Lots of artists make ambient music. Few do it well enough to stand out from the crowd. Matthew Cooper’s work as Eluvium is reminiscent in some moments of William Basinski, Gas, and even some bits of Burial’s Rival Dealer EP. However, it avoids being derivative and instead carves out its own place in the landscape of ambient music.
New Order’s groundbreaking and influential Blue Monday was released in March 1983. The b-side is a mostly instrumental version of the song titled The Beach.
Sometime in late 1983 or early 1984 my friend and I made our way to the long gone VVV Records, which was located on Cedar Springs in Dallas, Texas. There was on the wall a record that looked like an oversized floppy disc. It was a die-cut sleeve with no artist or track information. I immediately bought it.
I wasn’t really familiar with New Order at that point. I was vaguely aware of Joy Division. I don’t think I even asked the clerk, who would later become MC 900 Ft Jesus, who the artist was.
My friend and I made our way back to the suburban drabness of Duncanville to listen to our new found treasures.
The record label itself didn’t indicate what track was the A-side and what was the B-side. Because the title Blue Monday reminded me of that awful 1950s song, I opted to start with The Beach.
Several minutes later as the song wound down I remarked, “That was pretty cool, but really kind of slow and plodding. Also those robot voices were strange.” My friend nodded in agreement.
So I flipped the record over and with a slight amount of trepidation played Blue Monday. I remember hoping that it wasn’t some sort of cover.
Quickly I learned that it was the same song or at least a version of it. Then the vocals came in. “How does it feel..” stretched out slowly and deeply over the same plodding beat and slightly odd sounding synthesizers. It was then that I realized I’d left the turntable on 33 RPMs instead of 45.
It makes me laugh now to think about the two us dumb, white, suburban punks sitting in a bedroom in Duncanville, Texas listening to what would become the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time at the wrong speed.
Regardless of the speed with which it was played the single kicked off my longtime love affair with Factory Records.
I was sitting in a ramen shop here in Japan at lunch today and chatting with an Englishman about the incoming US presidential election results and BREXIT. Both of us were despairing a bit about our fellow citizens and their choices.
Now that the election is over though I think there’s no time for despair and there’s no point in indulging in nonsense about leaving the country (though I admit to have thought about it in more than a little detail).
The results are disappointing for many reasons, but mostly because they reveal what I suspected for most of this year. There was a great mass of ugliness lurking beneath the surface of electorate. Now it is out in the open and it is time to work against it. That’s what I think we should focus on in the coming months and years.
Cheers and all the best to all of us as Americans.