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John Foxx: My Lost City (2009) March 19, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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John Foxx: My Lost City

John Foxx: My Lost City

After three late ’70s albums as the original leader of Ultravox and four solo albums in the early ’80s, John Foxx seemed to disappear from the world of music for a decade or so. He returned with two albums: an electronic dance music album in collaboration with Louis Gordon, which built on his early electronic explorations on 1980’s Metamatic, and the more surprising Cathedral Oceans, a mostly instrumental ambient recording influenced by church music.

If there was anything in Foxx’s earlier albums that suggested he might produce something like Cathedral Oceans, it was the title song on his second album, The Garden. Though there was some percussion and some lyrics, it stood in contrast to the rest of the album, being a slow and pastoral electronic track, ending with birdsong and distant and distorted voices sounding vaguely like some kind of liturgical chant.

Much of My Lost City, it turns out, is from the missing years, and it’s the sound of John Foxx gradually developing the ideas that became Cathedral Oceans. There are bootlegs of a 1989 concert with some of this material, but My Lost City has the studio versions. And more.

Some of the songs do sound like church music from some other world — Foxx is singing what might be Latin, heavily echoed, as synths provide a minimal background. Others are purely instrumental, like “Holywell Lane,” a piano and synth track reminiscent of Harold Budd, and other more austere electronic pieces. The brief “City of Disappearances” sounds like it was recorded on a church organ.

So, it’s historically significant for Foxx fans. How is it as an album? Pretty good. The Cathedral Ocean-like tracks aren’t as minimalist as the actual Cathedral Oceans albums; some of the pieces are more conventionally melodic than some of Foxx’s other instrumental music. Considering how many reissues and rerecordings have come our way over the last year or two, it’s great to have some new music — well, new on CD, at least.

Is it a good starting place for a new fan? I’m not so sure. It isn’t quite as cohesive as his other albums are. Better to check out a Cathedral Oceans album or the two-disc Translucence/Drift Music album by Foxx and Budd. If you like those, you may well want to explore this earlier effort. However, My Lost City is reportedly a limited edition, and it may not be available indefinitely. It’s available exclusively through Townsend Records, though resellers are already offering ridiculously overpriced copies.

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