What emerges often about EPs issued with a good number of remixed tracks (this EP contains two which are by film director David Lynch plus a radio edit), is the potential for that growing sense of infinity.
And while this does ring true here, as a body of work, ‘European Splendour’ fully utilises the perfectly paired talents of both JOHN FOXX and JORI HULKKONEN. This isn’t the first time that the long-standing ex-ULTRAVOX icon has worked alongside the Finnish music producer with ‘Never Been Here Before’ and ‘Dislocated’ being the previous singular outcomes.
And much to his credit, Hulkkonen would be responsible for some of the most striking soundtracks throughout his career, which saw his debut album release entitled ‘Selkasaari Tracks’ emerge back in 1996. He even had a Top 30 UK hit as part of TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS with a cover of COREY HART’s ‘Sunglasses At Night’ and delivered 2011’s PROCESSORY project which presented a luminous Sci-Fi concept album in ‘Change Is Gradual’. More recently, he has been making waves as a member of synthpop duo SIN COS TAN. This latest Foxx/Hulkkonen collaboration, as such, delves into the memoirs of mellifluous electro, synonymous with both artists.
The lead track ‘Evangeline’, and all its varying incarnations, is an aftershock of an immense and sumptuous ritual of dance-paced theme, allowing Foxx to add his more traditionally styled vocals to the slowed up anthemic template. Specific points allow hints of unmistakable Spanish-styled guitar twangs to cut through, while overall the track is made up of rich multi-layers that morph like a DJ mix in progress. A vibrant exchange of character throughout, the David Lynch remix especially reaching deeper across the sonic palette, with a hint of unmistakable sea spray closing the track.
The masterpiece on here is without a doubt ‘Strictly’, where vintage themes from THE MATHS meets SOFT CELL, not least for its catchy, sharp uncluttered hook, and a bass line that has all the necessary, consistent punctuation. The track quickly becomes engulfed in washes floating synth melodies – drifting gently like voile in a gentle breeze. Not exactly tainted with love, given its cold dark ambience, it’s a stark picture template – a mosaic of black and white images from film stock symbolic of a life in passing motion, while contemplation is engrained within the transient sounds.
‘Something Is Coming Down the Avenues’ has that ULTRAVOX feel of experimentation, coupled with the early production ethics of the legendary Conny Plank. And it’s not only about synthesized messages. With a beat outline that is a shifting example all in itself of musical touches – the trademarks really do make a difference. Add to that a monologue vocal that contains hints of PINK FLOYD, overall, the result is a thought-provoking mix of experimentation, laced with a subtle interrogation.
As the intensity of emotional depth is engrained, ‘Can’t See You Anymore’ presents a slow burner that emits a somewhat dissonant intrigue throughout; a slowed-up jazz-like inspiration that develops into a mysterious mirage of romantic persuasion. It has similar roots to the introduction on HEAVEN 17’s ‘Lady Ice and Mr Hex’ before the latter manifests into something much more lively and upbeat of course. In contrast, ‘Can’t See You Anymore’, maintains its measured, inquisitive film noir plot; glimpses of naked piano alongside the hypnotically soothing soundtrack.
‘European Splendour’ achieves all its objectives – to quote JOHN FOXX: “it’s based in a Eurozone where dark forces insinuate the cafes, alleyways and penthouses”. That rings pretty true. Add to that a vintage locomotive whose windows reveal rich sources for contemplative commentary and it makes for an outstanding piece.
With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR
‘European Splendour’ is released by Sugarcane Records on 19th August 2013 as a CD, 12″ vinyl and download
Text by Jus Forrest
10th August 2013, updated 4th May 2016