Having released their best album to date in 2017’s ‘Heir Of The Dog’, the new long player ‘Mediaburn’ is their ninth and features the familiar cast of esteemed supporting players such as Kelli Ali (vocals), Steve Brown (sax) and Blaine L Reininger (violin), who between them made their names in SNEAKER PIMPS and TUXEDOMOON.
The brilliantly titled ‘Blind Dogs for the Guides’ which opens ‘Mediaburn’ is classic CULT WITH NO NAME… a little bit electronic, a little bit acoustic with plenty of mood. ‘Needle & Thread’ extends the atmosphere with a fabulous vocal harmony from Kelli Ali for a whispery allure, the overall effect recalling the ‘Behaviour’ of PET SHOP BOYS, particularly in the middle eight instrumental section. Interestingly on a track where it feels like a bit of sax might appear, it doesn’t…
‘So Much Left To Do’ springs a surprise by almost sounding like KRAFTWERK; while Stein and Boux have not exactly turned into Ralf and Florian, this is another nice facet to the CULT WITH NO NAME template. Even more uptempo and electronic, ‘Low On High’ is dreamily hypnotic, fast without being overtly frantic or compromising artistically. With bursts of sax, acoustic guitar and haunting backing voices providing an alluring counterpoint, to quote the duo: “Disco inferno it may not be but CWNN still invite you to burn baby, burn”
The moody waltz of ‘Mona’ utilises a good mix of electronic and organic textures, while ‘All This Spite (Comes at a Price)’ and its cutting lyricism could be on the soundtrack of a Cold War spy drama, all superbly cinematic with a sinister icy air. Throwing a curveball, the melancholy of ‘By Air Of By Sea’ takes on an almost countrified flavour, boosted with soothing violin and a heavenly choir presence.
On the more esoteric side, ‘In Hollywood You Won’t Find Bel-Air’, ‘Fake Nudes’ and ‘Money’s Gone’ are nocturnal piano-centred ballads which offer poignant sociopolitical commentary. Meanwhile the sparse interlude ‘(No Such Thing) As Silence’ provides mystery, but the slinky lounge jazz of ‘She Sells Incels’ might not be for everyone although it offers an interesting sax ‘n’ synth hybrid. With a slice of subtle squelch-laden synthpop sweetened by cascading piano, ‘Button On My Desk’ ends ‘Mediaburn’ on something of a cantering rhythmic note.
Brilliantly produced and continuing the tempo variation and expansive arrangements of ‘Heir Of The Dog’, ‘Mediaburn’ is perhaps maybe a few tracks too long, but it acts as a fine follow-up and companion to its predecessor.
Packaged in striking modern artwork that is a statement in itself, as a sidenote, ‘Mediaburn’ gets bonus marks for its additional build your own jewel case kit inserts because after all, CDs are meant to be spindled, not slipped into scratch prone cardboard packaging 😉
‘Mediaburn’ is released as a CD and download on 11th October 2019, pre-order from https://cultwithnoname.bandcamp.com/
Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th October 2019