Second Layer was a one-album only side project for Adrian Borland and Graham Bailey of post-punk band The Sound, released in 1981. It’s a little like Joy Division in the generally dark and desolate visions it evokes, though it’s a beautiful bleakness. Fuelled by early 80s nuclear war anxieties, it has that early 80s electronic pop sound propelled by a home-made drum machine. It’s disaffected and astringent on the anti-war ‘Definition of Honour’ and the very definition of experimental electronica that owes much to Throbbing Gristle’s dystopic compositions on 'In Bits’ and ‘Distortion’. The latter is literally true, stitching together screeching guitars, a weird electronic rhythm and odd vocals that alternate between left and right channels (a headfuck if you’re listening on headphones). 'Save Our Souls' is cool and chilling, repeating that phrase with no belief that anyone is listening, while the closing 'Black Flowers' is sinister and anguished.
There’s an ugliness to ‘Underneath The Glass’ that is so evocative of that time of cold war paranoia, mass unemployment and general dread (“underneath the glass….something brooding, soon to crawl…”) but this was a creative disgust that sounded/ still sounds harshly attractive. ‘Fixation’ is fast and ominous post-punk, fuelled by dark matter, while ‘Zero’ is the most “pop”, if it’s possible to describe one of these songs as pop. It's more melodic and Sound-like though still noisy and angular, with a thoroughly disturbing slow motion ending.
Though ignored at the time (and consequently commanding great second hand value), World Of Rubber stands up alongside the other music of the time, though it's considerably darker than their releases as The Sound. The proposed new vinyl release is the first time it’s been available in that format in 30 years and it’s a great choice for reissue release, though a frozen February might be more appropriate than sultry August. This is proof that anything good, though missed at the time, will always find its time to be appreciated, even if its 30 years later and its principal creator is long dead.
[update: we reviewed this before seeing on Optic Nerve’s website that, for contractual reasons, they’ve withdrawn the release of World Of Rubber, which can now be obtained from Dark Entries Records. Don't let that put you off.]