Claus Larsen’s fiftieth birthday has obviously been kicking around his mind of late. It’s not just the title of the dark electro maestro’s twentieth (by some counts) LP; themes of the loneliness and death which accompany aging run through the whole of the newest Leaether Strip record. Yet, if we’re being honest with ourselves, those themes have always sat at the heart of Larsen’s musical ethos. It’s very easy to identify the aggression and stormy rage which mark so much of the Leaether Strip discography, but softer themes of hope, desire, and fragility have always been there as well. It’s that emotional core which makes 50 an able continuation of the Leaether Strip legacy.
Larsen has been firing on all cylinders for the past few years, dishing out loads of cover tracks (note that 50 comes bundled with ÆDM, a collection of Depeche covers), revisiting his instrumental ambitions with an excellent and underrated follow-up to the famed Serenade For The Dead record, and straight-up dark electro LPs of 50‘s vein. The first half of the record is vintage Leaether Strip, marked by rhythmic force, wet synth-bass, and ghostly sequences adorning Larsen’s bark, detailing psychopathy, family turmoil, isolation, and the horrors of war. The classic midtempo dark electro of “Don’t Scream At Me” and the forlorn “We Die Alone” are the sort of tunes Larsen forged his legacy from, and there’s a clear connection back to his earliest days with them.
The generally bleak tone of 50 is disrupted at the midway point with the arrival of “Ælements”. For all of his admiration of (and talent for) synthpop, Larsen’s generally kept it out of the core LS catalog, preferring to explore it through covers and side projects like Am Tierpark. But “Ælements” is a great example of the sort of warm and emotive synthpop he’s always cited as an inspiration, and he executes it here with a heavy helping of reflection and metaphor, the result perhaps being not so far from a classic Absurd Minds tune. It’s a nice smudging of the Leaether Strip palette, and one which clearly emerges right from Larsen’s core influences.
Nearly thirty years into the game, there’s just no slowing Claus Larsen down. He’s felt wholly rejuvenated on his most recent batches of releases, and whether he’s in stone cold dark electro mode or a slightly softer mood, he’s proving with every release why he’s inspired countless newcomers to take up electronic music, in just the fashion Depeche Mode did him.