Posted on Oct 16th 2007 02:40 pm
THE BLACK DOG
Temple Of Transparent Balls
GPR 1993 / Soma Quality Recordings 2007
11 Tracks. 62mins09secs
Temple Of Transparent Balls was originally released on General Production Recordings (GPR) a few months after the seminal Bytes (1993, Warp), and was followed a couple of years later by Parallel, which collected three of the band’s early EPs. Following the demise of the label in 1996, original copies of both albums became very difficult to track down. They were both reissued in 2002, but the poor quality of the artwork likened them to cheap bootlegs, making this a long awaited re-release.
Earlier this year, Scottish imprint Soma Quality Recordings released Book Of Dogma, a double album collecting Parallel and a handful of other early EPs, all in full remastered glory. Now, Temple Of Transparent Balls gets the same treatment. Unlike Bytes, which was presented as a compilation of projects involving various combinations of the band then formed of Ken Downie, Andy Turner and Ed Handley, and released as Black Dog Productions, the trio presented a united front on Temple Of Transparent Balls, making it the band’s proper debut album. Coming on the back of countless EPs released between 1989 and 1993, this album is, very much like Bytes, in many ways archetypal of its time. Drifting between crisp bleepy electronic arrangements, bombastic techno grooves and lush ambient, with specks of hip-hop and jazz scarcely scattered over the lot to give it a much more unsettled relief, the music here is crunchy and pure, serving beautifully simple and yet highly sophisticated melodies with brio.
Right from the outset, The Black Dog set the tone with the concussed rhythmic formation and dry melody of Cost I and the more linear Cost II, with its haunting warm synthetic waves and bouncy groove, demonstrating much of the band’s formula in just a few minutes. Later on, The Actor And Audience is, very much like most of Bytes, hectic and furious, and could almost be seen as pre-empting drum’n’bass, while Jupiler shows off its Detroit muscles and rumbles like a stomach after a night out, and Cycle, another Detroit-infused piece, brings the beat right to the forefront and parades it like a prize trophy. But it is with more subtle pieces like 4, 7, 8, Sharp Shooting On Saturn or In The Light Of Grey that the band really come together. The delicately crafted tunes set within glistening surroundings are incredibly sharp and precise, yet the band play here with wide open soundscapes which have captured the imagination of electronic musicians for over a decade. The album concludes with the beautiful The Crete That Crete Made on which the trio incorporate a variety of guitar sounds into their overly electronic soundscapes to create a slightly moody finale.
This remastered version benefits of much improved dynamics, but it is the music itself that impresses here. Almost fifteen years after its original release, Temple Of Transparent Balls still sounds fresh and visionary. While electronic music has changed beyond recognition, this album remains an outstanding testament of an era it helped define, and its reissue can only highlight the influence it has had over a whole generation of musicians.