“Unknown Pleasures” turns 40

This Saturday, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of a landmark in the post-punk era. Joy Division debuted in the long format with “Unknown Pleasures” on June 15, 1979, released through Factory Records. Today, a commemorative limited edition on red vinyl hit the shelves via Mute Records. The nth time re-release is a must for the collectors and completists, by importance and transcendence.

The album is a collection of ten memorable, intense, threatening and oppressive tracks. Not only for Ian Curtis’ harrowed voice and lyrics to the bone but also the Bernard Sumner (then Bernard Albrecht) escalating single notes and dense guitar riffage over the Steven Morris’ obsessed and delayed drums. Peter Hook holds the melody with his distinctive bass line. As personal as to inform The Cure’s introduction to Goth rock.

The proper first and most excellent of Joy Division’s truncated discography forged a new-creational key. Art-rock influences and primitivist archetypes of punk were bound for an intriguing stasis. Unusual methods of recording added became as influential as to shake conventional forms forever.

The Iconic cover artwork by Factory art director and graphic designer Peter Saville relates to the point of no return. That image of radio waves from Pulsar CP 1919 means more than a creative momentum; it is welcoming a new factor in music production, the modern aesthetics: the irruption of technology new devices.

Joy Division installed a blanket new framework. Better to say an ‘Interzone,’ a sizeable open space to be in and explore, between the initial, reclusive Hook’s bass line leading to Curtis’phrasing. His lyricism, repeatedly exposed in terminal keywords, gave a non-empathic but real vision of life as Manchester was crumbling down to the post-industrial decline. The band intoned the dark and gloomy fierce of human suffering, idealism crashing on reality. They scanned the solitary zone of the lost, created by words spinning around like a sucking vortex in the middle of isolated oblivion. They are the sound, edging people for living in a permanent down unconsciously, in sparse and creepy metal. Somehow, Joy Divison’s lead singer and lyricist bridged The Velvet Underground’s obsessive and claustrophobic descriptions into full debauchery and despair. Pure nihilism that captured a time spirit of raw angst, almost in essentialist perspective, as direct and vivid as to move everyone’s mirrored self-perception. No one could do that since Lou Reed.

“Unknown Pleasures” wouldn’t exist without Martin Hannett production. According to the partner and director at Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, “Joy Division was a gift for a producer.” He took that given sound space to fulfill it with amassed devices he called “bluetop echo and delay boxes.” He applied distinctively to Morris’ beating, even recording separately the drums kit elements one by one to better supervision. He incorporated sound effects, the looping technology and some of the new synths in Sumner’s parts. Great and primitive is the intro of “She’s Lost Control,” but still works after four decades. His unorthodox methods were not new, but he well fitted them in a purpose.

Hannett’s visionary production marked a solid step into the acceptance of electronic “arrangments” for a band who grew over the simplicity, speed, and aggression of punk. He did it extensively, giving entity to the electronic artifacts that would change musical aesthetics to nowadays. He experienced with OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark) to sign the path for synth-pop. He broke ambient into post-rock with The Durutti Column. Joy Division is a remarkable stand for the music evolution, only compared with Talking Heads’ “Fear Of Music” amb PIL’s (Public Image Ltd) “Metal Box,” both released in 1979, a propelling year for the new.

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