If you follow Neil Arthur on Instagram you’ll be familar with his posts where he photographs an obscure object and asks his followers what it’s a picture of – mostly with the caption, “Ask the family?”. The answers are many and varied, but always showing humour and thought, sometimes spot on and sometimes wide of the mark.
‘Wanderlust’ is the latest album from Neil, aka Blancmange, now performing alone since Stephen Luscombe had to stop touring or recording back in 2011 due to illness. It is, to this listener, much like his Instagram posts: multifaceted, multi-layered, deep and voluminous, open to many different interpretations.
The album comprises ten tracks all written by Arthur, and arranged, co-produced, and mixed with Benge, known for his work with Wrangler/Creep Show, at his Memetune Studios, Cornwall. It’s not the first time the pair have worked together: they have a collaborative project, “Fader”, from which came their debut album, ‘First Light’, in June last year. Benge also worked on ‘Unfurnished Rooms’, Blancmange’s album released just over a year ago.
‘Wanderlust’ bears some similarity to ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ in that it focuses on similar themes, but there’s something slightly different, a new energy to Arthur’s approach. Like ‘Rooms’ it’s an analogue masterpiece, but there’s a certain dystopian vibe to the album, not too dissimilar to Gary Numan’s most recent album, ‘Savage’. In fact, this could easily be a Numan album – Arthur’s voice is similar in timbre to Numan’s as well, and there’s more than a hint of David Bowie to some of the tracks as well. It’s an album which takes a few listens, not because it’s difficult to grasp, or because it’s a “grower”, but because there’s SO much to it It’s a multi-layered which stands up well to repeated listenings, and it’s worth examining each aspect of it on a separate listen. Listen to the lyrics on one turn; the instrumentation the next. Savour Neil Arthur’s vocals on yet another play. Indeed, even break down the different instruments and musical genres, and turn your mind to just what it all reminds you of. It’s quickly become a “desert island” contender for us.
‘Wanderlust’, as we said, is, like Arthur’s Instagram posts, open to interpretation. He provides clues in his tracks and it’s up to us to make of it what we will. Tracks like album opener ‘Distant Storm’, which uses vocoder vocals over Moroder Moogs, there’s a feeling of soul searching: in fact Arthur has described the track as “when something familiar becomes unfamiliar”, and there’s both horror at the idea of that, finding that something you’ve trusted turns out to be something else entirely; and a sense of discovery.
‘Wanderlust’ is Neil Arthur’s second album for 2018, following his collaboration with Jez Bernholz on ‘Ideal Home’, the debut album for Near Future, released back in May.
‘Wanderlust’ is set for release on 19th October, and precede’s Blancmange’s UK tour, which sees 16 dates throughout November, commencing November 1 at Norwich Arts Centre, and wending its way around the country until the 30th where Neil will be performing at Derby Flowerpot. For information and tickets for Blancmange’s tour, visit their official website. You can also find Blancmange online on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube, and the afore-mentioned Instagram.