Blancmange – Private View (Album Review)

Blancmange – Private View (Album Review)

A part of the ’80s phase of the New Wave / Synthpop genre, Blancmange was formed in 1979, in London, England, by Neil Arthur (vocals) and Stephen Luscombe (keyboards). They split up in 1986, but not after coming up with three studio albums; Happy Families (1982), Mange Tout (1984), and Believe You Me (1985), plus a string of singles that included “Living on the Ceiling,” “Waves,” “Blind Vision,” “Don’t Tell Me,” and “Lose Your Love.” Reforming in 2006, and released Blanc Burn five years later, sadly Luscombe had to quit due to an illness, leaving Arthur to continue with the assistance of session players.

With Arthur on the helm, Blancmange went on to record thirteen more full-length albums – from 2013’s Happy Families Too… to Nil by Mouth IV/V, which was released only last March of this year. And now, with Arthur still on an obvious surge of prolificacy, along with frequent collaborators Ben Edwards and David Rhodes, Blancmange is ready again with its quick follow up.

Due out on September 30, 2022, via London Records, Blancmange’s eighteenth serving Private View consists of ten new tracks. Marking their first with London Records in almost forty years begins with the solid, Industrial-stylized stomper “What’s Your Name?” which effectively mixing synthesizer melodies and distorted guitar power chords. “Some Times These ” then follows in a similar vein, albeit more reminiscent of Blancmange’s ’80s outputs. 

Moving on, with “Reduced Voltage,” Blancmange then takes the listener to the ensuing decade’s dark and heavy Synthpop territory, reminding the initiated of Depeche Mode’s similarly stylized, ’90s-released Violator and Ultra. The rhythm then slows down and the mood relaxes as the haunting “Here We Go Go” plays next.

A foray into Dark Wave realms, the synth bass-heavy “Chairs,” “Who Am I?,” and “Everything Is Connected” then undulate their way out of the loudspeakers, exuding also subtle Gothic sensibilities of the likes of Clan of Xymox (“Obsession”), Fiat Lux (“Blue Emotion”), and Tones on Tails (“O.K. This Is the Pops”). The following “I Tried to Be You” is a standout, with its eerie, mid-eastern melodies.

After the partly galloping, partly trotting title-track, Arthur with the rest of his associates then wraps up Blancmange’s latest offering with the mid-tempo ballad “Take Me,” which starts with a beautiful piano motif and then builds up into an interweaving layers of guitars, synths, pulsating bass lines, and heart-simulating beats that serve as a strong backdrop to Arthur’s impassioned voice.

Definitely among the important songwriters of the genre within which he has been operating for a very long time, Arthur takes Blancmange to a higher league of its own. With an impressive string of more than a dozen albums woven within only a span of a decade, Blancmange remains one of the genre’s best delicacies, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Private View 4 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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