Mark Stewart: Exorcism Of Envy – album review

Mark Stewart: Exorcism Of Envy (Future Noise Music)
CD/LP/DL
Out Now

When you’ve already made one of 2012’s best albums, how do you better it? Pretty easy it would seem – enter Mark Stewart and Exorcism Of Envy!

The Politics Of Envy was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and fully lived up to expectations (often exceeding them) – big, brash, bold and bloody brilliant! It marked (sic) the return of one of Britain’s most original and respected artists and didn’t disappoint whether it be joining forces with Primal Scream or Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, or, simply being the revolutionary that he is.

For months before its release, Exorcism was known as the Remix or Dub version of Politics. It’s far more than that though, it’s a complete ripping apart and re-constructing of that album – a completely different beast.

The album kicks off with a version of Baby Bourgeois in the shape of Babycino. Typical ‘old school’ Mark Stewart complete with police sirens and alarms. Echoes and ‘that’ house sound that he and Gary Clail seemed to characterise. Dubs aplenty (of course!).  An incredible cutting drumbeat persists through Sexorcist which is guested by Factory Floor and Keith Levene. After Levene in his PiL days had been such a huge influence on Stewart, it’s nice to see the two working together so well. Fingers crossed for more future collaborations. Their monster wall of sound persists throughout like a cross between KLF and Acid making a bastard son of a noise that ensures your ears bounce.

The unmistakable sound of Gustav Says starts three self-proclaimed ‘dub’ versions.  Gustav Dub has more added sounds and effects than you could shake a stick at, obviously dubbed to great effect. Towards the end of the track there sounds like there’s a party going on in the background – possibly a gospel choir – who knows? One of those powerful powerful songs that Stewart is very capable of producing with the new re-constructed version really adding a certain ‘oomph’.

An almost military drumbeat sounding like it’s playing over a deserted battlefield,  complete with swirling lone female vocal entrances you on Method To The Madness Dub.  Great hi-hats and reggae beat ensue. An amazing stereo spiralling effect closes before Codex Dub’s biting drumbeat starts. Heavy bass sounds get pushed in from of the vocals creating a completely different sounding version. There’s a brilliant close to the track where the dub of Mark voice gets speeded up like an out of control cassette getting frantically faster before cutting off.

Aggression, shouting vocals and more differing sounds brought to the fore on Want Version before Mirror Wars with its mighty crashing screaming beginning and the master Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. More of Mark’s screeching, bleeping, roaring sounds in the background that have made his music so instantly recognisable over the years. Pure chaos and an extra rap from X A Cute (that doesn’t appear on Politics) making the track take on a new form, almost like an extra track sandwiched in the middle.

An almost indistinguishable Letter To Hermione is present in the form of Letter (Full Of Tears). Thumping, clinical drums with a hard bassline in total contrast to the mellow (as close as Mark gets) version on Politics. It’s fair to say that every sound and trick he’s ever used is thrown with gusto into this album and, whilst the tracks are torn apart, not all of them are put back together again leaving torn and ripped brilliance.

Following buckets of dubbed vocals, the hookline to Apocalypse Dub reminds me of Best Friends Girl by Cars. I may be hated for suggesting that but, the similarity is there right down to finger clicking. One of the most immediate songs on the album. It’s fair to say that the majority of the songs on Exorcism are very accessible, Mark adding his individual touch to make them that little more appealing to the music intelligencia – maybe not reaching mass appeal (yet), but gaining well deserved critical acclaim.

It’s hard to pick a highlight of such an accomplished album, but if pressed, Attack Dogs would be right up there.  A quite superb dub/reggae version of the lead single from Politics, Autonomia, featuring Primal Scream which was in itself a monster track.  Stripped right back with balls removed, added sirens and alarms which bring recollections of On-Usound, epitomising how the original tracks have been made into completely new tracks and testament to what a stunning album this is. Let’s not forget the dog bark to close.

Killswitch ends Politics ironically as its ‘mother’, Vanity Kills, began Politics. What more can be said that hasn’t been already.  Everything is thrown in here. The clunking guitar that starts the chorus (which actually has the chorus line removed!), shouting female vocals, crashing drums. Anthemic.

Not only is Exorcism Of Envy a quite amazing retake on Politics Of Envy, it is also a superb album in its own right. Both albums feature in my Top 20 of 2012, and, both albums are right up there with my best of all time. If you bought Politics, you’ll adore Exorcism – if you didn’t then you’re a fool.

All words Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here.

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