August 28, 2012

# 3 Virginia Astley - Hope In A Darkened Heart

It's so strange to be a new fan of something. Most of the music I enjoy I've been listening to for years (or even decades!). Virginia came out of nowhere and I was shocked to find that there were still things in the world to be discovered in my old age. There is still a shadowy mystery around her for me, but it's slowly starting to come unraveled. This album, Hope In A Darkened Heart, is her greatest effort in my opinion. It was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto of the Japanese, synthesizer pioneering band Yellow Magic Orchestra at the now closed Wool Hall Studios in the countryside ten miles south of Bath, England. Here are a couple photos from the recording session:

It is such an amazing album. She really had such a concrete idea of what she wanted to do musically, despite all the post punk / new wave going on around her... she had no problem writing sweet songs and singing like a little girl or a gramma.

I've often wondered what Synthesizers or other electronic instruments where used on this record. Since it was made in 1986, it would have been more digital and thus outside my area of expertise (ie: nothing I could pick out by listening). I also wonder how involved Virginia was with the synthesizer side of things. Orchestral instruments were her forte but she did play synthesizer for Victims of Pleasure from 80-81. And she played some sort of Sequential Circuits Prophet synthesizer on her first release (A Bao A Qu).

Bellow is a picture of Ryuichi Sakamoto working on the record, it looks like he's using an E-mu Emulator II. There's also a Fairlight in the picture that seems to be up and running. There's Roland SBX-80 sync box bellow and I have seen a picture from these sessions that I believe showed a Roland MC-4 (which Sakamoto would have been very familiar with from YMO).

Virginia was quite successful in Japan (may or may not have had anything to do with her choice of producer). Here's an ad for Ana (a Japanese airline I believe) in 1987 featuring A Father from Hope In A Darkened Heart

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