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New Model Army - 'From Here' Album Review


1. Passing Through

2. Never Arriving

3. The Weather

4. End Of Days

5. Great Disguise

6. Conversation

7. Where I Am

8. Hard Way

9. Watch And Learn

10. Maps

11. Setting Sun

12. From Here

“And for 3am confessions the safest place that I know Is here between departing and arriving But never arriving” So sings Justin Sullivan, a Yorkshire poet shaman of something consistently straddling the nebulous line between Punk, Folk, and a dozen other genres. From Here is New Model Army's 15th record, and it is an effort that continues a winding career trajectory that is pockmarked with largely high notes and a consistent refinement of an experimental yet unmistakably unique sound.

The previously quoted lyrics are a snippet of something Sullivan has always been able to articulate with what comes off as ease, twinning a ground level human view to a wider emotional perspective. Merging the personal and the political, the romantic and the natural, righteous anger and resigned despair (see “Repeat after me, I am the master of nothing”) This feels like a retrospective look, and it is a bit, but it's a fair shake at describing the overall tone of this album.

Recorded on an isolated Norwegian island called Giske, 'From Here' contains as close to pensiveness as NMA can get. Their output is pretty much incapable of lacking drive and energy, but there is nonetheless an air of something reflective throughout. You could chalk this up to the earned wisdom of being a cult musician in his sixties who's earned a fair share of wisdom, but it's also a worldly, almost spiritual feeling that you can often find in the kind of Folk music that has clearly inspired Sullivan over the years. Spiritual might be a weird word choice for songs that are so ingrained in the world around us but the poetics on display here are indebted to the natural world as much as our interactions with it.

As with the last several New Model Army albums Sullivan serves as producer here and the sound as a whole is crisp and warm, with the acoustic instruments filling the room as well as the electronic elements cool it down. The percussive element of the songs are a high point, as is often the case with this band. The rhythms are hypnotic and propulsive, carrying the songs forward on an instinctive level. I really don't want to use the word tribal to describe the drum work but it honestly is the best fit, and the entire cast of musicians are credited with providing percussion in some form or another. The guitars are atmospheric and biting in equal measure, the bass providing a solid rhythmic backbone.

I'll admit to a bias as a longstanding fan of this group, and I've been looking for a particular flaw to point out but honestly I can't really find a notable one. The songs as a whole could be said to be a bit too similar at times, but that's a minor gripe as overall the variety stands up to task. New Model Army has taken us on yet another winding and passionate journey through their own inimitable skew on the world and I, for one, am more than happy to keep buying the tickets to take the ride.

Review - Julian Hepworth

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