Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 152)

RUSTY EGAN Blitzed OST Sampler

‘Blitzed’ is the forthcoming Sky Arts documentary about The Blitz Club in London.

Directed by Bruce Ashley, it will feature contributions from Boy George, Steve Dagger, Rusty Egan, Gary Kemp and Midge Ure.

That flamboyant scene has been deserving of a credible retrospective for quite some time, having more or less given the world the Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB. So it is quite fitting that the programme premiers around the 40th Anniversary of The Blitz Club’s closure

Rusty Egan was the DJ who provided the backdrop for the colourful clientele to pose and dance to between 1978-1981 and the ‘BLITZED’ soundtrack comprises of new and reworked music produced by him, as well as a selection of rare period pieces. A four track sampler of the forthcoming soundtrack album curated by Egan is released ahead of broadcast and gives a good idea of what’s in store.

Previously issued in 2019, ‘When We Were Young’ pays homage to GINA X PERFROMANCE’s ‘No GDM’ and reimagines it being reworked by Giorgio Moroder.

With a catchy vocodered topline going “It’s 1979-it’s 1980-it’s 1981-it’s 1982… it’s Tuesday night and I’m ready for some fun, oh yeah!”, it delightfully sets the scene for the now well documented story of how the Blitz Kids danced to Bowie, Ferry and the synthesizer!

Boy George guests with Egan on ‘Turn To Dust’, a slice of electro-reggae in the vein of LEFTFIELD with the expected dub screening, although listeners may need time to get used to the cut-up treatments on George O’Dowd’s processed voice; this track certainly has more bite than the “Radio 2 Lovers Rock” of CULTURE CLUB as Phil Oakey of THE HUMAN LEAGUE once put it…

Meanwhile, a new Blitzed Extended Mix of ‘Fade To Grey’ featuring Chris Payne sees a classical rework with piano and violin over approximations of the iconic string synths and drum machine pattern of the 1981 West German No1 single. There are authentic French language voices featuring on this makeover, although the timings of those and Egan’s own baritone could have been much tighter in the mix. While Payne’s exquisite ivory runs cannot be faulted, the extended mix labours and does not have the punch or intrigue of the original 12 inch version that appeared on the first VISAGE singles collection.

Egan’s former protégée Ronny makes an appearance with ‘Blue Cabaret’ as the sampler’s period piece. It’s the 1930 meets the future as recently adapted by Katja von Kassel in her electro Weimer style, but it was the androgynous contralto voiced Parisian who did it first back in the day with songs like ‘To Have & To Have Not’ and ‘Compare Me With The Rest’, the latter produced by Vangelis.

Co-produced by Georg Kajanus of SAILOR and Peter Godwin, ‘Blue Cabaret’ originally surfaced in 1981 on the flip of ‘To Have & Have Not’ and despite being 40 years old, it has aged well as many of the songs that Rusty Egan played at The Blitz Club have.

As has been indicated by the huge 40th Anniversary tours pencilled in by the likes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and SIMPLE MINDS (all acts which who were spun regularly at The Blitz Club), these songs that emerged from this European influenced music movement have been proven to possess a timeless quality that has lasted for generations. The comparatively recent Midge Ure ‘1980’ live shows of ULTRAVOX and VISAGE material are indicators of its longevity and box office draw.

It is now time for ‘Blitzed’ to tell the story of how that era was not actually about leg warmers, deely boppers, fluffy dice, yuppies and bloody Pat Sharp but aspirational young people driven to escape, express and create. They may not have realised it at the time but they shaped not just the eighth decade of the 20th Century but popular culture itself.


The ‘Blitzed OST Sampler’ is available now via digital outlets, the soundtrack album is released by Future Music on 19th March 2021

‘Blitzed’ will be broadcast by Sky Arts at 2100 GMT on 13th March 2021

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th February 2021

LAU Believer

Laura Fares aka LAU is an Argentinian songwriter, drummer and producer, who has been living and working in London for a couple of decades.

Having studied music and musical performance, the talented instrumentalist toured with Ricky Martin as a session drummer, before opening for the likes of Adele and Robyn. As a creative director of Aztec Records, LAU released the music of BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT and NINA. Indeed her work with NINA on ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘Synthian’ took them onto several tours with ERASURE, with the duo duetting with Kim Wilde on her brother Ricky’s remix of ‘The Wire’.

Any self-respecting synthwave artist aspires to be associated with the big projects of the scene, and not surprisingly LAU lent her talents on ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ film. Now, having gone solo, she releases her debut long player ‘Believer’.

The ten track opus suggests a step into the world of independence, both personally and musically, hoping to bring the much needed cheer factor during these unprecedented times.

Opener ‘Stunning’ could indeed be stunning with its fast tempo, but it’s somehow lacking the intensity. When one chapter ends, LAU is eager to move on with heartfelt lyrics and a palpable nostalgia, leading onto ‘We Had Magic’, which continues the story of a broken heart. Musically light hearted, the depth of emotions is felt throughout the track, leading onto ‘True’. Accusing the lost lover of never reciprocating her devotion, but playing with fragile emotions, LAU wraps the story in clever rhythms and vintage synthesis.

‘Believer’ hopes for a better tomorrow while ‘The Cards’ charms with a gorgeous melody, longing for the lost soulmate and unrequited love. ‘Recognise’ bursts the feels bubble with a hope for a new chapter and a fresh beginning.

The light-hearted synthy rhythms weave in and out of the drum extravaganza of ‘Always On My Mind’, utilising Fares’ many talents as a drummer, producer and vocalist. She continues the ‘Emotional’ journey with a slower paced airy ballad, gently enveloping her sentimental trip over the lost relationship, being ‘Unable’ to forget the good times and the love she felt.

The closing number ‘What It Takes’ wraps up the wistful expedition into the artist’s mind and emotional state with a plea to get her lover back.

While the expected comparisons with NINA’s recent albums, sitting neatly on the top shelf of the synthwave establishment, will inevitably happen, one can surely say that LAU’s first solo offering is a promising example what the multi-talented artist can achieve.

Although at times lacking the depth, ‘Believer’ is a strong debut, proving that irrevocable love is always a subject worthy of depiction. The capability clearly shines through this one.


‘Believer’ is released in red vinyl, cassette and digital formats by Aztec Records, available from https://laufares.bandcamp.com/album/believer-album

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https://open.spotify.com/album/74lNj3qYmgDJA8Qb3rwu3P


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
22nd February 2021

GLÜME Get Low

If LANA DEL REY is the “Gangster Nancy Sinatra”, then Los Angeles-born GLÜME is the self-styled “Walmart Marilyn Monroe”.

Like a tattooed Norma Jeane Mortenson dropped into Twin Peaks, GLÜME is a shimmering new starlet in the Italians Do It Better stable with her debut album ‘The Internet’ is due out later this year.

While ‘The Internet’ does not include her marvellous chilling cover of THE FLEETWOODS’ ‘Come Softly To Me’, it will feature a previous single ‘Body’ and her latest offering ‘Get Low’.

‘Get Low’ is an intriguing slice of accessible avant pop about the high of falling for someone and how it effects your brain chemistry and nervous system. While that may seem exceedingly cerebral, GLÜME suffers from autonomic dysfunction and a heart condition. So the feelings conveyed are from her own personal experience and reflect how her love ride can feel like a roller coaster.

Directed by We Suffer For Fashion Films with choreography By Mark Marchillo, the video accompaniment for ‘Get Low’ is mysterious but glamourous and sees GLÜME tap, fan and ballet dancing while also plonking away on a primitive electric keyboard. Applying some rumbling electronic bass, stabbing vintage synths and simple but prominent digital drum beats, ‘Get Close’ comes over like a wonderful experimental B-side by a fragile girly OMD!

Described as “black lodge music for the blue youth of the internet age”, with song titles like ‘Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Crushed Velvet’, ‘What Is A Feeling’ and ‘Don’t @ Me’, expect GLÜME’s debut album to be a melancholic but enticingly celestial affair.


‘Get Low’ is released as a digital single by Italians Do It Better

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th February 2021

SNS SENSATION Mirror Radio

The third installation in the SNS SENSATION lockdown series, ‘Mirror Radio’ is a fuzzier, more aggressive synthpop number than its two predecessors, for whom the detuned bells toll.

Although not part of the trilogy, there was a hint of this upcoming change in mood on ‘Discoboom’, a throbbing dance metal hybrid from the ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ compilation recently issued by Specchio Uomo.

While ‘Small World’ captured panic and ‘Your Door’ was swathed in sadness, ‘Mirror Radio’ channels anger with a harder industrial edge at the powers that be and their response to the pandemic.

Argentine-born Sebastian Muravchik is the man behind SNS SENSATION; he is best known as the front man of HEARTBREAK who shared stages with THE PRESETS, LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS. Some of HEARTBREAK’s horror electro-rock elements as heard on ‘Destroy All Power’ from their appropriately titled ‘Deceit’ EP have found their way into ‘Mirror Radio’.

Reflecting the new single’s fractured if surreal tone, the accompanying video, set in the world of the mind and reflecting it on a TV screen, takes inspiration from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Not I’ and ‘Quad’, Lucio Fulci’s ‘The House By The Cemetery’, and Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Winter Light’.

Sebastian Muravchik said: “The challenge with this song was to convey that industrial anger with 808 sounds as the starting point. Despite the electro funk element in rhythm terms on this song, I wanted the 808 to howl”.

As with many intuitive artists, laying down restrictions aided the production process. “What I seem to be doing is limiting my sound sources as a starting point and keeping an eye on where flow finds a deterritorializing avenue of some sort” he added, “There’s a time stamp, desaturated and blurred by the damage the years have done since the initial firm grip on the statement. This is where I see the ideological grounding of my sound production is rooted”.

Having captured the claustrophobic solitude of lockdown with ‘Small World’, Muravchik’s voice evokes a frustration that will no doubt gain further enhancement with a remix by the mysterious industrial electro personality of MANASYt whose career of nearly 20 years has produced music that described as “what exactly hostile aliens would listen to while attacking Earth”!


‘Mirror Radio’ is released as a download and cassette single, available direct from https://wearesns.bandcamp.com/

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https://open.spotify.com/artist/77pgZLgAxmVYtNaJm96m7P


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th February 2021

VEHLINGGO PRESENTS: 5 Years

Originally released in November 2019, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ collected together exclusive tracks from the world of synthwave and electronic pop.

Curated by Aaron Vehling, founder of Vehlinggo, the 17 tracks presented the musical ethos of the Brooklyn-based website, podcast and multimedia platform. Having been issued digitally, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is now available on CD with a slight adjustment in running order to reflect Vehling’s vision of an imaginary film soundtrack.

Any good compilation contains promising talents alongside established names and this is certainly the case here.

The reconfigured tracklisting begins in a cool stylish fashion with ANORAAK’s ‘Panarea’, a funky nu-disco instrumental. Retrospective references surface with Canada’s PARALLELS on ‘The Magic Hour’, an exquisite slice of synthesized new wave that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a classic Brat Pack movie.

Remaining in Canada which has become the creative centrepoint for much of the best modern synth music, Ryan Gosling favourites FM ATTACK offer more of their trademark atmospheric electronic disco on ‘Paradise’.

The mood changes though with the appealing girly Italopop of New Yorkers BUNNY X and their ‘Revolving Doors’.

Now THE MIDNIGHT have become possibly the biggest synthwave crossover act with their sax assisted AOR but their appeal still baffles some observers; ‘Sometimes She Smiles’ does not change things and sounds not unlike busker balladeer PASSENGER but constructed using VSTs.

But with the pacey ‘Rage Of Honor’, proceedings are rocked up by LE MATOS although the backbone is still predominantly electronic. With a track entitled ‘Hi-NRG’, BETAMAXX begins proceedings with a cowbell frenzy but the speedy arpeggios soon join in for a Giorgio Moroder homage complete with digital chimes.

The shiny electro continues with the Sweden’s Johan Agebjörn and ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’; using robotic vocal treatments like FM ATTACK, because this is a dub version of the track, the featured vocal of Tom Hooker, the voice behind many of the hits for famed Italo star Den Harrow, only comes in phrases which proves to be frustrating; the solution is to track down the original mix of the song from the ‘Videoman’ soundtrack.

MAETHELVIN cuts a solid funk groove on ‘Dance Through The Night’ aided by a LinnDrum derived pattern but maintains a chilly air, while from the Italians Do It Better stable, the previously unreleased Johnny Jewel produced ‘Gold’ by IN MIRRORS builds on some staccato tension.

The throbbing ‘Girl On Video’ from FORGOTTEN ILLUSIONS is loaded with hooks and big synthetic drum fills but while it is passable 4/4 synthwave fare, it is overlong and may have benefitted from being constructed around a 6/8 Schaffel to give it more bite.

A self-confessed “21st Century ’80s” artist DIAMOND FIELD takes the delightful Dana Jean Phoenix into an interesting direction on ‘Freedom Pass’ by producing something that comes over like THE GO-GO’S gone synthpop. It recalls when Jane Wiedlin was working with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague after the group first disbanded.

Beginning with some female prose en Français, DEADLY AVENGER‘s ‘Your Phone Is Off The Hook, But You’re Not’ is reminiscent of the quirky French underground from which cult acts such as MATHEMATIQUES MODERNES and RUTH emerged. Meanwhile, the wonderful MECHA MAIKO contributes the arty ‘Selfless’ which stands out with its screechy backdrop before settling into an avant pop concoction that makes hypnotic use of her repeated “It’s alright” phrasing!

‘She Sees A Future’ from Lakeshore Records signing VH x RR perhaps has the most nostalgic references like THE LOVER SPEAKS meeting ANIMOTION, but proceedings are taken down a notch by the filmic vocodered mood piece that is METAVARI’s ‘Be What You See’.

But the best is saved until last with HIGHWAY SUPERSTAR and the gorgeously dreamy ‘Slow Motion’; featuring a fabulous vocal by Zoe Polanski, the end result comes across a bit like ELECTRIC YOUTH.

‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ does its job well of showcasing new and established international talent from an American perspective.

Coming from variants of electronic music that have been labelled as synthpop, Italo Disco, synthwave, nu-disco and French disco, what actually matters is whether the music is any good.

Considering this compilation contains largely of previously unreleased material with the baggage that can come with that knowledge, the majority of it is excellent. Listeners will of course have their own favourites, but there really is something for everyone who loves electronic pop with quality and substance.


‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is released as a limited edition CD in a packaged in a six-panel wallet with artists’ notes on 1st March 2021 while the digital album is available now direct from https://vehlinggopresents.com/album/vehlinggo-presents-5-years

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th February 2021

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