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Broken English Club
The English Beach Harry Sword , June 29th, 2017 15:10

Black and white photo of pebbled beach‘The English Beach’ - words to conjure a panorama of grubby imagery. The bawdy decrepitude of Blackpool, Margate, Whitley Bay; the seedy edges of Southend, Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton - in bursty full throttle, the lot. Empty 1970s arcades, an undertone of menace, grey pavements that promise unreasonable violence whatever the season. If mainland Europe maintains the tradition of the pre-dinner seaside 'promenade' - dressed up, soberly measured conversation, in control - the English Beach has the 'prowl' instead: all-day drinking, heavy befuddled limbs, hot brains.

This isn’t Oliver Ho’s seaside, though. Rather, The English Beach is informed by the creaking otherness of ‘England’s desert’ - Dungeness. The black huts, discarded tyres, abandoned boats, modern hermits; the Jarman disciples, concrete ‘acoustic mirrors’, humming presence of the power station, the wonderers, the endless shingle, Dungeness is at odds with any traditional conception of the beach or twee ideation of the British ‘seaside’ (see: The Libertines' recently announced ‘tiddly om pom pom’ tour). It isn’t a place you end up by mistake, either: you come here to worship at the altar of the bleak majestic.

On the first Broken English Club album - Suburban Hunting - Ho took the boredom, seediness and surreal greyscale drift of the suburban vista as muse. On this second LP, he continues to draw on his rasping electronic palate, referencing the seedy night throb of EBM and sinister restraint of synth wave, the immortal dilapidation of the Dungeness dreamscape making a thrilling psychic companion. The juxtaposition between grinding angular noise flourishes and crystal clear engineering prowess make thrilling listening on ‘Breaking the Flesh’, which pivots around a staggered arpeggio bassline that rises and falls like some stumbling pitch-black approach to a woodland rave while ‘The Sun Rising’ crawls along at a low-lit pace, hollow kicks and a reverberating synth against a wall of drone.

‘Plague Song’ is peak time techno perfectly executed - a skeleton of pangs, howls and blips evoking the cacophonous orchestra of a violent North Sea night. Ho’s disembodied vocals - buried beneath thick layers of static and hiss - add deadpan rhythmic scree, like some narcotised lighthouseman gone askew, guiding ships onto the rocks instead of away from them. ‘Wire Fence’ personifies this record's singular sense of space and brittle dynamics, ratatat hats cutting through the mix like some recently struck-off doctor savagely mowing a suburban lawn, keys to the medicine cabinet still jangling in his sweaty beige slacks.

The English Beach (further) strips the Broken English Club sound. Though the sound palate is coldly austere, Ho orchestrates a dubwise sense of dynamic space - each sparse part honed to savage efficiency - affording an elemental effect that perfectly matches the source matter: the alien, barren Dungeness.