Barry Adamson – What It Means (Mute Records single, 1998)

Barry Adamson 'What It Means' artwork

mute records | mute219 | 10/08/1998

‘What It Means’ is a perfect Barry Adamson track, and certainly one of the most complete of his tracks to have been released in the single format. It’s quite a thrilling ride, a suite of electronically-enhanced high-speed verses over which Adamson delivers a harsh and harmonious vocal, backed by springy synth noises and a bold, stalking bassline. The vibe is cast in a jazz mould, and on the chorus the track opens out into a horn and organ groove blessed by a great drum section from Andrew Crisp, with some ebulliant, Andy Williams crooning by Barry.

Skylab exploit the jazzy vibe and create a loose arrangement across their two mixes. They break the track apart to create what could pass as a live improv jam, introducing Adamson’s vocal on their second, amusingly-titled ‘Skylab A Smokin’ Japanese We’re Chicken in Moss Side’ mix. Renegade Soundwave survivor Danny Briottet returns to the fold to team up with stalwart Mute producer Paul ‘PK’ Kendall on his ‘Subsonic Legacy Master’ mix. A jazzy two-step variant, Briottet adds some dub echoes and a killer sub-bassline to create a superb electro-dub counterweight to the bebop sounds elsewhere on the disc.

First published 2004; re-edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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