Released: November 17
He’s the musical mastermind behind some of the finest synth hits in pop history, but Vince Clarke’s new solo album is worlds away from the commercial classics he’s become known for.
Instead, ‘Songs Of Silence’ sees the hitmaker at his most introspective on a project that began as a distraction from the noise of the world’s press during a global pandemic and taps into the inevitable silence of life in isolation.
“I could have gone on forever, I could have not stopped,” explains Vince. “I was enjoying the process so much and wasn’t thinking about anyone else hearing it. But hearing it develop in my studio, in my head, learning new tricks – that’s been the best thing about this.”
That creative exercise sees him exchange pop hooks and tried and tested structures for sweeping synth soundscapes, generated from Eurorack – a modular synthesiser format famed for its addictive and limitless configurations – that conjure universes around each central track and transport the listener into Vince’s own creative worlds.
Cathedral, the tranquil opener, presents a vastness of space that proves hypnotic and immersive in its temptation to explore the varying facets of the LP. Much of that allure lies in Clarke’s determination that each track would be based around one note, maintaining a single key throughout, with every flourish leading back to that very core.
An album without lyrics, the operatic contributions to Caroline Joy again lean into the atmosphere while maintaining an absence of direct meaning, as does the ominous cello on lead release, The Lamentations Of Jeremiah.
The pulsing White Rabbit and Mitosis are closest aligned with his most popular works and reference the sounds he’s refined across the decades, from early works with Depeche Mode and Yazoo to Erasure’s most recent outings. But while there are moments when a beat could naturally drop, these songs twist and turn down unusual pathways that are as finely tuned as they appear idiosyncratic.
It’s the result of a sandbox approach that opened up new possibilities – never would you expect to find the 1844 anti-scab folk song Blackleg Miner sampled on his usual output – with sequencer patterns, droplets of synth and swelling processed guitars proving a winning formula.
An artist so closely aligned with the pop world, it’ll be interesting to see how fans of Vince’s previous work take to ‘Songs Of Silence’; it’ll no doubt prove divisive, after all it’s a different kind of beast. But beyond the preconceptions, the LP itself is an intriguing journey into the mind of one of pop’s greats, as he found himself alone with his thoughts and documenting a moment in history like only he knows how.