Assemblage 23 aka Tom Shear returns with album number 8, some 17 years since the first ‘Contempt’ and a good 4 since the last album ‘Bruise’. Within this genre of EBM, future pop, synth wave, call it what you will, I feel that A23 have sometimes been overshadowed by the greater reach of bands like VNV Nation and Apop, at least on these shores. In my mind A23 deserve to be considered a cornerstone of this style of music. ‘Defiance’ was my introduction to Tom’s work (actually purchased from a local store in Tom’s home of Seattle) and remains a firm favourite of mine.
So where does 2016 leave Assemblage 23? According to the press release, this is a ‘look into the heart of the artist’ with ’emotion’, ‘melancholic” and ‘despairing’ leaping off the page to form preconceptions of how the album will sound. The album title ‘Endure’ is suggestive of mere survival though thankfully in reality the album displays many moments of vigour, vitality and vim. The album punches hard and fast in the early rounds with ‘Afterglow’, ‘Bravery’ and ‘Salt The Earth’ surging forth with strong hooks and an uplifting high tempo.
Track 5, ‘Static’ is the first sign if the music turning towards melancholia but it us still far from a morose listen with ‘Call The Dawn’ maintaining a similar feel. This proves only to me a mid album dip before the expertly executed dark pop of ‘Butterfly Effect’ begins to steer the album home much how it began. There are plentiful atmospheric synth washes and ear worm melodies are never far away and the whole of ‘Endure’ sounds rather fresh.
Don’t get me wrong, the wheel hasn’t been reinvented here. This is just a fine example of modern and dynamic EBM/future pop/<insert genre tag here>, and it is an example that I will listen today often, if not more often, than other entries in the assemblage of Assemblage 23 albums.