Vince Clarke & Paul Hartnoll - 2Square - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Vince Clarke & Paul Hartnoll - 2Square

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2016-06-09

 A friend of mine received word that Vince Clarke (of Erasure, Yazoo and Depeche Mode fame) and Paul Hartnoll (Orbital) were releasing a collaborative album, 2Square. For him, being an Orbital fan, the thought of Paul Hartnoll’s beats being infected by Clarke’s sequined electro-pop was anathema; how could these two musicians not corrupt each other’s style? "Stop listening!" he texted me when I told him I was reviewing it.

Erasure’s music was consciously glammed up and extroverted, a much fruitier display of human exhibitionism than Orbital’s brand of boisterous EDM. So surely this couldn’t work? 

Well, he needn’t have worried. For a start, both Hartnoll and Clarke have proven their wares in the world of electronic music, so neither needs to assert authority over the project, released on Vince Clarke’s own imprint, Very Records. Secondly, pop music is at the heart of a lot of great EDM isn’t it?

2Square embodies the bass heaviness of Orbital with the light flourishes of Clarke’s expertly woven compositional lines; the episodic cut and thrust of Orbital’s trance with Clarke’s playful jabs of staccato keyboard, the latter having a treble shine, like Depeche Mode pre-1985. The effect of these two styles is more familiar than you might think. ‘The Shortcut’ and ‘Single Function’ are, for instance, brilliant EDM, back to the hallowed days of the 90s and early 00s.

The glitchy introduction to 2Square on ‘Better Have a Drink to Think’ is disarming and not indicative of 2Square overall. Clarke’s introduction establishes his obvious presence. The sorcery of Hartnoll’s beat machinery takes over at the first-minute-mark, turning the lights down and the adrenaline up. On ‘Zombie Blip’ contagious keyboard bleeps and blurps are manipulated into fun and bouncy shapes, the flow again being interrupted by an ambient interlude which is all expectancy; after which the track takes an accelerated turn into club territory.

‘The Shortcut’ and, especially, ‘Single Function’ play the darker angle on 2Square, Hartnoll taking over the desk and getting all sinister on your ass. ‘All Out’ sounds like Larry Levan and Fatboy Slim sharing duties with Hartnoll and Clarke - soul, disco, trance and electro-pop all combining in ecstatic communion before the altogether prettier ‘Underwater’ with its reduced tempo signals the way home.

Thirty-seven minutes of great fun I guarantee will stick in your mind. Fans of either musician will love it. 

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