❉ Hot on the heels of Unfurnished Rooms, Neil Arthur’s insightful lyrics explore the human condition in this modern day and age, writes We Are Cult’s Ange Chan.
“‘Wanderlust’ is very much a ‘Part B’ to ‘Unfurnished Rooms, but where there was wistfulness on the previous album, there is now anger; a sense of dislocation morphs into a powerful desire to be somewhere else, as Neil Arthur phrases it, ‘the pretence of a normal world being erased.’ This spirit of the album is supported by the music, which is percussive, yet full of analogue machine-noise and chunky basslines.”
Hot on the heels of Unfurnished Rooms, Blancmange have been busy in the studio with another album this year, called Wanderlust which is released on Blanc Check Records on 19th October. The album comprises of ten new tracks, and is completely composed by Neil Arthur, and arranged, co-produced and mixed with Benge at his Memetune Studios in Cornwall. The album is very much a ‘Part B’ to their previous release, Unfurnished Rooms, as it contains similar lyrical themes, but with a new approach to song writing. Where there was wistfulness on the previous album, there is now anger; a sense of dislocation morphs into a powerful desire to be somewhere else, as Neil Arthur phrases it, ‘the pretence of a normal world being erased.’
This spirit of the album is supported by the music, which is percussive, yet full of analogue machine-noise and chunky basslines. The opening track, ‘Distant Storm’ features dreamy vocoder vocals over Moroder-esque Moogs, immediately creating the sense of space as Arthur evidently searches his soul within. He describes the track as the feeling ‘when something familiar becomes unfamiliar’ and for all the potential horror in that, there’s also a sense of discovery which you can hear in this big tune.
The album continues in the other-worldliness vein with the edgy track ‘In Your Room’ which is about being away from the world outside. Meanwhile on ‘I Smashed your Phone’ the lyrics recalls a domestic incident, ‘the consequences will reverberate until eternity.’ It’s an everyday incident that reveals a lot about humans and their interaction with technology whilst its heavy synth background is reminiscent of epic early Human League tracks such as Crow and a Baby. The theme of frustration with modern devices is also expressed through ‘Talking To Machines’, and the juxtaposition of the album being created by humans interacting with electricity and circuits isn’t lost on the listener!
The track ‘Gravel Drive Syndrome’ is about the scandalous portrayal of social climbing at any cost and the emptiness at its core and its almost entrancing backing synth track carries you along whereas ‘Not A Priority’ is about people who are apparently not seen by others, or who have a sense that you don’t count or are seen as not important as an individual.
In this day and age of misogyny and online trolls, the theme of feeling invisible is not much of a stretch to comprehend and is a sad indictment of the times we live in. However, having said that, the song is a shining example of an ambient pop song which features the brilliant Hannah Peel in the chorus, which can only ever be a good thing. It has overtones of a Depeche Mode vibe and is the kind of clever track the boys from Basildon should be producing these days. Having said that this track is one of the highlights on the album, cleverly balanced between melancholia and hope for a renewed belief in the human condition.
Guitars crash through the synthesizers on the dark ‘TV Debate’ whilst ‘White Circle, Black Hole’ continues the theme of new beginnings, and the album reaches its grand finale on the title-track, ’Wanderlust’, which is a bitter-sweet song which explores a craving for new experiences and the joy of living in the moment and is not unlike mid-career New Order in its delivery.
The album takes the listener on a journey of serious navel-gazing through the medium of synths and heavy electronic sounds interspersed with Neil Arthur’s insightful lyrics which explore the consideration of the human condition in this modern day and age. Wanderlust is Neil Arthur’s second album to be released in 2018, following his collaboration with electronic solo artist Jez Bernholz on Near Future’s debut album Ideal Home in May of this year. Since Blancmange’s Stephen Luscombe was forced by illness to stop touring or recording after 2011’s Blanc Burn, the band has continued somewhat successfully with Arthur at the helm.
The band are touring with this album throughout November in the UK* – for more information go to the Blancmange website http://www.blancmange.co.uk/
❉ Blancmange – ‘Wanderlust’: Released 19th October 2018, Blanc Check Records (BCR012). Signed copies of the LP and CD are available to Pre-Order from the Official Store: https://blancmange.tmstor.es/
❉ *November UK ‘Wanderlust’ Tour: 1 Norwich Arts Centre; 2 Nottingham Rescue Rooms; 3 Cardiff Acapela; 4 Bristol The Fleece; 7 Darwen Library Theatre; 8 Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms; 9 Glasgow Oran More; 10 Newcastle The Cluny; 15 Brighton The Old Market; 16 Southampton Brook; 17 Dover Booking Hall; 22 Wolverhampton Robin 2; 23 Gloucester Guild Hall; 24 Northampton Roadmender; 29 Leeds The Wardrobe; 30 Derby Flowerpot.
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her latest collection of poetry, ‘Songs of Sorrow and Heartbreak’, was published in October 2017. Her third novel ‘Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots’ is currently a ‘work in progress’.