Another year and it’s another Neil Arthur side-project. Following on NEAR FUTURE, FADER and KINCAID comes THE REMAINDER.
As well as Neil Arthur, THE REMAINDER also comprises live BLANCMANGE percussionist Liam Hutton whose portfolio includes Neneh Cherry and Finlay Shakespeare, an artist in his own right who also builds synths and is another member of the BLANCMANGE performing family.
Initiated in 2015, the sound of THE REMAINDER is crisp yet hazy, with Arthur relinquishing total control and relishing in the altered dynamic coming from two younger and very capable collaborators. Additionally, Liam Hutton’s mother Jo, a radio audio recording engineer and composer provides sub-20 second ‘feedback and situation’ interludes slotted between the songs for a considered body of work.
Beginning with the excellent dance friendly ‘Broken Manhole Cover’, Neil Arthur deadpans about “eating immature peppers”, “calcium build-up” and other earthy observations and as a hypnotic synthy shine bursts through, it recalls LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. Taking on a more midtempo pace, ‘Hoarfrost’ is spacey electronic pop with engaging keyboard passages where Arthur exclaims “I don’t do nostalgia” as he ponders the passing of time.
The ‘Evensong’ title track is gloriously motorik and brings in live bass alongside a blippy backdrop before some ragged guitar joins in the second half in a celebration of the outsider. A cousin of ‘Hoarfrost’, like VISAGE and TALK TALK, THE REMAINDER have an eponymous song too and the use of digital claps provides a fitting upbeat.
More sombre and perhaps autobiographical, ‘Awake’ sees Arthur sounding particularly weary in the character of a “very very busy, a very busy person”. Of a similar tone and sounding not unlike THE CURE, the angsty ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’ makes subtle but effective use of synths on top of the driving rhythm section.
With more great synth lines and tongue-in-cheek references to the classic BBC comedy show ‘Are You Being Served?’, ‘Lift Music’ excels within a cavernous downtempo trip-hop setting. With eerie horror film vibes in a song about denial, ‘Forgotten’ sees Neil Arthur get more animated and angry before the closer ‘What Do You Want To Want’ recalls JOY DIVISION courtesy of its almost funereal mood as it asks existential questions inspired by the Yuval Noah Harris book, ‘Sapiens; A Brief History Of Mankind’.
This first album by THE REMAINDER is an immediately enjoyable affair that sits nicely alongside FADER and NEAR FUTURE as part of the wider Neil Arthur canon. But what is next? There’s the rumour of an as yet unnamed covers project with Benge and a certain Vince Clarke… versions of ‘Stuck In The Middle Of You’, ‘Goodbye To Love’ and ‘Rock On’ are said to be among the works-in-progress 😉
Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 July 2023