February 2004: my one and only MCR pilgrimage to-date. I was in London on business and had a Sunday to spare, so – doing what we Australians do well: driving vast distances between cities – I thought a quick trip* up the road to Manchester was in order. The Peter Saville Show was in the midst of its run at Urbis, and for me the whole experience was near-religious. Standing there in that fine building, with Soundtrack resonating softly around the internal spaces, staring at the original source materials Saville used to produce genius sleeves like Unknown Pleasures, True Faith, the Factory Sampler, and so much more, was a sublime moment in time. John ‘Cerysmatic‘ Cooper – fellow original archivist of all things FAC – met me there and our conversation was rich with completist detail! It was a great day, and I also recall from the same trip enjoying a few pints in London with Ian White of The Wendys and catching a Re:Order gig with some of the Vikings. Difficult to remember what business was conducted on that trip!
For me The Peter Saville Soundtrack is firmly set in that time and place of my Urbis / MCR visit. It was a perfect piece of ambiance written by Cunningham, Hook and Morris for the exhibition. It doesn’t sound like a re-purposed session outtake, and neither does it sound like it needs editing down (a-la the 17+ minute version of Elegia). This is bespoke gallery music for wondrous things! Soundtrack‘s stereo-sweeping airs and synths, feather-light arpeggiating bells, bird-like tones, understated bass melodies from Hook, gentle acoustic strums and effected electric riffs from Cunningham, simple but melancholic piano, Morris’s cymbal rides, and barely discernible sampled phone messages from / to Peter Saville; all blend and blur in a beautiful series of ‘waves’ that you lose yourself in.
This is 30 minutes of New Order that stands apart from anything else in their ‘2000s repertoire, and it showed that they were still able to experiment, be obscure, be artful, and release something outside the operational parameters. There’s also a nice symmetry at work here, in that New Order are supplying the art for Peter Saville rather than vice versa; a reverse gesture of thanks for Peter having been so instrumental (no pun intended) to the band’s creative DNA.
Imagine that – having your own personal theme recorded by New Order!
* On another trip to the UK Anna & I drove 20 minutes from Bristol to Portishead, and the first reaction from the locals was ‘why would you do that?’ 🙂
Most recently avilable on: The Peter Saville Soundtrack