It’s been a while. That we’ve been waiting that is. Not just since we last updated this site, though that is also true. Anyway we’ve known of Vile Electrodes for around 3 years or so now and they’d been around a bit before then. Even back in 2010 the album was ‘imminent’ and so it remained for the next three years until finally it’s popped up after quite a swathe of eps recently (well over the last year) (and if 3 counts as ‘a swathe). They probably had several million tracks to choose from that we know from their live performances. So how many have made the cut for the album? Is it a quadruple CD release on 80 minute cds?
No it’s 12 tracks. Did you really think they’d release a quadruple album? Silly. Anyway you might want to know what we think of it. But then you’d probably already guess that we’re rather keen on it, what with them being one of our favourite bands. HOWEVER there will be one moment of slight criticism later so you’re not going to be reading 50,000 words of excessive gushing praise and sycophantism. But mostly it is.
The most familiar tracks on the album are Empire of Wolves, Proximity and Deep Red which are accompanied by a few tracks that cropped up in the last year or so (Drowned Cities and Nothing). There’s also some other older slightly lesser played tracks that appear in somewhat reworked form such as Damaged Software, The Leopard and Feed Your Addiction. However there are three tracks that appear for the first time anywhere and, for us, they’re the stars of the album.
Well mainly just the tracks After the Flood and A Distance. They display such sophistication and artistry that it’s almost hard to comprehend. Anais Neon’s voice carrying such a huge amount of emotion whilst sounding so delicate and dextrous. When After The Flood came on for the first time it was pretty much a jaw dropping moment. Everything stopped. Goose pimples. Then those goose pimples got goose pimples. A quiet subtle intro over which floats a voice so delightful and heavenly, entering like that most welcome of zephyrs in an otherwise static environment. The music largely a drone punctuated dramatically by perfectly timed heavier drum sounds. It builds to such a passionate intensity as Anais plaintively wails ‘There’s no control… at all’. Oh my.
Another fresh face is Tore Myself to Pieces, a more uptempo piece but one that knows how to use space properly. But this is another remarkable vocal performance from Anais who pre Vile Electrodes was once told she was an awful terrible excuse for a singer but yet now can produce a vocal that would make the most accomplished jazz singer green with envy. This is solid and meaty track with burning synth bass sequence.
A Distance is quite possibly the star of the album. Another quiet piece with very little in the way of drums. An abstract, intricate and varied synth soundscape that at times brings to mind Erasure’s Always at times. But only in terms of some of the wonderfully created synth sounds (Always is something of a peak for this for Erasure). It is very difficult to put into words the feelings this creates as Anais’ voice whispers enticingly, inciting fascination and then hitting the heights of the vocal range immediately after. So much space between the sounds, uncluttered until reaching that most wonderful of climaxes. Words are failing which is a bit of a problem when you’re supposed to be writing words about something. Brilliance was expected but this has exceeded even that.
The combination of Nothing and Deep Red at the end of the album is so packed and dripping with emotion, it’s like having your heart ripped out, healed then ripped out again a thousand times. But in the most exquisite of ways, naturally.
Martin’s synth work is beyond compare as he gets the most delightful and pure sounds out of his analogue synths. They have that wonderful warmth in the way that only the true analogue synth can provide. Everything so perfectly balanced in texture to create atmospheres and feelings. This isn’t machine music. It’s human music that happens to be made with machines. This is not cold unfeeling or mechanical. This is true musicianship that comes from a master of the art.
But a promised negative must be aired. Empire of Wolves. Sadly for us it somewhat disappointingly lacks the impact in the chorus of older versions of the song. The reworking sounds so good but there feels little distinction in power between the chorus and verse, which for a song that can have such an implication of strength seems a bit of a shame.
But despite this, it doesn’t stop this from being the best album we’ve heard in many many years. It’s grown up and sophisticated in more ways that we ever imagined it would be. Without a single moment of boredom. If there’s anything that can come out to equal this in the next 10 years, we’ll be very surprised. If you don’t buy this you’re a complete moron and don’t deserve good music.
The album is available to buy in limited edition brushed metal form from the Viles themselves here http://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/ or via Amazon, iTunes and listenable on spotify. And probably a lot of other places.