As electronic music and its array of genres moves into the new century we are confronted with a multitude of “re-issues” or re-releases of material from the last century. Most of the time the only merit that these re-releases have is that they again offer rare or out-of-print material that generally satisfies the craven new seeker.
With that said, the true measure of a successful re-issue lies in three criteria. The first being, does it offer an historical insight of the musical climate of its time to the new listener? Next, does it recapture the original significance of the music for those who were around when it was first released? And finally, is there enough bonus material and packaging to give all of us a bigger picture?
The Neon Judgement two disc re-issue aptly named “Box” not only meets these criteria, but exceeds them on all fronts. The first disc “inbox originals,” covers material going back to the twilight of Belgian electronic music history during the years 1981-1984. Absolutely edifying the new comer while confirming the suspicions of the old fan, it offers 15 solid tracks that illustrate how the band carved their sound out of the three existing electronic music camps (industrial/experimental, EBM, and minimal electronic wave) in Belgium during that time.
Songs like “TV Treated” and “Please Release Me Let Me Go Go” have long since become anthems that pay homage to a musically purer time of DIY production and analogue machines. Wavish lead lines and apocalyptic vocals ride on fat mechanized rhythms that steer down roads of exotic melody. Add the occasional subversive backing guitar and you have what I believe to be some of the roots of the cyber-punk things you hear today.
If the first disc succeeds at fulfilling the first two criteria for a successful re-issue then the second disc “outbox remixes” certainly succeeds in the third. Consisting of 11 tracks, (7 remixes and 3 previously unreleased) one gets a broader interpretation of how TNJ are perceived by other artists. In today’s climate of overwhelming numbers of DJs and remixes one can sometimes get “mix blind” looking through the binds in your local shop. The 7 remixes here include excellent work by Tiga Vox, Terence Fixmer, and Vive La Fete. Especially infectious is the dance inducing bass line employed by Tiga. Clean minimal and to the point. On the complete other end of the TNJ spectrum are the 3 previously unreleased tracks. Unaffected by technology they are more in the range of something like Joy Division. They are darker, more raw, and sound like B-sides from early 80’s 7” records. “Sweet Revenge” the best of the 3, is a must have for fans old and new. Now add the beautiful package, booklet, sticker, and pin then salivate.
Saying this music was or is important would be one of the great understatements of our time. I can’t stress to you enough that this is much more than just another re-issue of some cool 80’s EBM. This work speaks to the dark realization that we have all become trapped within a giant consumer corporation controlled by mass media pins and economic needles. A long since tapped out socially conscientious topic, the issue never the less is still relevant and one truly gets the sense that it is appropriate that The Neon Judgement are ones to remind you of it.
by Mark Lane
Artist Link: http://www.theneonjudgement.com