Steven Brown

Searching for Contact

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Steven Brown's third album away from Tuxedomoon is strange, out of immediate contact with its time and place, almost willfully obscure at points -- and all the better for it. Searching for Contact makes for one strange and wonderful late-'80s album, with perhaps only the contemporaneous work of Foetus and Marc Almond being the nearest parallels, mashing a slew of ideas -- big band blasts, industrial-crawl beats, dark arrangements, and singing with brooding passion -- into an often striking combination. Generally the emphasis is on quieter rather than louder music, though when Brown and company turn up the heat, as with the striking opener "Habit," it can be quite gripping. Brown's sense of theatricality almost literally manifests itself at points -- "Doe's Day" finds him acting the MC for a nonexistent theater show, while a three-part song sequence is literally described as a series of 'scenes,' concluding with a bemusing dialogue -- while other performances are less sung lyrics than spoken word poetry of sorts. The emphasis lies with the music first and foremost, though; even the part satire/part reflection of "In Praise of Money" gets its power mostly from the mournful yet busy backing. His less confrontational moments can linger the longest in memory -- "Audiences and Stages" (once more continuing the theme of theater), brief but beautiful, has Brown in best crooner mode over low, murky music, while the tenser drama of "This Land," with Brown matched by a driving though mixed low piano line, and the brief demi-beer hall singalong/buried electronic noise combination of "De Hamburger Veermaster" also stand out. LTM's reissue in 2004, once again sticking to the label's philosophy of providing more for one's money, adds seven bonus tracks, including the entirety of the Me and You and the Licorice Stick EP, as well as the single version of "Last Rendezvous."

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