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Infantjoy, With (Service AV)

☆☆☆☆☆

A host of innovators from previous decades haunt this album of remixes. Simon Reynoldss hair stands on end.

‘Tis the season to be spooky. From the label Ghostbox to Ariel Pinks Haunted Graffiti, the notion of spectral music is the meme of the moment. Last year Infantjoys debut Where the Night Goes featured a cover of Japans synth-noir classic ‘Ghosts. Now the sequel With arrives bearing a manifesto of sorts in the form of ‘Absence. ‘It is necessary to speak of the ghost, intones Paul Morley, half of Infantjoy alongside ex-Auteur James Banbury. ‘Speak to the spectre, engage it … do not command it … but dance with it … We are always haunted by ghosts and we cannot freely choose what we will be haunted by.

With is something of a ghost version of Where the Night Goes, encompassing remixes of the latters tracks by various kindred, erm, spirits in the electronic field as well as all-new pieces like ‘A Haunted Space (sensing a bit of a theme here?). ‘Ghosts itself rematerialises in a spare treatment by Populous that gives even more prominence to the gorgeous vocals of Sarah Nixey, whose uncanny Kate Bush-like tones conjure up a parallel pop universe where the raven-haired goddess fronted Japan instead of David Sylvian. Isans remake of ‘Composure transports the originals rolling piano chords into a frosted wonderland of electronic tingles and sample-stretched sighs.

Sounds insubstantiality, the way that music always elude our attempts to fix and define, is a major Morley obsession, and in this spirit With keeps hazy the question of authorship, such that youre never quite sure whos remixing whom. ‘Someone With Handshake, for instance, appears to be a collaboration between two guest producers, Someone and Handshake, with Infantjoys involvement quite possibly limited to having convened the encounter. Unless the tracks digitally mangled voice, which sounds like its covered with furry spikes, like a crystal forming in a solution, is actually Morleys. By the tracks end, its heavily processed beats are so encrusted with gnarly texture, the groove almost grinds to a halt.

Infantjoy confirms Morleys membership of a select group of rock writers whove made music without disgracing themselves. A concept album about Erik Satie, Where the Night Goes formed a 20th-century modernism-obsessed continuum with the Art of Noise: the Futurism and Dada coordinates of 1983s Into Battle, the Debussy-meets-drumnbass of AoNs resurrection in the late Nineties.

(cont.)
Infantjoys claims for Satie are slightly overblown (‘just about every radical musical movement of the past 100 years is traceable back to ‘Trois Gymnopedies and ‘furniture music? Tell that to Duke Ellington, James Brown, King Tubby, and a good dozen more—mostly black—innovators!). But the fantasy underlying this polemic—an alternative history of pop in which America and rocknsoul never existed, a straight line from Russolo through Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, Kraftwerk, Eno, Oval, to, well, Infantjoy—makes for a compelling dissident vision, with an absorbingly eerie sound to match.

Recommended: ‘Ghosts; ‘Composure