Review of Vince Clarke’s “Songs of Silence” album – Debut solo release from synthpop artist reflects Covid-related anxiety.

The artwork for Songs of Silence.

What was the album created during lockdown? Vince Clarke’s first solo release may be the final of its kind to be revealed, featuring a collection of simple instrumentals produced at home. With the use of a modular synthesiser and subtle additions of cello, soprano, and folk music, Clarke delves into the world of electronic tinkering. As one of the most renowned synthpop composers through his work with Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and Erasure, Clarke took advantage of the free time during lockdown to immerse himself in the vast array of Eurorack YouTube tutorials. Even his cat grew tired of listening to the studio’s drone-filled atmosphere, according to Clarke.

The anxious underlying presence of the Covid pandemic can be heard throughout the record, which transitions between powerful and dramatic tectonic movements reminiscent of a Ridley Scott film, to delicate and fluttering kosmische patterns in the style of 70s paranoia. On tracks such as “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” and “Passage”, the mood becomes foreboding and intense, creating a sci-fi atmosphere enhanced by the rich cello playing of Reed Hays and the soaring soprano vocals of Caroline Joy. There is no clear narrative in Clarke’s cinematic journey, only a constant sense of unease. However, the track “Blackleg” serves as an emotional pivot in this mostly instrumental album, featuring a traditional miners’ song from 19th-century Northumberland layered with haunting drones. The uncredited union man sings, “Take your tools and your belongings, and throw them down to the depths of hell. Down you go, and farewell, you dirty blackleg miner.” A timeless sentiment that still resonates today.


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