Second only to the Pet Shop Boys as the most enduring and best-loved synth-pop duo, Erasure follow in the footsteps of their rivals’ last studio effort by returning to their club roots for their 16th album, The Violet Flame.
Having recruited Richard X, the enigmatic producer best-known for channelling the early electro scene on records by a whole host of quirky female artists (Annie, M.I.A., Roisin Murphy), it’s little surprise that the follow-up to last year’s festive-themed Snow Globe is such a dancefloor-friendly affair.
But thankfully, as with the PSB’s return-to-form Electric, The Violet Flame largely manages to embrace the hands-in-the-air approach without sacrificing Erasure’s identity. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine the current EDM brigade serving up something as distinctive as “Smoke and Mirrors,” an intriguing blend of tropical percussion, squelchy techno hooks and theatrical melodies which could have been lifted from frontman Andy Bell’s recent one-man Edinburgh Festival show.
Elsewhere, opener “Dead Of Night” serves as a perfect statement intent with its four-to-the-floor beats and bubbling basslines; the Balearic floorfiller “Elevation” might just be the pair’s most euphoric lead single since their 80s heyday; while the spacey sci-fi balladry of “Be The One” and the regret-tinged retro electro of closer “Stayed A Little Late Tonight” prove that the pair’s melancholic streak remains as strong as ever.
Occasionally the pair veer into more formulaic territory, particularly on the soaring trance-pop of “Sacred,” a dead ringer for Hardwell’s recent hit, “Dare You,” and the instantly forgettable “Promises,” although Bell’s natural flamboyance ensures that even these remain quintessentially Erasure.
Bell and Clarke may now be considered the elder statesmen of the synth-pop scene, but by recapturing the vibrancy of their youth, The Violet Flame proves that they’re certainly not ready for the pipe and slippers brigade just yet.
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