Wrangler announce ‘A Situation’

Following their critically acclaimed collaboration with John Grant on last year’s Creep Show project, Wrangler today announce news of their new album, A Situation, released 28th February via Bella Union and available to preorder here. The band have also announced 2 x headline shows, in London and Manchester, in late February. Dates/info HERE.

To celebrate the release the band have shared an extraordinary digital video for “Anthropocene”, a track about the collapse and fall of human civilisation. Of the track Wrangler say: “We have left our mark on the world on which we walk. This is a soundtrack for the urban age. Sounds to lift us above the detritus which envelops and strangles us.” Of the video director Akiko Haruna adds: “The effect humans have on the planet is something that I am conscious of daily. Anthropocene shows our world, compressed onto the Wrangler logo. Over it looms three ugly heads, representing the human ego and how we might view ourselves as deities or Gods; the overseers of our world. Within the Wrangler world, we show a range of things happening in our current world such as sweat shops, deforestation, farming, fracking, sustainable energy, transport, etc. It was an immense privilege to work with 3D animator Ben Chan, who helped this world come to life. The situation is a serious one and I am very afraid, so to keep things bearable I like to force a slice of humour in everything. The space ship at the end is a little light relief from the situation; Escape. Realistically, I am much more for saving what we have and would rather not ditch our beautiful planet, but there’s nothing like a little space expedition to keep the options open.”

When Wrangler first formed they had a very simple modus operandi. The clue was in their name. Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards (The Maths), Stephen ‘Mal’ Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil Winter (Tuung) would get together with a very select kit list of careworn analogue synthesisers and vintage digital sequencers. Their task? To wrangle new music from the ancient equipment. These self-imposed restrictions helped produced two classic long players: LA Spark (2014) and White Glue (2016).

However, the times have changed and so have Wrangler. The coming decade, which looks set to be dubbed the Terrible Twenties, may be the last time that bands actually get to release albums. Ecological collapse, climate crisis, food shortages and the disintegration of the fabric of society will mean that the slow devolution of the music industry isn’t even one of the main things that musicians (or anyone else) should be worrying about. So the trio have thrown everything into their third (but hopefully not their last) album. The result – A Situation – is simultaneously their bleakest and funkiest release to date.

This collection of warm, reverberant, amped up tracks, that land somewhere between future music, synth pop, industrial dance, classic techno and rigid electro, captures the ambiguities of the group perfectly. Just as they use the ageing outmoded equipment that other people once chose to throw away in order to make tomorrow’s music, they are the paranoid group who (just about) dare to hope that things still might turn out OK. They cast a doleful eye across the hellscape of 2019 and state, if the end is truly nigh, then it’s never been more important to celebrate the little time we have left. And if a revolution to save ourselves is possible then we’re all in need of a revolutionary party, with a revolutionary soundtrack to match. 

The album title A Situation is purposefully ambiguous, perhaps referring to a job that needs doing or a nettle that needs to be grasped; perhaps referring to an unspecified event that is potentially either an opportunity or a threat. 

‘How To Start A Revolution’contains a different kind of warning. Mal says: “There was originally a little bit of irony in this track but if anything the world has become even scarier in the last two years. If you keep on pushing people there will come a tipping point and it will come back to bite you. There’s no irony left any more.” ‘Machines Designed (To Eat You Up)’ is about the fully-automated AI state surveillance that threatens us all. It looks like the future that Cabaret Voltaire warned us about over four decades ago is now finally here. Mal says: “It’s not my fault! I take no satisfaction at all in this stuff coming true. If it felt dystopian then, it feels more dystopian now. Wrangler are still questioning power but some of the tools of power have changed. I’m now fearful of Google in the same way I was fearful of Thatcher in the 80s.” Phill adds: “In the 70s and 80s if you wanted to have a go you could any weekend of the year but nowadays it’s harder to see who the enemy is and where they are. Come on out and have a go. Where are you hiding?” Benge concludes: “People are aware of the problems with Google, Facebook, 5g, social media, etc. but they’re woven into everything we do, so impossible to deal with.” Addressing the multiple failures of the internet ‘Mess’originally had the more direct title ‘It’s A Fucking Mess’ which just about says it all. ‘White Noise’ is perhaps the bleakest track of all, based round a spoken word piece by Mal, inspired by a reflection on JG Ballard’s notorious and transgressive experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition. 

But Wrangler refuse to ignore the possibility of hope. The mirror image of ‘Mess’ comes in the shape of the copper-bottomed Kraftwerkian techno pop banger, ‘Rhizomatic’. As Mal says: “It’s an uplifting song, simply because the decentralisation of technology is the one aspect of the internet that might save us.” But perhaps the most positive aspect of the album is hardwired into the DNA of the track ‘Slide’simply because it stands on a continuum with the most uplifting of jacking Chicago house and the most utopian of New York garage.  

Both sides of the coin – the dystopian and the utopian – are necessary for Wrangler to work. Phil sums it up the most succinctly when he says: “The heavier things get, the more I just want to jump around and have some fun.” A Situation will be released 28th February via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.

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