Album – Nil By Mouth
Release Date: 25 September 2015
Blanc Check Records (BCR003CD)
Following the critically acclaimed ‘music pop art’ of the Semi Detached album earlier in the year, Blancmange release their first ever instrumental album, Nil By Mouth on 25 September 2015.
The album consists of 12 tracks, all written and performed by Neil Arthur except for the 2005 re-record of ‘Holiday Camp’ from the Irene & Mavis EP (1980) which features original member Stephen Luscombe.
In many ways Nil By Mouth goes right back to the roots of the band when they experimented with art student film soundtracks and improvised music created by primitive synths and cassette recorders. “When Blancmange first started writing music, Stephen and I would get together around his house of a weekend and experiment with tapes loop, Tuppaware (a Smash tin with tin foil over the lid), guitar, electric organ etc’, says Arthur. ‘Under the gaze of his pet giant stick insects. Initially it would be instrumentals we’d set about creating. We were both in other bands, Stephen with Miru And The Managers and me with L360 And The Viewfinders. None of these outfits performed instrumentals. Friends wrote some lyrics for us – ‘Cylindrical Brain Drain’, ‘European Head Squashers’ and ‘Anarchy In Moderation’. Stephen was the vocalist for these early songs.’
There’s also a sense of freedom and experimentation across the 12 tracks on Nil By Mouth, intertwined with a melodic pop flair that is in Arthur’s DNA as evidenced by opener, ‘Eleanor’, a musical dedication to his daughter. There’s always a subtle inversion and/or invention around the corner. Slow-mo synths swell into orchestral chords (‘Fall’): an absurd insistent vocal-sample breaks into ‘The Son’ and electronics glisten against a moody, darkly ambient backdrop on ‘So Long Ago’; a gradual build on ‘Crystals Of Zircon; suddenly turns into dark, alienated synths. An unexpected burst of brass announces the end of the album on ‘Close Encounters’ and yet nothing seems out of place. The coldly anthemic synth line of ‘Gone’ sits side-by-side with Bond-like strings on ‘Cistern’, with Arthur (who has worked on film music since the1980s – starting with Duet in 1983) adding surprises but always sounding like there’s a quietly evolving feel and atmosphere to the album. There’s some beautiful stuff here too – the acoustic swirl of ‘Landsea’ swelling into another an uplifting synth tune; the ‘outside-time’ ambient flow of ‘Fall’ and ‘So Long Ago’. . .
01. Eleanor 02. Fall 03. R&P 04. Cistern 05. Gone 06. Crystals Of Zircon 07. The Son 08. Matters Of Life 09. Holiday Camp (2005) 10. Landsea 11. So Long Ago 12. Close Encounters