Review of “Songs of Silence” by Vince Clarke: Debut solo album from synthpop artist filled with themes of Covid anxiety.

The artwork for Songs of Silence.

What was the album that was created during the lockdown? The first solo release by Vince Clarke could possibly be the final one of its kind to be released: a compilation of minimalistic instrumentals produced at home – using a modular synthesizer, with occasional hints of cello, soprano, and folk music. Modular synths are known to be a major time commitment for electronic enthusiasts, so the free time during lockdown was the perfect opportunity for Clarke – a renowned songwriter in the synthpop genre, known for his work with Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and Erasure – to dive into the expansive world of Eurorack tutorials on YouTube. (Clarke even mentions that his cat got bored of hanging out in the studio listening to long, droning sounds.)

The fearful background buzz of the Covid pandemic can be heard in the recording, which transitions from grandiose tectonic movements reminiscent of a Ridley Scott film to eerie kosmische patterns in the style of the paranoid 70s. On tracks such as “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” and “Passage”, the atmosphere grows foreboding, with a sci-fi sensation amplified by Reed Hays’ deep cello tones and Caroline Joy’s soaring soprano. There is no clear narrative in Clarke’s cinematic journey, only a consistent feeling of unease. However, “Blackleg” serves as an emotional center for this mostly instrumental album, featuring a powerful rendition of a 19th-century miners’ song from Northumberland paired with haunting drone sounds. The uncredited union man sings, “Take your tools and your belongings, and throw them down to the depths of hell… fare thee well, you dirty blackleg miner.” A timeless sentiment indeed.