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Title - Variance II - The 'Torsten ... Libertine' Remixes
Artist - Andy Bell

I'm sure you all know who Andy Bell is, but for those not quite in the know, well, simply put, he is the lead singer of the English synthpop duo Erasure. There, that wasn't so hard an dyes, you did know him after all, didn't you. I mean, that voice, those videos, those uber catchy 80's/90's songs all mean that Bell's voice has been in your life for over 20 years now and with the release of his latest solo album, will continue to be.

This latest solo effort is entitled Variance II - The 'Torsten the Beautiful Libertine' Remixes and follows hot the heels of last years musical opener, Variance – The Torsten The Bareback Saint Remixes. Playing out in two Parts, Part One is entitled Senseless Symphony, and is a medley of tracks such as Senseless, I Am Torsten, Freshly Buggered, Society, Society, Pre-Op, Post-Silicon, Extracurricular Affirmation, and That Judas Kiss. Part Two is a run of 9 tracks, all Remixes, and all rather damn good.p> Variance II - The 'Torsten the Beautiful Libertine' Remixes is another celebration of the sell-out success and critical acclaim of Bell's recent theatre show “Torsten The Beautiful Libertine”. Did we need such an album just months after Variance – The Torsten The Bareback Saint Remixes, I hear you ask? Perhaps not, no, but is it totally and absolutely Bell-tastic - sure it is!

Packaged in a mini-gatefold sleeve with a vinyl effect CD, Variance II - The 'Torsten the Beautiful Libertine' Remixes is, obviously, the second in an occasional series of limited edition releases that re-work or remix songs from the ongoing ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ songbook.

Kicking off with the epic album opener, the 10 minute continuous play ‘Senseless Symphony’ to know that the entire opus is made up of nothing more than fragments and reworked unreleased tracks from the main album sessions is beyond amazing. I mean, they could each of made splendid tracks of their own accord on any album he had wished to put out, in truth.

The second part, comprising the main body of work on Variance II - The 'Torsten the Beautiful Libertine' Remixes, takes the original “Torsten The Beautiful Libertine” theatrical / cabaret soundtrack album onto the dancefloor - and never lets you go! 'My Precious One (Hulda Remix)' is a mid-tempo chant, whilst 'Queercore! (Matt Pop Club Remix)' is pure Bell at his finest. The spoken word 'Photos of Daniel (Analog Nord Remix)' is stoic, whilst the inclusion of his Erasure partner on 'My Precious One (Vince Clarke Remix)' means this is, for my money, one of the best cuts on the album.

The anthemic 'The Slums We Loved (Barry Harris Remix)' soars high and wild, with the Ibiza-inspired 'We Were Singing Along to Liza (Shelter Remix)' is yet another soon-to-be Bell classic. The almost-Kylie-esque beats of 'Beautiful Libertine (Joe Gauthreaux Stadium Remix)' are next, and the album rounds out with the tear-stained ballad 'My Precious One (Extended Semi-Acoustic Version)' and then another rendition of 'Queercore! (Matt Pop Radio Mix)'.

Here on this extended concept album, Andy sings in character as an age-defying poly sexual as the tale of Torsten the Beautiful Libertine unfolds. Musically, and especially lyrically, this is a highly theatrical and moving song-cycle of poem-driven postcards from the hot spots of an outsider's memory; memories from a life lived as a semi-immortal, learned sensualist.

Autobiographical, perhaps?

Regardless, Bell, as "Torsten", sings deeply affecting songs of exposition that incrementally illuminate his extraordinarily mysterious life as a man disconcerted by his own bizarre experience of the nature of passing time.