, the scent of smoke on the air. It is quiet evenings out in the wilds amidst the Evergreens, falling endlessly through Wintergreen plants. You try to encapsulate all of this, but words come up short. These brooding, introspective slices cut out of the mind’s eye conjure up the most immaculate stationary embossed with a silvery cursive script issuing forth from an invisible hand; “We wrote our names on water, we told our secrets to the sea…” If it was any more personal, these songs would snake out of your speakers to take your hand in a deserted and crumbling ballroom. Leading you past the cracked pillars, through the overgrown alcoves.

I go back and forth over this release, trying to ascertain how it is so seamlessly crafted. The smooth, flowing sensation of being adrift on the glass surface of the ocean comes through again and again. This is no coincidence, what these two have done is to give ‘Cathedral Oceans’ an epilogue. Here is where we find our journeying reader of worn literature at the end of his voyage. Regardless of any comparative parallels being drawn, ‘European Splendour’ easily stands on it’s own as a remarkable testament to the power of restraint. A clarity of thought which ripples against the throbbing impetuousness of the heart.

Whomever you hold dear, whoever brings out that rush of blood when their hand entwines with your own: this is for those times. When once is not enough, when the silken skin radiates that particular heat of desire. The passions of seclusion, eyes locked upon each other while the pulse elevates. No other thought besides unremitting pleasure; walk these corridors, listen to the symphony rising behind mute statuary and become one with this shifting tableau wrung from memory’s lyre.

John Foxx & Jori Hulkkonen ‎– European Splendour
CD, EP, 2013
Sugarcane Recordings, SUGARS.024.


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