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Mark Stewart - Kiss The Future

Kiss The Future is a career-spanning retrospective of Mark Stewart, the former singer in post-punk outfit The Pop Group. In 1982 he embarked on a solo career combining technological dystopian themes (control, surveillance...) with heavy duty industrial experimentation and extreme dub production. In the absence of new material - his last album was Control Data in 1986 - he's been cited as a direct influence on trip-hop. Mark Stewart was a close associate of the Wild Bunch, the Bristol based collective that spawned Massive Attack and Tricky. His work with avant dub producer Adrian Sherwood of On U Sound Productions has been compelling due to its ground breaking experimental dub techniques.

Thankfully Kiss The Future showcase three new tracks that evidently show that time has softened his wayward approach. 'Radio Freedom' his collaboration with The Bug (aka Kevin Martin formerly of God / Techno Animal et al) is a heavy slice of electro beats concerning the New World Disorder, with neat hammond interludes. With Desi producer Sanjay T they've produced a collosal slice of electro-dub, and with Adrian Sherwood at the controls 'The Lunatics Are Taking Over The Asylum' is a mixture of hip-hop, rock and extreme dub.

His work with The Pop Group is represented well by three tracks including the hyper punk-funk and jazz squall of the consumerist critique 'We Are All Prostitutes'. The soaring punk guitar and dub reggae of 'We Are Time' and the classic disjointed punk-funk of 'She Is Beyond Good and Evil'.

Of Stewart's solo material the majority is taken from Learning To Cope With Cowardice, aided by the Maffia represented at this point by members of the New Age Steppers. Stewart wrestles with themes of urban paranoia on 'Liberty City' with its dub bass, sprinkling trumpet and haunting female vocals. The rendering of Blake's English hymn Jerusalem is sublime. A musical cut-up of dub rhythm, brass band, and church hymn as Stewart panders for the promised land of Albion. It's slightly stilted but the approach is unprecedented. From As The Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade surely one of the most oppressive albums is 'Hypnotised'. A fine slice of electro-pop concerning wealth (re)distribution, complete with scratching and the lugubrious tones of the control addict William Burroughs. Surprisingly there are no selections from his eponymous third album, and in fact his work with Tackhead, the former rhythm section of the Sugarhill Gang (think 'The Message', and 'White Lines'), as the Maffia is seriously under-represented. Still 'Hysteria' one of Stewart's most accessible tracks is featured. With its slap bass and seering guitar acrobatics and Stewart's distant careering vocal this is as 'rock' as the Maffia would get. Though the bleak claustrophobic atmosphere would be too heavy for most. There's a distinct techno vibe to 'Dream Kitchen' amidst the over Sherwoodisms in this critique of commodity fetishism.

Regrettably Kiss The Future is a slim introduction to the paranoid musings of Mark Stewart. It doesn't include cuts I would have expected. Where's 'Pacivication Program', 'Stranger', 'These Things Happen', 'My Possession'... In an age where we're reminded daily of the threat of terrorism, and having our civil liberties continually eroded with the continual snooping on our personal lives the time is ripe for the return of Mark Stewart. In the meantime those unacquainted with the work of Mark Stewart could do worse than getting a hold of this compilation. You'll be surprised how fresh most of this sounds. Don't stop there though, investigate the back catalog its the nastiest, bleakest experimental and extreme dub you will ever encounter. For more information go to