Opus Technus

Like any self-important, one-assignment-away-from-the-poorhouse hack, I get a lot of mail -- books, tapes, CDs, and a never-ending paper trail of paid-for plugs -- all mercilessly encouraging me to heed the coming of the next Next Big Thing.

Over the years I've become so immune to the barrage of products (some call the stuff "gifts," others "bribes," but I prefer to consider them "courtesies") and so disdainful at the paucity of merit that I've had to devise a system to weed out the bad trash from the good in the least amount of time. First consideration, of course, goes to the recognizable names that I've liked in the past; second to those personally recommended by the many minds more astute than my own; and third in line falls those artists who come laden with the most hype, so that I may discover what all the fuss is about. Sometimes, but all too rarely, I rely on instinct.

Which brings us to the case of Opus III.
The package arrived, as so many of them do these days, unmarked. Inside was stuffed an "advance cassette" (a first-listen for the so-called privileged many) with some frankly hippie-esque song titles typed on its sleeve, plus the requisite stack of laudatory clippings extolling the virtues of an act called, simply, Opus III. Yawn. So it was that the contents nearly went into the "to-get-to" pile (i.e., the trash bin), but the lead line of an uncommonly catchy cover letter forced me to surrender just a bit more of my time.

"Straight from the forests of England..." began the missive. And straight to my cassette deck I did run.

And it was right there that I found joy.
By the time you read this (or soon thereafter), the legend that spawned Opus III will be etched into your pop consciousness. But whether you've heard it yet or not, it's a tale well worth retelling, so here goes...

...The story begins in one of England's mythical forests, where history hangs thick, like mist in the air. Three adventuresome souls, Ian Munro, Kevin Dodds, and Nigel Walton, were sampling some bird sounds when they heard a voice singing through the trees. Enchanted, the trio wandered toward the strange song and stumbled upon an exotic young woman who was in the midst of gathering nettles for a vegetarian stew. Realizing that an encounter of such chance was an obvious gift from Fate, the threesome persuaded their new friend to join forces and become Opus III.

Now, whether this picture-perfect, storybook tale is purely the product of inventive, mediawise minds is unimportant. What is important, however, is the end result. And in this case, the end result positively justifies any premeditation.

Opus III's just-out, debut longplayer's entitled Mind Fruit, and seldom does a handle fit so snugly. Clean, healthful, smart, and expansive, it's the back-to-basics of inner space. The kind of nourishment that a tripping magi might prescribe. Its lead track, and Opus III's introductory single, "It's A Fine Day," not only broke Top 5 in the U.K. (it currently rests atop Billboard's prestigious Dance Chart), but it showed the world that techno need not be exclusively machine dominated. In fact, it gave that new generation a voice of its very own.

And what a voice. Crystalline, ethereal, blessed, and inspired. It's like Julee Cruise (the chanteuse responsible for the angelic auditory of Twin Peaks) to a hypnotic beat. A lilting charm-of-an-instrument that Franz Anton Mesmer himself, had he been more of a Svengali, could have devised.

And what about the girl who carries that wondrous voice?
The classically trained daughter of noted British television soundtrack composer Allan Hawkshaw, she's known simply as Kirsty. From appearances, she's equal parts Martian and Earth-child, but, then again, appearances can often be quite deceiving. In reality she's the former MC of Spiral Tribe, a gang of politicized wanderers (some might call them neo-hippies), who made music, made friends, made a scene, and, in order to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, "legally" squatted from rave to rave around England.

With Opus III, Kirsty has found her niche. And with Kirsty, Opus III have found a seductress of uncommon quality, a face to front their interstellar overdrive, a voice to carry their patented brand of ambient techno over the top.

As "It's A Fine Day" moves America to a new positivity, Opus III is set to cement their hold over the stargazers with an impeccably tantalizing cover of King Crimson's poignant "I Talk to the Wind," the next in what looks like a long series of dance-floor favorites. It's heady stuff, but with the Benetton kids leading the way, this scribe, for one, thinks that the world is at last ready for a basketful of fresh Mind Fruit.

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John Hood