The long awaited new vinyl LP "For Concrete And Country" by Concretism.
This is the utilitarian black vinyl edition limited to 300 copies for the world. There is also an edition of 200 copies pressed on "nuclear bunker hospital bay" turquoise vinyl. All music, production and mastering by Chris Sharp. Design by Richard Littler. Review
When Chris Sharp began releasing work under the alias of Concretism back in 2012, his penchant for bleak yet eternally fascinating mid-70s-to-early-80s British public information films, the fetishization of Cold War aesthetics and primitive-sounding electronics felt like a niche, arguably even quaint, obsession. Relatively recently though, shared hauntological visions have also become a cult pursuit for artists such as The Heartwood Institute, A.R.C. Soundtracks, CHXFX, Middex, Polypores and Stranger Thingssoundtrack composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. Moreover, theres now even a close-to-mainstream alignment with the concerns of Concretism.
With flashbacks and comparisons to the peak of the Cold War occurring in geopolitics daily and a corresponding renewed interest in contemporaneous cult TV movies such as When The Wind Blows, Threads and The Day After as well as the infamous nuclear attack advice film Protect And Survive and a particularly startling 1980 edition of Panorama now found on YouTube (as all masterfully explored with fascinating detail by Jude Rogers in a still-fresh feature for The New Statesman), the world of Concretism is now both a retro and frighteningly relevant mirror image upon our dystopia-fixated planet. With this third album-length release then, following on from 2014s Town Planning and 2016s Electricity, Sharp has a receptive audience ready and waiting for the returning sounds and sights of Concretism.
Certainly, Sharp doesnt recoil one inch from his established and now borderline-fashionable modus operandi as he doubles down on it across the wryly-anointed For Concrete And Country. Taking thematic cues from books such as War Plan UK and Beneath The City Streets, the LP is a psychogeographical and historical journey through Britains onetime – and perhaps now revived – nuclear war contingency preparations and public infrastructure works. In simpler aural terms, this ultimately means more prowling synth and programmed beats-driven soundscapes, selectively sprinkled with disembodied archival voices and found sounds.
The opening “Black Special” sets the stall out imposingly over six relentless yet hook-embedding minutes of Reproduction/Travelogue-era Human League-meets-John Carpenter electronics layered with part-vaporised vocal manipulations. Thereafter, the LP segues through familiar patterns of creepy 70s Doctor Who scores (“Microwave Relay”); shades of Kraftwerks oft-referenced Radio-Activity (“New Governments For A New Nation” and the title-track); the industrial clank of raw Throbbing Gristle (“Dustfall”); early Cluster-like otherworldliness (“Unspecified Radiological Incident”); and Umbertos sci-fi noire (“ROC Trainee Programme” and “The View From The Green Tower”).
Altogether, its an adroitly assembled affair that reinforces Sharps steely focus on all things grey and grim as viewed through the prism of his chosen specialist subject matter, sometimes laced with a very dark wit that prevents things from sinking into overbearing desolation. There is however, a slightly niggling feeling that next time around the Concretism comfort-zone needs to be broken through a tad more, to avoid getting stuck in formulaic frameworks. Yet for now, For Concrete And Country is a solidly reliable score to accompany all your Doomsday Clock-watching.