From the Hip

I’ve had Section 25 CDs for a while now but it was only with the purchase of the Deus Ex Machina collection that I felt properly prompted to give everything an ear, disc by disc (at least the way LTM has them released). And it has to be said that the first couple of CDs — Always Now, The Key of Dreams — are, even for my murky/dour early eighties loving self, a bit hard going on the first listen. I think they’ll work for me much more in the future, but there’s little of the weirdly compelling atmosphere of Crispy Ambulance from the same period.

From the Hip is something else again, though — with help from the Be Music crew (aka New Order in some shape or form), on their third album Section 25 suddenly step from mono to polychrome. Thankfully without simply retracing the path that their producers took, there’s a shift into ‘dance’ music however one wants to describe it, but of a more slippery and moody sort, something beautifully textured on the one hand and on the other aiming for a dancefloor in your head rather than through your feet. That may defeat the purpose for some ears but for me it’s a chance to come to grips with what the mid-eighties had to offer technologically and musically on a group’s own particular terms, which won’t be for everyone’s. The interchange of male and female vocals provides further range that wasn’t there before, sliding between the textures and demi-motorik/psych drones and pulses. From the hip indeed, but not necessarily of the hip or by it.

“Looking From a Hilltop” was the single, a cult fave in some corners, turning up on the disc in three separate mixes. Peter Saville’s cover art for the album is actually less cryptic on this point that it is for so many other efforts — it’s a hilltop somewhere, colored poles stretched out in a pattern that immediately suggests the work of Christo, his umbrella installations in Japan and California say. Then again, we’re looking at the hilltop as opposed to from it, and in the same way what it is an overtly club-friendly single at the same time is perfect for a solitary zone, a strange balance.

More listens of this one from me are definitely in the offing — I wonder what I’ll think next time around.