WE CALLED IT TECHNO: New Order: Video 586 [Touch]
A 20 minute long studio dabble from New Order recorded as a test for Blue Monday but shifted to the role of Hacienda video soundtrack finds here its first vinyl release. An intriguing track that marked the onset of a recombinant disco music shot through with a waning punk ethos. This move by New Order (circa 1982) really was disliked at the time by many in the rock mindset but listening back this track manages to retain something of its original neu-funk impact. Wavering on the borderline. What sounded so fresh, almost dangerous, at the time was New Order’s willingness to experiment with different genres in a time before dance music. In this light Video 586 becomes a track for the The Hacienda; a club, empty and useless in 1982 and mainstream and vested in 1997. Perhaps this track has to remain in a kind of no-space: not so much a conceptual blueprint as a prescient accident of experimentation. Listening to this now there’s the sense that New Order are enjoying exploring the new techniques of programming, sitting back and letting the machinic timbres do their work: altering pitch, adding reverb, getting-off on the constancy of half rhythm/half melody stabs that lightly jigger-jagger in the background. Over this Peter Hook’s processed bass-notes boom out over the tinny handclaps, their rocky aggression being tempered by a studio synthesis and their placing in what was coming to be called ‘alternative dance’. This bass sound (similar in impact to that on A Certain Ratio’s Flight which summons up a gigantic bass amp) is central to the tracks recurrent fascination: it’s ‘wide’ and forceful enough to be contemporary and mixed so far up in the track (unusual for the time) to suggest that the sound obliterated New Order’s judgement and compelled them to give it prominence of place regardless of the conventions of prevailing track-forms!
Even stranger in terms of time-slips is the falling through into the fifth-dimension that occurs on the B-side: a bootleg cut of Joy Division’s short unnamed track taken from the flexi-disc that accompanied the release of Love Will Tear Us Apart. If this track prefigures the change of intent eventually taken by New Order, it certainly lays open a path on which Kraftwerk always tred and which tends towards what we knew as techno.#Like Video 586 it is a piece of experimentation that seems to have even less human input into it , more so because, even though Joy Division were a rock band that experimented in texture and emotional force, they usually kept to rock structures that are not present on this track (cf. The Eternal). A sequencer chugs out automated rhythms with those variable speeds that pick out all the beats-between to create those multi-accented rhythms much more familiar today. Syn-drums, primitive echoing bass notes and a single searing synth note finish off the mix into what can be described as a dirty Kraftwerk. What’s also noticeable is the absence of vocalist Ian Curtis from the track, but, with the time that has passed, the memory of his dance, a swaying manic movement focussed on some vanishing point, seems to loom large over the simple automated rhythmic discoveries of this track. Just as Curtis’s lyrics imploded to take rock music to dark, complicatedly honest, regions so this dance foretold of the dysfunction of the ‘front-man’, a kind of cracking of the facade of showmanship and the disinvestment of the desires invested in such a role. Record as document..
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