Here’s a great track, something I’ve been playing a lot over the last few days The Future Sound of London Papua New Guinea 12″; dance haters I’ll see you tomorrow, as for the rest of us let’s take a trip*.
In 1991 when this came out I was still obsessed with the end days of hair metal and dance stuff only just percolated into my consciousness via the Orb and the KLF, although I’ve always been fond of a bit of a boogie so although I’d never knowingly heard this I had probably danced to it at some point, somewhere dingy in Leeds. As with most cool stuff it seems, I retroscovered it a few years later and absolutely loved it. Papua New Guinea has a sound that is so much of its time because the technology hadn’t got too slick and yet still sounds perfect to me now.
The track gives us interesting ambience, a pulsing yet propulsive beat and a fairly simple keyboard melody on top, all tied around with some cool swishy spacey whooshes** and some dub effects. There is some very neat tribal percussion and chanting at one point and some atmospheric samples from a documentary about Papua New Guinea. Overall it’s far more than the sum of its parts though and the whole is a cohesive, listenable and danceable treat; I’m old enough to remember when people like me used to argue, ‘it’s all very well to dance to it, but no-one’s going to listen to it at home, are they?’ – which when you think about it is only a gnat’s wing away from old farts moaning about not being able to hear the words properly in rock and roll.
The 12″ I have is a 1992 re-release which features no fewer than seven mixes, clocking in at an impressive 37 minutes – Hell, I’ve bought shorter Van Halen LPs! What is interesting though is just how good most of it is, 1537’s Third Law^ does not seem to apply here. Also in direct contravention of the law is the fact that the best track here is a remix, all 11:31 of the ‘Andrew Weatherall Mix’ in fact. There are reasons for this, first off Andrew Weatherall is someone whose quality never dips, everything I own that he has remixed is pure genius and secondly his remix turns the neat trick of emphasising the beats and building crescendos without losing any of the atmosphere and ambience; it really is a tour de force. In fact if I was ever asked to DJ at the medal ceremony at the end of the first Star Wars film^^ this is the track I’d spin; I think it’s useful to have these things sorted in advance, just in case.
The original and the softer ‘Journey To Pyramid Mix’ are also both good, as for the others less so – in fact my brain switches off after about 30 minutes of listening to, effectively, the same song but there was nothing too striking out there to grab hold of.
Sampling forms a huge part of this track’s make-up. This song is based mostly on a vocal sample from Dead Can Dance and beats from Meat Beat Manifesto. Messing about earlier I stumbled across a brilliant article which details exactly how Papua New Guinea was built, here. The other thing I found was this, it gives you audio samples of the samples the track was built on. I know a lot of people denigrate sampling as lazy and derivative but when you access the latter site and see how cleverly and creatively Future Sound of London altered and wove, sometimes just seconds of, sounds into something new and different; this isn’t Warren G rapping lazily over ‘What’s Love Got to do With it’, this is something new and better grown beyond the sum of its parts^*
Future Sound of London got both more ambient and ambitious after Papua New Guinea and the LP it’s on Accelerator and lost me as they lost the beat/atmosphere balance, so all the more reason to celebrate this moment where they got it all exactly right. So, go slap Papua New Guinea on while you’re reading, eating or fancy a little dance around in the kitchen – always the room I dance most in, in the house – I have no idea why, maybe the tiled floor suits my twisting better?, you won’t be disappointed. Promise.
P.S – I was going to say that I couldn’t point to Papua New Guinea on the map, but I learnt especially for this review. It’s the bit of land jutting out above Australia, which looks like a skinny old man with a prominent jaw and a straggling beard. Word up.
*obviously in the sense of taking a stroll, or a jaunt, a jolly journey.
**sorry if I’m getting too technical here.
^remixes invariably take out the bits you like and add bits you don’t.
^^I’m old school, I mean the first one to have been released.
^*I know I used that before, but pretend you didn’t notice please, I’m tired.