Tick Tick Tick is only the third solo album by Stephen Mallinder, who co-founded industrial pioneers Cabaret Voltaire in the 1970s and remained their frontman until they disbanded in the '90s. Since then, he's devoted much of his time to journalism and academics, publishing numerous articles and teaching a university course about digital music and sound art. He's also released dozens of records as part of collaborative projects, including an album with Shaun Ryder (Amateur Night in the Big Top) and many releases with the electro trio Wrangler. 2019's Um Dada reintroduced his solo career (he'd made one little-heard post-punk dub record in 1982), putting his effects-skewed vocals atop clean, minimal house beats. Again recorded with frequent collaborator Benge, Tick Tick Tick is generally in the same vein. Opener "Contact" adds a post-punk bassline to a steady, ticking beat with flashes of effervescent synth pads, and Mallinder's half-spoken vocals push the track firmly into Underworld's wheelhouse. The rest of the album largely follows suit, focusing on stripped-down grooves and repetition rather than hooks. "Galaxy" is a pretty delicious house track with subtle washes of distortion beneath Mallinder's cosmic-minded lyrics. "Wasteland" offers some social commentary ("turn into wasteland, fate has been pre-sold") over twitchy electro. "Hush" is queasy electro-disco with pangs of bittersweet nostalgia, while "Shock to the Body" and "The Trial" employ vocoders, which strike through the beats like acute bursts of voltage. Mallinder's vocal style on this album is far removed from the unhinged paranoia of early CV, sounding much more reserved and shadowy but not vulnerable. This suits the music perfectly, as the rhythms energetically unfold without reaching any sort of climax but are too busy and engaging to recede into the background.
Tick Tick Tick Review
by Paul Simpson