A Face We All Know

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This album, the last studio album from this group, is their most complex. For their first two albums (Man or Monkey and Beauty and the Beast), they entered the studio with prepared texts and improvised the music. On their third album, Perfect Worlds, they preconceived the pieces ahead of time and did the final arrangements in the studio. Here, not just the pieces, but the album's "plot" and some of the texts were written by Chris Cutler in the summer of 1988, six months prior to recording and two years before the final mix was complete. The length of gestation and the attention to detail show in the finished product. There is a great deal more overdubbing and sampling than in any previous album, especially in the voices. Christoph Anders' voice is perhaps an acquired taste, as he passionately declaims texts by Cutler, American novelist Thomas Pynchon, and German playwright Rainald Goetz, but his delivery is unique, and ultimately gripping. Cutler also recites some of his own texts, and the voices are layered in many places to the point of unintelligibility. Goetz's texts in German are another difference from their previous work, where all texts have been in English. The tracks here are divided into three long pieces, two related suites sandwiching a third with texts taken from Thomas Pynchon's great novel Gravity's Rainbow. Themes and texts recur in the first and third parts, providing a unity that makes this the group's most powerful album.

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