published: 18 /
Blanc Check Records
1980s synth-pop progenitors Blancmange maintain their highly prolific release rate with a solid new addition to their discography
Believe it if you can but it is now over forty years since Harrow based synth stars Blancmange launched their attack on the pop charts. Nothing to be trifled with I can tell you. By the time they had released Living On the Ceiling and their debut album Happy Families in 1982 they had fans adoring their music by the hundreds and thousands. Since then Blancmange has been reduced to one member Neil Arthur who has flown the banner ever since with the help of various collaborations along the way.
The band’s latest outing ‘Commercial Break’ is amazingly their fourteenth studio album and their seventh in consecutive years. Co-produced by revered electronica musician Benge, who had a large hand in the outfit’s previous LP, the brilliant ‘Mindset’, this album audaciously explores Arthur’s adoration of field recordings and integrates the unusual sounds of things like peoples’ conversations, overworked garden gates, and various household appliances exploring acoustic textures within their synthesised skin. Mixed at Benge’s Memetune Studios in Cornwall and this latest offering reflects on how the current pandemic situation has impacted and re-shaped our perception and experience of everyday life, hinting at new possibilities ahead. Written and recorded in 2020 and early 2021, Arthur sees the disc as “A reflective type of listen”.
Carrying on slightly from the last album although a little more sedate, the material challenges the normality within humanity’s current dangerous state of instability, finding personal creative anchorage in the enforced slower pace during the pandemic. Arthur rationalises this by saying it’s about seeing more in less, questioning our values and the trappings of so-called normal life and goes on to add that, as we all know in this ever-changing world, nothing is normal. The situation we now find ourselves due to Covid in has impacted and re-shaped our perception and experience of everyday life.
Many of the songs here, as touched on earlier, were triggered by a series of random field recordings, including electric saws, a dishwasher, waves on a beach and an old water pump. These elements makes this listen a little more experimental than ‘Mindset’ but still having the influence of Benge which for me is a sonic friendship that needs to be explored even further.
Straight from the outset Arthur analyses everything in his own sphere in opening cut ‘Share Out The Light’. The deepest part comes right after in ‘Endless Posts’ and the most powerful moment in the title track. As the album draws to a close it becomes a tad sparse in comparison with ‘Empty Street’ and ‘Looking After Aliens’ finishing another superb addition to the Blancmange catalogue. If you want to catch Blancmange out and about, they have announced that they be appearing at The O2 in London in October as special guests of fellow synth pop stalwarts Erasure.
Share out the Light
This a State
Dog Walk in a Cloud
On a Ride
Long Way Road
Looking After Aliens
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