‘Directions Out Of Town’ is being touted as possibly the last album by Finlay Shakespeare.

The Bristolian synth builder and producer already has several long playing releases to his name, the best of which so far have been ‘Solemnities’ from 2020 and 2023’s ‘Illusion + Memory’. With his overwrought vocal delivery and fierce electronic backing like THROBBING GRISTLE and THE NORMAL meeting Warp Records, Finlay Shakespeare has an engaging post-punk energy to his DIY sensibilities.

Neil Arthur is a Finlay Shakespeare fan and has not only invited him to open for BLANCMANGE but be part of the live set-up and join in the collaborative project THE REMAINDER who released their debut album ‘Evensong’ last year. But this creative journey does appear to have taken its emotional toll and ‘Directions Out Of Town’ reflects turbulent times. Embroiled in anguish, it sees our hero dealing with personal, geographical, political and cultural loss.

At over 8 minutes, opener ‘Away’ sees the frantic rhythmic tension of past creations transferred into embittered vocals over a sparse anxious backdrop. But that archetypal Finlay Shakespeare template returns on ‘Get’; a boisterous barrage of blipping synths, snappy drum machine and fraught story telling that is “hoping for a future now!”, as it turns out, it’s something of an album outlier.

Returning to the minimalism set by ‘Away’, ‘Direction’ adopts reversed textures before a sequence drops in halfway through. Using industrialised rhythms and distortion at a funereal pace, ‘I Go For A Walk’ is full-on distress and not a comfortable listen. More abstract and drone-laden, ‘Face Value (Trio Mandala)’ sits over a cacophony of seemingly random bleeps.

The sharp ‘International’ picks up the pace but retains an intensity with ominous bass tones that continue on the elegiac ‘Go Back’; this though takes the minimalism to its zenith, capturing a solemn mood where a steady build towards a delightful music box ring adds contrast and makes proceedings even more haunting. With sirens calling, there’s a fatalistic aura about ‘Poli’ where “I’m ready to fall” and “tired of running in circles”. And as a sea of noise signals the end, Shakespeare declares he’s “lucky to be on my feet and still alive…”

A more challenging listen as “a deeply effective journey through machines of the human experience” than his two previous works, ‘Directions Out Of Town’ brings out the complex character of Finlay Shakespeare. “I essentially don’t know where I belong any more” he said, “This record is the precursor to that.”

With other domestic acts continually being overrated and testing the patience of the more discerning music enthusiast who wants intelligent musicality and not just a voice, it shows once again what a strange place the UK is and has been for quite a while. As he considers relocating personally, geographically, politically and culturally, it is a shame he is not a more widely acknowledged artist when he is one of the few younger British synthesists offering something musically, melodically and lyrically compelling in modern electronic pop.

‘Directions Out Of Town’ is released by Editions Mego in black vinyl LP and digital formats on 14 June 2024, pre-order direct from https://finlayshakespeare.bandcamp.com/album/directions-out-of-town






Text by Chi Ming Lai
12 June 2024