Last night I got a doozy dropped from the sky and it’s the kind of news we need right now. Logan [Visage] Sky and his partner in crepuscular synth rock, Steven Jones, have been active with many EP projects under their belts of late. Like the others, this also features duets with fellow Visage member Lauren Duvall lending her gilded tones to provide some chiaroscuro to the moody Eurovibe this band inhabit. Unlike their recent EPs, this one also features the man himself, Steve Strange, with the last song he wrote before his untimely death in 2015.
Originating as a demo written with Strange during Visage activity in the Summer of ’14, this one shows Strange willing by that point in his life to get more real than the club fantasy he made his name with. The songs he had co-written for “Hearts + Knives” showed a willingness to reveal real emotional truths and vulnerabilities that were unthinkable prior to the return of Visage in 2013. Now, in the post-Snowden universe, it was time to get even more real. The song “Corrupt State” was the result and the song thematically colored the rest of their new EP of the same name. Like The Blow Monkeys or Heaven 17 before them, Jones + Sky have elected to unite musical style with political substance whilst mining their particular vein of analog technopop.
Steven Jones + Logan Sky: Corrupt State UK CD EP 
- Corrupt State
- Siberian Eyes
- For Europe
- Moscow Descent
- Through Sweden
- Corrupted Statements
- Supply Chains
- Corrupt State 
- For Europe [extended]
“Corrupt State” began slowly, with a lumbering, methodical rhythm behind lowing bass synth for a slow burning buildup featuring Daphne Guinness contributing her soprano expression vocals to the song for a chilling ethereal effect. Then, Steve Strange made his appearance after a soaring synth riff by Sky heralded his arrival on the first verse. Then, Strange speaking the title as a loop was used as a rhythmic device to counterpoint the chorus as sung by Steven Jones. The mix of voice over and singing here is a stylistic gambit that Jones + Sky rely on pretty heavily in their history and even Strange didn’t get a pass here. It makes for a highly textural approach by the duo with their lyrics both sung and sang for maximum left/right brain absorption.
It is intriguing hearing someone finally addressing a litany of society’s ills in the 21st century in the form of popular music. I was hoping for a lot more of this in recent years, but maybe I’m just old. That they managed to do it within a song that sounds like it’s sporting the DNA of a number like “On We Go” from “Hearts + Knives,” we can only applaud.
The more complex rhythms of “Siberian Eyes” announced that the band were going to enter the Eastern Bloc for the first but not last time on this release. Jones shared the mic here with Lauren Duvall; the first of three duets here. The analog synths coupled with the vocal harmonies gave this song a warm, albeit technological patina that any music fan who remembers 1978 would appreciate.
Then came “For Europe,” which is the next breakout single from “Corrupt State,” if there’s anything still right with this world. The motorik imperial period Depeche Mode sound the band favored here fit the vibe like fingerless, black leather gloves. I love the Simmons crashes that Depeche Mode would never have done, added to the rhythm bed. Again, Ms. Duvall duetted on the chorus with Jones to add depth and contrast to the song as well as adding expression counter melodies throughout. The Europulse middle eight makes explicit the heritage of what I’ll call autobahn musik that informs this work.
Fans of the shadow side of Jones, such as he gave an outing last time with his pervy cover of “Strangelove,” will find much to celebrate in the dark cinematic nod to John Carpenter soundtracks with “Moscow Descending.” This marked the end of a trilogy of tunes with Lauren Duvall duetting with Mr. Jones, who smoulders throughout this one. I enjoyed the subtle beatbox programming with just enough fills to break up the inexorable pace of the song.
More nods to soundtrack work were explicit on the instrumental “Through Sweden,” which Sky wrote while on the Visage tour bus while traveling though …guess where? The synth pulse that undercut the glitchy media soundbites that opened “Corrupted Statements” were strongly redolent of surveillance helicopter blades. Omnipresent and inescapable. This time the lyrics to “Corrupt State” were given the voice over treatment by Jones while Sky built a 3 a.m. version of the song that closed with the return of the pulsating synths from the intro; cutting off any potential exit from the inevitability and oppression unfolding here.
“Supply Chains” minced few words even as the ambiguity of the title could refer to either enabling manufacturing or imprisonment.
Sleep. Now.” – “Supply Chains”
But that was optimistic next to the closing “Downfall.” That was a brief, embittered coda to “Corrupt State” wherein Jones actually invoked “the end to the dream of freedom.” Closing out the EP in the bleakest way possible.
Jones and Sky have made a fruitful partnership with a penchant for frequent EPs, but with ten tracks, “Corrupt State” is nominally a full album. The thematic way it congeals with both metaphoric political innuendo and explicit harangue in the shape of the title track also conspire to give it album status to my ears. In that case, the decision to make this available in CD format makes perfect sense and is a big step up from the cassettes that, until now, marked the only way to hear Jones + Sky other than downloads. As far as setting a mood and carrying it through, “Corrupt State” could hardly be bettered! The tone here is one of resignation to the inevitable, though. It’s not a confrontational album except on the title track, and even then, the tone was embittered and not combatant. That’s just not their style.
The feeling of a pervasive dissolution of privacy, liberty and all that’s decent has certainly been justified by the political events of recent years. The worst fears about our governments that any of us have previously carried in our darkest depths have now been revealed to us as facts. And things are only getting worse with time. Jones + Sky are giving voice to the resulting miasma of depression, anxiety, and mistrust all of these actions engender with the songs they’ve committed to this release. Their press release even referred to it feeling like “an elegy.” Their press release for this EP concludes with the statement:
‘Corrupt State’ creates the soundtrack for hopes lost and voices unheard, for dark thoughts at 4am, for the mute disbelief engendered by another prime ministerial address.
I can only conclude that they have hit their target directly in the bullseye. This music is the ideal soundtrack for the post-traumatic stress of simply being a citizen in the 21st century. With analog synthesizers. “Corrupt State” will be released on September 29th and will probably be available as a DL or CD here.
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