|Luke Haines — British Nuclear Bunkers (October 16th 2015)|
Luke Haines — British Nuclear Bunkers (October 16th 2015)
♠ Revered English songwriter and the leader of the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder.
♠ Beneath the surface of the UK lies a vast and secret network of abandoned nuclear bunkers. Sometime in the future the population of Great Britain has retreated into these bunkers. The reason for this exodus is not clear. Nuclear attack? Chemical attack? Germ warfare? Or perhaps even free will. What is known is that beneath the surface, in the bunkers, people live the utopian dream, communicating wordlessly via a highly developed new subconsciousness. There is no need for money and food is plentiful. The old gods have been forgotten. People now offer prayer to a piece of silverware, referred to as the ‘New Pagan Sun’, found in a bunker at Stoke on Trent, near to the location of the 1980 Darts World Championship final between Eric Bristow and Bobby George.
♠ British Nuclear Bunkers is the new album by Luke Haines. It was recorded using entirely analogue synthesisers. Apart from an occasional vocal the only organic sound used is a recording of Camden Borough Control Bunker being attacked late at night by Luke Haines.
Born: October 7, 1967 in Walton–on–Thames, Surrey, England
Location: London, UK
Album release: October 16th 2015
Record Label: Cherry Red
01 THIS IS THE BBC 1:14
02 BRITISH NUCLEAR BUNKERS 3:34
03 CAMDEN BOROUGH CONTROL 3:42
04 TEST CARD FOREVER 2:08
05 COLD FIELD MORNING UNDER BLISS 3:53
06 BUNKER FUNKER 2:33
07 PUSSYWILLOW (KIDS SONG) 2:48
08 MAMA CHECK THE RADAR AT THE DADA STATION 4:06
09 NEW PAGAN SUN 3:32
10 DEEP LEVEL SHELTERS UNDER LONDON 1:37
By Rob Mesure | Posted on 14 Oct 2015 | Score: ****
♠ “This is an emergency broadcast from the BBC. Information of a possible nuclear strike against this country has been received.”
♠ Having spent much of his solo career excavating Britain’s recent past — Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop‘s salute to a ’70s childhood, the self–explanatory Nine And A Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s — Luke Haines here envisages a near future, where the population has retreated into a subterranean network of bunkers, which is illustrated almost wordlessly and performed wholly on analogue synthesisers. (‘Maximum electronic rock n roll’, as the cover indicates.)
♠ He has previous here, of course: the subversively chart–bothering Black Box Recorder employed twisted synth–pop, and Auteurs side–project Baader Meinhof — with hindsight an early, extraordinary start to his solo career — fused deep, funky synth with tabla and strings. But this is the first of his solo albums to be so dependent on instrumental composition — even the excellent soundtrack to Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry (2001) (whose Essexmania flirted with pounding techno) was more song–based than score.
♠ Given that Haines’ last few releases have included such esoterica as a ‘micro–opera’ about the ruined caravan holiday of a Mark E Smith impersonator and a cookbook (of Outsider Food And Righteous Rock And Roll), it might be tempting to expect British Nuclear Bunkers to be little more than experimenting for its own sake, or high–concept arch–contrarianism. But there’s much to admire from the outset here: the title track’s ominous crawl — with shrill sirens and the kind of phasing percussion that drove The Human League’s Being Boiled or The Normal’s Ballardian nightmare Warm Leatherette — leads with a throbbing whistle into Camden Borough Control (the facility in NW5 that inspired the project) where atmospheric clanking intersperses Yellow Magic Orchestra keyboard lines and string pads, contrasting Test Card Forever’s up–tempo Popcorn plink and squelching bass.
♠ There’s a great sense of atmosphere throughout, redolent of the dystopian TV sci–fi of Terry Nation’s Survivors (although Haines is clear that this is a utopian vision, more News From Nowhere than Nineteen Eighty–Four) or the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s soundtrack to the disquieting children’s series The Changes, which as a vision of a society coping after being driven to destroy all of the technological advances it took for granted has some parallels here.
♠ Although mostly wordless, there are occasional vocal interjections: “Cold Field Morning Under Bliss” are Haines’ first words, intoned through mechanising effects and in a monotone drawl over that track’s unsettling thrum, while Bunker Funker and Mama Check The Radar At The Radar At The Dada Station’s vocals are distorted like the primitive samples of the bit game soundtracks that the chiptune melodies and glitching percussion recall. Meanwhile, on Pussywillow — like a lost John Carpenter score for the Children’s Film Foundation — the title is sung by the children of the bunkers, calling to mind The Wicker Man‘s pagan Maypole song.
♠ Worship of a similar kind is reflected by the gleaming surface of the New Pagan Sun: “a piece of silverware,” according to the notes, “found in a bunker at Stoke on Trent, near to the location of the 1980 Darts World Championship final between Eric Bristow and Bobby George”. (So that clears that up.) Subdued, snarling darkwave pop, it’s the most songlike moment here and a fitting finale to the fiction, before the epilogic Deep Level Shelters Under London in which a robotic voice reels off a list of real–life Cold War nuclear bunkers around Britain.
♠ From a songwriter of this calibre, a maven of the lyrical barb, it might seem odd that an almost wholly instrumental album should stand among his most compelling, entertaining solo work, but British Nuclear Bunkers is exactly that. Haines wrote recently that “the idea of living a hermetic subterranean life has its appeal”. We can only hope that he’ll continue to surface occasionally. ♦ http://www.musicomh.com/
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger; Score: ***
♦ The follow–up to the ex–Auteurs/Black Box Recorder frontman's New York in the '70s, the sex, drugs, and rock & roll–fueled third chapter in a psych–folk trilogy that began in 2011 with an LP focused solely on the heyday of British wrestling, 2015's British Nuclear Bunkers once again finds Haines exploring a very specific topic, but dispensing with the urban troubadour approach in favor of a more voltaic disposition. Inspired by the discovery of a Camden Borough–controlled nuclear bunker near his home, Haines began fiddling with his arsenal of analog synthesizers (most notably a mid–'70s Octave–designed monophonic/duophonic beast called The Cat), and before long had conjured what would ultimately become the album's brooding title cut, an icy and largely instrumental (the only lyric is "Maximum electronic rock and roll") mood piece that boasts an equally vexing video featuring Haines assuming various yoga positions while somebody in a gorilla suit makes fresh–squeezed lemonade. In fact, the majority of British Nuclear Bunkers is delivered sans traditional vocals (heavy instances of ominous vocoder, yes), resulting in his most Krautrock–esque and least blatantly sardonic outing to date. Melodic themes persist throughout, with some of the cues from the title cut being revisited near the album's end, and the 8–bit/glitch–blasted "Bunker Funker" yields the paranoid and industrial–tinged "Mama Check the Radar at the Dada Station." Elsewhere, the oddly bucolic "Pussywillow" and the tense "Cold Field Morning Under Bliss" evoke the polar extremes of his work with Black Box Recorder, but unlike some of his prior outings, the ten–track set, which never really establishes much of a cohesive narrative, never really manages to sink its teeth in. At just under 30 minutes, it feels like a bit of a lark, but its brevity actually works in its favor, as an extended set of Haines' sneering incantations and electronic skullduggery would likely require a certain amount of intestinal fortitude. ♦ http://www.allmusic.com/
|Luke Haines — British Nuclear Bunkers (October 16th 2015)|