Broken English Club - The English Beach

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  • Dungeness, a headland on the Kentish coast of England, is a strange place. It's home to two nuclear power stations, one of which remains operational. The site is also a protected nature reserve and a residential area, complete with a couple of pubs and a "mystical" gift shop. Most of the houses are wooden and ramshackle, home to fishermen. Rusted railway tracks stretch into the distance. Broken-down boats and debris are strewn across the shingle and scrub. You'll also find the "listening ears" of Denge here, a set of alien concrete structures, or "acoustic mirrors," erected in the 1930s as aircraft detection systems. (They failed miserably.) Walking around it all feels terribly remote and deserted, like some apocalyptic scene straight out of a JG Ballard novel. It's easy to see why Oliver Ho was drawn to the place. The English Beach is an abstract portrait of Dungeness, written by Ho during time spent living there. The album, Ho's second as Broken English Club after Suburban Hunting, is a response to the psychogeography of the place—the narrative, both real and imaginary, hidden beneath its geology. The eerie ambience and the contradictions of Dungeness, along with the conflicting metaphor of the British seaside itself—a place at once filthy, ruinous and comforting—are all in play across the record. Ho once said he liked the "dark friction" between man and machine, and Broken English Club is where that happens. The metal music, the bands of his youth, Ho's art school origins and conceptual tendencies—they jut out at angles here, unified by a signature Broken English Club sound. It's weathered and industrial, harsh but oddly endearing—the sonic equivalent of Dungeness itself. There's a grinding presence throughout, too, which takes a notably physical form in "Plague Song"'s dings, scrapes and metallic cries. As with Suburban Hunting, Ho dips into three core music styles—techno, industrial and droning dirges. The English Beach peaks when traces of all three (or more) inform a single track, as on "The Sun Rising" or "Pylon." There's a clear divide between club and experimental tracks, the latter of which are really out there. Take the stinging spoken word of "Stray Dogs" or the folky "Rust Ballad," where the melancholic voice of Blood Powers billows over snarling riffs and ominous slams. These, along with the booming "Concrete Desert," are Ho at his most theatrical. The English Beach, a penetrating portrait of Dungeness, is one of his finest Broken English Club records yet.
  • Tracklist
      01. Stray Dogs 02. Breaking The Flesh 03. The Sun Rising 04. Plague Song 05. Pylon 06. Rust Ballad 07. Wreck 08. Carrion 09. Concrete Desert 10. Wire Fence 11. The English Beach 12. Last Signal