The debut album by John Foxx And The Maths will be released by Metamatic Records on 21st March, 2011. Interplay is a collaboration between John Foxx and electronic composer and synthesizer collector, Benge (Ben Edwards). He's best known for his 2008 album, Twenty Systems which was described by Brian Eno as 'a brilliant contribution to the archaeology of electronic music.' The album will initially be available as a Deluxe Digipack limited to 1500 copies, designed by Jonathan Barnbrook whose previous work includes David Bowie's Heathen and Reality albums. Moody and atmospheric, but also full of songs that are actually more pop than avant garde, Interplay pulls various strands of electronic music together from early 80s electro to 70s Krautrock, even flashes of Cabaret Voltaire and Foxx s first band, Ultravox! One track, Watching A Building On Fire features Mira Aroyo from Ladytron, who also came up with the original synth riff. Although Interplay sounds nothing like the ambient experiments of Twenty Systems, both albums are based around the waves, frequencies and vibrations of analogue synthesizers. Many of the songs on the new Maths album started with an electronic rhythm from a 1960s Moog system built into Benge's studio, with the pair then coming up with ideas live in the studio. As Benge says, 'the idea of Interplay is in the lyric from the title-track. 'We calculated everything, but not the interplay'. In the studio we left a lot of things to chance and let the various combinations of sounds and colours and connections trigger our imaginations.' Foxx and Benge will be performing tracks from the album, plus a selection of early Ultravox material (with Robin Simon on guitar) and material from Foxx's dark electro classic Metamatic at the Troxy, London on 2nd April, alongside live sets by Gary Numan and Motor. This follows their triumphant analogue performance last summer at the Roundhouse as the headliner of the 2010 Short Circuit festival. Meanwhile in recent years John Foxx has also collaborated with I, Robot film director Alex Proyas, writer Iain Sinclair and Robin Guthrie (ex-Cocteau Twins). He's currently working on new material with Paul Daley (Leftfield).
Nostalgia for the future has meant that numerous acts that came to the fore during the synth-pop boom of the late 70s and early 80s are back once again, like Britpop and grunge never happened. The previous few months have seen releases by OMD, The Human League and Blancmange. But of all these careworn analogue pioneers who find themselves back in demand again in 2011, it is clearly John Foxx however who has made the most relevant and enjoyable recorded statement.
Foxx originally fronted the original and (superior) line-up of a pre-Midge Ure Ultravox! and propelled the proto-goth, art house post punk unit towards the emergent synthesizer revolution before striking out on his own. He achieved fleeting critical and commercial solo success in the early 80s with the albums Metamatic and The Garden, but spent the latter half of the decade and most of the 90s dormant. While he has completed many intriguing avant-electronica multi-media projects since (most notably 1997’s Cathedral Oceans), this is the first time he has fully re-engaged with synth-pop as a form in nearly 30 years. And the result of this, Interplay, is an unqualified success.
His ‘band’ the Maths is actually east London synth archivist Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards, and he proves a perfect foil for the silver Foxx. Edwards (like contemporaries Simian Mobile Disco) collects vintage keyboards and sequencers and is engaged in a project to make very new music on antiquated equipment. So this album is the perfect synthesis of warm retro and cold futurism; of what the future used to sound like, what it turned out to be and what it still could be.
While Shatterproof has a tough, bleeping EBM pulse, it is embellished with glitchy and shimmering time-stretched vocals. Foxx has an amusing pop at the post-electroclash, microKORG-owning electro hipsters of the last few years on Catwalk, while one of the true inheritors to his crown, Mira Aroyo from Ladytron, lends her glacial, irony-free tones to the sumptuous Watching a Building on Fire. Elsewhere, the glorious ghost of Metamatic (and Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle) informs The Running Man and Destination with booming Moog and relentless machine rhythms. And finally, the chorused voices of The Good Shadow pay tribute to the godfathers of all this music, Kraftwerk.
In the fourth decade of his career, Foxx has released an album which easily equals the high points of his rich back catalogue.
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