Vince Clarke, of Erasure, Yazoo and Depeche Mode fame, is releasing his first solo album after 40 years in the charts.
The resultant album's mood of synth-generated, cosmic remoteness is interrupted by stark interventions, reminders of the human hand at work amid this machinery – a scrambled sample like a distressed transmission from a fighter pilot, the wordless operatic contributions of Caroline Joy, the sawing brimstone of composer Reed Hays' cello on 'The Lamentations of Jeremiah', and the album's centrepiece which builds around the 1844 anti-scab folk song 'Blackleg Miner', glowing with resonance and relevance. Elsewhere on the album Clarke manifests relentless sequencer patterns, gradual accelerations, Moog-style drones, glistening droplets of synth, and burgeoning swells of processed guitars, with Clarke describing the tracks as "having a sense of sadness, of things going bad, things crumbling".
Clarke's habit of leaving synthpop outfits at the point of mass success only to do it over and over again from scratch (until Erasure, at least) is one of those funny pop-history things. From the teaser track (embedded below) one does get an almost overwhelming sense of what he might rather have been up to.