Following its antecedent by less than a year, World Beyond is a track-by-track orchestrated version of Erasure's 2017 album, World Be Gone. The band last did something like this in 1987 on a handful of tracks from The Two Ring Circus, a companion LP to their second album, The Circus. A re-recording more than a "reimagining," it captures Andy Bell back in the studio for fresh vocal takes, this time with the Belgian chamber ensemble Echo Collective. Given that Erasure's other half, synth pop icon Vince Clarke, would seem to be excluded from such an endeavor, it may surprise some to learn that he was the one who came up with the idea, for a single. (He's credited with "bright idea" in the liner notes.) As the project expanded, Clarke was heavily involved in planning with Echo Collective, though it should be noted that members of the septet did the arrangements, and Echo Collective received the sole producer credit. With some of its songs addressing anxieties resulting from election outcomes in 2016, it's one of the duo's melancholier releases, and the material lends itself well to these sparer, warmer arrangements. Having said that, the band's own tendencies already lend themselves to this treatment, including their dramatic melodies, solid rhythmic and harmonic foundations, and general poignancy, even on many of their more uptempo dance hits. A track like "Sweet Summer Loving" implies electronics with twinkling mallet percussion, ornamental touches by piano and strings, and a literal bassline. Elsewhere, the keyboard ballad "Still It's Not Over" is stripped to bare-bones piano, strings, and percussion. Helped by the fact that there isn't a genuine club banger on World Be Gone, the rearrangements are often surprisingly seamless, especially considering that Erasure have such a trademark electronic sound. On tracks like the 2017 single "Just a Little Love," however, fans are likely to miss the rousing infectiousness of the original. Through its similarities, though, World Beyond amplifies how efficient Erasure's own arrangements are, while at the same time giving Bell more space to command the room, which he does, with nuanced performances.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson