The Noise Who Runs – Preteretrospective

Posted: 4 April 2023 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

21st April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been trying to wrap both my tongue and my brain around the title of this album for what feels like an age: it’s something of a linguistic conundrum. Depending on your interpretation, ‘preter’ is either ‘more than’ or ‘past’ (which becomes a tautology when paired with the ‘retro’ of ‘retrospective’. Not that this is a retrospective in any conventional sense, being a collection of new material from The Noise Who Runs, a duo based in France, consisting of Ian Pickering, perhaps best known as one of the Sneaker Pimps.

It’s perhaps not entirely surprising that there’s a vaguely trip-hop feel to some of the songs on this varied and sprawling album which equally carries a dark 80s vibe – meaning that there are some really deftly layered arrangements and a lot of space in which to wander and explore the sounds and your own internal monologue while listening to Preteretrospective.

We’re steered into the album via the singles released in advance of the release, most recently ‘2poor2die’, which places the socio-political leanings of the pair to the fore and lands slap in the middle of the album as a towering centrepiece.

But it starts with another single, and the first song, ‘Beautiful Perhaps’ owes much to Disintegration-era Cure, but through a filter of She Wants Revenge: that is to say, it’s a contemporary take on a retro style, and it’s well done. This is true of the album as a whole. Perhaps my appreciation of trip-hop has always been because it has a certain hazy darkness about it, which to my ear renders it a cousin to goth and shoegaze.

‘Off the Rails’ incorporates elements of Dub and reggae, with an insistent marching beat and nagging bass groove dominating an otherwise sparse arrangement reminiscent of a more electronic reimagining of The Specials – with social commentary to match.

‘Somewhere Between Dogs and Wolves’ is a slow, atmospheric groover that really draws you in slowly: it’s pop, but it’s dark, minimal, with some pretty harrowingly visual lyrics. It’s compelling listening, and resonates in a way that nothing that qualifies as pop now can touch. ‘So Good it’s Free’ owes aspects of its melody to ‘Boorn Slippy’, but is a mellow shoegaze / acoustic song that sits apart from most protest songs – and make no mistake, this is a protest song. For all the mellow tones – look no further than the shuffling, jangling indie of ‘Zoe’s Edible Garden’ for evidence of the rather twee 90s indie that would be a prominent feature of John Peel’s show circa ‘93 – Preteretrospective has much depth alongside its range. This brings us to ‘2poor2die’, which is pretty bleak and brimming with frustrated energy.

As the press for the single points out, ‘the spiritual centrepiece of this 14-track offering, ‘2poor2die’ addresses the growing inequality in society and the struggle of the unheard / unseen decent people without voices and increasingly without hope. It is, at once, a celebration of ordinary bravery in the face of the daily grind of routine and a condemnation of the eternal ideology that sees working people as cannon fodder, only to be told “Shut up and get on with it, nothing’s gonna change”. Call it a tribute to the folks who are barely considered worth considering by the powers that be.’

With the chasm between the haves and have-nots yawning ever wider, this is punchy and on-point, sadly. But hearing such politics without the hectoring delivery of Sleaford Mods is welcome, not least of all because it really does represent the groundswell of opposition to oppression. There’s a reason why pretty much every profession is striking right now. Yes, we’re all being shafted, and we all need to take a stand.

Preteretrospective is a complex beast: a strongly contemporary album with retro stylings which confronts contemporary issues. At times it’s quite dancey, but whereas so often in the past dance equated to the escapism of clubtastic euphoria, with or without chemical enhancement, Preteretrospective is clear-eyed, clear-headed and irritated.


The Noise Who Runs 3 - photo by Théo Valenduc

Photo by Théo Valenduc

  1. […] THE NOISE WHO RUNS presents the single ‘New York To L.A. In 2-And-A-Half Minutes’, underlining the urgency of frenetic and rhythmic energy. Here, the speed of travel is symbolic as the sign of progress that, like so many technologies, save us time at the expense of experience, possibilities and chance. Upon moving from northern England to Lille, France, IAN PICKERING (of SNEAKER PIMPS and FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY) formed this duo together with Brazilian-French guitarist FELIPE GOES. The duo’s newly-released Preteretrospective album has received critical acclaim, including from us here at Aural Aggravation. […]

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