WE ARE TEMPORARY really stuck out to me when debut album “Crossing Over” captured the essence of dark electronica like The Knife does, but with all the flamboyant drama and vocal gymnastics of Marc Almond. It’s a potent mix and it is just as potent with follow up “Embers”.
The album has a really interesting trajectory in that whilst it is very dark and minor chord heavy, the album starts off brighter and anthemic and gradually gets more and more desperate and aggressive as it clings to the dying embers of the album as it goes. “Universe” and in particular “Candy” are Soft Cell like anthems where washes of sci-fi synths make up dances in space. The lyrics and subject matters aren’t happy of course, but there are glimmers of light and euphoria. They are the more radio-friendly tracks with building choruses and the most hinged and restrained vocal performances. The crossover begins with “Polyamory” which is fantastic earworm about how you can change your role in a relationship to cover all your partners’ needs, without needing to go to another individual if you need to. It’s a unique take on all-encompassing love and reminds me of Fever Ray’s sexually charged recent album Plunge too, both in tone, style and electronica glow. This is a bit more twinkly though.
The highs soon sink to darker lows and the discordant club noire “You Must Have Known” signals the shift to darkness with twisted chords and synth patterns alongside a taut fatigued but staunch firm foot stomp vocal delivery. Harking back to the industrial roots of the previous album, the tone is set for an emotional apocalypse. Best of these is the outstanding “Winter”. The lyric “It took only one night of bad weather to undo 20 years of trust” hits the nail on the head as the chorus channels a guttural “This Winter hit us hard, so hard, so hard” over and over like Mark Roberts, the man behind the moniker, is literally purging every thought. I could have the track on repeat for an hour and not get bored of the ritualistic chant. In a similar vein “Animals” is an ode to how we are no distance to any other species in its darkwave anthem way. I feel like it’s a lullaby in a way, as it feels like we’re ourselves, and other species too, to our deaths. As I said, it’s not a bright and happy album, and each track feels like it’s covering the dying embers of a different subject.
Tuned percussion is used throughout the album but “Earth” uses it most, and best, with a warm marimba sound making the dance floor kick drums and empty industrial synths feel much more inviting and mysterious. The track evolves into a jungle dance beat and something that Kate Bush wouldn’t shy away from. It’s a great mix of cultures that meet on a dance floor at midnight and defies easy categorising – which is also why I love it. The album hits its desperate screams with “Echoes” which takes a Middle Eastern time signature and instrumentation and turns it into a doomsday countdown. The deeply oppressive atmosphere that drowns this track is amazing. The thick, dark, syrupy synths work pure magic here as Mark’s voice gets increasingly desperate and unhinged as he repeats “You are in my heart” as if he is trying to convince himself its true.
For an exceptionally catchy comment on drug society “Medication” lists off what to take for all the illnesses – mostly mental ones – before declaring at the end “I am sad even though I am on all the meds”. The track itself is focused and forward striving as if the meds, and the world around you, aren’t too bothered – and as the listener, you feel a bit left behind on purpose. You could dance to this utterly depressing thought all night – and that’s the beauty of what WE ARE TEMPORARY is all about. “Shadows” injects a bit of levity music wise with a more uplifting chord structure before the circular space opera that’s “Heaven” rounds off the album is endless vocal loops all colliding into each other as the synths and chords slowly rise up the keyboards and create a divine moment that’s completely drenched in vocal chaos. It’s a fantastic way to round off the album as it feels like the final spark is a huge goodbye before you burn out.
Embers is a stunning album, from the weird and wonderful world of a darkwave electro-art-pop genius. There’s so much to lament and be sad over, whilst dancing your heart out – and that mindmeld is exactly why I know this will still be in my top albums of 2018 when the year ends.
Recommended Track: Polyamory