After what seems like forever Black Strobe release their debut album, Burn Your Own Church. The revered electro pioneers have been with us for a good decade or so, building up a solid fan base with a stream of 7″ and 12″ single releases. Sounding like Daft Punk‘s evil, black leather clad twin, the long awaited appearance of this album is sure to set many electro aficionados’ hearts racing.
Or will it? Ten years ago, Arnaud Rebotini and Ivan Smagghe arrived fully formed into the French club scene. A string of epic anthems ensued, with a full length release always seemingly just around the corner. Fast forward to our present age and founding member Shaw is nowhere to be seen, replaced on this album by a full band, riffing and grinding guitars included. So, no longer are they a ‘French duo’ as is the mould for the influential electronic music producers of choice. So how does this affect the sound?
Well, if you have been a long time listener then you may be in for a slight surprise, pleasant or otherwise. This album moves away from the electro sensibilities created on their earlier singles, and sounds like an apocalyptic, beats-driven, Norwegian death metal nightmare. The surprising thing is that, in essence, this sounds more like a rock album. Delve a little deeper however, and behind the Goth façade there exists a healthy dose of irony, executed in the form of Rebotini’s equally macho and camp delivery. To quote Black Strobe themselves: funny people can wear black too.
So, Black Strobe have evolved into some full on band, beats, guitar thrashing monster have they? Well yes and no. Purists may be disappointed, but acquaint yourself with their new style and there is a lot to like here. The album starts promisingly with Brenn Di Ega Kjerke (that’s Norwegian for “burn your own church”, for those of you not familiar with the subtle and beautiful Norse language) an electro-lite beat that gradually builds into a crescendo of guitars and combative drum beats.
Rebotini’s vocals are surprisingly upfront in the mix, a fact especially evident in upcoming single, the Bo Diddley cover I’m a Man. A camp, posturing, rockabilly-electro crossover delivered with a swaggering post-masculine irony. Other stand-out tracks include Shining Bright Star and the punching, clattering, sharp-as-knives Bloodshot Eyes.
The nearest concession they make to their old electro-house aesthesia of yore is the, admittedly brilliant, song Buzz Buzz Buzz. But, despite the anthemic nature of this track, it somehow feels out of kilter with the rest of the album. The stand out track is definitely the defiant ‘Last Club on Earth’, a track which forges visions of an earth trapped in nuclear winter, replete with a crackling blackened sky and populated almost entirely of vampires wearing sunglasses.
So, what is it that we are left with? An electro-techno-rock crossover with a healthy measure of post-industrial irony. Any takers? Well you can count me in for sure. This is not the Black Strobe we once knew, but it is a Black Strobe that I could definitely get used to.