Joy Division CD review [Interstate]

Music Reviews
Joy Division CD review [Interstate]
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Jun 8, 2007, 06:05

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JOY DIVISION Martin Hannett's Personal Mixes CD

With a band like Joy Division, whose output was relatively small, but had an impact that was incomparably huge it would seem that every scrap of music, no matter what the quality or relevance, is precious and sought after.

Even the most horrid sounding bootlegs, (such as microphone-obscured-in-the-bootlegger's-pocket or dying-batteries-on-the-tape-deck live recordings) become holy grails simply because they are yet one more recording of this band that could never, ever exist again.

Thus, with this CD, labeled "an officially approved release," we have some newly discovered dead sea scrolls purportedly to be of personal mixes that the late producer Martin Hannett made of Joy Division and kept stashed away on private reels for some unforeseen use in the future. While sadly the alleged recording from the Closer sessions of a phantom whistling "Decades" does not appear here, we do get the unadulterated elevator/lift recordings that were later used on the intro to Unknown Pleasures' "Insight" (along with a false start to an interesting, alternate mix of that song)…inter-spliced with Hannett tuning one of his synthesizers for nearly four-and-a-half minutes.

It certainly would be easier to believe that these were "personal mixes" if the differences between these tracks and the official releases were more extreme than what appears here (including any of the supposed dozen remixes of "She's Lost Control" that Hannett did at Central Sound Studios, Manchester in July of 1979). For anyone who has ever collected bootlegs and gotten tapes of alternate or rough mixes, you will know what to expect as the lion's share of what is presented here is not drastically different, but certainly interesting for any hardcore Joy Division or Martin Hannett fan (or even general audiophile).

Of the highlights, there are "dry" mixes of "Autosuggestion" and "From Safety To Where…?" from the Unknown Pleasures sessions that highlight just what JD sounded like in the studio before Hannett layered on his incandescent sheen of ambience. The two versions of "The Eternal" both highlight different nuances within the track, shifting about the instruments, vocals, and spaces between, though the variations overall are slight. "24 Hours" has stronger echo on the vocals for a spookier effect, but other than a loud count-in from what sounds like Peter Hook on two of the three versions of "Decades" (titled "N4" here), there's barely any change from what you'll find on the released version on Closer. A false start of "Exercise One" (for some reason titled "Synth Tone" on this CD) is cool, as are the several calls from Hannett to "let's try one" and some odd interplay between Hannett and Ian Curtis, including one which ends with Hannett telling Curtis to fuck off and another that sounds as if they're discussing UK football.

So while it's not quite Joy Division's Ultra Rare Trax, there is certainly some worthwhile nuggets included to justify the $25 with shipping price tag. Now if only they could dig out and release that soundboard of the April 1980 Derby Hall "riot" that is said to be buried in Tony Wilson's closet, then that would make just about anyone's Joy Division collection complete. Dream on… [Interstate]

-Nick Blakey

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