The Membranes have announced ‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’, a dark and brooding double album of psychedelic post-punk soundscapes set for release on June 7 via Cherry Red Records. Ahead of that, they are previewing lead track ‘A Strange Perfume’.
With sixteen epic, powerful and darkly romantic songs on offer, this is The Membranes’ 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 iTunesand streaming platforms like Spotify. There is also a deluxe double vinyl ultra limited edition of 150 copies. This summer, cosmetics company Lush will release a Membranes perfume called ‘A Strange Perfume’ after the album’s opening track. In the meantime, the band will tour the UK in support of their 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’