Synth-Pop Legend Vince Clarke has released his debut album 'Songs of Silence' today, and it's unlike anything you have heard from him before
Vince Clarke, the Ivor Novello-winning songwriter behind countless chart-topping pop songs as co-founder and member of Erasure, Yazoo, Depeche Mode and The Assembly, has – unbelievably – waited until now to share a solo album release with us.
As the album title suggests, Songs of Silence is a lyric-less, instrumental album, yet it manages to be hugely evocative. The album has a sober ambient beauty about it, unique characteristics that put it in a category of its own.
Songs of Silence was recorded in his home studio in New York and features photography and artwork by the award-winning Magnum photojournalist Eugene Richards. The album began as a distraction during lockdown, a chance to finally get his head around the possibilities of Eurorack, a modular synthesiser format known for its addictive and limitless configurations.
I was in a state of shock, actually, when Mute said they wanted to release this album
“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. I was in a state of shock, actually, when Mute said they wanted to release this album.”
Alone in the studio, Clarke set himself two rules: first, that the sounds he generated for the album would come solely from Eurorack, and second, that each track would be based around one note, maintaining a single key throughout. “Nobody in my household is particularly interested in what I get up to in the studio” says Vince. “Even the cat used to leave after an hour or so of listening to drones.”
The infinite shades of sounds you can create with just the tiniest tweak of a knob or slider continues to fascinate me
Elsewhere on the album Clarke manifests relentless sequencer patterns, gradual accelerations, Moog-style drones, glistening droplets of synth, and expanding swells of processed guitars, with Clarke describing the tracks as “having a sense of sadness, of things going bad, things crumbling”.
Not content to rest on his considerable pop legacy, Vince Clarke has instead opened up exciting new electronic vistas for himself, and for the rest of us, in which the possibilities are limitless. Clarke declared “The infinite shades of sounds you can create with just the tiniest tweak of a knob or slider continues to fascinate me.”
The latest single to be released ahead of the album release was ‘White Rabbit’. The song, with its relentless sequencer pattern, crashing ignitions, and gradual acceleration culminating in tribal drums, comes accompanied by a striking animation by Daniele Arcuri, looking at the darkness surrounding our relationship with technology. The title is an allusion to Alice In Wonderland, and refers to a friend of Clarke’s who is constantly on the go. “I’m thinking, why are they busy all the time, where are the going, what are they doing?”
Daniele Arcuri explains, “I wanted to openly address the themes of hyper-connectivity, anxiety, apathy, and voyeurism towards others’ suffering. This video is a bold and thought-provoking reflection on how technology is eerily shaping our existence, and challenges viewers to contemplate the human cost of an ever-connected world.”
Watch the video here:
Vince Clarke collaborated with opera singer and composer Caroline Joy on the song ‘Passage’. With its mellotron-like opening, it has about it a pyramid-like grandeur. Clarke explains, “I had this operatic tone in my head, no lyrics – so I got in touch with Caroline Joy. I was listening to an Aria from Puccini’s Tosca at the time and that became the inspiration for the vocal motif.”
‘Imminent’ follows – Moog-style drones moving in like the sudden darkness of a rain cloud on a summer’s day. ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’ features a contribution from Reed Hays on cello, sawing away with brimstone in the air.
“Reed’s a good friend of mine, we’ve been doing a radio show together for a few years. He’s composed and recorded a lot of music for TV – but he’s also an amazing cello player. I sent him the track and asked if he wanted to play something over it. His emotional musical response triggered the title of the track.” Watch the music video here:
Contrary to the way he works with Andy Bell in Erasure, with Bell usually coming up with song titles at an early stage in the composing process, Clarke came up with the titles for Songs of Silence after the pieces were completed, assembled as they were in a very different way from his historical pop classics. ‘Mitosis’ is an example – the only word Clarke could find to convey the track’s bubbling, laboratory sense of “cells multiplying before you at super speed.”
‘Scarper’ echoes some of the frenetic energy of ‘Imminent’, almost threatening to burst into the sort of rhythm we’re accustomed to from Clarke, while ‘Last Transmission’ pays indirect homage to Joy Division. And then there is ‘Blackleg’, one of the album’s centrepieces, built around a recording of the 1844 anti-scab folk song ‘Blackleg Miner’, the synths conveying the cover of darkness under which the scab (strike breaker) steals away to work. In today’s era of growing militancy and strike action, it glows with resonance and relevance.
“Martyn Ware gave me a copy of that recording about 20 years ago.” says Clarke. “I always liked it but could never figure out how to configure it into a song. I think it works perfectly on this album.”
And so, opening up new areas to explore with his exciting, new electronic perspectives, Vince Clarke has created music in which the possibilities are limitless. Give Songs of Silence a listen here:
Follow Vince Clarke: Facebook
Next In Next In
⇥ Fear Not – The Second Album from Working Men’s Club is On The Way