Category: Reviews (Page 2 of 150)

DANZ CM Idea of You

She’s the artist formally known as COMPUTER MAGIC and ‘Idea of You’ is her first single under her new moniker of DANZ CM.

Behind the music is Danz Johnson whose first album proper ‘Davos’ came out under the name COMPUTER MAGIC in 2015. She said on social media: “In the beginning I didn’t know what to call myself. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, was so sure no one would believe it was just one person making the music…”

New York-based producer added “I wanted to change it because I outgrew COMPUTER MAGIC. I outgrew the shy bedroom pop girl a long time ago. COMPUTER MAGIC might mean something different to you, but to me it represents a skin that I need to shed.”

Capturing a sombre electronic disposition, ‘Idea of You’ develops on the darkness that was apparent on the last COMPUTER MAGIC album ‘Danz’ with its self-referencing title a pointer of things to come. It is all quite distinct from the enjoyably escapist ‘Obscure but Visible’ EP and its utterly charming highlight ‘Lonely Like We Are’.

With her stark statement that she’s “Gotta step back to put things in perspective” summing things up, in the collaborative video for ‘Idea of You’, Danz Johnson and director Matthew James Reilly set off to the desolate location of Death Valley in Nevada to see our heroine take on the role of The Girl Who Fell To Earth.

While recording ‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’, her upcoming first album as DANZ CM, Danz Johnson launched her ‘Synth History’ platform celebrating musicians who have embraced the sound of synthesizers in their work. To date she has interviewed Pete Townshend, Suzanne Ciani, James Murphy, Rick Wakeman, Vince Clarke, Dave Smith and many more.

She then began a crowdfunding campaign to expand ‘Synth History’ into a podcast series and the first acclaimed episode in Summer 2020 discussed the pioneering legacy of Wendy Carlos.


‘Idea of You’ is available now via digital platforms and is from the forthcoming album ‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’ released on 12th March 2021 by Channel 9 Records

https://www.zdanz.com/

https://www.facebook.com/zdanz

https://twitter.com/danz_cm

https://www.instagram.com/danz_cm/

https://www.synthhistory.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2020

WITCH OF THE VALE Commemorate

Erin Hawthorne and Ryan Hawthorne are WITCH OF THE VALE, an unsettling electronic duo from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles.

Signing to Cleopatra Records, a well-known North American goth industrial imprint, they reissued a number of Gary Numan albums in the US at one time and are still the only label to have succeeded in officially licencing post-‘Autobahn’ material for a KRAFTWERK best of compilation in 1992 entitled ‘The Model’.

Like a mid-to-downtempo offering to Pagan spirits, ‘Commemorate’ combines misery with beauty, evoking confused but uplifting emotions of hope in an atmosphere where all is not quite as it should be… so real life then and very fitting with many isolated from the life they have previously known.

A debut album is effectively a relaunch, an opportunity to reach a wider audience but with the kudos that the long playing format accords. To that end, WITCH OF THE VALE have included the best material from their first three EPs and supplemented those eight tracks with four new songs and bookending instrumental themes. However, most of this previously released material has undergone some sonic fine tuning, but it’s all been fulfilled without altering the spiritual essence of the originals.

From their debut EP ‘The Way This Will End’, the unsettling ritualistic overtures and drone laden backdrop of ‘Fever’ and the textural rumbles of ‘Your Voice’ are threaded by an enticing high register gothique with folk inspired stylings. The poignant ‘The Way This Will End’ title song is included also, with a beautiful music box quality complimented by pensive strings that capture a wonderful melancholic airiness. It is all very sad but never depressing.

Of the new material featuring on this impressive debut, the ‘Commemorate’ title song provides the most intensely percussive flavour, throwing in industrial swoops and references to self-loathing in the manner of NINE INCH NAILS, but with a sinister feminine beauty. ‘Undressed’ sonically emulates any number of intros from Gary Numan’s apocalyptic ‘Savage’, although the soundscapes take a Nordic pop twist thanks to Erin Hawthorne’s treated delivery.

The brooding fatalistic doom of ‘Crash’ is offset by another angelic vocal that makes the words “I might be smiling but I hate you on the inside…” even more foreboding, while the clattering of a grandfather clock pendulum acts as a ghostly backbone to the eerily sparse ‘The Sky & The Sea’.

The rain swept ‘Death Dream’ maintains the solemn mood, while the four songs from the ‘Trust The Pain’ EP complete the commemorative picture. ‘Trust The Pain’ itself remains serene yet uncertain as ‘The Ghosts Won’t Know’ dresses gentle piano with a widescreen chill but with haunting harp-derived sounds for a divine celestial mood, ‘Suffocation’ displays an affinity with the understated Swedish songstress Karin My.

But as with its parent EP, WITCH OF THE VALE’s unusual gothic cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Gods & Monsters’ still stands out, transporting the gritty sleazy American original to the ominous location of ‘The Wicker Man’ for their most likely crossover recording.

Timeless and captivating, WITCH OF THE VALE offer something unusual with ‘Commemorate’ while connected to traditional, thereby producing something quite extraordinary and of another world.

In a short period of existence which has seen them open for ASSEMBLAGE 23, SOLAR FAKE, CLAN OF XYMOX and LINEA ASPERA as well as playing Infest 2019, their trajectory has been pointing up and the quality of this debut will ensure it will stay that way for a bit longer.


‘Commemorate’ is released as a download album by Cleopatra Records, CD issued on 20th February 2021, both are available direct from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/album/commemorate-2

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

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https://www.instagram.com/witch_of_the_vale/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2020

NINA Control EP

It now seems an age when NINA first gained wider attention with her third single ‘My Mistake’ appearing in a Mercedes-Benz advert after opening for DE/VISION on their 2014 German tour, with Hugo Boss and Adidas following not long after.

Having released the “more mature and daring” second album ‘Synthian’, much has changed for the German songstress. She made some life changes and moved back to Berlin just as the world went into lockdown. It was if two of the album’s highlights ‘The Calm Before The Storm’ and ‘Runaway’ were strangely prophetic, with the latter stating that she was indeed “searching for a way out”.

The already completed ‘Synthian’ album was more mature and darker in tone to the previous work of NINA, so it was only natural that any new material would be influenced by the uncertainty and sombre realities of what was happening around her. The first fruit of those labours is ‘Control’, possibly NINA’s darkest work yet and utilising samples from Cliff Martinez’s ‘Drive’ score, it is released appropriately on the prestigious Lakeshore Records, home to the music of ‘Drive’, as well ‘Stranger Things’ and recent soundtrack releases by KID MOXIE, RADIO WOLF and PARALLELS.

Working with her usual production team of LAU and OSCILLIAN, opening track ‘This Is Where It Ends’ borrows from ‘After The Chase’ and makes something of a sombre statement; it’s an introspective number with tones of DE/VISION that builds towards a steadfast gothic schwing and a penetrating synth solo. The ‘Control’ title song though is archetypical NINA with a characteristic electronic bassline and synthetic drum fills, while there is saxophone too, reflecting the German songstress’ love of THE MIDNIGHT.

‘Forever’ though continues on resigned air outlined on ‘Where It Ends’ but the solemn air is twisted with an assertive fist punching chorus and a dominant pulsating arpeggio in the middle eight. Meanwhile ‘Tainted Butterflies’ is a sparse heartfelt ballad where NINA emotively bears her soul and it is obvious that her tears are difficult to hold back.

But it was ends on a comparatively upbeat note as ‘Nightfall’ reigns; cut from a not entirely different cloth to songs like ‘Automatic Call’, NINA’s makes an optimistic declaration to move forward and “never look back” with the help of occasional collaborator SUNGLASSES KID.

Although ‘Control’ is undoubtedly a gloomier body of work than NINA has released before, despite her expressions of loss, she is still The Queen Of Synthwave. Her voice is still on top starlet form, so these five songs don’t quite venture into the gothwave territory of VANDAL MOON or the heavier overtures of PERTUBATOR.

Not on this EP but in theme and worthy of a mention is NINA’s cover of KAVINSKY’s ‘Nightcall’ from ‘Drive’ in collaboration with ESSENGER, where our heroine delightfully comes over like Olivia Newton-John gone synthwave. That and ‘Control’ ably showcase the range of dynamic possibilities that NINA has opened herself to within both pop and darker music directions, so it will be very interesting to see where she heads next once she has settled down in her new environment.


‘Control’ is released as a digital EP by Lakeshore Records, available from https://ninasounduk.bandcamp.com/album/control

https://www.iloveninamusic.com/

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https://twitter.com/iloveninamusic

https://www.instagram.com/ninasounduk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th December 2020

PAGE Blutest Du? EP

While poptronica trailblazers PAGE have maintained an international cult following over the decades, apart from the occasional cover version like DEPECHE MODE’s Dreaming Of Me’ and OMD’s ‘Electricity’, or during live performance with ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’ (Listening To My Radio)’ done in English for their first London show, they have always sung in Swedish.

But taking a leaf from the imperial phase of KRAFTWERK where songs were released in a variety of languages, the duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko present a new EP with variations of their music in German and English.

Leading the ‘Bludest Du?’ EP is ‘Blöder Du?’ translated into German. Originally from the most recent album ’Fakta For Alla’, it means ‘Are You Bleeding?’ and takes things in a darker direction than PAGE have ever been in their long career. The use of German enhances the foreboding nature of the stark brooding electronic backdrop.

The effective video made by Mark Kjahart Pettersson gets around lockdown restrictions by having Bengtsson and Schiptjenko appear grainily on multiple vintage TV screens while a mysterious figure reveals an inner turmoil through implied physical disfigurement.

Also featuring on the EP are two tracks in English, ‘Start’ and ‘Tracks’, the Gary Numan song. ‘Start’ wears its Numanoid cosplay on its sleeve and pays tribute to a time before ‘Dance’ ever happened, with buzzing Minimoog basslines and swirling Polymoog strings coming over like a mash-up of ‘Metal’ and ‘Tracks’.

And speaking of the side two opener from ‘The Pleasure Principle’, PAGE’s 2017 album from ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ had already included a faithful version of ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’, so the artistic fixation with the man who once called himself Valerian more or less comes full circle.

The fourth track on the ‘Blutest Du?’ EP is the mighty instrumental ‘Saint Anastase’; from the previous ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP, it channels a Vox ‘N’ Foxx cocktail with hints of ‘All Stood Still’, ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ and ‘Swimmer’ over an incessant neo-motorik beat.

Those that may have been cautious about investigating PAGE in the past due to the language barrier will find the ‘Blutest Du?’ EP an ideal introduction. With electronic hooks and melodies in abundance that recall the best in Synth Britannia, there is now no reason not to.


‘Blutest Du’ is released by Energy Rekords as a CD EP, available direct from https://hotstuff.se/cdm-page-blutest-du-ep-limited-edition-300-copies-ercds178/78629

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop

https://www.instagram.com/page_svensk_pop/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Simon Helm
4th December 2020

TRANS-GLOBAL EXCESS Volume 1

Ever since the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’ in 1966, various artists compendiums have been a major part of the music industry fabric.

In particular, curated various artists albums based on a theme, be they around a record label roster, sub-genre or lifestyle experience, such as ‘Methods Of Dance’, ‘Modern Dance’, ‘Some Bizarre Album’, ‘Retro:Active’, ‘This Is Not The 80s’, ‘Electri_City’ or ‘The Electricity Club’ have been enthusiastically received with the opportunity to discover new artists or obtain rare material.

‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ is the first compilation by Specchio Uomo, the independent label run by James Knights of SCARLET SOHO and KNIGHT$ fame specialising in Italo, nu disco and synthpop. He said “It’s a celebration of the independent spirit and the free movement that brought us all together in the first place” containing “music by friends we’ve met on the road and at shows over the years”.

Any good compilation has several star names to draw a potential audience in, but also features a wealth of quality material largely unknown to a wider audience and this one importantly manages to have both.

It begins in an energetic fashion with ‘You Can’t Get Fooled By Love’ by the rebooted BOYTRONIC featuring original frontman Holger Wobker and James Knights himself, the ANT PEOPLE remix providing some tribal enhancement on its bed of sparkly arpeggio-laden Europop. Presented as a Dark Italo mix courtesy of Jens Plöger of RUN:, the German producer takes PYSCHE’s 1987 single ‘Uncivilized’ into territory which isn’t actually that far off BOYTRONIC.

Meanwhile ITALOCONNECTION’s ‘Now Or Never’ is naturally a more modern twist on the classic Italo form by Fred Ventura, but it really does party likes it is 1987! A comparatively new name but with experienced intuition behind it, ‘Discoboom’ is by SNS SENSATION, the solo vehicle of Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK; his throbbing Moroder-esque attack, laced with some unexpected heavy metal guitar, could easily be mistaken for his duo with Ali Renault.

‘Soldiers Of Love’ by ITALOVE will conjure sunny nostalgia with visions of perms and mullets despite being a demo from 2012, while ‘If There Was No Gravity’ by THE HOOLIGAN takes the collection into jazz flavoured citypop territory and Vienna’s BROKEN EGO provides some whimsical electropop with ‘When The Lights Go Out’.

Another interesting inclusion is the moody electro of LAKESIDE X with ‘Wonder’ which first appeared in 2012 when the Czech combo performed as part of a RECOIL event when Alan Wilder visited Prague for a showing of his concert film ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’.

But the highlights on ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ come from three unknown acts. Best of all is the crashing beats and attitude of PLASMASCHWARZ with ‘Mein Kopf’. Cut from a not dissimilar cloth, ‘Stingray’ by CAPITAL X is a bit feistier, but Düsseldorf husband and wife duo MÄNGELEXEMPLAR offer some wonderfully cool Teutonic detachment.

‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ is a diverse collection; the galloping rock of BROKEN LINKS and the spiky snarl of CONTINENTAL LIAISON might confuse KNIGHT$ fans, but they will be far happier with a slice of girly popwave entitled ‘Drifting’ from Roxi Drive which contains the now almost obligatory sax solo and the future disco of KOMPUTER KID’s ‘Summer Again’.

The most poignant track on ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ comes with the previously unreleased ‘So Agitated’, a chiptune-inspired number by TRADEMARK, a trio comprising Oliver Horton, Stuart Meads and Paul Soulsby who opened for THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 2004. Stuart Meads sadly passed away in 2013 and although there was a final self-titled album in 2014, the inclusion as a fitting tribute.

Featuring 17 eclectic tracks, ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ has something for most electronic pop fans and in PLASMASCHWARZ, MÄNGELEXEMPLAR and CAPITAL X, it showcases some promising talent for the future. If you are a fan of KNIGHT$, SCARLET SOHO, BOYTRONIC, ITALOCONNECTION or HEARTBREAK, then there is a good chance that you will like a fair portion of this.


‘Trans-Global Excess Vol 1’ is released by Specchio Uomo as a CD and download on 4th December 2020 direct from https://specchiouomo.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/specchiouomo


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd December 2020

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