Fader – In Shadow album review

24 09 2019

Fader are Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx & The Maths / Gazelle Twin). In Shadow is the follow-up to their 2017 debut, First Light.

Neil Arthur is clearly experiencing a creative streak – along with Fader he has also recently released the debut of another duo project, Near Future, as well as delivering two new Blancmange studio albums, including one of the finest in the bands career in last year’s Wanderlust.

Summoning the spirit of early John Foxx, Always Suited Blue is a tale of the personal and the mundane, jostling with an upbeat, pure 1981 synth-pop soundtrack.

“Lost a tenner, found a pound”

An early album highlight is Midnight Caller, a distopian dismantling of picket-fence suburbia, with a hint of menace that offsets the addictive chorus.

Arthur’s often unsettling lyrics are underpinned by the warm electronic textures provided by Benge. Everyday objects become enemies in What Did It Say – which has one of the most disturbing lyrics coupling with one of the album’s sweetest and most mesmerising tunes.

Youth On A Wall bubbles and pulses, with a wonderfully treated vocal that has its own distinctive, delayed rhythm. A little bit of politics creeping in here.

“May is fading from our view”

The saccharine synths of Whispering echo the softly delivered vocals, that are delivered with such lightness of touch that you have to really concentrate to hear the message being delivered.

Aspirational is an ear-worm of a song, and is followed by one of my favourite tracks on the album, Enemy Fighter with its inventive, haunting vocal arrangement that is topped off with layered, frenetic percussion patterns.

The title track has sparse instrumentation, that builds slowly as the song progresses. Every Page feels the most current of the songs on In Shadow, with vocals scattering in and out of the chorus.

“Heading home now, if home still exists”

The album comes to a close on it’s bleakest song, Reporting, that seems to flit through the ages in a lyric about time and travel. The lyric reminds me a little of the time-travel premise of Kate Bush’s Snowed in at Wheeler Street, but that’s where the comparison ends. The lightest of touch backing makes you concentrate fully on the lyrics, and then the album is over.

“Pressure drop, pleasure stop.”

In Shadow is released on 25 October 2019.

Buy Fader – In Shadow on CD from Amazon

Always Suited Blue
Midnight Caller
What Did It Say
Youth On A Wall
Whispering
Aspirational
Enemy Fighter
In Shadow
Mindsweeper
Every Page
Reporting





Blancmange – Unfurnished Rooms

16 09 2017

unfurnished roomsUnfurnished Rooms is the 9th studio album from Blancmange.

The 2017 version of Blancmange is a world away from the colourful electronic pop of Living On The Ceiling and Blind Vision. Recent releases find the band (now down to Neil Arthur with co-producer and musical partner in Fader, Benge plus occasional appearances from guitarist David Rhodes) producing much darker and more minimalist electronica.

The title track of Unfurnished Rooms hisses and crackles, with a feel of the first two John Foxx albums. Deep synths and frantic guitar lines accompany this song with lyrics hinting at confusion and things being not what they seem, in a dream-like state.

We Are The Chemicals is an early album highlight. I love the glam-rock guitar and any track that centres around “a chemical spillage on a trading estate in Altrincham” is likely to pique my curiosity.

The 70s T-Rex type guitar is ramped up a notch for What’s The Time? – a conversation piece set to music.

“Whats your favourite crime?”

The album’s most moving song arrives at the halfway point of the album. The lyrics for Wiping The Chair focus on the minutiae of a former friendship or relationship, set to a potent mix of 80s sounding electronica and a gothy, The Cure referencing intro.

“But your voice still sounds the same…”

Anna Dine also feels like it is inspired a little by the sound of the early albums of The Cure – with the sort of deep bass that underpinned A Forest. I love the mood conjured up by Unfurnished Rooms, the album has a real feeling of space aided by the good use of glacial reverb and delay.

In December has ringing guitar lines sitting alongside warm, early 80s strings. Old Friends adds some twisted pop to the mix, delivered without warning in the form of a stunning chorus that serves as a prelude to the Nine Inch Nails channelling Gratitude. David Rhodes (Kate Bush / Peter Gabriel) adds some quality guitar work to Gratitude, reminding me a little of the power of the late John McGeoch (Magazine / Siouxsie and the Banshees).

The album ends with the track that will probably become most fans favourite, Don’t Get Me Wrong. By far the albums longest track (at just over 8 minutes), and no, its not a cover of The Pretenders track! Don’t Get Me Wrong features long-time Blancmange admirer John Grant giving it his best Mike Garson on piano as well as adding wonderful mood-altering backing vocals. The album closer abandons the sparse , early 80s feel of the rest of the album, and hints at a possible new direction for Neil Arthur & Blancmange.

I’m so glad that Blancmange are still developing and heading in new directions, instead of looking back to their past. Give Unfurnished Rooms a listen if you are a fan of electronic music, I think you will find much to enjoy.

Buy Blancmange Unfurnished Rooms on CD

Buy Unfurnished Rooms on vinyl

Buy The Blanc Tapes








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