Artists Of The Year CMU Approved

CMU Artists Of The Year 2013: The Heritage Orchestra & Scanner

By | Published on Thursday 12 December 2013

Joy Division Reworked

Each weekday in the run up to the Christmas break, we will reveal another of our ten favourite artists of the year. To see each artist as they’re revealed, sign up to receive the CMU Daily or check this page. Today’s artists are The Heritage Orchestra and Scanner for their show, ‘Joy Division Reworked’…

Commissioned for last year’s Brighton Festival, The Heritage Orchestra and producer Scanner’s collaborative performance, ‘Joy Division Reworked’, was one of my live music highlights of the year, when I caught it on its UK tour at the Royal Festival Hall in London in September.

Initially I was pretty sceptical of a show that professed to rework Joy Division songs – but two things about it intrigued me. Firstly, I was made aware of the project by someone I knew to be a huge Joy Division fan, and second, joining the orchestra for the performance were drummer Adam Betts and guitarist Matthew Calvert, two members of one of my favourite new bands of recent years, and previous CMU Artists Of The Year, Three Trapped Tigers.

My interest piqued enough to press play on a condensed ten minute performance on SoundCloud, and I was immediately impressed with what Scanner and The Heritage Orchestra had done with those familiar songs. However, this recording didn’t come close to the incredible work that went into the full performance.

Probably the key thing to the show’s success was how loosely they had played with their source material. There was certainly a level of reverence given to those classic songs, but this was far from a simple run through of a legendary band’s back catalogue.

Morphed into a continuous 45 minute piece – with the original songs often unrecognisable until the emergence of a hook, or a handwritten line of a song’s lyrics projected on a screen in front of the stage spelling itself out in Ian Curtis handwriting – it was a completely enveloping experience.

That screen too became an integral part of the show, when not displaying lyrics it was often playing out incredible visuals in front and behind the stage from visual artist Matt Watkins that elevated the experience to another level.

With the possibility of more performances and a live recording in 2014, I hope it’s something I’m able to return to again. As well as pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a single artists’ back catalogue, ‘Joy Division Reworked’ also set an impressive precedent for live performance.

Watch an excerpt from the show here: