The debut album from electronic musician John Costello (after two DIY cassette releases in the 1980s) features work created between 2005 and 2016. It will be the only album released under John's name.
released June 1, 2017
John Costello: electronics, synthesizers, samples, bass, percussion, vocals
Geoff Pinckney: production & engineering
Recorded and mixed at Alien 6 studios, Sussex & Devon, 2007 - 2016
Mastered by Martin Bowes at The Cage Studio, Coventry, April 2017
All titles written by John Costello, except:
Blanket Expression - Vince Rogers (Testcard F)
Hollywood Boulevard - Lloyd Murphy & Alex Prusmack (The Cold Delivery)
Holiday In Bangkok - Tracy Howe (Rational Youth)
Copyright John Costello & the respective authors, 2017
Images by Simon Maddocks, design by Simon Maddocks & John Costello
'It's been a long time in the making but it was totally worth the wait. It's dark, intelligent, playful, full of energy, stories of travel and yet it's crushingly dystopian.
It bursts open with a rather uncharacteristically chirpy little synth pop number (Jet Propelled) with completely anti-pop lyrics "I'm a fuel injected suicide machine", the song steadily gets richer in melancholy melody as you feel the darkness taking hold of you. Then with 'Artist Architect' early Kraftwerk is immediately in my thoughts, but the light touches are replaced with hard distorted bass synth and heavy drum hits. If it's Kraftwerk then it's been dragged into the modern age (Costello's modern age not MTV's).
The album starts to move slower for a while, taking its time with the intricacies; samples, FX, reverb and emulated fretless bass set the scene for 'Desert of the Real' and then glides into 'Blanket Expression', don't let it's bouncy frame fool you, it's lyrics are bittersweet and emotionally torn to shreds. 'Tell Me Now' starts to bring in the darker electro synth riffs and rhythms that begin to dominate the album from here on. 'The Sweet Hereafter' might well be my favorite, it's probably the moodiest track on the album. Costello likes to remind us of the true destructive and chaotic manner of our own existence: "all things are equal to the cadaver, the empty caress of the sweet hereafter", it gets under your skin while remaining beautifully melodic.
'Hollywood Boulevard' is slick with pulsing bass, and tight rhythm. If nightclubs were good they'd be playing this every night. 'LBJ-JFK-FBI-CIA' is the album's instrumental break laden with minor key harmonies and a monotonous beat carried along by haunting samples of a telephone call (from President Lyndon B. Johnson) regarding government machinations surrounding the JFK assassination.
We are then woken up abruptly with 'Cities in Question'; stories of travel conjure up images of Koyaanisqatsi-style aerial shots of highways and cities at night. Multicoloured lights zooming about in fast motion, hotel bars, beautiful figures dancing for no reason other than to dance, constantly moving from place to place for no other reason than to observe, never to integrate. Then suddenly we're in a fast car plummeting down the highway in 'Holiday In Bangkok', more city lights but this time it's more chaotic, this feels more introverted than 'Cities', a promise has been made of glorious fun to be had here but the reality is disturbingly harsh.
Things get darker still with 'The Struggle'. Harsh distorted vocals permeate the haunting theremin synths and ultra-low bass key changes pull the guts out of your stomach. 'Nothing' is another great would-be club anthem (if I had my way). More distorted vocals here, only this time more aggressive, very reminiscent of industrial legends Leæther Strip and Noise Unit. The journey is coming to a close and it feels as though the world has been dragged down with it, but the party has only just got started; 'Lock Load Aim Fire' is an utter powerhouse of violence, repressed anger, terror and despair. Told from the perspective (or at least I hope...) of an individual who has reached breaking point as a result of modern life, the crushing hand of the state and the devolution of human intelligence. He has procured himself a high powered rifle and begins a systematic slaughter in a highly populated area, intent on causing maximum carnage and taking out anyone he can before he is inevitably killed. It's horrifically relevant and thought provoking, it may not be as graphically visceral as 'o'malley's bar by Nick Cave - a similar story of a man brought to breaking point who proceeds to slaughter the patrons of his local bar - but it's a lot more close to the bone with today's current events. This isn't a fairy tale murder ballad, this is terrifyingly imaginable.
The album closes on such a disturbing note that you go straight back to track 1 to remind you of Costello's lighter, more fun-loving side, only to rediscover its true nature: "a fuel injected suicide machine".
There is no safe place to hide on this album.'
Review by Steve Clarke, member of Futumche, Superhooch and Octogoth - check them out.