The Forgotten Arm: Art Of Noise

For all kinds of music, the 1980s were strange times. Countless genres were invented just to categorize sounds that had never been made before. One of the most fascinating projects to emerge from the early part of the decade was the Art Of Noise. Originally conceived as a faceless ‘anti-band,’ the group brought together multi-instrumentalists, producers, engineers and visual artists to craft a multimedia assault on the senses. The faces behind the ever-present masks belonged to producer Gary Langan, composer Anne Dudley, programmer  J. J. Jeczalik, producer/Buggle Trevor Horn and journalist Paul Morley. The core group was often joined by various unusual collaborators and guests, such as guitar great Duane Eddy and digital entity Max Headroom. What might be the oddest thing about the Art Of Noise is that they managed to get quite popular.

Bringing together a shared love of classical music, the budding hip-hop craze and the music of the ’40s, the Art Of Noise’s tracks featured a cacophony of processed beats, manipulated samples and ethereal soundscapes. Early recordings boasted a slightly more pop direction, likely thanks to Horn’s roots in more straightforward new wave production. Anarchic tracks like “The Army Now” and “Flesh In Armour” show complete irreverence for traditional song structures, repeating and distorting sampled snippets ad infinitum. Other early recordings were more tailored for the dancefloor; “Beat Box” and “Close (To The Edit)” became bona fide hits along the club circuits. The Art Of Noise were also pioneers of the languid, haunting compositions that would set the stage for ‘chillout’ electronic music. The most common version of “Moments In Love,” one of their first signature tunes, wafts for about 10 minutes before climaxing with an arresting (and disturbing) set of samples.

Another cornerstone of the Art Of Noise’s early output was the group’s restless self-remixing. Numerous versions of each creation were released through Horn and Morley’s ZTT Records. After their 1984 debut, Horn left the group and the group left ZTT. With each subsequent release, the project’s sound drifted more and more toward ambient and world music, rarely producing tracks as thrilling as in their heyday. Dudley and Morley regrouped with Horn (and 10cc‘s Lol Creme) in 1999 for The Seduction Of Claude Debussy, a full-on synthesis of classical and experimental music. Though its contributors remain mostly active with their own various projects, the Art Of Noise is effectively no more.

Watch: Art Of Noise – “Close (To The Edit)” from Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise? (1984)

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~ by E. on April 26, 2011.

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