The latest release from Spun Out Of Control is from the electronic duo UNE. UNE is Mark Radcliffe & Paul S. Langley, Radcliffe a broadcaster and Langley an electronic musician. They have made three albums together, with their latest, Spomenik, being their debut with SOOC.
With their latest release, Radcliffe and Langley go largely instrumental and give us a concept album filled with icy synths and post-Cold War brutalism. Spomenik translates to “Monument” in Serbo-Croatian, and UNE’s new album concerns concrete obelisks that were built in the 60s and 70s in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They were built as monuments to the fallen of WWII, and as signs of hope to brighter days ahead.
UNE have made a record that acts as a journey to the different Spomeniks built. Each track is a place where one exists, and the hope of a brighter future. At least, that was the plan when they were built. Musically Radcliffe and Langley capture the sound of late 70s/early 80s electronic in Europe. Bands like Kraftwerk and OMD play heavy in the synth melodies, electro beats, and distant vocals. It’s an all-encompassing listen that reaches into the past and pays tribute to a post-war optimism that sadly seems like a forgotten concrete monument itself.
Despite being a tribute to cold, concrete obelisks that sit in the European countryside these songs have a beating heart(even if they’re robotic hearts.) “Podgarić“, “Kozara“, “Ostra” pulsate with light and life, moving with the forward musical movement of Man-Machine-era Kraftwerk. The vocals are sparse but effective. They sound like transmissions through an old telephone receiver, which adds to the sharp, angular lines and blue-gray shades the album possesses.
One of the absolute highlights for me is the gorgeous and mysterious “Kosmaj”. It emits both sunlit ponderings and melancholic longing. It reminds me of Tangram-era Tangerine Dream. You can almost feel the brutal, February chill of the Eastern Bloc; yet a sense of wonder emanates. As if a new morning has risen. “Tjentište” has a bit of an electro strut to it that moves along confidently into an unknown future. Optimism and hope, locked inside concrete and monoliths perched where the horrors of war took place.
This album works two-fold. One, it’s a fantastic electronic album that captures the spirit of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Gary Numan, Rüdiger Lorenz and early OMD. On the other hand it’s a fantastic concept album about hope through art. In this case, Spomeniks erected as a means of memorializing lives lost during WWII and a reminder to never let those atrocities happen again.
Before coming across this album I wasn’t aware of these monuments, or Spomeniks. Spending hours scouring the internet looking at photos of these giant concrete beasts I was in awe, both at what they stood for and at the time put into making them. I was reminded of Simon Stålenhag’s art book Tales From The Loop. Retro-futuristic objects, sitting and watching. These obelisks sitting amongst the countryside and nature, as if aliens dropped them from space.
UNE captured that feeling perfectly on Spomenik. A musical guide to hope, carved from cold, brutal stone.
8.1 out of 10
UNE’s Spomenik is available now via Spun Out Of Control digitally and on limited edition vinyl variants. Buy it here.