Heaven 17 ‎– Pray / Illumination

Not On Label ‎– H17-001
Vinyl, 12", 45 RPM, Limited Edition


A Pray 6:33
B Illumination 4:15



Highly limited edition vinyl initially available on the Tour Of Synthetic Delights in November 2014 and via the www.heaven17.com website.

Limited to 300 copies

Both sides feature the statements: "Work In Progress" "Mixes October 2014"

(Heaven 17 Self-released)

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Side A): H17-001-A 125381M1/A
  • Matrix / Runout (Side B): H17-001-B 125381M2/A


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May 19, 2015

“Pray” began magnificently with deep synth bass vamp redolent of the intro notes to Depeche Mode’s “Any Second Now” from way back when. Just a duo of notes that keep the meter moving while other synth elements and a drum click gradually build to a minor key majesty over the course of 2:15 before more burbling sequencers herald the appearance of Glenn Gregory. Then rhythm guitar and bass guitar, courtesy of their live bassist Julian Crampton, eventually kick in to fill out the sound considerably from the austerity of the introduction.

This is also the most political H17 song I’ve heard since 1996’s tragically under heard “Bigger Than America.” The lyrics call out the “privileged and elite, all smiles and honest eyes” while the track becomes more and more generous as it unfolds, with creamy sax courtesy of Rob Hughes appearing to my surprise at the 4:16 mark. His solo is most welcome in the mix, adding some real fire to the sentiments airing here. After the sax enters, there’s almost no further synths on the track apart from a little string patch sweetening. And when the song fades out, it’s all down to rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and sax having the last work. It’s a superb sound and it slots in very handily to the vibe that the band were working during “The Luxury Gap.” Yes, that good!

The B-side, “Illumination” is down to just the core duo on synths and loops, and it starts out with a kinetic disco sound not a million miles away from the vibe on their last album “Before/After.” Then, out of nowhere, the pure Joe Meek synth solo at the bridge that Martyn sounds like he ripped screaming from the Tornadoes “Telstar” arrived! That sort of wild card in a high pressure electro disco cocktail like “Illumination” is utterly delightful. So unexpected. So magnificent for it. Martyn Ware is a genius who is peaking now if records like this, 2013’s B.E.F. opus, and the killa "Live At Metropolis" album of 2014 are any evidence. And I think that they are! Speaking of “Before/After,” the huge difference in “Illumination” is that the surveillance oriented lyrics are exactly what was missing from that last dynamic, but intellectually disappointing H17 album.

“Before/After” had the temerity to drop earthward with a hedonistic disco sound in the middle of Bush/Blair, fer cryin’ out loud! Heaven 17 owed us all much more than disco songs [however well made] concerned with finding and keeping lovers. This has been since corrected. The lyrics here are the sort that we need from Heaven 17. What was it Funkadelic offered? That’s right, free your mind and your ass will follow. These two tracks hit that target full on.

It goes without saying that in terms of visceral bite, intellectual content, and the pleasure of performance, these new tracks are poised to take their place near the upper echelons of the H17 pantheon. Glenn Gregory has never sung better. Now that he has years of concerts under his belt, his instrument has been tempered and refined to a powerful degree, but then so has Martyn Ware’s! His backing vocals have never been better and offer more pleasure to the discerning ear. The inclusion of outside players bodes will for the new album. Julian Crampton, in particular, fills a huge John Wilson-shaped hole that has been in this band for 30 years. His playing here makes me eager to hear more from his bass guitar.

Finally, it says something significant that the only cover art that Malcolm Garrett has designed for music releases in the last 20 years have been for just three groups: The Buzzcocks, Magazine, and Heaven 17. Discerning collectors of Heaven 17 will need to add this to their lovingly curated collections, and know that each disc comes with a download code for those lacking a record player [shudder].


April 14, 2015
edited over 3 years ago

Some copys are signed by Glenn and Martyn!!!!