Art Of Noise: a Spanner in the Works

ART OF NOISE IS THE FIRST RELEASE ON TREVOR HORN’S AND PAUL MORLEY’S ZANG TUUM TUMB LABEL. NOT DISCO. NOT POP. YET NOT UNTUNEFUL. CHRIS BOHN TURNS UP THE VOLUME.

BUSINESS EMPIRES of pop easily tumble. All it takes is the right touch. In an era when songs are composed by accountants, just so many words spilt in vanity and tailored to fit skimpy designs, the malicious among us welcome those few willing to splash acid down the back of Spandau trousers, Big Country tartan, Wham! leather, preparing the way, perhaps, for an eventual putsch.

Celebrate, then, a new label Zang Tuum Tumb, whose opening statement of intent Art Of Noise is the first of an Incidental Series of shocks to the nervous system calculated to jar bodies out of disco straitjackets and expose them to the cold, bracing blast of the winter that must precede spring.

Masterminded by ZTT’s Trevor Horn and Paul Morley, Art Of Noise assert the primacy of direct action above the word, cunning invisibility before saturation flypostering, Chinese puzzles as more fun than boardroom strategies. Art Of Noise is Morley made concrete, concrete made mobile by Horn.

Art Of Noise don’t talk much but they think ALOUD a lot. “…So we felt that we belonged more to the 20th Century, that appalling energising concentration, than to rock culture or pop music. I suppose sub-consciously we were mucking about with the gimmick of time rather than thinking seriously about fashion. And we knew really that we wanted to raid the 20th Century…”

MAKE TROUBLE, FAIL, MAKE TROUBLE AGAIN, FAIL AGAIN… TILL THEIR DOOM!

FIGHT, FAIL, FIGHT AGAIN, FAIL AGAIN, FIGHT AGAIN… TILL THEIR VICTORY!

“…play up to all its trends, play around with all its noises, honour yet dishonour the 20th Century’s way with war, romance and comedy. Art Of Noise is squeezing a way of laughing at the world that comes from constant dissatisfaction right there between the mighty fist of war and love’s touchy heart. The laugh, the fist, the heart — Art Of Noise. Irrational, physical and emotional. Unless it’s a Sunday.”

DID ART OF NOISE EXAMINE THE TASK IT SET FOR ITSELF WITH A VIEW TO THE FUNCTION IT HAD TO FULFIL?

“We didn’t think about what a pop group is supposed to be because to do that is to die, we didn’t think about what dance music is supposed to do, or how muzak type theories have unexplained attractions; and what is staked out as being avant garde hurts us because it is so lonely. It never occurred to us to bother whether the noise clashed with or tore along with what Elvis Costello accurately calls the wear and tear of fashion. There was just a story to tell — of partners, then their parting — and some sounds we found that emerged from yesterday but that didn’t belong there. And we used the most up to date technology not to calculate perfect pop but to harness the sounds of our time, to explore and gamble in an old fashioned adventurer’s type of way. We didn’t need technology as some kind of setting lotion, but as a transport to new extremes.”

DOWN WITH ART THE SHINING PATCHES ON THE TALENTLESS LIFE OF A WEALTHY MAN

“That we have emerged, smiling and sweating a little, to be amidst such things as Arthur Baker’s New Order, Material’s Herbie Hancock, half of New York scratching over backwards, is not too upsetting — Herb’s got a way to go before he realises where we dropped in from — but in a way encouraging. You can look another way, see some of the more European approaches, from stark buildings to rich cabaret, and joyously anticipate the strong emergence of a kind of heroic eclecticism, of everything breaking down, falling in on itself, then starting up again, harder, wilder, sweeter, faster. A gorgeous, cynical caricature of the past, an anxious glance into the future. And for the present a lot of touching and laughing — those great natural things pop group pop music brutally devalues.”

DOWN WITH ART THE PRECIOUS GEM IN THE DIRTY DARK LIFE OF A POOR MAN

“The more one looks at Spandau, Wham!, Duran Duran, the more one sees the long drawn out death of the pop group: The entertaining values of the pop group worn down into one sad bare patch in the middle of the TOTP studio. It’s a betrayal of hope, they turn denial into a kind of science. Perhaps we’re mixing up the first real sound of the ’80s — this is not to say that you cannot tell the time from the music of, say, Culture Club, Tom Waits, Robert Wyatt,” (and the Germans) “but there has been nothing that has erupted accessibly and outrageously within the ’80s” (except the Germans) “which is ridiculous when you consider the sensations and tensions pushing into us all the time. I suppose it’s terror in the face of the historical burden instead of courage. With us it’s the ’80s, we’re right there with the ticking of the clock, with the-beating of hearts, with the running of feet… even on Sunday. And our music is the perfect accompaniment to just about every exciting body action, so I don’t suppose we’ll be too lonely.”

DOWN WITH ART THE MEANS TO ESCAPE FROM THE LIFE WHICH IS NOT WORTH LIVING

(With thanks to Mao Tse Tung, Alexander Rodchenko, Paul Morley and El Lissitzky)

© Chris BohnNew Musical Express, 8 October 1983

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