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Where Have All The People Gone? Aaron Drain , February 24th, 2017 16:22

First seeing the light of day in the form of a limited edition cassette back in November, Letherette’s companion-piece to Last Night On The Planet isn’t to be dismissed as a dashed exercise in hedging musical bets. To the contrary, Where Have All The People Gone?, inasmuch as its recent digital re-emergence, proliferates a concept that was loosely adorned (though somewhat lost in translation) upon its predecessor – ultimately compounding the two releases into a sonic storyboard with a prescient, jarring apocalyptic bent. Fitting testimony to the fact that, in the interim between the physical and digital versions, humanity has been swiftly fucked sideways into some absurd theatre of misery with Trump, May, and a whole host of degenerate politicos just gagging to go full Escape From New York on us all.

While this narrative didn’t really pervade what Last Night On The Planet offered track to track, its transparency now is as much to do with that album’s rounded, jauntily arranged glitch-hop as it is the colder, insular soundscapes found throughout Where Have All The People Gone?. There’s an urgent cognition between the two that allows the latter to form an inescapable sense of immersion for the listener. Both starker and cooler on the ear, tracks seem to mirror former versions of themselves – ‘Slamp' (feat. Huey Briss & Pyramid Vritra), in relation to the Last Night On The Planet’s title track, for example, flips the atmospherics harder than a Stranger Things plot device, and quite beautifully so.

In a similar vein, the woozy, vibe-heavy moments of Letherette’s sophomore LP are spurned in favour of reflective arrangements that try to make sense of the aftermath of some unnamed (but wholly inevitable) calamity; turn to ‘Blaek’, ‘Villim’, ‘Sway’ or ‘Sae’ to find substantial evocations of the kind of material Boards of Canada have mined for years. So acute at times is the isolation of the tracks, they’re reminiscent of cold-sweat, half-waking nightmares where details are thin, but ambience is startling. It’s in this bleakness that Where Have All The People Gone? extends its harmonic balance; a beauty composed of far-off siren call synthesisers and rain-beaten neon anime vignettes – ghostly, yet soothing in a relentlessly oblique mode.

It’s relatively easy to understand why Where Have All The People Gone? sounds the way it does. On tape, the collection reaches sparser ground via its crackling tonality, and in a recent interview, Andrew Harber professed his fondness for the “music used in early sci-fi films combined with orchestral music, drones and ambient soundscapes.” The result is a cohesive project that extends to the listener not only a set of tracks proffering existentialist electronica, but an uncompromising vision of creative storytelling – ably translated with swathes of murky, angular swells and warped, syncopated rhythms.

This is strong, stirring work, and it’s certainly indicative of the vehement, less-safe space that the Wolverhampton production duo have needed to inhabit for some time. If Last Night On The Planet was the bittersweet revelry of Letherette’s prophetic end of days, then Where Have All The People Gone? serves as its eerie, breaking new dawn; one where solace is seldom found amongst others, but in an unfamiliar, inherently peculiar silence. It’s uncertain what exactly that says about the night bus through Birmingham, given that’s where Where Have All The People Gone? was conceived, but we’ll not complain.