Here at Electronic Beats we’re keen followers of Billie Ray Martin’s career trajectory. Having started out as the singer of Electribe 101 and S’Express in the 90s, her work would go on to be defined by its casual disregard for the usual boundaries erected between mainstream and highbrow. For recent evidence, compare 2011’s yearning disco single ‘Sweet Suburban Disco’ with 2010’s Crackdown Project, an act of creative revisionism which saw her pair up with Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire to reshape tracks from the Cabs groundbreaking album The Crackdown. Fair to say that second guessing where she’ll go next is a somewhat fruitless endeavor. That’s why we were somewhat intrigued when it was announced that her next move was a DVD entitled, in somewhat self-explantory fashion, Five Takes (A Song About Andy). The premise was to create a conceptual piece inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous Screen Tests which, during the sixties, bathed everyone from Edie Sedgwick to William Burroughs in a naked, insinuating light. Produced in collaboration with electronic producer Waterman and director Joern Hartmann, the videos are composed of five different ‘takes’, featuring five different versions of the same song. Watching them, in one go, is a curiously mesmerising experience; the fidelity to the source material is disarming with the movies emulating the particularly tactile effect of the film stock that characterized those stark, almost unreal, Screen Tests. The song itself, “On Borrowed Time”, is a melancholic and soulful piece of fibrous and glitchy electronic pop, with each of the five variations illuminating a different texture and grain. A worthy tribute to an artist to whom frequent obfuscation of himself was ultimately an attempt to escape who he was.
Billie Ray Martin – Five Takes (A Song About Andy) is available now as an 8 panel deluxe DVD on Disco Activisto.