Death In June’s Brown Book was originally issued in 1987. The original 11-track LP featured guest contributions from David Tibet, Jhonn Balance and Rose McDowall amongst others, and remains one of DIJ’s most influential – not to mention controversial – albums. In 2007 the album was given the deluxe reissue treatment, and was released as a double CD in a stone box. The second disc of that collection has now been released in its own right and is retitled Braun Buch Zwei. This is not so much a new, improved version – more like a revision or Director’s Cut of the original. Braun Buch Zwei is some 11 minutes longer than Brown Book. The new version is the same as the old for the first seven tracks, but then the new album takes a slightly different course as different versions of songs are used for the remaining tracks. BBII is one of DIJ’s most fully rounded albums – containing pop songs, ominous chants, spooky spoken word pieces, and peculiar sound collages.
‘To Drown a Rose’ is one of DIJ’s perfect pop moments: dual lead vocals from Douglas P and Rose McDowall, big digital drumbeats, ambient synth sounds, acoustic guitar, trumpet – it all melds into what should have been a huge indie hit (the track was released as a 10″ single in 1987). ‘Red Dog – Black Dog’ is a disturbing spoken word piece, with just an echoed and treated male voice recounting a spectral tale of divination, backed by Rose McDowall’s wordless, ethereal vocals. ‘Europa: The Gates of Heaven’ is an alternate version of ‘We Are the Lust’, a drum-heavy song featuring vocals from the late Jhonn Balance. ‘Brown Book re-read’ and ‘Brown Book’ are two complementary mixes of the same piece. The main element of each track is an actress’ voice sampled from the German film Die Welt in Jenem Sommer. In the first version, the heavily echoed voice is backed by more eerie, wordless vocals, and an insistent synthesised sleighbell sound plays low in the mix (I never thought a sleighbell could sound sinister, but it does here.) The second version begins with gongs being struck, before the sampled voice German voice enters – this time lower in the mix with less effects, and flanked by chanted Japanese vocals. Far back in the mix, one can hear the same drum rhythm as used on the opening track ‘Heilige Tod’, thus giving the album a pleasing symmetry, as we are returned to our place of departure on track one.
Brown Book is in many ways the quintessential DIJ album, and its new remixed and remastered form as Braun Buch Zwei should find a whole new audience for the band.