The (Hypothetical) Prophets – Around the World With (InFiné, March 2016)

Having given Bernard Szajner’s Visions of Dune the reissue treatment in 2014, French imprint InFiné now delivers a much-appreciated second spin of a record any lover of bizarre wave should spend at least one evening with. The (Hypothetical) Prophets was an intriguing project from Szajner and fellow comrade Karel Beer centred on the imagery of shady spy films and the atmospheric élan of Soviet references. The Prophets were a ‘fake’ Soviet pop band that was also a real French band; a well-thought out, many-headed project that performed itself and commented on itself at the same time. Beer and Szajner wore dark anoraks and hid behind newspapers; their tracks contain instructions for building a nuclear reactor, stories about WWII Swedish diplomats, classified announcements and lists of gulag railroad stations.

A lot goes on, in Around the World With, a record swept away by that heady mix of Cold War paranoia and cold world fascination that birthed so much of the coldwave canon. So what does it sound like? It jitters, it shifts, but is really rather good. Lots of layers of delicate jagged rhythms, long wandering synthlines, voices chanting gravely, endless spliced segments of speech, sampled multi-lingual and multi-headed bits and bobs on the backdrop of a map of syntesised international intrigue that is as glossy as it is opaque. A strange choral photograph of a moment as it was imagined more than lived out, a record to be rediscovered whether you listen as a dancer, as a poet or as a historian. Sonically interesting, oddly political, and bleakly humorous, too.

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