[LA Spark sleeve]"LA Spark" (Album, 2014)  !Recommended!


This first release from electronic three-piece Wrangler rewards immersion but also implies there better still yet to come. Comprising Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder, analogue synth boffin and John Foxx collaborator (as The Maths) Benge (aka Ben Edwards) and Phil Winter whose other projects Tunng and Lone Taxidermist caused some to pause and take note, Wrangler do just what their name implies, pulling together loosely connected elements into a cohesive new proposition in its own right.

The scene-setting Theme From Wrangler (essentially instrumental in spite of a shimmering hiss of Malinder), signals the start of our journey and, slightly unexpectedly, sounds a lot like John Carpenter filtered through electronic music from Sheffield circa 1980. On reflection, given the members of the band, this shouldn't come as a surprise. What follows happens to head in a variety of directions but there's a consistent feel throughout. If, like me, you most favour mid-period Cabaret Voltaire, circa Crackdown and Micro-Phonies, then it's likely you'll involuntarily connect with LA Spark on a molecular level.

There's just eight tracks reminding us that quality rather than quantity is even more important today than it was thirty years ago when Cabaret Voltaire were releasing the aforementioned albums. Mallinder's voice is as characterful as it ever was, and his style of delivery for the few lyrics that do appear significantly enhances tracks that would not work as well as instrumentals alone. More of Mal's voice next time out, and in a less treated form, would be very welcome.

Having seen them perform several times now, the live Wrangler is a more potent proposition. Looser, more organic, more dynamic, more hypnotic. Listening back to the studio work, it feels more restrained. Constrained perhaps by the recording technique employed? Hopefully, further recorded work will follow, and maybe that will be given the chance to express itself more effectively. I don't know what recording process was used (so I'm speculating here), but perhaps more live performances in the studio captured in the moment, rather than layered tracks, built up over time, would serve the compositional ideas better and really allow them to take flight.

But this is the voice of the fine-toothed critic. Always wanting more. In the meantime, with LA Spark the proto-electronic music enthusiast has been gifted something potent, for already Wrangler have introduced an addictive and beautiful noise. 8/10

Rob Dyer (December 2014)

See also:
Cabaret Voltaire