Blancmange have just released a new album of 10 songs written and recorded by Neil Arthur and co-produced by Benge (Wrangler/John Foxx & The Maths and Gazelle Twin co-producer).
For the new Blancmange album, all the songs were written by Arthur while Benge added percussion and layers of analogue synth, with the pair then mixing the record together in the latter’s Memetune studios in Cornwall.
Unfurnished Rooms opens with the echoing title track, a search for something that always feels just out of reach and incomplete. Like many tracks on the album there’s a feeling of being lost in a dream – a house where rooms are unfurnished/unfinished, doors lead to private, empty apartments and images flicker.
‘Old Friends’ channels The Beatles and even ELO but with a more aggressive edge which then cuts deeper with ‘Gratitude’, one of the heaviest tracks Blancmange have ever recorded, though you can hear its roots in the twitchy intensity of ‘I Can’t Explain’ from their debut album Happy Families.
Long-standing Blancmange collaborator David Rhodes (best known for his work with Scott Walker, Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush) contributes guitar while Arthur screams ‘a part of me feels I should be grateful . . . why?’ Benge’s Moog Modular forms a NIN-like pattern underneath the rage as the music builds to a climax. And then into ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ which features John Grant on piano and backing vocals. At over eight minutes it’s the longest track on the album and pulls together some of the threads on previous songs – images of secret rooms, hints of Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust and friends meeting again. Once again self knowledge is hiding as Arthur sings with dry detachment – ‘you look so well . . . in your online profile.’
The album follows the release of the first three Blancmange records – Happy Families (1982), Mange Tout (1984) and Believe You Me (1985) – as deluxe 3CD editions earlier this year. Despite breaking up in 1986, those records weren’t quite the end for Neil and original Blancmange partner Stephen Luscombe as they came back to great acclaim in 2011 with their fourth studio album, Blanc Burn.
Semi Detached followed in 2015, the first of several new albums written and recorded by Neil Arthur without the input of Luscombe due to illness. Blancmange’s first ever instrumental album, Nil By Mouth came out in 2015 and Commuter 23 arrived in 2016.
● Unfurnished Rooms is out now. Order your copy below.