Joy Division - UnKNOWn Pleasures+ Vinyl (2015)
Recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, England. If U.K. punk was the outward expression of nihilism and youthful rebellion, the music of Joy Division signaled a sea change toward its bleaker, darker, more introspective side--in the process, giving birth to an influential, highly original sound that was to have recurring echoes in the subsequent goth, new wave, and post-punk movements. Quickly following on the heels of an aborted album for RCA, the band regrouped with producer Martin Hannett for their 1979 debut, UNKNOWN PLEASURES. A landmark release in the history of modern music--being sui generis to the social and spiritual landscape of post-war England--the album is perhaps the most powerful and evocative statement of existential dread ever recorded. Pruning away at the band's brash, ragged energy to reveal cavernous spaces filled with decaying chords and hollowed-out rhythms, UNKNOWN PLEASURES is as much a testament to Hannett's bold production touches as it is to Joy Division's powerful performances--Bernard Sumner's caustic riffing, Peter Hook's melodic basslines, Stephen Morris's martial rhythms, and Ian Curtis's potent, focused verse. Hannett wisely sidesteps naturalism in favor of noir-like claustrophobia, draping the instrumentation under spectral phantasms of found sound (breaking glass, elevator shafts, and footsteps). From the breathless, punk thrash of the opening track, "Disorder," to the melancholic despair of "Candidate," the songs form arcs of shade and light, revealing layers of energy and emotional intensity. Continuing with the taut, doom-laden rattle of "She's Lost Control," its snapping synth drums seem to signal some agonizing form of psychological restraint from which to escape. The album closes with the harrowing, apocalyptic denouement of "I Remember Nothing," in which Curtis's sorrowful croon declaims, "we, we're strangers," over crashing drums and a funereal drone--a suitably dramatic end to one of the most cathartic, devastatingly powerful albums ever recorded.