366: Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic

Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
Earth-Moon-Earth, an art piece by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, consists of a self-playing piano performing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata after the score was bounced off the moon’s surface as a morse code signal. The effect is a faithful rendition but with gaps. Notes and sometimes whole sections got misplaced in lunar transit. I think of this piece sometimes when I listen to Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic’s celestial, sparse arrangement. It’s as if the only parts captured on record are the ones our earthly receivers are tuned in to catch. Layers of inaudible funk as dark matter, felt by their gravitational effect on their surroundings. Beats separated by the negative space of distant planets passing in front of stars. If the 1988 original hadn’t been leaked (revealing it to be almost identical) I’d entertain theories that it was lost to time and that 1999’s officially released version was an archeological recreation made up from what could be gleaned from its references in other tracks: the mentions in 200 Balloons and Batdance remixes; the borrowed Egyptian horn riff in The Max; the sheet music spotted in the Graffiti Bridge film. A skeletal reconstruction. Incredibly though, the song was always that lean and lost only a few flourishes prior to its release at the turn of the millennium. Even though it’s over a decade old at that point, the opener sets out its stall for the shimmering, futuristic vibes the album is peppered with. Undisputed, Hot Wit U and Strange But True all share a similar aesthetic, unfortunately interrupted by tracks of less inspired and now dated mainstream chart appeals. Prince said he left the song to “marinate” as he thought it was too similar to Kiss but it still sounds ahead of its time now. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s an alien art-piece being reflected off our planet’s surface. The missing notes from a Martian sonata absorbed in the mind of a Minnesotan musician.