John Foxx and the Maths Interplay Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An album which easily equals the high points of Foxx’s rich back catalogue.

John Doran 2011

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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