What do you think right now the future will look like? In popular music there have always been artists posing that question in musical terms, and offering a utopian or dystopian vision of the future, mostly conditioned by the social reality of the moment. In late 70s and early 80s England, industrial music and some bands from the post-punk scene offered a vision where there was no future, just an imminent nihilist apocalypse, after the rough 70s and at the beginning of the Thatcher era.
Black Rain, active in the 90s, composed these tracks for the film “Johnny Mnemonic”, but it's only now that we can listen to them in the right context, reissued on Blackest Ever Black. “Johnny Mnemonic” had a lot of things going for it: a script by William Gibson, an odd but potentially interesting cast with Takeshi Kitano and Henry Rollins (?!), among others (one could even overlook the presence of Keanu Reeves), and still, it was an epic failure. Made when technology was taking society by storm and people were dreaming about virtual reality, the story clashed with Black Rain's music, a kind of post-industrial drone-techno which, as usual on the Blackest Ever Black releases, is fascinating to the point of being somewhere between morbid and cathartic.
On seven tracks with a duration between one and a half (opener “Lo Tek”) and eleven and a half minutes (the title track) each, Black Rain offer a deep, sinister sound palette based on drones and rhythms that are distant and at the same time strangely attractive, especially after listening several times. Its original soundtrack function can be felt mainly in the creation of moods, though the label has been careful to reissue the music with artwork in accordance with its own guidelines, without ever referring to the picture the songs were originally meant for.
As a whole, “Now I’m Just a Number” leaves the impression of corporate music that doesn't try to win the listener over and shows its darker, more dehumanised side, which perfectly fits the role of the big corporations in William Gibson's cyberpunk stories and which makes it up-to-date again, now that it's reissued a few months after James Ferraro's musical experiments with music for commercials and television on “Far Side Virtual”.
Blackest Ever Black has managed to create an immediately recognisable aesthetic, present on all of its titles, not only in the music but also in the artwork, impressive and revealing, like on this “Now I’m Just A Number”. With the release of these Black Rain tracks, composed between 1994 and 1995, the label manages to draw a line that roots its aesthetic in the past, thus reinforcing its solidity in the present. In fact, this EP could have easily been made by Raime.