One of the greatest qualities of Music Complete is its diversity. Just look at the quadrilogy of tracks that is Singularity, Plastic, Tutti Frutti, and People On The High Line; surely one of the finest sequences of tracks across any of their albums, and all of them electronic but all of them uniquely different in style. I’m absolutely a massive fan of the band’s rock output, but I freely admit that I’m probably more of a disciple of New Order’s electronic music. It’s at the heart of why I run an electronic music record label, and it’s why Music Complete was such a supernova of joy to me when I first heard it (and still to this day).
But is this because the band was particularly exploring brave new territory in 2015? No, I don’t think so. For so long New Order lived and worked right at the pointy edge of ingenuity, and there’s no denying the peerlessness of so much of the band’s first decade of output, but I’m not sure I really want New Order – at this stage in their career – forging new sub-genres* of electronic music. I’m just super happy to see them clearly having fun again, creating in their own context and at their own pace, whilst embracing and extending their own legacy; freed from many of the pressures that had impacted their output and activities since Republic.
This lifting of stress from New Order’s collective shoulders is most-beautifully realised in Tutti Frutti; surely one of the friskiest tunes in New Order’s canon. From it’s unabashed disco stomp, to Giacomo Cavagna’s girl-slaying (probably – I’ll check with my Mrs) Italianisms**, to Bernard’s own dusky croaks, to La Roux’s lovely backing vocals, and most of all the layers-upon-layers of gorgeous bells, synths and strings. Between 3:50 & 4:38 the blending of La Roux’s backing chorus into the acoustic guitar melody that arcs over the mix, and into the elegant flurries of violin, is just wonderful. The whole song resonates in a rich tone and melody that suggests some serious input from Gillian; so sorely missing from New Order’s writing process since 1998.
Other wonderful details in the rich palette of Tutti Frutti: the electro drum fill at 4:38… sooo 1987! The intro’s discordant signals and tumbling organ sound. The slight phasing of the disco snares. The intricate programming and ambience in the breakdown at 2:12. The analog Moog quality (if it isn’t actual) in the main bassline. The reprise of the violins in the outro. Again it seems that in these opening electronic tracks on Music Complete New Order are applying all that they’ve had fun with over their many years, but with a maturity of skill that is clear in the superb song writing and self-production of the album. It’s a masterclass really.
An obvious choice as a single, Tutti Frutti is again very well served by remixes; nicely handled by Mute and management. The Extended Mix on Complete Music is excellent, and distinguishes itself from the album version by maintaining the beat and emphasising all the signature sounds in its extended instrumental sections. Just how good is Complete Music – what a wonderful companion to the main album, and a tribute to the band’s own abilities to punch out killer remixes. I like how the Single Version starts on the piano riff, but otherwise I find Richard X’s edit a little abrupt. His 12″ Extended Mix fares better, sounding not far removed from the original but with X’s typical heightened pace; usually by adding some extra bounce and reverb on key sequences. I still prefer the original Extended Mix though.
Hot Chip took their time presenting with a New Order remix, given they’d already collaborated with Bernard five years earlier, and to be frank I’m not overly excited with the Hot Chip Remix – which is a shame because I really rate Hot Chip’s own songs. Their mix is too ‘burbling’ – except for certain multi-layered sections e.g. 1:47 to 2:19 and 5:25 to 6:30. Tom Trago’s Crazy Days Remix has a smooth lounge quality in its backing, but the way he’s chopped Bernard’s vocals is really irritating. The Tom Rowlands Remix takes three minutes to get going, separately demoing various ideas as distinct from using them to build up the track. The mix has a tendency to drop away rather than hit a higher gear, and I think it could do with a revisit to turn it into the true Italo-house stomper that was intended. The best section is at around 4:00 when the verses are in full flight with Rowlands’ bassline variation.
The Richy Ahmed Remix offers an interesting take on matters, but it’s largely a complete re-write (albeit actually quite good as a standalone piece of tech house), with only some vocal samples taken from the original that don’t really work in context. The Hallo Halo Remix from Jon Dasilva is excellent, featuring a really distinctive updated backbone driven by a swing beat and revised bassline (with a nice detune at the end of every 4 bars) and a proper cut-up of the vocal samples. Great ambience too. However my favourite of all the Tutti Frutti remixes is the Takkyu Ishino Remix from the digital-only Music Complete Remix EP and Japanese-only TF 12″. The vocal samples are used really well (sounding quite dry, until they’re synthetically harmonised later in the mix) in this slightly insane reworking, which I can only describe as neo-acid. But then again who wants to pigeon-hole 🙂 It’s a terrific mix of a terrific track.
* Genres. Discuss. A quick scan of the music styles marked against New Order’s catalogue by contributors on Discogs: New Wave, Synth-pop, Alternative Rock, Electro, Acid House, Indie Rock, Pop Rock, Leftfield, House, Dub, Big Beat, Progressive House, Tech House, Breakbeat, Progressive Trance, Brit Pop, Deep House, Ambient, and Minimal. There’s a fine line between a lot of these, and if you start entering into the fashionable smalltalk of arcane sub-genres then its a bit of a nonsense. I mean… has anybody seen the drop-down electronic music style options when submitting to Discogs? What the f$@k are ‘Donk’, ‘Dungeon Synth’, ‘Power Electronics’, ‘Skweee’, or ‘Tropical House’? It doesn’t matter to me whether my House is deep, tech, progressive, electro, euro, italo, garage, hard, happy, acidic, small, large, rented or owned; what matters is that I hear great tunes.
** Google Translate is purring “my love” … “it is not yet time to enter” … “I don’t care about real life” and (erm) “you are all the fruits”! Ooh err.