This is it. Rarely has a piece of music sounded so bleak, brooding, and final. The last and most terrifying song written by Joy Division. Darker even than Atmosphere, The Eternal and Decades combined. Much has been said of the lyrics; in hindsight so readily interpreted as prophetic for what was to come… How on earth New Order were able to subsequently record this and even play it live is beyond me, but clearly closure and respect come into it. It’s a remarkable, visceral track.
In 1980, with so much of the period’s synthesiser music being of the cheap and nasty kind, In A Lonely Place (originally called Little Boy) delivered a majestic – almost funereal – alternative. Vast, sweeping chords of deep synthetic atmosphere over a slow march of drum rolls. Repeating simple but beautifully defined organ melodies played in combination with Sumner on melodica, and Hooky’s discordant descending basslines. For me this is one of Martin Hannett’s finest productions, utilising his digital delay to remarkable effect, and cutting through the track with shards of manufactured electronic noise. The synths, cymbals, and even Sumner’s hauntingly frail vocals are all passed through a shimmering reverb, casting the whole track in a crystalline sub-zero mist.
Probably more so than Ceremony, In A Lonely Place – with its emphasis on the darker shadows of electronic music (and in that context recent Joy Division tracks like Isolation, Heart and Soul and the As You Said instrumental) – informed what was to come on the Movement album.
Caressing the marble and stone indeed…
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