Sometimes, I get to review an album that reminds me of why I love music, of why I love writing about it, and why I never give up on it. Such an album is Membranes’ What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away.
A reference point that jumped into my mind on hearing this life-affirming album was a collaboration between Brian Eno and Jah Wobble called Spinner. That album has the same other-world bass-driven power; but Membranes have a sound that is more psychedelic, more song-orientated.
As you might expect from the title, What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away has nature as a theme: nature being both beautiful and violent, nature will be there after toxic mankind has gone, we are a mere, unwelcome, blip on the mindscape of deep time.
The choir and guests add a welcome dimension. Chris Packham’s narration is an absolute highlight, a special contribution from a special man.
Membranes have the balance right. The album has been described as sounding like a Hieronymus Bosch painting; this is accurate, but I would also add the works of Hogarth, Dali and Goya into the mix. It’s music for the mind and imagination that doesn’t bore or patronise its listeners. The listeners are participants: they are not passive – they are as much part of the experience as they are part of nature.
An important album then, from an important band, with an important message, one that is true, and it’s truth that will raise us up.
(Cherry Red Records)