Fader – First Light (Blanc Check Records)
LP / CD / DL
23 June 2017
8.5 / 10
British electronic stalwarts combine to make first collaborative album.
This is quite some joining of forces and we should be thanking Steve Malins, the manager of both Neil Arthur and Benge for suggesting it. Fader sees two major, if not often unsung, forces of electronic music come together for an album that will raise an eyebrow or two. Both names instantly recognisable in their own rights take a break from their regular projects and reveal an album which is bordering on perfect.
Neither artist needs any introduction of course nor do the resulting eleven tracks which contain, as you’d maybe predict, some of the throbbing basslines that you’d expect from Blancmange or the delicate intricacies of The Maths (John Foxx). It’s an album of startling pop, of racing electronica and also some genuinely heartfelt moments. Whether you think that Arthur’s lyrics are meaningless art or genuinely highbrow words of wisdom are often irrelevant, whether quotes of ‘put the rings back on the onion’ from album opener 3D Carpets are inspired by the works of Hunter S Thompson or not will render most of us oblivious, but the fact remains that his articulation serves of as much of an instrument as Benge’s programming does.
Commencing with three high powered tracks in 3D Carpets, Check The Power and recent single I Prefer Solitude, the analogue sound is firmly in flow and the wake of infectious basslines and electro ripples are incredibly addictive. The latter of the three steams along from the first beat and it is often difficult to catch a metaphorical breath in between the constant percussion and manic voice.
Let’s not think of Fader as merely a Neil Arthur project either, the input of Benge is here in equal measures. His instrumentation, sometimes complex and sometimes stark is the work of a man brimming with ideas. There are hints of his other projects We Are Wrangler (and therefore by default, Cabaret Voltaire) and the almost cinematic sound of John Foxx on show here. There is even a strong enough resemblance on the Way Out intro to Depeche Mode’s To Have And To Hold to have many folks expecting Dave Gahan to break into song.
Lead single and title track, First Light is full of dramatic beats and wonderful reverb and with lines like “blah dee blah, Lady Godiva” Fader are as much about feeling as they are about any hidden meaning and the melodies general feel of the album is very special indeed.
There’s a tribute to (presumably) the amusement arcade of the 80s and 90s, Wonderland, which progresses along with an increasing pace, and the gorgeous Liverpool Brick with its lack of percussion is a quite lovely respite before the track of the album Guilt, Doubt And Fear hits you between the eyes and leathers you with power, aggression and electro punk-funk.
Trip To The Coast and Winter Garden may evoke memories of trips to Blackpool for Arthur or the statement may be wide of the mark, but such is the intrigue with his words that leave you interpreting as you like. Album closer Laundrette again opts for simple ambiance in an effective and intelligent end to the album.
First Light is a strong album which will not disappoint fans of electro pop or, of Neil Arthur and Benge and will hopefully see continued work in the future. A fine album, well worth a listen.