The Electricity Club aims to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It doesn't promote bands or support scenes, it just writes about the music it likes, and occasionally some music it doesn't like...
With informed opinion and trivia, it embraces synthpop, ie pop music that uses synthesizers, while aiming to avoid lazy terms such as analogue, 80s and contemporary. It's like acid house never happened... AND WE'RE PROUD OF IT!
Chinese band STOLEN had been due to open for NEW ORDER in Spring 2020 in Japan and celebrate their 10th anniversary with a national tour. But with the coronavirus crisis, these live dates were put on hold as the world went into lockdown.
After the restrictions were lifted in their home city of Chengdu in May 2020, STOLEN performed the first post-lockdown live internet gig to over 650,000 viewers across the world. With China being able control their pandemic and its citizens compliant with the ongoing but more relaxed restrictions, STOLEN were able to embark on their tour in November 2020 to a rapturous response.
Having already supported NEW ORDER on their six date European tour in Autumn 2019, STOLEN continue to solidify their position as the leader of a new generation of Chinese artists which also includes FIFI RONG, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS and Re-TROS.
Following the release of their excellent breakthrough album ‘Fragment’ on MFS in Autumn 2018, produced by Mark Reeder and his regular collaborator Micha Adam, the Berlin based studio partnership have given the Sinomatic techno-rock sextet a subtle makeover with a Sinful Remix of ‘The Loop Sin’.
With a video using fan-recorded footage from various gigs including the 2019 NEW ORDER tour where it was the set closer, the buzzy extended jam of ‘The Loop Sin’ is a classic Reeder production full of heavy propulsive grit and live textural enhancements.
But the new denser version applies an extra bounce on the bass while additional synthetic strings and rhythmic elements boost the climatic instrumental layers over eight minutes, showcasing STOLEN’s brand of Sinomatic technorock.
The parent ‘Fragment’ album, from which ‘The Loop Sin’ was originally homed, is a well-thought out, well-crafted record with plenty of adventure, space and mystery within its multi-genre cocoon.
It all illustrates why Mark Reeder considers Liang Yi, Duan Xuan, Fangde, Yuan Yu Feng, Wu Jun Yang and graphix director Formol to be one of the bands he has been most excited about since NEW ORDER.
Meanwhile continuing his artistic kinship with NEW ORDER, there will be a Mark Reeder remix of their most recent single ‘Be A Rebel’ released in Spring 2021 via Mute Artists.
The Sinful Remix of ‘The Loop Sin’ is available via the usual digital platforms
The original version of The Loop Sin is taken from the album ‘Fragment’ released by MFS as a double vinyl LP, available from https://mfsberlin.com/
Although JAPAN had something of a shaky start with their first two albums ‘Adolescent Sex’ and ‘Obscure Alternatives’ in 1978, the seeds of an more electronically assisted direction were sown on the Giorgio Moroder produced single ‘Life In Tokyo’ in early 1979.
Now acknowledged as the bridge between growly funk-rock JAPAN and the more familiar, mannered and artier version of the group recognised by most today, ‘Life In Tokyo’ was a key interim milestone in their career as the first recording that the band were happy with.
The classic quintet line-up of JAPAN with David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri and Rob Dean had found enormous success in the country of Japan as well as having more moderate but significant sales in Holland and Canada. So their German-owned label Ariola Hansa persevered, while manager Simon Napier-Bell was still convinced he had group of future stars on his hands.
For their third album ‘Quiet Life’, front man David Sylvian adopted a more crooning baritone style of singing. Meanwhile Mick Karn’s distinctively fluid fretless bass was pushed right up to the front, intricately complemented in the rhythm section by drummer Steve Jansen. Taking in a more atmospheric European approach compared to their earlier work, guitarist Rob Dean and keyboardist Richard Barbieri provided the exquisite textural backdrop.
Produced by John Punter who had worked on ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Country Life’, JAPAN had found a willing conspirator in the studio who not only believed in them, but who they got on well with on a personal level. The Englishman loved the band so much, he even went to tour with them to mix their live sound. But as the quintet embraced synthesizers, sequencers, E-Bows, muzak and orchestrations, some critics accused JAPAN of being a lavish Roxy rip-off.
‘Quiet Life’ was issued in December 1979 in Holland, Japan and Germany before being given a UK release in January 1980.
Although the album peaked at No72 in the UK, it was a major step forward as a quality timeless work that all five members of the band were collectively satisfied with.
Despite their melancholic outlook on life and their detached demeanour, the public eventually caught up with JAPAN when their style was embraced by the New Romantic movement, with the title song even belatedly becoming a UK hit when released as a single in September 1981.
‘Quiet Life’ consolidated JAPAN’s success in Japan itself, reaching the Top30. Their audience also expanded in Europe, pointing them in the right direction and towards Virgin Records who released the albums ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ and ‘Tin Drum’ before the band finally disbanded in late 1982 after their biggest ever concert tour which took in the UK, Europe and the Far East.
With a new remaster of ‘Quiet Life’ by Miles Showell at Abbey Road and boxed set due, Rob Dean kindly spoke to The Electricity Club to give an eye witness account into the making of an album that still stands up 41 years after its UK release.
Between the ‘Obscure Alternatives’ and ‘Quiet Life’ albums, JAPAN were in a state of transition from the growly glam funk of ‘Adolescent Sex’ to the mannered artful combo people remember them for today. How conscious had this been as David Sylvian’s voice completely changed, while Mick Karn came to the jazzy fore with his fretless bass playing and your own guitar style moved from rock to something more textural?
Well I think a band owes it to itself (and its audience) to evolve and grow. The first album was basically a band in its infancy attempting to make a cohesive record with a large list of original songs that had been accrued up to that point. The second was a band more accustomed to playing as a live unit and finding its identity with its newest material.
There is always I think an indication of the direction a band will take somewhere from one album to the next. For ‘Adolescent Sex’, it was ‘Communist China’, for ‘Obscure Alternatives’ it was ‘The Tenant’. It all comes down to influences and what the band was generally listening to moving forward.
By the time of creating the material for ‘Quiet Life’, it was KRAFTWERK, Eno, Moroder, Peter Gabriel and Bowie of course to name a few. So to answer your question, I think we all felt that ‘Quiet Life’ had to be drastically different to what preceded it and the band as musicians were finding their own respective voices. Clearly Mick’s approach to bass and David’s change in vocal style were strong motivators in this. For myself (and Steve and Rich I’m sure), it felt like a logical progression also.
Photo by Patrick Lichfield
‘European Son’ (which didn’t actually get an official release until 1980 on the Japanese edition of ‘I Second That Emotion’) and ‘Life In Tokyo’ were two songs recorded in that interim period but both are quite different to the majority of the material on the ‘Quiet Life’ album, how was it finding your feet as a band with a new direction?
Obviously ‘Life In Tokyo’ was seen as a “one off” with Giorgio Moroder at the helm. Had it been a big hit as was hoped by all involved at the time, then perhaps it would have been a logical step to have him produce the third album. If he had, then I’m pretty sure it would be quite different. For one thing, he pushed for co-rights on tracks that he produced.
‘European Son’ was in some ways a song that would suggest that Giorgio wasn’t needed to create an electro-disco song. The reason it didn’t get released until much later was purely because it was never totally finished. Live, we played it in a few different incarnations but I did not record any part I was happy with on it, and that is mainly why. I was concerned foremost about not creating ‘Life In Tokyo version II’. So that one was a bit of a struggle.
As far as “finding your feet with a new direction”, the notion doesn’t really enter into it. You don’t really think about it, other than creating parts for songs that you feel fit and that you are all happy with just as you always do.
Can you remember your thoughts when the band were presented with the songs for ‘Quiet Life’?
Most were presented in the rehearsal studio as they always had been, with David playing a chord structure on guitar and us all starting to build from that. I do remember clearly that he and Rich had been working from home on the germ of an idea which was the song ‘Alien’ (which was at one time going to be the album title, until we learned that Ridley Scott’s film of the same name was due for release!) and in this embryonic stage, it was very different – a slow, brooding, somewhat uncompromising piece. I guess we all felt it wasn’t working and so it was shelved and resurrected in a far more palatable form later on.
In terms of arrangement, what was discussed between the band members? What was the dynamic at the time?
I remember we were in a cab on our way to a first meeting with John Punter and David Sylvian mentioned for the first time using orchestration on a couple of tracks. This was a surprise, but not in any way a negative one. It felt right, considering the songs that we were creating and their more epic scope. As far as general arrangements, we all knew when we were onto something that worked I’d say. We were all very positive about what we were doing and where the new material was going.
How crucial was producer John Punter in the realisation of the ‘Quiet Life’ album?
When we met John Punter, we all hit it off straight away. His warmth and enthusiasm was infectious and from our first meeting, we had nothing but positive thoughts about the forthcoming album sessions.
He made the entire experience a relaxed and enjoyable one for everyone involved, and I think that comes across in what was produced.
John Punter co-produced ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Country Life’ but apparently Bryan Ferry wasn’t too impressed about him working with JAPAN?
He told us that he bumped into Bryan Ferry at AIR later on and was berated for working with us. Whether in jest or not, I can’t say. I guess Bryan Ferry must have thought we were invading his territory or something.
What was it like to work at AIR Studios in terms of atmosphere, environment and equipment? Was Richard Barbieri quite lost in the range of keyboards and synthesizers that were available there for example?
AIR had a wonderful atmosphere. The four studio complex meant there were always interesting artists to brush shoulders with and converse with upstairs in the cafe and pool table area. It was impeccably run and a very positive environment to work in. The studios themselves were all state-of-the art. Despite what you might think, there were not banks of musical equipment to be used other than grand pianos, though. Any instruments other than our own would be rented from outside.
It was cool to go to the nearby pub for a break and be sharing a pint with the likes of Chris Thomas, and John Cale… yes, even David Sylvian went to the pub! I think it helped that John Punter was so well-known and liked around AIR.
THE PRETENDERS were there recording their debut album. Chrissie Hynde was very nice to us but the rest were kind of jerks. One day we arrived at the studio and the guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott had left us a bag full of cheap make up. He thought it was funny. We caught him giggling with his band mates about it, like kids playing a prank in the playground…
Would you be recording the songs one by one, or would there be several things going on at once depending on mood and ideas?
Generally the aim would be to get a definitive take of the drums first, then bass, and so on. Some days would be designated for a particular song and some for a particular instrument, it varied. If there was a problem with one, we would move onto another.
The title track was pivotal and is now held up as an iconic electronic pop single. Can you remember how the song developed and how everyone worked their parts in, because it does sound very much like a joint effort where everyone is firing on all cylinders?
‘Quiet Life’ was pretty much totally realised in our dingy rehearsal room in Willesden. I think the bass part was very integral to how the song developed. As was expected, Mick and Steve worked very tightly together. Sometimes we left them to work on their parts for a while and then added to that. I think the sequencer was part of the strong foundation too. The E-Bow solo was improvised in the studio, but the rest of the guitar parts were already established.
‘Fall In Love With Me’ featured a blistering E-Bowed lead line from yourself, how did you find adapting to this technique, had it opened up a whole new world for you?
Well actually, there is no E-Bow on that track. The verse guitar part is distorted fuzz guitar. But I was however very happy to discover the E-Bow. For a while, I was endeavouring to create thick sustained lead lines with mixed results. Invariably when recorded, they would sound trebly and thin when placed into a track. The E-Bow eliminated this. It was as if it was made for me.
Both ‘Fall In Love With Me’ and ‘Halloween’ had these fading endings to when the band stops playing, had there been any debates as to whether to have them like “live band endings” at full volume or were the fades intentional as a concept?
Some songs are created to end and others not. When recorded, those didn’t have distinct endings but kind of kept steaming ahead. In the mixing stage, the idea of long fades seemed appropriate for both. It just so happened that they just about made it to the end of the takes! And within the context of the album, they worked in respect to the start of the next track. In the case of ‘Fall In Love With Me’, it’s just one of those driving, insistent rhythms that as a musician you are enjoying so much you don’t want it to end, so a fade eliminates that conundrum. Plus, John Punter loved a long fade!
Although lyrically, many of the songs on ‘Quiet Life’ have this doomed romantic demeanour about them, ‘Halloween’ was about the Cold War aftermath of Berlin and the rockiest track on the album? It screams rather like the film of the same name…
Well I think the title conjures up darkness and menace and therefore there needs to be some urgency to the guitars too. A scream seemed appropriate. Even the auto-wah guitar figure in the middle section tied with the synth emphasizes that.
‘Alien’ allowed to you play at being Robert Fripp, had he become a big influence on you by this time? Who were the other guitarists you may have looked to for inspiration on the ‘Quiet Life’ album?
When you have a new toy, you naturally want to play with it! In this case there were two, the E-Bow and my new Gibson RD Artist guitar with its Moog designed active electronics which proved to be a match made in heaven for me. Both very instrumental in the new sounds I was creating. My strongest influences then were naturally Fripp, but also John McGeoch (I was a huge MAGAZINE fan), Ricky Gardiner, Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick.
You didn’t play on the en Français piano mood piece ‘Despair’, so what happens when you are told that your contribution is not required for a track?
I saw ‘Despair’ as something of a companion piece to ‘The Tenant’ from ‘Obscure Alternatives’. I wasn’t instructed to not play on it, it was my own decision. I am always of the mind that if it is not essentially necessary, then why contribute? I didn’t want to play some cursory E-Bow if the piece didn’t require it and that’s how I felt in this case.
Often when I wasn’t needed, I would be reading quietly in a corner somewhere or perhaps playing Space Invaders upstairs. Sometimes if it was anticipated that this would be a lengthy period, then I would catch a film matinee.
In the case of ‘Despair’, there was a bit of labour over Mick’s efforts in trying to play bowed double bass on it. Although he was unquestionably a talented multi-instrumentalist, in this case it defeated him and an outside session player was brought in. Memorably Kate Bush was in Studio 1 and invited to listen to a mix of it by Jon Jacobs, the tape op who had worked with her on ‘Never For Ever’. She sat cross-legged on the floor while we all sat around quietly and when it was over, in typical KB fashion she said “Oh wow, it’s so big, isn’t it?”
Photo by Patrick Lichfield
The ‘Quiet Life’ album includes a reinterpretation of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ but that wasn’t originally recorded during these sessions, but appears to originate from the same time as ‘European Son’ at DJM Studios? How did the decision to do a cover get made? Did you like the song yourself?
I was of course familiar with the song from THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. I had seen Nico live a couple of times and loved her voice, too. As a band, it was not unusual for us to take someone else’s song and adapt it and this was no exception. I personally was very happy with how it turned out. I think we changed it up sufficiently to put our mark on it. It was way better than Ferry’s rather average version, which came much later, I might add!
The ‘Quiet Life’ album was notable for the use of an orchestra on ‘In Vogue’ and ‘The Other Side Of Life’. The end results were quite beautiful but how was the challenge for the band of integrating your parts into this classical template?
In both cases, the band tracks were complete (except the finished vocal which would be added last). So it was not a case of us adapting to the orchestral arrangements but the exact reverse. Ann O’Dell was given a rough mix of both to write her score around.
So in the case of ‘The Other Side Of Life’, for instance, I think the already recorded instruments would have influenced the feel and approach that Ann O’Dell took with the score. The orchestra played off the syncopation of the bass and drums in the long instrumental outro quite noticeably too.
It is on record that ‘Quiet Life’ was the first album that all five band members were totally satisfied with… in an album of great moments, do you have a particular favourite moment?
I think it was actually standing in the studio while the orchestra were playing on ‘The Other Side Of Life’. Listening to an orchestra playing live to the music you helped create is a real buzz, I can tell you. It took those tracks to an entirely other level. I almost got a stiffy! As a track it was a new high mark of maturity for us.
The instrumental ‘A Foreign Place’ was recorded during the album sessions and shelved, although it came out as a B-side in 1981. Was there any other material that you worked on like ‘Can’t Get Enough’?
Like what? We never had a song with that title! But to answer your question, the band were always very low on unreleased material. Basically what was recorded was officially released… eventually.
The ‘Quiet Life’ album cover photo session with Fin Costello saw the band captured behind glass, yet the finished artwork only had David Sylvian on the front! A sign?
The original concept for the cover when it was still titled ‘Alien’ was of five fold-out panels with each panel a photo of each of us with our own concept. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that David’s would be the front panel. I’m sure that’s what Simon Napier-Bell and Hansa had in mind. Plus from ‘Obscure Alternatives’ onwards, Fin Costello was always putting him front and centre. By that point, it was already a given so no surprise to anyone.
So you had this great album in the can but the UK label doesn’t want to release any singles off it, not even the magnificent ‘Quiet Life’ title song, and a cover version of ‘I Second That Emotion’ was released instead. Was this a Simon Napier-Bell intervention? What did the band think?
I wouldn’t say it was SNB’s doing. As a creative entity where the band was concerned, he was a bit of a non-starter and by that time, his input was somewhat minimal. All he could do was suggest and that mostly fell on deaf ears. I’m sure it was Hansa being desperate after the lack of success with ‘Life In Tokyo’ which must have seemed like a no-brainer. By that point they were panicking and really had next to no idea how to market us.
So a song that people ought to be familiar was all they had to relate to (despite rumours to the contrary, the song was our choice, however). After all, they were all BONEY M and Amii Stewart. They didn’t have a clue. And I think us being associated with that label didn’t help our credibility either.
‘Quiet Life’ was undoubtedly JAPAN’s breakthrough record, how did you feel when the album was embraced by the New Romantic movement and then the title song was a belated hit single in 1981?
Unfortunately having left and living in California by that time, I was as you can imagine somewhat removed from that. Still, you always have to believe in yourself and it wasn’t a surprise. It was, of course, well-deserved and definitely not before time. I was proud to have been a part of it. It would have been nice to have performed just once on ‘Top Of The Pops’ but I still have enough good memories of that time to keep with me.
What are your thoughts on the ‘Quiet Life’ album now with this deluxe reissue, does it still trigger any emotions 40 years on?
For many many years, anything that referred to those times felt like I was talking about a different person. Of course recently, I’ve been recording again and so I’ve grown to be more comfortable with that period of my life and in a small way, I have been assisting BMG with this reissue. I just want it to be the best it can under the circumstances and something the fans will appreciate. To me at this time, it’s all about the fans and their continued support. It’s something I am very proud of. Six people working towards the same goal. A time of great adventure, creativity and happiness. I’ll stop now. There’s something in my eye…
Of course, this era of JAPAN have their legacy, most notably in the form of DURAN DURAN, do have you any thoughts? 😉
I like to think that without us, there might not be a TALK TALK… but why does everyone keep referring to a character played by the actor Milo O’Shea in ‘Barbarella’? I don’t get it…
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rob Dean
‘Quiet Life’ is reissued by BMG on 5th March 2021 as a 3CD+LP Abbey Road half-speed remastered deluxe edition boxed set featuring the original album and non-album tracks ‘Life In Tokyo’, ‘European Son’, ‘I Second That Emotion’ and ‘A Foreign Place’, as well as the full 1980 ‘Live at Budokan’ concert
In 2017, Taylor Swift reasoned in song that ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’…
Sections of the Western World can be a rather spoilt, entitled and privileged bunch, priding themselves on the availability of opportunity but failing to see the bigger picture with the long term economic and social benefits of inclusion, such as universal healthcare in the US or European Union membership in the UK.
With 2021 beginning with a narcissistic insurrection that has only made America grate again, artist and extra-terrestrial PRIMO THE ALIEN highlights some of those ‘Bad Things’.
The project of the vivacious Texan singer and musician Laura Lee Bishop, with a fabulously sprightly popwave tune that is up there with Dana Jean Phoenix or Laura Dre, in the accompanying video, PRIMO THE ALIEN goes on a lockdown exercise walk in a deserted suburban cul-de-sac.
She then encounters a pick-up truck with a Trump Pence 2020 election campaign flag… the rebellious pink haired songstress takes umbrage and breaks into the vehicle. She grabs a red “Make America Great Again” cap and gives it a good cathartic stamping. Meanwhile, she takes the flag to her yard and sets it alight. Yeah, “IT FEELS GOOD”!
This may be just the actions of one person but when synth musicians such as John Maus have declared their support for Donald Trump in his insistence that the 2020 election was stolen, then this video is a symbolic statement. As Claudia Brücken from German band PROPAGANDA said in 2007: “Sooner or later, one has to take sides to remain human”.
Mischief motivated by optimism has always been a part of PRIMO THE ALIEN, whose creative persona was conceived around an intergalactic assassin sent back in time to 1987 who develops a love for not just the era but also her intended target. Produced by PRIMO THE ALIEN and Taylor J Webb, ‘Bad Things’ is a taster of two forthcoming EPs ‘Heart On The Run’ and ‘Rock Professor’ which will be released as a Siamese twinned mini-album.
Blessed with a dynamic versatile voice, PRIMO THE ALIEN has promised more pop and rock elements alongside variations on the electro aesthetic for this forthcoming double EP release.
Although she released her first album ‘To The Max!’ in 2017, PRIMO THE ALIEN achieved a wider breakthrough thanks to her more recent collaborations with noted synthwave exponents such as TIMECOP1983 on ‘My DeLorean’, BETAMAXX on ‘Watch Me’, SUNGLASSES KID on ‘Fixing Me With Love’ and ICARUS on ‘Vapor Memories’.
FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY are a band that continues to fly the flag for Industrial / EBM music as they release their 18th studio album ‘Mechanical Soul’.
The album features guest appearances from Jean-Luc De Meyer of electronic music veterans FRONT 242 and guitarist Dino Cazares from FEAR FACTORY.
The turn of events of last year appear to have provided some excellent source material for the band, with titles such as ‘Purge’ and ‘New World’ appearing amongst the tracklist alluding to a very different future for the world that we live in.
The main discussion point re: album opener ‘Purge’ is in its similarity to the 2013 GESAFFELSTEIN track ‘Pursuit’; both feature an almost identical riff, but with the former one transposed up a couple of semitones. The musical DNA of DAF plainly runs through a track too which doesn’t especially evolve during its five minute duration, although the effects used on Bill Leeb’s vocals (including pitch shifting and Auto-Tune) help to keep the listener engaged.
‘Glass & Leather’ is far more successful and features a dramatic intro which eventually reveals a hooky distorted 303-ish sequencer riff and although this is repeated throughout the track, it provides a hypnotic soundbed allowing Leeb’s vocals to weave in and out of the piece. A 909 kick drum and open hi-hat drive ‘Glass & Leather’ to a mid-point breakdown with cut-up vocals before kicking back into the main riff again.
‘Unknown’ (which was released last year) is an album highlight and far more song-oriented with a hooky vocoder-driven chorus which musically recalls the band’s earlier sound on their ‘Tactical Neural Implant’ and ‘Caustic Grip’ albums. Also worthy of mention is the rather nifty post-apocalyptic promo video which goes with the track; featuring clips from the short Sci-Fi films ‘Sentinel’ & ‘Detroit, 2029’, they provide a perfect visual accompaniment to the song.
‘New World’ provides an early welcome change of pace, with a LFO-modulated synth riff and another vocodered Leeb vocal. Probably as close as one is going to get to a ballad from the act, the song is another highlight and showcases another side to the band with some superb monophonic synth programming throughout.
‘Stifle’ featuring guitar from Dino Cazeres has more of an early NINE INCH NAILS aesthetic and could easily have appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, whilst ‘Barbarians’ features the immediately recognisable vocals of FRONT 242’s Jean-Luc de Meyer over a slightly glitchy re-programmed ‘When the Levee Breaks’ style drum break. The latter features an undeniably epic chorus, with synth pads and a PWM bass synth part underpinning de Meyer’s “hail the barbarians” hook; again, this is another track to return to for repeated listening…
‘Komm, Stirbt Mit Mir’ (wonderfully translated as ‘Come Die With Me’) is not unlike an EBM RAMMSTEIN remix and features some intricate little synth interjections and a doomy underpinning string part which evokes the intro to FAITHLESS’s ‘Insomnia’.
The album concludes with an actual remix of ‘Hatevol’ provided by BLACK ASTEROID who feature producer Brian Black.
Black is best known for being one half of MOTOR who worked with Martin Gore, Gary Numan and Douglas McCarthy on the 2012 album ‘Man Made Machine’. ‘Hatevol’ comes across as a bit of a ‘bonus track’, not surprising as it originally featured on the last FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY album ‘Wake Up the Coma’.
Although Industrial / EBM style music is not every synth-lovers musical cup of tea, there is plenty to enjoy here for those not versed in the genre. It’s very easy to pigeonhole work like this as being overtly ‘shouty’ and lacking in melody, but ‘Mechanical Soul’ is a fine example of a band that has stuck to their principals and is continuing to deliver quality product… highly recommended.
‘Mechanical Soul’ features the following instruments: Elektron Analog Rytm Mk2, Studio Electronics Omega 8, Roland Alpha Juno 2, Mutable Instruments Shruthi, Waldorf Pulse+, Noise Engineering Basimilus Iteritas, Ormsby DC7, Moog Model 15 reissue, Mutable Instruments Clouds, Waldorf Q+, Doepfer A100
Laura Dre may be a new name in synth but she is a seasoned musician and producer with years of experience playing live and working in the studio, completing a degree in Music Production at BIMM along the way.
Having fronted feisty electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall while also making instrumental music as JADZIADX, the solo work of Laura Dre showcases a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow.
One of her little projects outside of music has been to build a 1/8th scale model kit of a DeLorean in its ‘Back To The Future’ variant, complete with flux capacitor!
The German-Filipino songstress told The Electricity Club: “I’d set my time machine to 27.06.1987 – because of the following release dates: ‘Blue Monday’ 1983, ‘Self Control’ 1984, ‘Living In A Box’ 1987 – I would love to experience the 80s club scene with my favourite songs.”
She also owns a 1987 Casio DG20 Guitar Synthesizer to go with her Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface and Behringer X Touch One controller set-up. Having signed a deal with Outland Recordings, Laura Dre opened her account with a moody nocturnal cover of ‘Strangelove’.
“I think it’s an interesting choice because there was some good musical complexity in the song, and lyrically it also aligns well with my album theme which is about ‘unrequited love’” she said as she reflected on the 1987 DEPECHE MODE song, “I rarely do covers but if I do one, I want to have something challenging and make things ‘my own’. Meaning if it’s a fast paced pop track, then I might turn it into a slower electronic version and add my own flavour to the piece, giving it my signature sound.”
Her first single proper though is the dreamy ‘Moving Spaces’, a fine showcase for her deeper contralto vocal style influenced by Shirley Manson, PJ Harvey and Alison Goldfrapp. Texturally and structurally, the glistening song takes its lead from classic electronic pop. The accompanying lyric video produced by Outland themselves uses footage from the computer game ‘Leisure Suit Larry III’.
Laura Dre added: “All my musical pieces encompass synthesizers in some shape or form, the only difference this time is the style. This year I experimented with making 80s music and without realising it, I was creating some kind synth music that my friends would classify as a ‘mix of synthpop / synthwave anthems’. They then introduced me to synthwave music which was interesting.”
But there is more to come from this most promising of European synth songstresses. Already in the can, ‘All Day, All Night’ is a discowave tune with great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious rhythmic base, it’s one for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS.
It all bodes well for her debut album produced by Robert Harder who worked on David Byrne & Brian Eno’s acclaimed 2008 second album ‘Everything That Happens Will Happen Today’; he also produced the 2012 Neneh Cherry long player ‘The Cherry Thing’.
There are the ubiquitous ‘Blade Runner’ references, but that rainy dystopian air is also countered at regular intervals by an enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired dancefloor friendly groove.