I can’t decide whether Vanishing Point is my favourite track on Technique. I reckon it might be, but Fine Time, Round & Round and Mr Disco are all completely sublime as well, so I think it depends on what day it is. In 1988/89 Fine Time would have been my preferred Friday floor filler; raw and in your face – heralding the weekend with mischief and bustle. You’re well into the weekend by Saturday night, and your senses are sharpened for some classy tunes – so bring on Round & Round’s silky brilliance or Mr Disco’s all-you-can-eat bliss. Your Sunday afternoon recovery needs clarity; so some unconfused beats & bass, beautiful melodies, and even a hint of ambient melancholy are required. Vanishing Point is a superb expression of all of these. All four tracks together on one album is simply remarkable, and hands-down Technique is New Order’s finest hour.
Bernard excels himself on Vanishing Point: “Grow up children – don’t you suffer, at the hands of one another“, and one of my favourite NO choruses of all time “My life ain’t no holiday, I’ve been through the point of no return. I’ve seen what a man can do; I’ve seen all the hate of a woman too“; all delivered in that middle/upper Bernard-range and mournful tempo, with a production-perfect amount of harmony, reverb and delay. VP also has another of Sumner’s reprise vocals – in this case the whistle downwind lyric; a form he applies on other tracks like Mr Disco and Regret, and a form unfortunately lost when tracks get edited for single release. It’s partly why New Order’s album versions are – almost without exception – definitive.
Musically, Vanishing Point is gorgeous. I love the programming of the main bass line; melodically bouncing around on the 1/8ths and 1/16ths before slipping down onto alternative keys, and then driving forward in a single line towards the vocals; all with Hooky adding much appreciated texture. The drums are less complex than Mr Disco; mainly variations on 4×4 bass drum, bass drum + snare, snare rolls, and clipped cymbals. Not complex, but perfect in its classic dance pattern simplicity. It’s the evocative synth melodies & atmospheres in Vanishing Point however, which make the track shimmer and glide. Without knowing the exact who-did-what in the studio, I sense Gillian’s graceful hand at work here; particularly the reverbed bells, piano, and deep background string chords. The instrumental break between 3:00 and 4:00 is simply beautiful; a stripped back groove – drums, synth bass, bells and sequencer – as Hooky enters with a thoughtful refrain, then the track pares down completely to an ambiance of (just) reverbed-bells, before the electro hi-hats lead us back – one last time – into a crowd-heaving full-on chorus, with Bernard reminding us again that he needs more holidays. Because, you know, Ibiza was exhausting…
I never had the chance to see VP played live, but I love the Big World Cafe performance: amidst the fog & lights Morris is Mr Cool on his Octapads, Sumner’s in his club whites, Hook’s causing permanent damage to his posture (out-of-tune bass notwithstanding), and Gillian with her understated elegance … and some bloke with an inflatable penguin in the crowd. Perfect.
The Instrumental Making Out Mix of VP was a lovely inclusion on the Round & Round CD single; paired as it was with Best & Marsh – another great electronic instrumental made for TV. Eschewing the vocals and emphatic dance mix of the original for additional melodies and an overall lighter feel, the Making Out Mix works really well as the soundtrack to its namesake TV production. Is it me or does the show punch above its weight having this as its theme?
Regardless, we can only guess at how successful Vanishing Point would have been as a single; surely better than Run (legal nonsense aside) – and would have given us an unbeatable same-album hat-trick of singles. Potential remixers at the time? Mark Moore, Brian Dougans (Stakker Humanoid), Graham Massey & Co, and Westbam come to mind, but – like Plastic from Music Complete – there’s nothing wrong with having a perfect dance track ‘only’ on the album and ‘only’ as originally produced by the band. It’s ‘only’ New Order, right?
Available on: Technique