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Despite having spent the Eighties and Nineties pushing the boundaries of electronic music with Psychic TV and other projects, John Gosling shows no sign of letting up any time soon. Known these days as Mekon, his fourth album Piece of Work is a riotous explosion, ranging from ear-worm electro-pop to grinding industrial but always maintaining its freshness and fervour. United by a consistently industrial sound, the album conjures euphoria and despair equally effectively.
Whilst most recent 'dark' electronic records rely on ferocious bass and sub-bass to create their tension and portentous atmosphere, Piece of Work whips up its doom-laden vibe with the help of older, industrial tricks. First single ‘Bin Therrre’ is a case in point, with its relentless chop-change synths building into grinding, glitchy techno. Elsewhere the aptly named ‘Disco Bloodbath’ is as Patrick Bateman-channelling as you would expect, all Hitchcockian strings and hi-hat rolls, before it plunges into disconcerting, demanding techno, reminiscent of the Fake Blood’s more cinematic tracks.
But it’s not all gloom and dancey dancey doom. Mekon keeps the record carefully balanced, as well as interestingly varied, by including bursts of outright joy, ambience, and neo-classicism alongside the darker tracks. Over the smooth electro-pop groove of opener ‘When I Was Walt Whitman’, a lazily self-assured voice sighs, “When I was Walt Whitman, boy, you should have fucking seen me”, as the backing synths ascend higher and higher. It’s insidious, smug, and one hell of a start. No less euphoric is the Balearic ‘No Business I Know’, which swoons and shimmers like a minimal version of Jacques Lu Cont’s ‘Church’ with added big-beat, Orbital-esque propulsive drops. Best of all is the Cleo Torrez featuring ‘Kicks’; blasting drums and spacey pitch-bent synths form a rousing backing as Cleo gives an M.I.A.-like turn of epic, meaningless, cool. The first line, “So raise your sunglasses with authority off the bridge of your nose, stop making a killing”, spat in her distinctive, Maxi Jazz accented vocals, says it all.
A master of the collaborative approach, Mekon’s well chosen guest vocalists only enhance his carefully crafted instrumentals. Torrez’s other guest slot, on ‘Wasted Mind’, sees her producing Kim Deal worthy wails alternated with languid rap over sleazy new wave beats, whilst Marco Pirroni (of Adam and the Ants) and Schooly D’s contribution to ‘Hardcore’ provides retro gangsta rap and punk funk in equal measure over the grimey looping synths. It’s Rita Brown who gets the last word though, spitting in filthy perfection, “We were Franciscan nuns, we had it off with scum” on the excellent ‘Ravageable’ – a new filthy-electro playmate for Soulwax’s ‘Fuck The Pain Away’ remix.
A 35 minute rollercoaster ride, Piece of Work will leave you raving and craving for more. Much like his old contemporaries Orbital and Wonky, Mekon has managed the clever trick of staying true to his Nineties roots, whilst simultaneously sounding vital and relevant. In the mercurial ever-changing world of electro, that’s no mean feat.