I so often come into this stuff with high hopes of a revelatory experience. When I say ‘this stuff’ I’m referring to pretty much everything that you could include in a massive cross section of sound from Joy Division to Front Line Assembly and beyond – post-punk, EBM, industrial and even some darker new romantic bands. But, here specifically, I guess we might broadly use the term ‘darkwave’ – a genre where bands take on names that sound like sinister Gestapo documents from 1944 and where the music is played by men and women who would almost certainly attract the interest of secret police forces everywhere. For me, a perfect blend would be a balance of industrial, dance, dour 1980s melody and downbeat post-punk pessimism. Max Headroom meets Mad Max in a run down tenement where technology has muscled the urban underclass into a helpless third place in humanity’s hierarchy. Pronoise manage to tick a number of these boxes and do a fantastic job of crossing over genres in a way that seems to slide effortlessly through forty years of monochromatic music-making.
At the root of The Border Crossing are the dance floors of the early 1980s (which I can only ever imagine were fairly depressing places) before quickly bringing darker, off-beat, Kraftwerk elements into the blend. Anyone who enjoys a few repetitive beats in amongst their gothic musings will enjoy the first few tracks combining light melody meets thumping, juddering bass and indie guitar arrangements. But Pronoise pays admirable attention not only to the keyboards and the samples but also the guitar melody and the vocal arrangements which always manage to sound, as is fitting with the genre, like the singer will begrudgingly entertain you, but he’s having a really really bad day. But of course, in reality, there guys care an awful lot about the finished product. The vocals lie somewhere near early Front 242 (in fact, the last album by Pronoise, 1997’s Low Light Vision, could comfortably have slotted into the catalogue somewhere between Geography and No Comment) and provide a nice harmony for the band’s mastery of lo-fi electronic sound and lyrics with a knack for spiralling your consciousness into dark, alternate realities. The vocals then come increasingly to the fore as the album progresses into the final descent towards post-punk and new wave depression.
This is slick without ever feeling like it actually wants to be. The Border Crossing is like a trip back into the past from around 1996 (which interestingly where Pronoise first got together) and back through the 1980s and the late 1970s. We soon end up at tracks like Malfunction and After The Rain which typify the overall atmosphere of the album. Although this may also be the point when your attention begins to wane if those 1980s sounds are a little too jarring for you. And there is a hiccup at the track Hunting 2015 which I couldn’t quite get my head around, sailing very close to Transvision Vamp or Republica as it does. But the kiss-off is a gloomy, atmospheric track that stands out as a moment of drifting melody crowning the downbeat pessimism of the album off with a finessed flick of an oversized fringe. All in all an interesting release that manages to remain uncompromising while at the same time just about avoiding the overly quirky stumbling blocks you might find in this type of music.
(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)