[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Returning to the solo fold after many years of collaborations, John Foxx delves into a topic which is no doubt close to his heart and very fascinating to my mind: JG Ballard. Through the usage of media at cross purposes, our quiet man synthesizes quite the collection of feelings and form; without giving too much away I’m going to let you know that this is not an ordinary tribute nor are we hearing sugary homage. Foxx set out to capture the mood of Ballard’s writings and I think he’s pulled it off nicely. He balances old technology against a sense of wonderment at where we are now and never lets up with the atmospheres. Not once.
What I really like best about his latest are those tiny recurring interludes which recall the beauty of his ‘Tiny Colour Movies’ record from a few years back. I keep hearing him talk about this piano album he’s working on and then there was the record he mentioned where he planned to place microphones in empty rooms and see what came of the experiment. Have no doubts, if you’re a fan of his quieter and more introspective side then you’ll lap this up without a second thought and even if all you know of him are his recent works with the Maths (Benge pens one of the cuts on here and does so impressively) there’s more than enough material on ‘B-Movie’ to sate your senses.
John’s been around since the 70s, his history is well documented so don’t look for it here.
For those who don’t quite see why this album is split into two movements, the answer can be revealed in the most unusual of manners: track length. There are fascinatingly detailed reasons for this I’m certain but we probably won’t get any explanation; the shaving of a few seconds here and a minute or so there change the entire dynamic range of what is going on, to say that these two halves are identical is unwise. They couldn’t be more different and it isn’t done for the sake of eccentricity, these designs define ornate restraint. It would have been quite easy to flesh ‘B-Movie’ out and turn it into a decadent feast for the ears… but the quiet man keeps it skeletal. He implies motion and hints at figure, his canvas never more than an enigmatic slate which sits in the background, motionless yet quite sentient .
Forget those sequined faces and let go of your inhibitions, John Foxx takes us into the realm of flying Rays and jeweled fish which fly to us from across the desert. When Ballard put pen to paper and fleshed out the erudite depictions of Vermillion Sands with it’s reclusive inhabitants lingering on their balconies he probably never imagined someone would provide the musical score to such a place. His concepts of time and it’s effects on the human condition culminated with dead astronauts forever orbiting the Earth and entire cities reclaimed by decay; John Foxx breathes life into these abandoned monoliths and leaves behind a few new glyphs of his own.