Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.
In April 2021 Strangelove released Childrens Mind: a compilation taster of pieces composed by Sjunne Ferger, and his group, Exit, from the late `70s through to the mid-80s. It quickly became a big favourite: a fully-formed, perfectly-realised worldview, captured in lissom synth melodies and quirky arrangements, a clever cross-pollination of city pop vibes and Art of Noise incantations. Ferger’s sure touch was clear – these were timeless pieces speaking clearly from the embers of the past – undated, becalmed, full of curiosity and sparkling ideas. I was hooked.
Fast forward to today and Ferger’s 1984 album, Mindgames, gets an overdue revisit, and it’s a welcome relief in these awful times to announce that it’s a complete humdinger – spreading musical tentacles out from Childrens Mind into a wider, cohesive whole – once again mixing and matching influences to make something unique.
The title track shoehorns plenty of guitar into the mix. Allan Holdsworth-esque touches spicing up a more progressive brew from Ferger and crew. Candlelight foregrounds Ferger’s vocal prowess – shades of Jon Anderson, almost – until it hits a percussion breakdown full of b-boy vim and vigour: imagine Bambaataa getting busy with a side order of Steve Howe and you’re in the right area. It’s poppy, it’s jazzy, it’s rocky: it’s great.
Light Of Love covers similar ground: funky as hell, city pop touches, a soupcon of prog rock, a sax solo: whack it all in and you’re thinking: this can’t work, can it? Of course it can. The confidence of youth and some cracking musicianship ensure that what could perhaps be seen as overload instead comes out bright, shiny and cerebral – timeless pop for art-rock mavericks, a unique take on what was happening then that still sounds essential now.
Controller has a grandeur that’s contagious. Again there’s definite prog rock elements in there, seasoned with aching keys and twitchy drum machines: cosmically-inclined lyrics intertwined with classic hot rod guitar riffs. Scando-pop-rock meets Midge Ure downtown – who could resist?
Plenty of ideas then, put together with a keen ear for detail, almost verging on pastiche, but the love and care evident in the artistic process gives Mindgames a freshness, a uniqueness, that elevates it above the merely quirky. There’s a gameplan evident, a corralling of disparate influences that makes for a very satisfying whole.
Check Reality for Ferger’s funkier side: disco licks shifted slightly to the leftfield, organic soul music tweaked and phreaked. Ferger announcing ‘I’m not sure that reality is real…who in the world knows if it is there or not.’
Philosophical quizzing set to the dancefloor template: this is late night musings made flesh, intelligent dance music made by a true original, largely overlooked in his lifetime but absolutely ready to be rediscovered by a new generation of Ferger fans. A total triumph.
Sjunne Ferger`s Mindgames is out today, care of Strangelove Music.