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assemblage23 faulure anniversary
Artist: Assemblage 23
Title: Failure - 20th Anniversary Edition
Genre: Electronic / EBM
Release Date: 17th September 2021
Label: Accession Records

Album Review

When you describe the quality of your early output as highly questionable, and the genre you are trying to conquer as full of “mostly people who can’t sing, over 90s-era trance patches” then the level of cheeky self-deprecation on offer should be enough to transport you to exactly where it is you want to go. And Tom Shear, as ASSEMBLAGE 23, did just that. Striding magnificently between the Future-Pop, EBM, Industrial and Electronica camps like an indecisive and eager kid on a sugar-rush, everything seemed to fall into place by the 2001 album ‘Failure’ (ironically enough) - and whereas things have far from nose-dived since then, this 20th Anniversary re-issue is here to give you a prod in the ribs and remind you of its existence and its position as a hugely influential album.

CD1 is the original album, given a 2021 makeover - whatever that entails - but importantly, the album still sounds fresh and vibrant, if a little dated understandably, and bubbling with ideas. ‘Naked’, like many of the tracks here, succeeds in being ice-cold and reassuringly warm at the same time, making the inhuman and impersonal barrage of electronic instrumentation strangely comforting, something VNV NATION perfected not long after. Skittering beats and Blade Runner dramatics bounce off one another in the driving, nervy twitch of the superb ‘I Am The Rain’, and the pulse and squelch of ‘House On Fire’ would get even the most dance-averse goth, waiting patiently for something with guitars in it, out onto the sticky floor of the club for a boogie.

‘Disappoint’, released as a single, is a dignified yearning and raw exposure of emotion at the death of Tom Shear’s father, who took his own life. It’s a standout track on the album on every level, and still resonates with its heartfelt simplicity and honesty. ‘Divide’, that follows, is dark and eerie, and the perfect companion piece to ‘Disappoint’. And ‘Silence’ gives THE PRODIGY a run for their money, pulling scary faces at you in dark, dank, abandoned places. But it’s the nuances and variations that have made ‘Failure’ more than just an interesting snapshot from a bygone era. Closing track ‘King Of Insects’, has so much going on in a deceptively simple framework, that it’s almost an album in itself. A piano intro sounds like it wants to burst out into the theme tune from the original Halloween movie, before morphing into some beautiful, softly swaying synth washes, and then reappearing to underpin the whole glorious, melancholy whole. It’s a magnificent piece of work.

CD2 contains a who’s-who of big names jostling for prominence in this remixed and reimagined version of the album, track by track. Not convinced any are necessary or indeed add anything to the originals, but as a companion piece it’s interesting enough to hear different interpretations and styles. ‘Failure’ stands up well, not only as an album that, at the time, was hugely important in a growing, mutating scene, but one that has transcended the moment of its birth, and grown into something permanent and vital.


CD1 2021 Mix
01. Naked
02. I Am The Rain
03. House On Fire
04. Tried
05. Disappoint
06. Divide
07. Longevity
08. Silence
09. Awake
10. King Of Insects

CD2 Remixes
01. Naked (Daniel Myer Remix)
02. I Am The Rain (Interface Remix)
03. House Of Fire (Antiscion Remix)
04. Tried (Mari Kattman Remix)
05. Disappoint (Rotersand Rework)
06. Divide (Clan Of Xymox Remix)
07. Longevity (The Gentry Remix)
08. Silence (Suicide Commando Remix)
09. Awake (242 Mix By P. Codenys)
10. King Of Insects (Assemblage 23 Remix)


Tom Shear

Website /

Cover Picture

assemblage23 faulure anniversary


Music: 8
Sound: 8
Total: 8 / 10

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