Go on a journey of imagination…
You can’t really look at the UK’s grassroots electronic music scene without flagging up the name of Derek Anthony Williams. Having promoted a lot of live events under the DEFSynth banner, Williams’ dedication and generosity have, alongside a number of other promoters, enabled a broad range of artists to grace the stage. His eclectic tastes have also introduced a lot of leftfield acts to live audiences, broadening an increasingly rich music culture.
But outside of wearing his flamboyant promoter’s hat, it’s Jan Doyle Band (William’s own musical combo) that his attention is primarily focussed on.
As a band, JDB generally fall under a variety of genres from industrial through to electro punk with a smattering of pop, as evidenced on songs such as ‘Nitrate Visions’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Green’. That said, Williams himself prefers to tag JDB’s output under the title of Insurrectionary Neo Futurism. If you’re going to adopt a label, why not make it your own?
The Body Balanced is a new EP via JDB which presents a variety of tracks crossing various genres, but all with a raw energy at their heart. Some of these tracks will be familiar as standard live numbers for Jan Doyle Band performances. In fact, a large draw for many JDB tunes is via the live circuit due to both the energy and the theatrical aspects of their delivery. On stage, Williams himself adopts an entirely different persona: His bouffant hair, elaborate make-up and sex boots provide the costume, while his performance is never forgettable – and rarely confines itself to the boundaries of the stage.
The EP’s title track ‘Body Balanced’ was apparently conceived as a song exploring “unfulfilled desire and dissatisfaction at the sate of things”. There’s hints of Joy Division lurking in the bleak sweep of this tune, but it offers up a guitar-snarled energy and with William’s own boisterous vocal delivery, this number suggests a theme song of sorts for Insurrectionary Neo Futurism.
‘Play Pretend’ throws a nod to Kraftwerk in its electropop leanings, bolstered by some driving guitar work by Kelly D. It’s one of the EP’s highlights with its celebration of art and imagination (and also features backing vocals from Leah Jones of Punkdisco). It’s also playful in its use of words with several lyrical shout-outs to some well-known artists and bands (“After all this if I just can’t get enough/I’ll go out searching for the meaning of love”) – half the fun is figuring them all out.
There’s a more sober approach on ‘Reflections’ with its minimalist percussion and organ-like melodies. Meanwhile, ‘Confusion’ offers a DAF-inspired slice of industrial punk.
Anyone who’s attended any Jan Doyle Band live shows will no doubt recall the one song that usually ends the performance. It’s probably the most unlikely cover version, but there’s something euphoric about Baccara’s disco delight ‘Yes, Sir I Can Boogie’. Inevitably, William’s own energy and enthusiasm for the song takes it to another level. Boosted by backing vocals from JDB collaborator Lady LD50, it offers a joyous end to the EP with its unashamed love of fun.
While it could be argued that much of JDB’s output could lose a sense of dynamism when rendered in a recorded version, the tracks here still maintain a vitality of their own. Having the talents of Steve Whitfield (and also Tom Henthorn) on mixing and mastering duties is clearly a key component here.
In the end, The Body Balanced is a collection of tunes that employ a theatrical edge or dip into darker electronic moods, which perhaps sums up the whole approach of Jan Doyle Band. Either way, you’re embarking on a journey of imagination that will deliver you to a science fiction landscape.
The Body Balanced EP is out now: