What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away – The Membranes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It would seem that some old post-punks never die but neither do they fade away. In the case of The Membranes, they come back with career best albums when you least expect them too. Although that may be a bit unfair as their 2015 reunion debut, Dark Matter/Dark Energy and Inner Space/Outer Space, the remix album that it spawned, showed that they had lost none of the magic, though who could have predicted that they would raise that bench mark yet again to deliver this gorgeous and mercurial sonic slice.

Beating at the heart of this double album is that bass-heavy, northern, post-punk groove, the same throbbing pulse that ran through the musical veins of The Fall, Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire to name but a few. But as always it is how you dress these basic structures up that is the defining factor and The Membranes prove to be master decorators when it comes to the various fixtures and fittings, textures and patterns, motifs and materials that they use to adorn the space.

Most wonderful of all are the mass vocal inclusions, a twenty piece choir that adds brilliant washes of choral lushness, from the more traditional sounds that provide the opening salvo before the angular riffs and chiming guitars kick off The 21st Century is Killing Me to the otherworldly angelic/demonic hosts that charm and chill in equal measure on Deep In The Forest Where the Memories Linger. And oh yes, they do know how to string a provocative title together.

Black is the Colour is a low-slung groover, all brooding bass runs and sandblasting guitars, both dystopian and slightly arabesque, infectious and incendiary, A Murmuration of Starlings on Blackpool Pier plays with classical grandeur and gothic intensity and The Ghosts of Winter Stalk This Land is a strange and slightly grotesque bundle of edge and energy which gets to the heart of the theme of nature that the album is built around.

It’s an album that is as puzzling as it is brilliantly executed and for all the additional trappings that they have brought into the mix this time, it always allows enough room for everything to percolate and breath properly. Even in its most powerful of onslaughts you can tell that the band are in total control of their own sonic urges. If this is how they follow the much hailed Dark Matter/Dark Energy, imagine the treat we are in for next time out. Not that we will tire of  the dark charms of this one any time soon.

Pre-order the album HERE

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