Boomkat Product Review:
Synth-pop godfather John Foxx takes to the piano stool solo after decades of collaboration with Harold Budd and Ruben Garcia. Of course he doesn’t forget the electronics, wreathing keys in resplendent shimmering pads and FX for a quiet dérive...
“This latest work has a fresh sense of wonder, as if returning to the instrument after the raging analogue noise of his last major work, 2020’s Howl (by John Foxx And The Maths) necessitated a further retreat into quiet, minimal music. The half-light, atmospheric flow of the album recalls the artist’s own series of short stories, The Quiet Man (published by Essential Works in 2020).
However, as Foxx writes in an essay to accompany the album, there’s another text - by Walter Benjamin - that provides some of the inspiration, as well as the title for the new record. Foxx explains how he first came across the book, ‘when I was at art school, in the mid 1960s a number of obscure books were discussed and dog-eared copies often circulated. Among these ‘The Arcades Project’, by Walter Benjamin, was especially tantalising. It was often referred to, but its existence seemed no more than a rumour. In those days before the internet, you could never find a copy. Of course, all that elusiveness and mystery lent the book a legendary status.”
He continues: “The book itself is a sort of stroll through new ideas emerging from the city life of Paris in the 19th and early 20th century. It was also concerned with what the French poet Baudelaire had termed flâneurism. The flâneur enjoys walking randomly, drifting with the tides on the streets, taking great pleasure in a dreamlike state of coincidentalism - being open to all the unfolding daily events of a great modern city.” The glass-roofed Parisian arcades that are described in Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, offered its citizens a chance to “meander, dream, gather impressions” through the rows of shops and elegant apartments.
Foxx in turn - “with the piano and the help of some old electronics” - set out to create “immediate, often imperfect, gestural fragments of music and atmosphere that might allude to some momentary experience - a chance meeting, a glimpse into a garden, a coincidence, a life behind a window revealed at twilight, someone indistinct. And it all comes from walking.”