What makes the Joy Division mythos similarly captivating and difficult to penetrate is it's dominated by three genius spirits, each one threatening to consume the other. There's frontman Ian Curtis, Keats-like in how he conveyed those aspects of human fragility. There's Factory Records svengali Tony Wilson, with his P.T. Barnum-evoking flair. Last, but not least, there's the arcane studio visionary Martin Hannett.
Curtis and Wilson were the focus of recent probing biopics (Control, 24 Hour Party People). Now it's Hannett's turn for the spotlight, and fittingly his homages come in the form of albums. Last year saw the release of Martin Hannett's Personal Mixes. Now there's In the Studio with Martin Hannett, a two-disc set featuring the legendary producer's sonic twiddling with various Joy Division songs recorded in 1978 and 1979 at Cargo Studios in Rochdale, England.
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The album is meant to offer glimpses into Hannett's belligerent, creative mind, but instead it proves his most prolific engineering experimentation was on Joy Division's albums and singles. Hannett's calculated, ruminative approach to recording often bows to the pill-popping, manic (and more sexy) legend. Regrettably, In the Studio does nothing but merely inflate Hannett folklore: synthesizers and drums stumble into metronomes and other haphazard sonic curios. It's too flaccid to qualify as industrial, too chaotic and acerbic to be ambient. Recall the scene in 24 Hour Party People where Hannett was recording silence? You'll ache for such comfort one zip through In the Studio.