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New Order - ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) (Album Review)

Wednesday, 17 July 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

New Order’s new live album is taken from a performance at 2017’s Manchester International Festival. The show was a collaboration with conceptual artist Liam Gillick and featured songs from their 30 year catalogue, alongside tracks by the group’s precursor, Joy Division. 

It’s a fitting tribute to a musical collective that has seen its fair share of drama, more recently the highly acrimonious departure of bassist Peter Hook—an affair that resulted in a legal dispute over royalties.

As might be expected, the music itself is excellent. New Order’s sound is a strangely vintage one: it’s synth-pop that seems to live in the ‘90s despite many of the best songs actually being released in the ‘80s.

One of the finest examples of this is Bizarre Love Triangle—a track that featured on the band’s 1986 album, ‘Brotherhood’, and which benefits from a rich arrangement here.

On '∑' the group are joined by a 12-piece synthesiser ensemble led by Joe Duddell, which exposes and highlights the grandeur of this complex, emotional song. Its performance also features a fantastically throwback sequenced drum refrain, which is one part ludicrously dated, and one part gloriously on point. 

New Order often typify that familiar duality of old and new which often occurs in electro music as synthesiser voices are updated and refreshed. Due to this Disorder—originally featured on Joy Division’s 1979 album, ‘Unknown Pleasures’—is revealed as a song that has aged superbly. 

Not only is it the organic musical instruments and fabulously understated vocal performance from Bernard Sumner, conveniently the Joy Division sound is one that has been kept resolutely current by the number of contemporary musicians who have copied it—the most notable probably being Interpol. 

There is a lot of context to be considered when appreciating New Order—from their tragic inception following the death of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, to their highly specific role within modern pop, as a kind of electro version of the Smiths. 

As such, ‘∑’ may be an album best suited to aficionados and longtime fans as, to be completely frank, the synth ensemble doesn’t add a great deal to the majority of tracks. That said, the band clearly still have a lot to give in the live arena; they are still brimming with ideas and finding innovative ways to present their music.

New Order Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu July 18 2019 - BRISTOL Harbourside Amphitheatre

Click here to compare & buy New Order Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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