“Within myself there are no limits,” says Blancmange’s Neil Arthur. “There’s a massive palette inside and I will try anything.”
This sense of sonic limitlessness is evident across Blancmange’s expansive and prolific catalogue, which is now expanded with a new album, Private View. In their post punk early days, when Arthur formed the band with Stephen Luscombe in 1978, they made tape loops and experimental sounds with kitchen utensils, before developing into one of the definitive chart-topping electronic pop acts throughout the 1980s.
Since reforming to release Blanc Burn in 2011 – with Luscombe leaving shortly after for health reasons – Arthur has harnessed this duality of experimentation and seamless pop melody to release a staggering 10 albums in the last decade. “I don’t know whether I’m on a roll but I feel something in me has been released,” he says. “I used to hold back and I didn’t trust myself. While I’m still full of self-doubt I’m now quite comfortable with it. This is it. We’ve only got one time around the block, so make the most of it.”
Making the most of it is certainly something Arthur has been doing. In addition to the many Blancmange records (released since 2011 on his own label Blanc Check Records), there are multiple albums with side projects: Near Future with Jez Bernholz (solo artist and collaborator with Gazelle Twin), and Fader with long-time collaborator Benge (Wrangler, John Foxx, Creep Show).
On Private View Benge returns as a key collaborator on Private View, and David Rhodes (Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Scott Walker) also returns as the guitarist, having previously performed with the band on 1982’s Happy Families (as well as several other Blancmange albums). Private View will be released on London Records almost exactly 40 years to the day since the label released Blancmange’s debut album Happy Families. This neat full circle of Blancmange re-signing to the same label that ignited things all those years ago is also reflected in the album itself, being the perfect crystallisation of four decades of creativity.
Private View is distinctly Blancmange while also expanding into new sonic terrain. There’s a deft marriage of futuristic electronic sounds, Arthur’s unmistakable vocal hooks, and songs that veer from buoyant and joyful to dark and brooding.
This sense of perpetual forward motion that drives Blancmange is also reflected in the ongoing influence the music has on younger generations of artists and fans over the years. Contemporary electronic producers like Honey Dijon and Roman Flügel have paid tribute with remixes, Moby once called Blancmange “probably the most underrated electronic act of all time.”; while John Grant continues to profess his love for Arthur’s music, old and new, and recently invited Blancmange to perform as part of Grace Jones’ Meltdown festival.
Private View is a record that manages to capture an artist who is potently in the moment when it comes to creating new work, while also being able to draw on 40 years’ worth of knowledge, experience and built-in intuition. “I’m really lucky to be able make the music completely on my own terms,” Arthur says. “Being able to just continue being creative…that’s when I’m happiest.” As he said before: “within myself there are no limits.”