The experimental synth group Art of Noise’s first headliner live performances for several years saw them play two London dates to commemorate their 40th year. The pioneers of sample electronics utilised cutting edge technology for the time, namely the Fairlight synthesiser and electronic drum loop sequences, which were highly influential on many artists.

The group entered onstage to a large screen projecting visuals of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landings; “The Eagle has landed” audio sample balanced poignantly on a track of choral glockenspiel music. Founding group members Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik then assumed their positions for ‘Instruments of Darkness’ from their 1986 studio album, ‘In Visible Silence’, the latter flailing his arm to every effect, before the tempo grinded down to a ghostly synth whistle inhabited by vocal samples of former group member, Paul Morley.

Jeczalik then comically interjected, “So what happens now?” before launching the hoppy beats of 1983 single ‘Beat Box (Diversion 1)’ with its Kraftwerkesque ‘Tour de France’ chimes and car engine starting samples. They moved straight into its cousin  ‘Backbeat’ with countdown keys and pumping synth. Jeczalik then deconstructed ‘Paranoimia’, explaining to the audience how the track was crafted into a tune by former founding group member, Anne Dudley (keyboards, arrangements), from reverb with the addition of Linda Taylor’s (live session singer) chorus and Max Headroom’s (AI character) contributions.

Art of Noise also performed their collaborations including 1988 chart-hit dance single, ‘Kiss’ ft. Tom Jones, with the official video of the famous singer displayed in the background. Special guest guitarist Neal X then joined the group to play crisp chords for YES cover ‘Owner of A Lonely Heart’; Langan and Jeczalik both having contributed engineering and Fairlight keyboard programming on the progressive rock band’s 1983 studio album, ‘90125’, which led to the creation of the group.

They ended their set on two more  singles: the first, 1984’s chart-hit ‘Close (To The Edit)’, with Langan’s (erroneous) electronic drum loop sample which was claimed to be the first-ever of its kind; the second, 1985’s ‘Moments of Love’ (the video of which has some 30 million views on YouTube due to its ceremonial use at Madonna’s wedding) with the group doing a new remix version featuring a gothic classical overlay, sadly condensed down from the original 10-minute track. They ended on an encore of the ‘Peter Gunn’ Grammy award winning theme, with Neal X returning once more – this time kitted out in a cowboy outfit – with the group using background visuals from ‘The Italian Job’ as well as Michael Caine samples from the film.

04/01/23: Art of Noise @ Jazz Cafe, London.

Photos © Ayisha Khan.

© Ayisha Khan.