By his own admission, ‘Low Birth Weight,’ owes much to the East London experimental group, Disco Inferno who, embracing sampling technology, attempted to turn pop music inside out. By 1995, the Inferno had burnt out but Johnson remained inspired by their playful, subversive manifesto and thus, the album here, partly produced by “Nottingham’s own Martin Hannett,” Martin Cooper, is difficult to pigeonhole either at the end of the millennium or even now. Drum kit signals are fed through a tiny amp literally inside a cardboard box; breathing is employed for rhythms; kick drums are replaced with broken glass; there’s a ragbag of tablas, huge slap back delay and phase, theremin, shortwave radio, and more.
There’s a revolving door of guests on the album, including Pete Astor (The Loft/The Weather Prophets) on a cover of Disco Inferno’s ‘Waking Up’; Simon Rivers of The Bitter Springs supplies lyrics and voice to ‘Crown Estate’ and ‘Dark Secrets Look For Light’; Jen Adam, then an American art student on a year’s placement in London, writes and sings ‘The Fun Of The Century,’ a personal account of being pushed off a roof at a party by someone she thought a close friend.
‘Low Birth Weight’ is undoubtedly of its time, though undoubtedly more playful and literary than much of the music made during the late 90’s and a fascinating bridge between dream pop and experimental electronic music.