While the impact of New Order on both the alternative scene and dance floors alike is rarely overlooked, it’s always worth taking a step back and really grasping the abnormality of their success. Rising from the ashes of the archetypical post-punk band, these pasty Mancunians got to grips with some the most cutting edge gear of the day, added their genuine love of soul and the emerging hip-hop scene, before smashing it straight back stateside — all via an indie label. Bizarre.
Of course, one does not simply write ‘Blue Monday’ overnight, so here collected for the first time is a 36-track selection of the group’s production efforts outside the day job. While examples of member’s more recent work are included, what will truly prove of interest to fans is the material released from 1983 to 1985. Utilising the moniker ‘Be Music’ when behind the desk, New Order members set about cutting their teeth (and their gear) on a host of eclectic material from various Factory label-mates. While some numbers have dated as badly as Betamax, there’s still plenty to explore and admire.
Electro pioneers Quando Quando get the Sumner treatment on ‘Love Tempo’, a funk indebted riot that wouldn’t sound out of place on a James Murphy release 20 years later. Elsewhere Shark Vegas’ brooding ‘You Hurt Me’ will cling to the heart of any introspective soul wrapped in a trench coat, while Stephen Morris reveals a lightness of touch on the fizzing indie of Life’s ‘Tell Me’. The most avid fans get treats too, namely Section 25’s snarling ‘Knew Noise’ as produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton, Hooky’s demonic live take ‘Lavolta Lakota Theme’, and Order’s own 22-minute version of ‘Video 586’.
It must be said that a few of the dance mixes will sound a tad repetitive to modern ears, but what really proves fascinating is the melting pot of influences on display. ‘Be Music’ stands as a snapshot of an age where the underground clubs of New York fused with the bite of new wave, thus creating a transatlantic cultural exchange which strengthened the early days of these synth pioneers. With the likes of Stranger Things and Sacred Bones’ John Carpenter re-issues proving cult hits the world over, it could be argued there’s a wider market for these tunes now more than ever before.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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