I like to think I'm a 'what's done is done' kinda guy. So when it comes to bands revisiting earlier output and fiddling with it for some reason, I'm already slightly disinterested in the outcome. One such revisit was by VNV Nation who remastered and even re-recorded elements of their debut album. The objective there was clear and understandable - they never had the money or the time first time around to do justice to the ideas they wished to express. The results were dramatic. Front 242 are the latest band to remaster an earlier release. If its good enough for the likes of Led Zeppelin, then why not 242?
I always had a soft spot for their debut Geography, but the results here are not dramatic. Sure, tracks sound clearer, cleaner even, but its raw, animalistic analogue origins remain intact. This isn't an unsubtle case of excessive and damaging 'restoration' but a genuine cleaning up. As such it achieves its objectives but the polished article isn't exactly astonishing or revelatory. Hardcore fans will likely wish to pick this up whatever this review says - and that's fine. But if you can, far better to seek out the limited edition (in DVD case) that includes a bonus disc of previously unreleased demo versions. More crucially, however, it includes works by two projects that pre-date the formation of Front 242: Daniel B.'s Prothese and Patrick Codeneys and Jean-Luc DeMeyer's Underviewer.
And it is amongst these tracks where the real revelation of this release is apparent. Both projects are more abstract than the more traditional song structures found on Geography but are easily its equal, if not its better. The first two Bressanutti compostions (Couteau and Conditionnel Humain) are terrific. As if John Carpenter's soundtrack to Assault on Precinct 13 has been written for a Musique Concrete audience. The third Prothese track Chanson shares a lot with early Cabaret Voltaire. The five Underviewer tracks, some featuring vocals by DeMeyer, are just as good, with I Remember proving a moving and haunting (if all too-brief) highlight. Absolutely worth paying the extra for the Limited Edition two-disc version for this second disc alone. Comes complete with a 12-page booklet that briefly explains the restoration of each track. 7/10 (regular) 8/10 (limited edition)
Rob Dyer (January 2005)
Pulse saw Front 242 return after 10 years slience and, to date (mid 2007), this remains their latest release of new material. But when music is this good you're content to wait 10 years, 15 years... more if that's what it takes. A million miles from from the heady EBM days of Headhunter, and almost full circle to the pre-Front 242 experimental project era of Prothese and Underviewer. This is defintely way out there. It's like Krautrock that's been filtered through techno, trance and industrial. Intelligent Trance Music faintly captures it at times. Or maybe it's Cluster meets The Prodigy in Front 242 land? Oh, I don't know what it is! Whatever words one can summon up to convey at least some sense of what its like to experience this album - any attempt will fall woefully short of doing the job any where near adequately.
When you first play this album the effect is startling. It's hard to get a handle on it to begin with. But you need to stick with it. Some great works of art are so extraordinary when you are first exposed to them that you have to stop, realise that you need to reposition your mind in order to appreciate both the plan and the execution. Once you are realigned, you can then indulge. Here then are 20 pieces of music that quicken the pulse like few others. Audacious in scope, brilliant in execution, glorious in effect. Contemplative, driving, hedonistic, this is where dance music meets genuine experimentation. No rules. No inhibitions. No boundaries. No wonder Pulse is so spectacular. Absolutely essential. 9/10
Rob Dyer (July 2007)
Official Front 242 website: http://www.front242.com
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Interviews: Front 242 - Patrick Codenys