Category: Transmissions (Page 1 of 8)

TEC’s 2020 End Of Year Review

“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.

The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.

To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.

Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.

Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.

Demonstrating a possible new model for the future, Midge Ure launched his subscription based ‘Backstage Lockdown Club’ which included intimate live performances and specials guests like Glenn Gregory and Howard Jones.

Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michael Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.

Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.

There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!

But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”

There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.

There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and  the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .

The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.

Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.

SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.

But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.

‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.

Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.

Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.

It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.

2020 saw a lot of 40th anniversaries for a number of key albums including ‘Vienna’ by ULTRAVOX, ‘Travelogue’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Closer’ by JOY DIVISION.

Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.

It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.

PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.

Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.

ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.

It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN and COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.

In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.

Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.

Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.

Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.

An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.

The Electricity Club celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which The Electricity Club had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.

At that event, The Electricity Club took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set.

This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉

The final live event that The Electricity Club attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.

Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned The Electricity Club over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, The Electricity Club remains proud that it is still extremely selective.

In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?

The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.

From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.

It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.


THE ELECTRICTY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2020

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: LOGIC SYSTEM Technasma
Best Song: NEW ORDER Be A Rebel
Best Gig / Live Stream: NICOLAS GODIN at London Rough Trade
Best Video: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Snowburden
Most Promising New Act: RUE OBERKAMPF


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn
Best Song: DUBSTAR I Can See You Outside
Best Gig / Live Stream: WITCH OF THE VALE online Unplugged Live for SAY Women
Best Video: STEVEN WILSON Personal Shopper
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: PAGE Blutest Du?
Best Gig / Live Stream: LAU NAU + VILE ELECTRODES at Cecil Sharp House
Best Video: STRIKKLAND Dance Like A God
Most Promising New Act: INDEPENDENT STATE


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Heavy Rainfall
Best Gig / Live Stream: LUSTANS LAKEJER online at Malmö KB
Best Video: ULTRAFLEX Olympic Sweat
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ERASURE The Neon
Best Song: DUBSTAR Hygiene Strip
Best Gig / Live Stream: IŻOL Koncert online at Ziemi Rybnickiej
Best Video: PET SHOP BOYS Monkey Business
Most Promising New Act: MENTRIX


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2020

HAROLD BUDD 1936 – 2020

Minimalist composer Harold Budd has sadly passed away at the age of 84.

He was known for his calming impressionistic soundscapes which he recorded as a solo artist and working with the likes of Brian Eno, John Foxx, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, Bill Nelson, Jah Wobble and David Sylvian among many.

Widely acclaimed as an ambient music trailblazer, he developed a style of piano playing which he referred to as “soft pedal”. Born in Los Angeles, Budd actually began as a jazz drummer while serving in the US Army. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1966 with a degree in musical composition.

He gained a good reputation within California’s avant garde scene, but retired temporarily in 1970 and began a teaching career at the California Institute of the Arts, although his first album ‘The Oak Of The Golden Dreams’ appeared in 1971. Returning to composition in 1972, Budd began an extended cycle of works which eventually would become ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’; produced by Brian Eno in 1976, it was released on Obscure Records in 1978.

Harold Budd continued his association with Eno, utilising both acoustic and electric piano for what were to become two of his best known albums; ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ from 1980 and ‘The Pearl’ from 1984 were marvellously sparkling atmospheric works, both enhanced by electronic treatments from the former ROXY MUSIC synthesist.

Budd’s collaborations with Eno saw him experiment more with synthesizers on his solo albums, with 1986’s ‘Lovely Thunder’ and 1988’s ‘The White Arcades’ exploring subtle electronic textures to compliment his distinctive ivory style with an austere depth.

1986 also saw the release of ‘The Mood & The Melodies’, an album recorded with COCTEAU TWINS comprising of evocative instrumentals as well as songs.

This album was the start of a long and successful artistic relationship with Robin Guthrie, with whom he recorded a beautiful experiment in duality ‘Before The Day Breaks’ and ‘After Night Falls’ in 2007. The pair continued the standard with ‘Winter Garden’ recorded with Eraldo Bernocchi in 2011, while a new Guthrie / Budd long player ‘Another Flower’ had only just been released.

2000’s ‘The Room’ was a solo return to more minimalist climes while in 2003, ‘La Bella Vista’ captured Budd improvising on piano unawares in the Los Angeles living room of U2 producer and Eno associate Daniel Lanois. But collaboration was where Harold Budd seemed to be happiest and he recorded a notable trilogy of works with John Foxx.

Both Budd and Foxx had worked with Eno previously so had common ground. Released in 2003, while ‘Translucence’ was classic shimmering Budd, ‘Drift Music’ was a more subdued ambient affair.

However, 2011’s ‘Nighthawks’ with the late Ruben Garcia was a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape in keeping with its Edward Hopper inspired title.

This was all despite Budd declaring that ‘Avalon Sutra’ issued on David Sylvian’s independent record label Samadhisound in 2004 was to be his “Last Recorded Work”. Meanwhile a performance at Brighton Dome in 2005 was billed as his last public performance. However, he did return and performed live as recently as 2019 at Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival.

Despite being a comparative late starter to recording, Harold Budd became extremely prolific in the latter half of his life. He has an extraordinary back catalogue worthy of investigation and his list of collaborators are an indicator of how highly he was thought of as an artist, despite his preference for a much lower profile.

Harold Budd’s music is played almost on a daily basis at the Electricity Club and while his aural presence will remain, his understated artistic integrity will be missed.

https://www.haroldbudd.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2020

ELECTRONIC MUSIC Versus ORCHESTRAL

So what would a piece of electronic music sound like played by an orchestra? And what would a piece of orchestral music sound like performed electronically?

Two musicians did an experiment to swap genres, to highlight not just the differences but also the similarities in their respected artistic forms.

Composer David Bruce studied dance producer Jeremy Blake’s electronic track ‘Aquamarine’ to create an orchestral version performed by the Orchestra of the Swan conducted by Jason Lai. This was an interesting project for the Singapore-based conductor as he had endured his sister Sarah’s DURAN DURAN tapes as a youngster.

Jason Lai is a second cousin of The Electricity Club’s founder Chi Ming Lai and became the Assistant Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic after winning the BBC Young Conductors Workshop in 2002. In 2006, he was a panel expert on the BBC’s ‘Young Musician of the Year’ and then a judge for the BBC classical music talent show ‘Classical Star’ in the following year.

But one of his most high profile moments came in 2008 when he was the professional mentor in the BBC celebrity conductor reality TV show ‘Maestro’ to the eventual winner Sue Perkins. He recently presented ‘Heart Of Thailand’, a series of short documentaries about the country’s culture for BBC World News.

Swapping roles and returning the complement, Jeremy Blake then reworked David Bruce’s orchestral piece ‘Fanfarrón’ into an electronic version using a variety of software instruments and samples. The two videos make interesting viewing…

With Gary Numan having worked with the Skalaris Orchestra and OMD with the Liverpool Philharmonic in a live concert context, while producer William Orbit has brought classical music to an electronic dance audience via his two ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ reinterpretations albums, genre swaps are very much part of the 21st Century music landscape.

This idea for the Electronic Music versus Orchestral genre swap first came about following a YouTube challenge thrown up by producer Andrew Huang to see how different producers would use a sample from a single song ‘Foreign Bodies’ by Lucy Swann. Jeremy Blake was among those taking part in the eventual ‘4 Producers Flip The Same Sample’ films.


http://www.davidbruce.net/

https://twitter.com/davidbruce

https://rmr.media/

https://twitter.com/jjbbllkk

https://www.jason-lai.net/

https://www.facebook.com/jasoncwlai/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th June 2020

FLORIAN SCHNEIDER 1947 – 2020

Florian Schneider, co-founder of KRAFTWERK has sadly passed away at the age of 73 after a period of critical illness.

Born into a wealthy Düsseldorf family, his father was Paul Schneider-Esleben, a noted modernist archictect who had designed the Mannesmann-Hochhaus and Cologne-Bonn Airport.

Florian Schneider studied at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid where he met Ralf Hütter in 1968 during a jazz improvisation course. They formed the experimental group ORGANISATION who released just one album ‘Tone Float’ as a five piece in 1970 on RCA.

However, determined to have more control over their future musical endeavours, the pair formed KRAFTWERK and issued two self-titled albums in 1970 and 1972 under the helm of Conny Plank, each featuring colour variations of the now-iconic traffic cone emblazoned on the artwork. However, the story might have turned out differently in-between those two records.

Photo by Maurice Seymour

Hütter left in 1971 to continue his studies, leaving Schneider to continue performing under the KRAFTWERK name with Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, although they soon left to form NEU!

But Hütter rejoined Schneider and they began to use pre-programmed rhythm units instead of a conventional drummer and headed towards a cleaner, more minimal path that was less kosmische and rock, certainly compared with their German contemporaries.

The pair acquired their first synthesizers in time for 1973’s ‘Ralf & Florian’ and while Hütter took ownership of a Minimoog, Schneider favoured the ARP Odyssey alongside his trusty flute.

KRAFTWERK’s breakthrough came with the more electronically driven ‘Autobahn’ in 1974, their final album with Conny Plank and the rest is history. Their appearance on the BBC1 science magazine show ‘Tomorrow’s World’ notably ended with a knowing grin from Schneider, as if he was plotting to change the course of popular music…

‘Autobahn’ was a surprise hit as an edited single in the US and with that came opportunities for touring across the Atlantic. The addition of electronic percussionists Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos formed the classic quartet line-up of KRAFTWERK which released the highly revered long players ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, The Man Machine’ and ‘Computer World’.

These records were to forever change the musical landscape and influence generations of musicians in synthpop, hip-hop and dance. In the UK, KRAFTWERK finally got the recognition they deserved when their 1978 recording ‘The Model’ reached No1 in the singles chart in 1982, demonstrating just how ahead of their time they had been. Without KRAFTWERK, it is almost certain that TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, SOFT CELL and NEW ORDER would not have pursued electronics as a means of artistic expression.

But despite being considered the godfathers of modern music, things were not well in die Mensch Maschine. Ralf Hütter’s cycling accident in 1983 led to the cancellation of the ‘Techno Pop’ album during an existential crisis in their Kling Klang studio complex. The eventual reworked album ‘Electric Café’ in 1986 was a disappointment and precipitated the departures of first Flür and then Bartos.

Schneider stayed loyal to Hütter and although both ‘The Mix’ and ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ were considered underwhelming works artistically, KRAFTWERK were in demand as a live spectacle, with a notable appearance at Tribal Gathering in 1997 as well as undertaking their own successful headlining tours.

However, Schneider was known to suffer from stage fright and disliked the rigors of touring. Even within KRAFTWERK, he had become less involved in the writing process from 1977 and preferred to explore vocal processing, voice colouring technology using vocoders and speech synthesis using Votrax type ’n’ speak machines as debuted on the ‘Radio-Activity’ album and later a Texas Instruments language translator for ‘Computer World’.

Florian Schneider undoubtedly complimented KRAFWERK’s robotic image with a suitably futuristic audio aesthetic. Having not appeared with KRAFTWERK since 2006 due it was said to work on other projects, it was confirmed officially that he had left the band in November 2008.

Although enigmatic, Schneider’s eccentric persona won him a lot of fans, as indicated by the number of music pieces dedicated to him. David Bowie titled the ‘Heroes’ instrumental ‘V-2 Schneider’ as a tribute after the two bonded over a mutual love of vintage Mercedes cars and TUXEDOMOON’s Blaine L Reininger recorded the song ‘Rolf and Florian Go Hawaiian’ for his ‘Byzantium’ album in 1987. Meanwhile in 2009, British duo KATSEN released the single ‘Florian’ which musically was more than a musical homage to ‘Kometenmelodie 2’ from ‘Autobahn’.

Over the years, Schneider continued to cycle and visit music technology shows but there was no music. However in 2016, Schneider broke his musical silence and collaborated with Dan Lacksman from TELEX on the track ‘Stop Plastic Pollution’ to highlight the issue of ocean environment conservation as part of the campaign Parley For The Oceans.

Photo by Lutz Hilgers

More recently, Schneider had become less reclusive. He was photographed by Lutz Hilgers for the January 2017 edition of The Heritage Post in a variety of relaxed poses including riding tandem with a lady in a scenario that delightfully provoked the outrage of the German right wing. He was also spotted having coffee with Robert Görl of DAF and had been photographed in a friendly reconciliation with Wolfgang Flür.

It looked as though Florian Schneider had been enjoying his retirement from the music business, but was happy to use his profile for causes close to his heart. He was a true innovator who can rightly be called a legend for his part presenting an intelligent alternative to rock ‘n’ roll via KRAFTWERK’s concept for industrielle Volksmusik.


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th May2020

GABI DELGADO 1958 – 2020

Gabi Delgado, lead singer with DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT, has sadly passed away at the age of 61; the news was announced by his band mate Robert Görl on social media.

Born in Andalusia in Spain, Delgado’s family moved to West Germany to escape the Fascist regime under General Franco. Delgado and Görl met in 1978 as regulars of the punk club Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf; there they formed DAF with their basic ideas shaped by Delgado doing vocals accompanied by a Stylophone and the classically trained Görl playing drums.

DAF were a reaction to the success of KRAFTWERK; in Rudi Esch’s book ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, Delgado said “To me, KRAFTWERK were sounding too boring, too beautiful, too sedate and too sterile” adding “Sequencers and Moroder. That was more important for electronic music than the entire legacy of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF”.

Delgado temporarily left DAF so was absent on what became the 1979 instrumental debut album ‘Produkt Der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Freundschaft’ which was recorded as a four piece also featuring Kurt Dahlke, Michael Kemner and Wolfgang Spelman. Delgado returned and DAF moved to London, signing to Mute Records.

They had attracted the attention of Daniel Miller because “they weren’t relying on past rock”. Produced by the legendary Conny Plank, ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bosen’ became the first full length album to be released by the iconic label in 1980. Allocated the catalogue number STUMM 1 at the suggestion of DAF as “stumm” was the German word for “mute”, it was a mixed studio and live affair with Delgado demonstrating his aggressive vocal ability with grief stricken screams on raucous punky pieces that barely clocked in at two minutes!

But DAF had impressed and were signed by Virgin Records to record an acclaimed trilogy of albums, all produced by Conny Plank. Now down to just a duo of Delgado and Görl, the pair developed a pioneering sound that was later to become known as Electronic Body Music (or EBM) and Industrial.

Robert Görl had become fascinated by the minimalistic possibilities of using a 16 step Korg SQ-10 analogue sequencer to drive a Korg MS20 and ARP Odyssey to provide body power, while Delgado adopted a Teutonic character to his vocal style that was close to shouting with an inflammatory intensity. That Delgado would not vocalise in English only added to DAF’s mystery and appeal.

On stage, Delgado possessed an almost demonic physical presence, while Görl was often stoic and motionless. Using backing tapes, the live focus was almost totally centred on the front man with his ferocious dancing that made Andy McCluskey from OMD look like a member of KRAFTWERK. Delgado’s sweaty physicality had a homoerotic allure that added a sexual tension to DAF’s chanty electronic punk.

The first Virgin album ‘Alles Ist Gut’ in 1981 featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. However, combined with DAF’s preference for a militaristic aesthetic, it caused controversy and confused observers, attracting a following which Delgado hated; after all, his parents had escaped from the Franco regime in Spain. But DAF liked to shock and Delgado was always unapologetic about the provocation within his lyrics.

‘Alles Ist Gut’ sold well in Germany, effectively turning Delgado and Görl into popstars! The next two albums ‘Gold Und Liebe’ and ‘Für Immer’ maintained the industrial standard with the latter’s highlight being a re-recording of a 1980 Mute ‘Kebab Träume’. Transformed into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” threw more wood onto the provocation bonfire. But despite the fame, all was not well within DAF and the pair fell out under a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer…

Solo albums were recorded with Delgado releasing ‘Mistress’ on Virgin while Görl issued ‘Night Full Of Tension’ on Mute. But the pair had that certain chemistry and reformed in 1985 to produce their only album in English entitled ‘1st Step to Heaven’. Not only was their language approach different but they softened their sound and look, coming over like a Euroboy band on the ‘Lady Marmalade’ referencing pop tune ‘Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi’ while embracing funky New York disco on the cult favourite ‘Brothers’.

However, ‘1st Step To Heaven’ was considered a failure and DAF split again. Delgado found solace and joy in the house and techno scene, organising parties with Westbam, as well as establishing the dance labels Delkom Club Control, BMWW and Sunday Morning Berlin. As 2 GERMAN LATINOS in 1992, he recorded the hypnotic ‘Viva La Droga Electronica’ with Saba Kamossa for Mark Reeder’s MFS label.

While Delgado recorded two albums as DAF/DOS with Wotan Wilke, he inevitably reunited with Görl again in 2003 for the album ‘Fünfzehn Neue DAF Lieder’ which saw a more techno influence entering the template.

The pair continued to reunite for DAF shows, but their legacy which had influenced bands such as DEPECHE MODE, LAIBACH, THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT, NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, NINE INCH NAILS, APOPTYGMA BERZERK, BOYS NOIZE and RAMMSTEIN was celebrated in 2017 with a book and a boxed set, both called ‘Das Ist DAF’.

Released on Grönland Records, the lavish boxed set included ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ and the Virgin trilogy, along with remixes by Giorgio Moroder and Westbam among others. But the icing on the cake was what many fans had been waiting for, a brand new DAF single ‘Die Sprache Der Liebe’.

DAF last played London in Autumn 2018 at the Black Celebration event alongside MESH and SUICIDE COMMANDO, while they continued performing throughout Europe in 2019.

Despite most artists mellowing in old age, Gabi Delgado never showed any signs of taming his punky attitude. During a Techno panel as part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in 2015 at the CCD Conference Centre where a smoking ban was in force, Delgado caused some amusement when he casually lit up a cigarette in the middle of the discussion, reinforcing the rebellious and confrontational aura of DAF.

Stephan Groth of APOPTYGMA BERZERK said “DAF was one of the HUGE inspirations in the early APOP days, and we’ve had nothing but respect and admiration for their output through the years… Gabi, you will stay in our memory ‘Für Immer’. RIP”

Mark Reeder added “So very sad and stunned to hear about Gabi Delgado’s passing. Thank you for the wonderful music and the contribution you made at the start of MFS.”

A fitting tribute came from ‘Das Ist DAF’ biographer Miriam Spies who simply said “Rest in peace amigo. And may there always be enough cigarettes, music and cats where you are now. And orange trees, of course.”


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
24th March 2020

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