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"Infantjoy - With ***** (5 stars)"

Sunday October 15, 2006

'Tis the season to be spooky. From the label Ghostbox to Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, the notion of spectral music is the meme of the moment. Last year Infantjoy's debut Where the Night Goes featured a cover of Japan's synth-noir classic 'Ghosts'. Now the sequel With arrives bearing a manifesto of sorts in the form of 'Absence'. 'It is necessary to speak of the ghost,' intones Paul Morley, half of Infantjoy alongside ex-Auteur James Banbury. 'Speak to the spectre, engage it ... do not command it ... but dance with it ... We are always haunted by ghosts and we cannot freely choose what we will be haunted by.'
With is something of a ghost version of Where the Night Goes, encompassing remixes of the latter's tracks by various kindred, erm, spirits in the electronic field as well as all-new pieces like 'A Haunted Space' (sensing a bit of a theme here?). 'Ghosts' itself rematerialises in a spare treatment by Populous that gives even more prominence to the gorgeous vocals of Sarah Nixey, whose uncanny Kate Bush-like tones conjure up a parallel pop universe where the raven-haired goddess fronted Japan instead of David Sylvian. Isan's remake of 'Composure' transports the original's rolling piano chords into a frosted wonderland of electronic tingles and sample-stretched sighs.

Sound's insubstantiality, the way that music always elude our attempts to fix and define, is a major Morley obsession, and in this spirit With keeps hazy the question of authorship, such that you're never quite sure who's remixing whom. 'Someone With Handshake', for instance, appears to be a collaboration between two guest producers, Someone and Handshake, with Infantjoy's involvement quite possibly limited to having convened the encounter. Unless the track's digitally mangled voice, which sounds like it's covered with furry spikes, like a crystal forming in a solution, is actually Morley's. By the track's end, its heavily processed beats are so encrusted with gnarly texture, the groove almost grinds to a halt.

Infantjoy confirms Morley's membership of a select group of rock writers who've made music without disgracing themselves. A concept album about Erik Satie, Where the Night Goes formed a 20th-century modernism-obsessed continuum with the Art of Noise: the Futurism and Dada coordinates of 1983's Into Battle, the Debussy-meets-drum'n'bass of AoN's resurrection in the late Nineties. Infantjoy's claims for Satie are slightly overblown ('just about every radical musical movement of the past 100 years' is traceable back to 'Trois Gymnopedies' and 'furniture music'? Tell that to Duke Ellington, James Brown, King Tubby, and a good dozen more - mostly black - innovators!). But the fantasy underlying this polemic - an alternative history of pop in which America and rock'n'soul never existed, a straight line from Russolo through Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, Kraftwerk, Eno, Oval, to, well, Infantjoy - makes for a compelling dissident vision, with an absorbingly eerie sound to match.

Download: 'Ghosts'; 'Composure'

written by Simon Reynolds for Observer Music Monthly. - Observer Music Monthly


Where The Night Goes (released in the UK on Sony BMG.) With (released worldwide on boutique independent label Service AV.) Streaming available at
Radio play on classic fm (uk), Chill (DAB UK), Resonance (FM / DAB UK)



James Banbury and Paul Morley first met early in the 21st Century in an anonymous room in north London. Together they sat in this room, just themselves and a few machines, and without initially saying much to each other, in fact hardly anything at all - at first, Hello, and eventually, Goodbye - they started to make some sounds. Very quickly it became clear that they liked the same sounds, and the same ways of putting together those sounds. They were both members of groups with names beginning with A - James in the Auteurs, and Paul in Art of Noise - and this was just one clue to the fact that they both belonged in a new group, a group that consisted of just the two of them.

Other clues as to the fact that the two of them belonged in the same group emerged as they started to talk to each other. They both seemed to like the same music - one would mention a group, say Can, or Human League, or Underworld, or Murcof, or a composer, say Messiaen, or Oliver Nelson, or Bernard Herrmann, and the other would enthusiastically respond. They were also from northern areas within some kind of sight of Manchester, and they liked the fact that if they were in the same group, on the quiet, they would be a Manchester band.

Banbury and Morley also instantly assumed the position of a classic studio duo. James at the console, thinking and operating, Paul at the back of the room, thinking and staring into space. As Paul stared into space, he noticed that James knew exactly where it was in space he was staring, and James turned that space into sound and rhythm and noise.

Recently Paul has moved away from Infantjoy to persue other avenues and James has taken up the role of both thinker and do-er.