March 6, 2018 Erasure – World Beyond (Album Review)
Every time there is a new album being released by a classic or enduring band or artist, many scoop-hungry punters tend to jump into the conclusion that the band or artist in question is returning from the dead or from an age-old dormancy. They seemingly could not acknowledge that there are bands that have the sonic stamina and songwriting prowess to release a new album every few years – as examples, The Church (24 studio albums), Simple Minds (18), U2 (14), and Depeche Mode (14). These critics’ assumption is not only a disrespect to these band’s prolificacy, it is also a betrayal of their own ignorance.
For instance, when Erasure released World Be Gone last year, many write-ups claimed that the English duo have come back, when they have always been out there, actively gigging and releasing materials. In fact, since their formation in 1985, in London, England, the songwriters comprising Erasure – Andy Bell (vocals) and Vince Clarke (keyboardist) – have always been on a productive roll, unleashing a studio album every other year! That is just a serious feat! Obviously difficult for their contemporaries to contend with. In fairness, music is not a competition anyway. This is just to point out that, before one assumes, one should do his homework first. This way, he not only gives due credit to and fair assessment of the artist he is either lauding or criticizing, but also shows that he is really updated and in touch with the activities of the artists he is writing about.
To date, Erasure have already 17 albums on their sleeves – from 1986’s Wonderland to 2017’s World Be Gone; and another one is forthcoming! So, don’t be surprised. The tandem of Bell and Clarke is simply unstoppable.
Scheduled to be released on March 9, 2018, on Mute Records, Erasure’s eighteenth oeuvre is actually more than just an ordinary album. Titled World Beyond, it is an orchestral treatment of the entirety of its predecessor. All ten tracks of World Be Gone were rearranged and re-recorded with Echo Collective, a Brussels, Belgium-based collective of Post-Classical musicians.
World Beyond begins with a dramatic interpretation of “Oh What a World” – slower, eerie, and theatrical, giving more space and an organic background for Bell’s voice to float even higher. Following next is a heartrending “Be Careful What You Wish For!,” which sounds chilling with the piano and the strings taking the lead. Then there is a rustic, somber, and refreshing “World Be Gone,” whose original R&B flavor has been transformed into a breezy Classical quietude, albeit Bell’s usual silky vibrato remains as emotive and powerful.
The sonic aspect of “A Bitter Parting” becomes more complementary to its lyrical sentiments, owing to the beautiful and melancholic cello-and-violin interlude. The ensuing ballad “Still It’s Not Over” stays virtually the same, apart from the conversion of the synthesizer melodies to the real instruments that they were mimicking. After all, it has already captured the song’s essence, but here, Bell sounds doubly inspired.
Still in the same mood for balladry, Bell and Clarke tackle “Take Me Out of Myself” in a more loose and relaxed delivery. Next is “Sweet Summer Loving,” which comes across as a seeming lullaby with slightly ominous flourishes, courtesy of the ear-catching, imposing string crescendos. Erasure then turn the originally upbeat and poppy “Love You to the Sky” into a slow New Romantic love song, albeit retaining Bell’s playful vocal approach. The penultimate “Lousy Sum of Nothing” needs no further reintroduction, for it exudes the same emptiness and hopelessness; but the minimal instrumentation has made its lament even more hopeless – perfect, especially for the brokenhearted.
Finally, Erasure concluded their performance with Echo Collective with a rather tuneful and celebratory Baroque Pop-inspired rendition of the carrier single “Just a Little Love” – an apt way to close a Classical-stylized album.
While the concept of World Beyond is not really unique – for the same has already been applied recently by Erasure’s fellow Synthpop pioneers Visage and Midge Ure on their own works, specifically 2014’s Orchestral and 2017’s Orchestrated, respectively – Bell and Clarke’s decision to present their usual brand of Synthpop in an authentic Classical setting still awes and delights because it also showed Erasure in a less flamboyant light yet more stripped-down manner. Furthermore, it proved that there are still unexplored realms in their musicality and creativity that music enthusiasts can look forward to, maybe next year or, at the least, the foreseeable future. CrypticRock gives World Beyond 4 out of 5 stars.