Manchester-based quintessential UK post-punk group The Membranes present their long-awaited album ‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’, released via Cherry Red Records, and new video for ‘Black Is The Colour’. Film footage for the accompanying video was taken by John Robb with video design and special effects by Dave Hodgson at DNH Design.
“Black Is The Colour is about the dark heart of winter. The time when nature’s cycle in at its lowest ebb. Each side of the album is a different season and represented by the alchemists symbol for that season. The video was shot in Genoa in the same graveyard where the photo was taken for the cover of the ‘Closer’ album by Joy Division. That was a neat reference on my levels. Black Is The Colour embraces the dark and yet is a tripped out vibe,” says frontman John Robb.
Foreshadowed by the singles ‘A Strange Perfume’ and ‘A Murmuration of Starlings on Blackpool Pier’, this dark and brooding double album features psychedelic post-punk soundscapes from these post-punk pioneers, who originally hail from Blackpool.
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The Membranes have 16 epic, powerful and darkly romantic songs on offer here. This is their eighth studio album overall and the second since they reformed in 2010 when former support band My Bloody Valentine convinced them to return to the stage for the ATP festival. This album is a game changer in the tradition of Manchester bands like Joy Division.
This album features appearances from vocalist Kirk Brandon (Theatre of Hate, Spear of Destiny) and 84-year-old folk singer Shirley Collins, one of England’s premier folk singers of the ’60s revival. Renowned nature TV presenter Chris Packham also contributes, as does the legendary Jordan, who practically invented the punk look in 1975. Half the tracks also feature the 20-piece BIMM Choir, offsetting a sound laden with dark drones and an atmosphere of melancholic epic power.
The album was recorded at 6DB Studio in Manchester with Ding Archer, formerly band member with PJ Harvey, The Pixies and producer of the last nine albums by The Fall. John Robb wrote all the parts for the choir. This release follows up their acclaimed album ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’, the band’s best selling release, which received rave reviews and ample radio play on BBC 6 Music and internationally.
‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’ is about the beauty and violence of nature. This is a very diverse work with dark, brooding cinematic choir-driven songs. Imagine the sound of Hieronymus Bosch paintings to discordant wild songs about crows, demon flowers, strange perfumes, voluptuous petals, voluminous oceans, treacherous seasons and the poetry of life and death set to spooked pulsing musical pieces, ranging from epic choir-driven postpunk songs to dark dub workouts, from throbbing dirty disco dark wave pulses to grinding heavy bass-driven pieces, from apocalyptic visions to choir driven epic swirls.
“This is the pinnacle of our long and strange journey. This album is steeped in the powerful forces of nature and an underlying emotional undertow that is dark and brooding bass driven postpunk with the epic swirl of the choir and a diversity of sounds that takes you on a trip. I put my life into this album musically, lyrically and emotionally,” says John Robb.
“The Membranes was born of postpunk in the late 1970s – a time when a generation inspired by punk rock created music on their own terms. We were immersed in that scene and that world and when we reformed we picked up on those themes and ideas and the diverse fellow travelers that we were contemporaries of like Joy Division, Bauhaus, Einsturzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, PiL, Big Black, and newer bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai, Ulver and Wardruna – bands who fuck with the template to create and atmosphere and mood.”
Formed in 1978 in Blackpool, The Membranes played classic bass-driven northern post punk and were part of the same world as bands like The Fall, Sisters Of Mercy, Echo and The Bunnymen and Cabaret Voltaire, all inspired by 1977 to launch their own idiosyncratic journeys. The band released a remarkable series of records that combined their small town frustration with a love of heavy bass and distortion. This ultimately became a prime influence and the precursors to such American noiseniks as Steve Albini, Swans and Sonic Youth.
John Peel and music press favourites, a continual frenzy of releases, public acclaim and touring worldwide with national TV appearances, the band went on hiatus in 1990 until finally reforming in 2010.
The Membranes are Peter Byrchmore (guitar), Nick Brown guitar), Rob Haynes (drums), and John Robb (vocals and bass), a renowned TV and radio pundit, editor of Louder Than War, a key UK music site and national magazine, and curator of the Louder Than Words festival. In autumn, John Robb will also will release ‘The Art Of Darkness’, a book on the darker side of post punk, adding to his collection of best selling books on punk rock.
As of June 7, ‘What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away’ will be available on vinyl and CD, and digitally from stores such as iTunes and streaming platforms like Spotify. There is also a deluxe double vinyl ultra limited edition of 150 copies. This summer, cosmetics company Lush will also release a Membranes perfume called ‘A Strange Perfume’ after the album’s opening track. In the meantime, the band is touring the UK in support of the new LP.
1. A Strange Perfume
2. What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away
3. A Murder of Crows
4. The City is an Animal (Nature Is Its Slave)
5. The 21st Century Is Killing Me
6. Deep In The Forest Where The Memories Linger
7. Black is The Colour
8. A Murmuration of Starlings on Blackpool Pier
9. Mother Ocean/Father Time
10. The Magical and Mystical Properties Of Flowers
11. Snow Monkey
12. Demon Seed/Demon Flower
13. The Ghosts of Winter Stalk This Land
14. Winter (The Beauty and Violence of Nature)
16. Pandora’s Box
John Robb – vocals and bass
Peter Byrchmore – guitar
Rob Haynes – drums
Nick Brown – guitar
Claire Pilling – choir conducter
BIMM choir – vocals on tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 16
Chris Packham on ‘Winter (The Beauty and Violence of Nature)’
Kirk Brandon on ‘The Magical and Mystical Properties Of Flowers’
Shirley Collins on ‘A Murmuration Of Starlings on Blackpool Pier’
Jordan on ‘Demon Seed/ Demon Flower’
June 8 Manchester – O2 Ritz Manchester
June 22 Bedford – Esquires
June 23 Brighton – The Prince Albert
July 5 Blackpool – The Waterloo
July 7 Birmingham – O2 Academy Birmingham
July 19 Stoke-On-Trent – The Sugarmill
July 20 Liverpool – Phase One
Aug 2 Rebellion Festival
Oct 11 Glasgow – King Tuts Wah Wah Hut
Oct 12 Aberdeen – Krakatoa
Nov 2 Corby – The White Hart
“A game changer…a ridiculous and mesmerising overload of the sense and already a contender for album of the year” – The Quietus
“This might be even better than ‘Dark Energy’, it’s fucking insane! Another masterpiece” – Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, QOTSA)
“An extraordinary comeback” – NME
“Amazing in its beauty and violence and a 20 piece choir that lifts it into another realm after four decades the Membranes have released their greatest album” – Classic Rock 9/10
“It’s a dark Hollywood silver screen epic of almost dizzying euphoria. Membranes mother nature has blown me away” – NARC Magazine 5/5
“Epic. A seismic shift. The whole album feels at once timeless and of the zeitgeist: it’s focused, oppositional music for a confused nation” – The Wee Review