Duet Emmo – ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ (Mute, MUTE 025, 1983) / French 7″ (Mute/Vogue, VG 108 / 101835, 1983)

This was such a surprising release, completely out of the blue. With three albums already under the project monicker of Dome, an album (‘3R4’) and single (‘Ends With The Sea’) as B.C. Gilbert & G. Lewis, 12″ EP under the name Cupol and the B.C. Gilbert/G. Lewis/Russell Mills exhibition installation soundtrack (‘MZUI’) – evidence witnessed the ex-Wire pair follow a particular sonic path that mostly found its music fashioned from manipulated sound sources – Blackwing studio as instrument in particular – with vocals mostly (but not exclusively) provided by Graham Lewis. Despite the then fairly common default assumption that anything that sounded unusual must be done on ‘synthesizers’, rarely were there much in the way of traditional keyboards and synths to be found on their releases. This release was quite the exception however, no doubt due to the presence of Daniel Miller amongst the ranks.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' UK 12" single front cover

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ single front cover

The A side is quite the minimal synth track – building slowly from odd keyboard/synth sequences, the Mute Records house style is there to hear, with the unmistakable vocals of Graham Lewis in particularly fine form on top. It is melodic, make no mistake about it – incredibly so compared to much of the preceding, often stark, output since 1980 by Gilbert and Lewis, where you would have little clue as to quite what instrument or sound source was made to produce what you were hearing. Despite the sweetness in melody and vocals, plenty of more discordant elements were still to be found, particularly the track’s intro section and later saxophone.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' UK 12" single reverse cover

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ single reverse cover

The B side takes elements of the same music but dispenses with the vocals altogether and renders it in an instrumental, drum machine driven fashion instead and is particularly hypnotic. Its a wonder a dance mix adding the vocals was never made of this subsequently – you can well imagine it…

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' UK 12" single label side A

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ single label side A

The single appeared in March 1983 (despite the references to 1982 on the records) ahead of the ‘Dome IV: Will You Speak This Word?’ album – which did not include either track from the single at all. The sleeve designs shared similar, though by no means the same, cover artwork style.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' UK 12" single label side B

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ UK 12″ single label side B

Although not obviously credited, the immediately eye-catching artwork, particular the odd creature on the reverse of the sleeve (and the subsequent Duet Emmo album) was the work of Atelier Koninck aka the Brothers Quay – whose work graces a number of records in my collection, such as David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ultravox, Dome and AC Marias. I used to have a poster for the Duet Emmo album, from the time of its original release, a record shop freebie from the dear, departed 1-Up records in Aberdeen – in tiny white print against a yellow background – i.e. hardly discernible – was a giveaway Koninck logotype. You can see a reproduction of that poster on page 100 of the ‘Mute: A Visual Document from 1978 -> Tomorrow’ book (Burrows, T., with Miller, D (2017). London: Thames & Hudson, pp.100-101, ISBN:978-0-500-51972).

As well as the UK 12″, there is also a curio in the form of a French 7″ single that splits the rather long A side of the original 12″ into Parts 1 and 2 spread across both sides of the 7″.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' French 7" single front cover

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ French 7″ single front cover

For Part 1, the editing scissors are out – although it starts off with the quiet intro as per the original 12″ mix, the intro is edited in such a way as to remove the rather jarring and discordant elements and it reaches Graham Lewis’s vocals in quick time – about 30 seconds in, compared to the near two minutes of the 12″ – it then fades out during the rather wonky saxophone break…

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' French 7" single reverse cover

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ French 7″ single reverse cover

Meanwhile, the flipside has a hurried fade in and is basically the last four minutes from the regular 12″ A side mix – no editing in the way that the A side has, as far as I can tell. I don’t think either the A or B side edits have emerged digitally at all – a pity, as the A side edit does a good job in sweetening up the song for those less familiar with the Gilbert/Lewis output of the time.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' French 7" single label side A

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ French 7″ single label side A

The work of Duet Emmo was not done however and a whole album of material would yet appear, in the summer of 1983… another story.

Duet Emmo 'Or So It Seems' French 7" single label side B

^ Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ French 7″ single label side B

Leave a Reply