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Faithless Explore the ‘Human Spirit’ With ‘All Blessed,’ First Album In 10 Years

Photo credit: Blue Laybourne

Faithless' Sister Bliss

With clubs and venues shuttered for the foreseeable future, and festivals a distant, fading memory, Faithless chose an unusual time to stage a return with All Blessed, their first album of new material in a decade.

Faithless has never been one to follow the rule book. And they're never rushed.

This year marks the 25th anniversary since the British electronic act released “Insomnia,” the epic, career-launching tune that, in its original form, clocks in at just under nine minutes.

The track, recounts founding member Sister Bliss, had a life of its own. “'Insomnia' took a year-and-a-half to become a hit,” she tells Billboard over the phone from her home in the England. Early on, the record lived underused in DJs’ vinyl cases. Then, broadcaster and DJ Pete Tong championed the track, the evergreen monster took on a life in clubland across Europe.

A radio edit was cut at a more conventional 3-and-a-half minutes, and the single went to No. 3 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart.

With a core of Sister Bliss, frontman Maxi Jazz, and producer Rollo (whose sister Dido has recorded with the act), Faithless would become mainstage festival crowd-pleasers, and one of the biggest acts of their kind.

Now signed to BMG, the outfit has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, and enjoyed seven Top 10 singles in their homeland, including “Insomnia” “Salva Mea,” “God Is a DJ,” and “We Come 1”.

Three albums have gone to No. 1 in the U.K., including the 2004 studio set No Roots and their most recent recording, the Faithless 2.0 remix project, from 2015.

“We had such an amazing reception wherever we went, it was always glowing,” Bliss says of Faithless 2.0 and its subsequent tour. “It inspired us and reinvigorated us.”

Faithless got cracking on writing new music, drip-feeding tunes as they were ready. As time went on, Bliss and her bandmates were convinced “there is a point in doing a new album. We are one of the artists, especially in electronic music, where the album format it really works for us. That’s why it took longer.”

The new LP features several guest vocalists from Jazzie B, Suli Breaks, Gaika, Caleb Femi, L.S.K., and Damien Jurado, and spans 12 tracks, including the previously released “Synthesizer,” a song with a double message in the lyric. Listen closely and you'll tap into the “transactional nature of relationships” in the computer age, explains Bliss.

All Blessed "tells a story, and a narrative unfolds in a way that perhaps you only have space to do on an album,” notes Bliss. “When you make individual tracks, they generally have to be under three minutes long. Our most successful music is often at the eight-minute mark. We love that hypnotic vibe, where we take our time and allow it to unfold it gradually.”

After a long, slow build to its release, was there talk of delaying the album until the pandemic passes? “Yeah, it’s been a continuous discussion,” says Bliss. “I feel like a three-legged donkey. We haven’t got a particular arm of the Faithless weaponry, it's not able to be deployed. Faithless lives and breathes with an audience. The whole point of Faithless is connection.”

Sister Bliss never stopped writing dance music. She’s an accomplished composer for film and TV, a club DJ, and an advocate for the creative industries. With a string of British cities facing tight new COVID-19 lockdown rules, the spotlight has been yanked away from the creative economy. Bliss bristles at comments made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who reportedly suggested that musicians and others in the arts should “retrain and find other jobs.”

“Well excuse me, but I just lost close to 200 grand worth of gigs, I was going to pay tax on every single one of those gigs. So they’ve lost my tax receipts,” she tells Billboard. “The stage managers, production managers, the lighting guys, the truck driver, every single person in my industry works damn hard, and they pay taxes.”

The Tory government’s view on the creative industries is “pretty shameful,” she continues. The arts is “incredibly important to the economy, culturally, (generates) massive export, brings people to this country, and spiritually. People need music, dance, drama, orchestras. It’s what makes a civilized society. We’re not drones, which we alluded to in our video for ‘Synthesizers’.”

On All Blessed, Faithless resisted the temptation to go dark.

“Part of what makes Faithless, we’re not nihilists. It’s this thread of hope that the human spirit will overcome, if we can find empathy and tolerance, there is a better way of living that isn’t based on fear and aggression.”

Some of the album is “quite uplifting, quite mellow. Some of it is out and out proper banging club tracks, but always with a message in the lyrics. It’s not a dark record, but it has a couple of dark corners," Sister Bliss admits. "We’re trying to think about the little moments in life that enriches it, make us feel human, connected and not alienated.”

Stream All Blessed below.