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Reissue CDs Weekly: John Foxx | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Foxx

Reissue CDs Weekly: John Foxx

Lavish package devoted to the three ‘Cathedral Oceans’ albums

An illustration created by John Foxx to accompany ‘Cathedral Oceans’Courtesy Random Music Management

In 1985, John Foxx released In Mysterious Ways: his fourth solo album since leaving Ultravox in 1979. In 1980, he had charted with “Underpass”, his first solo single. Subsequently, he charted a path where frosty, anomie-filled electropop gave way to the warmth of “Europe After the Rain” and the Beatles-inspired psychedelia of “Endlessly”. The 1983 album The Golden Section was his most straightforwardly poppy to date. Then, the patchy In Mysterious Ways and musical silence.

In 1997, he re-emerged with two albums, Cathedral Oceans and Shifting City (made with Louis Gordon). From this point, there was a steady flow of releases. Amongst them were Cathedral Oceans II (2003: issued as the second disc to a reissue of Cathedral Oceans) and Cathedral Oceans III (2005), both follow-up albums to that return. Cathedral Oceans was also revisited as the soundtrack to a DVD in 2003. For each, Foxx had composed what was described in 1997 as “music for a vast, half-submerged ruined cathedral.”

john foxx the complete cathedral oceansThe Complete Cathedral Oceans collects the three albums and, for the first time, issues them on vinyl. This new package arrives swiftly after the reissue of the three Foxx-era Ultravox albums, a period he recently discussed with theartsdesk. The renewed interest in his always fascinating, often superb back catalogue is welcome. With Cathedral Oceans, spreading what was originally released only on CD across records means each album takes up three sides: Cathedral Oceans is sides A, B and C, and so on. The resultant five-album package is lavish: plain sleeves for each album are bound into a casebound package with a colour book including his striking illustrations.and text drawn from Foxx’s Quiet Man writings (another aspect of his creative life he revisits: as a song, “Quiet Men” was recorded by Ultravox in 1978). A print is also included. The mastering has a greater dynamic range than the original CDs, especially so on Cathedral Oceans II – proof that digital recordings can sound better on vinyl than CD.

While the music itself is consistent and really does sound as though it has bubbled up from the bottom of an ocean, The Complete Cathedral Oceans tracks changes in Foxx's working methods. Clearly, he was composing with the length of a CD in mind for each album. For Cathedral Oceans, three of the pieces have co-writers: five engineers (including Foxx) and three separate studios were used. Eight years later, for Cathedral Oceans II there are no other writers, Louis Gordon was the sole engineer and two studios are credited. Cathedral Oceans III credits Foxx for everything.

Despite the increasing internalisation – a reversion to the one-band band status of 1980 – there are no discernable sonic shifts or compositional disconnects across the three albums or suggestions that his other work has had an influence. The coherence of vision ensured homogeneity.

Taken as a whole, the three Cathedral Oceans albums are, as they are categorised, ambient music. But instead of solely setting a mood, they dominate the environment in which they are heard to such a degree that hearing them is akin to being wrapped in muslin and submerged in body temperature water. Overall, the mood is devotional. As a child, Foxx was a choir boy. Fans will need this fine package, but at £92 it is no casual purchase. It is also limited to 750 numbered copies. Move fast.

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