‘Trying To Escape’ Foreign World

Resident archivist Jack Dangers looks at an album by Foreign World that’s stuffed with strange art inserts – and the music is even more peculiar

‘Trying To Escape’ by Foreign World was released in 1984. I just love this record. The artist, Robert Vigneault, has designed the whole package to be a kind of multisensory experience, before you even get to the record itself.

There are six inserts of these complex ink doodles, and one of them is a large poster. It probably took longer to do these than it did to make the music. They’re so intricate, and very weird. The album cover opens on an unexpected side, with the artwork on the front not the same way round as it is on the back, so it forces you to keep turning the sleeve around. You don’t know which way is up – which is the whole point, I think.

It sounds like recordings of an electromagnetic dawn chorus, which is a phenomenon you can pick up on shortwave radio. It’s the sort of sound Chris Watson would use on early Cabaret Voltaire records, but on this piece, there are strange tunes being played on a primitive string instrument, a broken toy guitar and rubber bands stretched across a wire coat hanger. Very odd, but absolutely unique.

Using two tape machines, Vigneault would record something, play it back in the room over the speakers, and add another layer with the second tape machine, then repeat the process. Very primitive. When you learn that the person responsible for this record took over 100 LSD trips and was inspired by that experience to make this music, it all starts to make sense.

There is another Foreign World release, a cassette-only album from 1983 called ‘Primitive Music From Another Place’, which is similarly experimental and bizarre.

Robert Vigneault has several other guises – Catharsist, Convulsive Trance and Neutrino Cockpit – and he’s been releasing material consistently from the early 1980s right up to today, mostly as part of the cassette scene, but more recently digitally.

There were 500 copies of ‘Trying To Escape’ pressed, and he’s selling unplayed copies for just £10 on Discogs because they’ve got warping issues. I think he must have boxes of unsold stock, and they’ve been in storage ever since they were pressed. I believe it’s going to be a very valuable record in the future. He’s an interesting cat, if you ask me.

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