Nothing But Noise: Not Bleeding Red
There are moments here when one might be forgiven for thinking that the record playing isn't Not Bleeding Red but instead some classic, heretofore unreleased Tangerine Dream material laid down between Phaedra and Rubycon; there're certainly no shortage of sequencer patterns on the recording's two discs. Nothing But Noise isn't some newly hatched project by three whiz kids but rather Front 242 founder member Daniel B reuniting with co-founder Dirk Bergen after almost thirty years, plus Erwin Jadot. Though the three spent eighteen months creating the material, both at home and at Daniel B's studio, it didn't all originate from that time; instead, Not Bleeding Red draws from recordings and ideas produced during the previous two decades. The album arrives in the wake of a self-imposed hiatus Front 242 announced after their final live show in Belgium in March 2012.
Don't be fooled by a rather ugly cover design that's more suggestive of industrial music than anything else: Not Bleeding Red is most assuredly not industrial music, no matter the musical background of its creators. If the material exudes a vintage sound, it should, given that synthesizers such as the Moog Voyager, Prophet8, Juno 106, and Arp Odyssey were used in the music's production. Names like Manuel Göttsching, Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, and Jean Michel Jarre can't help but spring to mind as one listens to the album. That's especially the case when a typical track evolves through multiple episodes and its pulsating patterns and synthetic washes begin to evoke the semi-improvisational feel of a typical Tangerine Dream jam. The material is thoroughly wide-screen in character, and tracks liberally stretch out, with disc one's grandiose closer, “Mass,” weighing in at more than eighteen minutes. It's almost impossible not to invoke the journey idea when listening to such tracks, especially when the sequencer patterns give them a forward propulsion that's so resolute as to seem unstoppable. Listening to “Mooglish,” for example, it's easy to imagine oneself rocketing through the air and gazing wistfully down upon the earth from on high.
The unsubtlety of the cover is belied by the oft-understated approach the trio brings to the music, starting with “Marcel Proust [VLEGM],” as Tangerine Dream-like a setting as any on the recording. For whatever reason, the trio pays tribute to the magnificent French author with eight epic and brooding minutes of analogue sequencer patterns and mellotron washes. Audible during the opening “242 Hurtz” section of the two-part “CK” is a faint echo of Kraftwerk's “Kometenmelodie1,” though its whooshes and muffled wails eventually give way to the less claustrophobic “Vorspiel” section. Probably the most amazing thing about the recording isn't so much the music on it as how much the climate has changed in recent days. Not long ago, a release filled with nothing but synthesizer instrumentals would have been dismissed as a long-lost relic from the Prog era, and overkill too for being two discs long. No doubt this most recent flood of synthesizer-based recordings and renewed interest in the genre will invariably lead to another fall out of fashion, and the cycle will keep on repeating ad infinitum. The members of Nothing But Noise were wise to release Not Bleeding Red when they did, as two years from now the reaction to it might be altogether different.