Somnambule - Writing About Music

Novel 23 ~ Architectural Effects

Novel 23 joins the ranks of musicians/groups with the magical number 23 in their name - Project 23 and 23 Skidoo, being the first couple which spring to mind (rather spookily AllMusicGuide lists 23 groups with 23 in their names…)

Portal to Cittadella begins with an attractive chainsaw sound (think Add N To X) and a classic noisegate snare rhythm. This is clearly an analogue universe from the get go, full of busy, hummable melodies. The first impression – and one that lasts - is that, good lord, this is old school to the point of apparently having rebounded here via a warp in the spacetime continuum. I imagine Ryker informing Jean-Luc of this intrusion with his trademark serious/pensive stare… but wait a minute given the extent of the warp, shouldn’t it perhaps be Vila Restal quizzically fixing Roj Blake with his best worried look? (For those of you lucky enough to not recognise the names, try typing ‘Blake’s 7’ into your favourite search engine.)

Whatever, this is simultaneously clunky and graceful music which could have been recorded in 1984, 1990 or 1995. It might be an early Gary Numan ‘b’ side (all monophonic melodies stabbed out with one finger), it could be someone who’s listened to too much Kraftwerk circa The Man Machine for their own good or it could be an outtake from a Kingsuk Biswas production (many tracks have that mournful, lonesome key to them). You’ll find no contemporary rhythms here – no breakbeats, syncopated garage or 4/4 tech-house– to jolt you into the clever, chaotic and horrid present. There aren’t really any sounds to nail Novel 23 into the Now either – no glitches, no limnal hums, no background static.

Pinnacles is full to the brim - spilling over in fact - of slightly out of tune melodies produced by oscillators as if the music were recorded in a too warm room. Rotonda has sweeping synths which might signal the appearance of the Terran Federation intent on recapturing escaping rebels...

Architectural Effects has a gorgeous cover – all Malevich muted colour palette and Lissitzky angles – hats off to the designer Guillame Amen. It’s a perplexing enterprise, on the one hand there’s the apparent architectural concept to the album - tracks are titled Viaduc, Porticus of Grotta, Gothic Vimperg, Medieval Ruins, Rotonda, etc and there’s a quote on the sleeve credited to Fridrih Shelling ‘Architecture is a frozen music’. On the other hand are the naïve, outspoken melodies and the analogue soundworld. What does the marriage of these two elements produce? I’m not sure, but if you’re a fan of any of the artists mentioned in this review or/and are a fan of the 80s revival, you might want to investigate this cd.
Colin Buttimer
October 2003
Published by the BBC