If a “week is a long time in politics” then 33 years is a geological eon in music. But Modus is an album 33 years in the making and which highlights just how much the world has changed…and also how much it hasn’t. The songs that make up the album were written between ’86 and ’93, a period when Nature of Wires were experiencing a fertile songwriting period, but a hiatus in ’94 after delivering just one album meant that these songs perhaps didn’t get the rich and long life that they deserved. Fast forward to 2015’s reunion, an enhanced line up and a new album, Cyber Rendezvous, and thoughts turned to the songs for the formative days, the ability to record them using modern technology and perhaps a chance to draw a line under the first incarnation of the band.
And the result is a two-part musical package, 8 songs from the early days, fan-favourites plus a few unfinished works getting their just desserts and a musical twin which features curated, re-imaginings by label-mates, friends and musical allies from the likes of post-punk buzz-band Klammer and alternative electronic heavyweights Leaether Strip and Mesh. Fine company indeed.
Modus is a time machine. It’s the sound of retro synth-pop and electronic soundscaping being brought bang up to date, enhanced with modern studio potential and made presentable for a contemporary audience who are sure to lap it up. Madame Serena is already out there spreading the word, a pulsing and shimmering piece of infectious dance floor electronica but like all of their music it is tempered with a softness, a sort of digital grace that reminds us that somewhere along the way, that scene has to some extent traded in deftness and delicacy for pose and power. Every Single Sun is a euphoric and engaging pop number and Harry’s House really ramps things up into a darker and more driven clubland groover.
But of course the real fun comes when you compare the re-polished versions on the first CD with the re-imaginations of the second. Atomzero add intensity and tension to Feel The Hunger, Cyferdyne make Negative Resolutions pulsing beats the focal point taking the song from the realms of the alternative dance floor and turning it into a mainstream anthem and Room 1985’s reworking of Time is Come results in an edgy, ramped up, dystopian classic.
What this album reinforces is that just as an artist grows and changes, so should their songs. The first version of a song is just one possible representation of it and so its potential changes over time, through improved technology, via collaboration and even just the writers changing thoughts and view points. Modus is the sound of what was, what is and what can be.