THE NOISE WHO RUNS – Come And Join The Beautiful Army EP

The Noise Who Runs is a musical project helmed by Ian Pickering, best known as lyricist for Sneaker Pimps. Joining Ian is French-Brazilian musician Felipe Goes, and between them, the duo share some big sounding synth pop and vaguely experimental electronic sounds on their 2024 EP ‘Come And Join The Beautiful Army’. Its five songs dart between big hooks and even bigger, sometimes angular sounds, creating a work that isn’t necessarily immediate, but has a strange and alluring quality that will appeal to listeners with a broader range of alternative interests.

‘One Scratch Each’ opens the release with some big but accessible electronica. Weighty beats, clearly of a contemporary approach at the time of recording, underscore a very 80s synth riff to get the track underway. This juxtaposition of sound is classic Noise/Runs, but by bringing in a mournful vocal to link the contrasting musical elements, it all plays very naturally. As the track progresses, the voice floats over a blanket of sound, driving a pre-chorus where a wavering synth appears to share a sound worthy of an early 80s Jarre – although, this might well be by accident rather than pure design. When the chorus belatedly hits, the EDM elements increase, playing out an almost jarring rhythm, but again, the accessibility of the vocal ensures it has some appeal for the more casual listener, and the repetition of the title creates a decent hook. It’s a solid start, but from here, the EP actually gets better.

Released as a digital single ahead of the EP, one of the standout cuts ‘Tune Out, Turn Off, Tune In’ is the duo’s most direct and hook-laden track yet. Armed with a mid tempo, the musicians weave heavy beats and wavering electronic sounds that are so much more muscular than many similar acts’ throwbacks, and when loaded by Pickering’s deliberately downbeat vocal, the arrangement takes on a huge moodiness that’s almost unsettling. It isn’t long before the music builds into a brilliantly repetitious melody, and the vaguely analogue sound gives it an even more retro feel than the opener. The use of understated harmony vocals also gives the track a superb feeling of depth. Despite its semi gothy synthpop heart, this isn’t necessarily of immediate appeal, but given time to adjust, it’s the kind of track that really works. Its combination of omnipresent hook and underlying electronic pulse delivers a big musical thrill that outshines any of the off-kilter melodies that have been presented.

Applying a superb electric piano sound behind trip hop friendly beats, ‘Something In The Bones of Man’ shares a very different side of the Noise Who Runs sound. At first, due to the lax groove and quieter vocal, it feels as if it’ll be more atmospheric, but the arrival of a busy rhythm that pulls more from a drum ‘n’ bass vibe soon kicks any relaxed feelings to the kerb. Despite the rhythmic shift, the vocal stays serene, sharing breathy melodies with a French accent. Filipe seems absolutely oblivious to the busy rhythms, and still doesn’t appear to notice when they step aside to be replaced, somewhat briefly, with a dub reggae loop. It’s to his credit that this ever shifting electronica landscape actually works. The fact that it appears to work brilliantly feels like a minor miracle. Less busy, ‘Vengeance Is The Sweetner’ somehow sounds like a big beat remix of an old Visage tune, but for those less enamoured with heavy pulsing rhythms, a harmonic vocal is on hand to distract with some pleasingly deep tones whilst swathes of clean piano drop beneath the mechanics. This is actually more melodic than a lot of the duo’s experiments, and yet its moody vibes and disjointed quality makes it more of a slow burner in terms of enjoyment. Once you’ve attuned, of course, there’s a lot to like about this cold musical offering.

Closing the release, ‘Mars Attached’ finds the duo venturing even deeper into dark electronica, loading up their sound with massive beats to drive a slow rhythm. Their contemporary EDM is offset by a vocal and tone that’s very 80s/90s in its approach, with hints of goth and darkwave affecting the slow, almost dour melody in a way that makes it feel like a natural successor to ‘Vengeance’. Even though the number barely has enough time to venture anywhere more interesting, the basic groove works on its own, and fans of Pickering’s deep tones will definitely consider this another highlight. The slow tempo and equally slow vocal could’ve resulted in a track that wouldn’t immediately engage with the listener, but much like ‘One Scratch Each’, the use of a brilliantly repetitive hook and well placed counter vocal ensures that this becomes something of a dark electronic treat.

In just five songs and a little over fifteen minutes, The Noise Who Runs provide a great showcase for their sound and talents on ‘…Beautiful Army’. Bookended by its most direct tunes, this EP seems to instinctively understand that it needs to make an impression fairly quicky and close with something equally memorable, but in some ways, the more experimental sounds sandwiched between are the release’s true gems. With a rather divisive sound, this short collection of tunes needs a little more time than most to uncover its best musical treats, but in terms of vaguely arty, synthy work, it’s potentially a tiny package with a large appeal for the more adventurous ear.

February 2024