"In Love We Trust" (Album, 2009)
Originally hailing from Holland, back in the mid 1980s Clan of Xymox were signed to 4AD during its golden era, where they were label mates with such illustrious names as The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus and Throwing Muses among others - none of who have survived through to the present day. So CoX must be doing something right to still be going so strongly and creatively 25+ years later; and the latest album In Love We Trust sees them in rude health. A move to European label Trisol was announced at the turn of the year, quickly followed by Emily a maxi-single providing the first glimpse of this, their tenth long player. A natural but rare ability to successfully combine the best of Gothic/darkwave with contemporary melodic dark synth and even alternative rock elements has seen them steadily build a significant (and well deserved) global following.
The last CoX album I bought was 1997's Hidden Faces, so although I've seen them live several times since then, I haven't exactly kept up with their recorded output (some 20 releases in the intervening years). But familiar CoX touch points are present both in presentation (a couple of female names as song titles - check!, suitably moody, dark sleeve artwork - check!) and content with songwriter and lead vocalist Ronny Moorings' unmistakable chord changes and waves of melancholic synths very much in evidence.
Always Gothic at heart, ever since their first two albums proper, Clan of Xymox (1985) and Medusa (1986), CoX have never shied away from using synths to create their dark, blended sound and tend, from album to album, shift from one focus to another (guitars take the lead on Clan of Xymox and synths on Medusa). This latest is firmly in the synth camp. It also sounds like an album designed to appeal to fans - and they should love this, but for newcomers and those (ahem) slightly 'out of touch' In Love We Trust presents a rewarding taste of the Mooring's fascination with the emotionally challenging aspects of human interaction through an affecting combination of reflective ballads and alternative rock songs. There's even a touch of futurepopiness on a track like On A Mission which closes proceedings.
Single Emily opens things in solid mid-tempo Goth ballad mode and sounds remarkably like Sisters of Mercy right down to the Eldritch-esque vocals. It's a clever choice as it has an immediacy that I could have sworn was down to it being a cover. It isn't - such is its ability to wend its way into your head and wrap itself around your neurons that anyone could be forgiven for thinking it was. The warping, pulsing, shuffle beat of titular In Love We Trust ticks all the right boxes and Judas is a highlight with a rolling, fluid sequencer at its heart with the familiar guitars and epic synths providing a counterpoint.
Love Got Lost is up there with Moorings' best songwriting and, like most of this album I imagine it sounds fantastic live. Musically and lyrically ("Time is moving slow, it's silent as the grave... Give me some sense of hope... I'm floating on a sea of doubt.") Sea of Doubt harks back to the traumatic beauty of the likes of No Human Can Drown from their formative years. Even more of Ronny's anguished vocal style would have been nice (!) and the production style is oddly muddy sounding, especially on the first half of the album. But these are minor, personal quibbles. In Love We Trust is a timely reminder both to celebrate Clan of Xymox today and, if you're anything like me, to explore any significant gaps in the back catalogue. 7/10
Rob Dyer (October 2009)