[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Very little notice was taken of this immaculately textured album when it was released, but its impact and influence cannot be overstated. In an era where the IRC was king, “Digital Soundtracks” was a very sweet payoff. If you were among those who found DVA’s instrumental excursions to be their finest moments, this was the record for you. It showed that tracks such as “The Connection Machine” or either of “The Sonology of Sex” pieces were merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Underneath that glass of darkness, the trio which made up the band at that point (Robert Baker, Adi Newton and Dean Dennis) were not about to leave anything to chance. They would fully investigate what lurked beneath the more unsound aspects of what they were doing.
To get work like this these days is a statistical impossibility, no one would have the nerve to conjure up what was sealed onto “Digital Soundtracks”. Depressingly, the main reason for this is a lot of what they were uncovering has now been under the harsh glare of the online world for quite some time now and the mysterious, near mystical hidden realm they operated within has been dissipated by the very technology their album sleeves labored so diligently to decrypt. More than anything else, Clock DVA were a product of their time. A time when instantaneous information exchange was a futuristic conceit which existed only in the minds of the most imaginative and the fluidity our world now enjoys with regard to expression you wouldn’t even dream of.
When I saw this disc innocuously in the shop, my first thought was oh nice a new album. If I had known the level of impact these compositions would have on my life I’d have given the moment much more gravity. Few around me gave it the time of day, they preferred works such as “Man Amplified” or the perennial favorite “Buried Dreams”. I chose to embrace what they were doing in the fall of 1992 and since then with alarming regularity, I find myself going back to these magnificently disquieting songs like a nomad in the desert falling upon an oasis.
Another feature to what this record does, which few others can muster, is that it gives you a restless near transient feel. By this I mean that you could be lying perfectly still playing this through and you’ll get the sensation of motion moving throughout your body as if you’ve been taken somewhere else for the duration. I can’t believe that this release is now over 20 years old, as it sounds absolutely current. For me, this was where the split between traditional ‘industrial’ music and techno first occurred. More than any acid influence, more than any white label warehouse party… sitting in my room with this pouring into my headphones, the future became abundantly clear.
It was not going to be a brightly bombastic love-fest, no, the grey textures this album utilized as a framework were firmly indicative that cynicism and a wary distrust of humanity’s intentions were going to be the order of the day. Nothing on “Digital Soundtracks” gave you a feeling of whimsy or warmth. What we had here was an insular exposition that cut across all lines and bonds with authoritative technological zeal. Getting this when it came out was absolute providence, for it was part of one of the mightiest musical arcs ever wrought. 1993 gave us their final new album – yes, I know Post-Sign is now out but it’s too little too late – “Sign” which was to predict the whole ambient techno movement of the mid to late 90s with incredible prescience.
Along with Cabaret Voltaire’s work in the 1990s, Clock DVA’s place in the pantheon of innovative electronic experimentation is never to be questioned, only absorbed. Their fixation on lurid excesses may have been suppressed by the sterile precision of “Man Amplified” but as some of “Digital Soundtracks” clearly demonstrates: not all that is buried remains lost.
Clock DVA – Digital Soundtracks
CD, LP, 1992
Contempo Records, 217CD