It was in the summer of 2019 when we last got an album from Jones + Sky. At the time, I felt that they had reached a new plateau of sophistication and stylish verve. They had begun their pivot from Synthpop to Art Rock, and had even enlisted Jan Linton to add his fevered eBow harmonics to the mix. I said “no more Depeche Mode…JAPAN, more likely.” But I was wrong. In a year and a half marked by increasingly ambitious single releases, the duo have gone further afield from the now obviously transitional “Rotating Angels” project to experiment with an increasingly organic and holistic sound that places them closer to the Talk Talk side of the Art Rock spectrum.
Steven Jones + Logan Sky: European Lovers – UK – CD-R 
- European Lovers
- When The Night Falls In
- Sons of Hallucination
- Awaken From The Dream
- The Girl On The 8:45
- Lovers + Losers
- Cafe Europe
- All Her Things Are Gone
- Like A Ghost
- Past + Future Lives
- European Lovers [postscript]
- The Shape Of Darkness
- Another Hallucination
- Politics + Gesture
- Lovers + Losers [Extended Remix]
- Lovers + Losers [Vandal Moon Mix]
- Lovers + Losers [May Be Horizon Mix]
It began with the stunning title track, with piano and subtle synth harmonics that paved the way for the eloquent sax of Gary Barnacle to enter the mix. Choral patches and subtle bass throb enlivened the subtle mix as low key drum machine set the contemplative mood for Steven Jones to probe into the melancholy he was defining so adroitly. The coda where Jones’ backing expression vocals wove a delicate tapestry with the airy synths of Mr. Sky, but leaving room for the gorgeous sax to have the final word.
The subsequent “Survival” proved that the opening track was no fluke. Again, the piano led with backing support from the synths, but the mood built immediately here that supported the elegant emotional thrust of the album with a subtle guiding hand. This was music for adults, not sweaty teens on the dance floor [not that there’s anything wrong with that]. I loved the treatment of the backing vocals. With the key title phrase echoing forebodingly through the song’s space. Mr. Jones’ lyrics here proffered economical haikus of emotional devastation that stuck with the listener like napalm. Matching perfectly with his superb and measured vocal performance. There was no showboating. Every factor here had been pared back to only serve the essence of the song’s theme with the utmost in economy and skill.
Only you talk of revival
Take down the sky
Mortal souls aspire to survival
Just when we thought they had got the clubbing out of their system came “When The Night Falls In” to provide an outlier to their dark roots. The hissing synths and growling catlike bass had some subtle 808 added to give it an insistent propulsion even as the synth leads played their cards close to their vest. Jones’ delivery was at his insinuating best here as he worked in his voiceover mode. The grandeur of “Sons Of Hallucination” still managed to thrill, even now as it sat flawlessly in the setting that the album as a whole provided for this dark jewel of a song.
Logan Sky got a chance to add some instrumental magic with the appropriately named “Awaken From The Dream” and showed that he was venturing far from his synthwave roots now. The mood set here led almost imperceptibly to a song that has really stuck with me. “The Girl On The 8:45” is perhaps an outlier to their next destination. The vibe was almost like folk song on synthesizers. Steven Jones’ haunting falsetto BVs were endlessly echoing through the halls of the number as the brief track set an incomparably vivid mood. The lyrics were from the pen of Kevin O’Dowd, who they had co-wrote with on the last album, and he’s blending well with the core duo on these excursions.
The delicate sigh of melancholy that was “Lovers + Losers” was still weaving a captivating spell and was followed by a rare cover version in “Cafe Europe.” This one was a tune from Fatal Charm; a band that I’ve yet to hear but know of their reputation as one of the many intriguing Ultravox opening acts from back in the day. This track slotted into the whole of the album effortlessly, with a slight Moroder feel to the sequenced and delayed synth lines. I had to love hearing Metal Beat from a CR79 rhythm box in there as a rhythmic fillip. The sustain drenched falestto of Jones’ BVs was luxury I was getting used to hearing.
I really enjoyed the melodrama of “All Of Her Things Are Gone” as the song became stuck in my cranium for hours at a time. This one was mostly piano melodramatic stabs of orchestra; being the one point in the album where the band’s developmental Depeche Mode DNA still manifested in a very “Music For The Masses” way. But perhaps that was indicative of where their developmental curve was in that they no longer referenced the sound of “A Broken Frame” and had moved considerably upstream.
The penultimate track was the windswept melodrama of “Past + Future Lives” that viewed the doomed romance of the album theme through a karmic lens that I loved hearing Mr. Jones bring to the game. Such a late-period Roxy Music elegance here. As with many of the album tracks, it was led melodically with more piano and voice predominating. As suggested by several other songs, this time there was no there was no rhythm here at all for a breathless stillness, poised in a single moment in time.
Then the reprise of the title track as a spoken work atmospheric redux brought this perfect album to its conclusion. This was abetted by the sterling eBow stretching through time from guitarist Jan Linton. The organics that Linton and Barnacle brought to the album were pivotal in the shift of direction that the band are aiming at.
The joy of Steven Jones + Logan Sky is that they are growing together in synch with each other. Their ambitions posit them as peers to one another as they mutually up their respective games to dramatic new levels each time out. One thing that occurs to me as I listen to “European Lovers;” the recent notion I had of compiling a career best of would surely get uncomfortably close to the wide continuum of an album like Talk Talk’s “Natural History.”
Their earliest synth bangers would be barely recognizable as the same duo who have released this album which beckons me to hear it immediately again; even as the 12 track album [already a healthy but svelte-sounding 47 minutes] will be fully decked out with the B-sides and remixes from the two pre-release singles in its 75 minute CD-R edition of 200. The full program is what I’ve been listening to and it’s the furthest thing from a slog! What is surely one of the best albums of the year [currently my #1, actually] for a mere £4.00 at Bandcamp is ridiculously underpriced, but I recommend the CD-R hard copy with an extra six tracks [only £8.00] and it can be yours too if you hit that button below. Just do it quickly. All of their earlier CD-Rs are sold out
unrelated to your latest post, but I just wanted to say that tonight I noticed my copy of Planet Gong, Live Floating Anarchy 1977, which I purchased in Paris in December 2018, has “Property of Ronald Kane” stickers on it, which led me via google search to your wonderful posts about the life of Mr. Kane, of whom I had not heard previously. Must be the same Ronald Kane, right?? Anyway thanks for sharing. -Emmett, Copake, New York
Emmett – Welcome to the comments! Absolutely it is the same person involved! Even I have records with “Property Of Ronald Kane” stickers on them. A.K.A. The Mark Of Kane® Some of these I got from him personally, and others I bought after his death in late 2017. I’m amazed that in as little as a year after his death that Planet Gong album was already in Paris! I should make a website to track and register all of Ron’s vinyl legacy! People with “the sticker” could register their copy online and trade stories of how they got their copy, etc. [memo to self, as if I have the time for that] I miss not being able to talk music with Ron at the drop of a hat.
European Lovers is a beautiful expression of sound and soul wrapped in darkness; a lush, velvet like darkness where fears and joy, sorrow and hope all encase the listener. Steven Jones vocals are at their most seductive on the title track. Survival’s opening melody reminds me of the opening notes of Because The Night and makes me want to hear what Logan might be able to do with that tower of song. When The Night Falls In is haunting and Pied Piper like. Lovers + Losers in an instant Synth Classic IMO. Cafe Europe has some sounds that take me right back to Dance Era Numan – there’s this one percussive synth sound that just catches my ear. All Her Things Are Gone is orchestral synth perfection. I am fascinated by Past + Future Lives. How such a quiet and insular song can burrow so deep inside me is amazing. P+FL is like a beacon to where Jones + Sky will soar to next. European Lovers (postscript) is the train/plane that the duo will take to that next destination, leaving the imprint of this album as a marker toward that future.
Echorich – You’re hearing the CR78 “metal beat” as the same percussive synth that Numan also used on “Dance.” It’s tucked in there and is only one beat the the bar but it popped for me immediately. Mr. Sky says that one of the tracks on their imminent “Rare Vol. 3” cassette for VIP subscribers is another outlier preview of the next move.
This is an album that has immaculate integrity for my ears. Gary Barnacle’s sax on the stunning title cut was some of the most gorgeous alto sax I’ve heard since Black’s “Sweetest Smile.” The album forms an endless mobius loop of sound that dares me to listen to anything else. And every sound on it is exactly what’s needed to advance the theme and nothing more. It’s a miracle of effective economy of performance absolutely in thrall to the songwriting. And the songwriting is a well-oiled machine at peak form! Even the choice of cover here fit like a fingerless black leather glove. Alas, I’ve not heard Fatal Charm yet though they’ve been in my want list for some time.
Cafe Europe isn’t the obvious Fatal Charm cover choice, although, for Jones + Sky it probably is. Their take is much more nuanced and wonderfully Post Modern. And yes, god bless the CR78!! One other thing – I was listening to All Her Things Are Gone again today and thought of all the missed opportunities for a band like Duran Duran, who shied away from Art and moved toward the headlight glare of Rock instead. All Her Things…is a great example of how spare musical arrangement can provide a beautiful ground for an emotive, striking vocal and song. And just to drive the point home, they decided to go even more spare on Like A Ghost which has some big shoe influences informing it.
Echorich – Funny you should mention “All Her Things Are Gone” since that song has a death grip on my brain today. It’s been unspooling in a loop non-stop. Etrangers Musique – Non-Stop!
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