Other artists attended to lend their support with VILE ELECTRODES, BLACK NAIL CABARET, RODNEY CROMWELL and THE FRIXION among those present, while Phoenix FM’s Rob Harvey manned the DJ booth.
Opening the event, quirky husband and wife duo BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA delivered a set of their most immediate material like ‘Radiation’, ‘Diamond Feelings’, ‘Obelisk’ and ‘Fairy Tale’ to warm up the early afternoon crowd that they drew in. To close the set, there was a rare live outing for the KRAFTWERK tribute ‘Florian’, a wonderful track from instrumentalist Chris Black’s previous project KATSEN. Singer Brigitte Rose exchanged her Yamaha CS01 for a melodica to play the song’s ‘Kometenmelodie 2’ inspired leadline.
Having supported BLUE ZOO and B-MOVIE earlier in the year, as suggested by their name, the theatrical coldwave of BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN THE SUN provided a doomier take on synthpop. The pair’s effort and fervour certainly could not be denied.
Meanwhile, the moody overtures of SOL FLARE showcased the vocal talent of Jenny Jones. With an impressive range and a charismatic gothique dynamic, her voice provided a twist to Dom Wood’s electronica backbone. While songs like ‘Not Holding On’ recalled Brat Pack movie soundtracks and rock acts such as QUARTERFLASH, these elements were offset by the nocturnal synth atmospheres. Their unusual genre mix makes them an intriguing prospect.
THE DEPARTMENT took to the stage next with leader Rob Green augmented by stoic keyboardists Magnus Lindstrom and Cliff Chapman. Opening with ‘Pressure’, Green proved a natural front man with plenty of enthusiasm for the role. The trio’s closing number ‘When You’re Not There’ was a magnificent tune exuding a widescreen chromatic resonance.
Unsurprisingly for a group who were put together by the late Steve Strange, STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY, ably supported by versatile backing vocalist Lauren Duvall, came over as newer romantics with their Eurocentric synthbass propelled numbers like ‘Infinite Hearts’ and ‘Maria’. They paid touching tribute to their departed mentor with an update of the 1982 VISAGE hit ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’.
Coming all the way from Denmark, SOFTWAVE were one of the most impressive acts of the event. With their appealing Nordic synthpop and singer Catrine Christensen’s engaging stage presence, even a faulty microphone couldn’t dampen her mood. Opening with the bouncy ‘Awake But Still Asleep’, the duo saved the best towards the end with the catchy alternate version of ‘On And On And On’ reworked by partner Jerry Olsen. Indeed, it was an impressive debut London performance.
Things looked extremely crowded when all five members of NEON LINES took to the stage. Their comparatively conventional set-up, including a live drum kits as well as guitar and bass, gave a Gallic take on the likes of HOT CHIP and BLOC PARTY. Their template “aux influences éclectiques” provided some diversity to the event without veering too far from its synth hearted ethos.
TINY MAGNETIC PETS gave a spirited performance in the face of adversity, what with equipment issues and vocalist Paula Gilmer feeling under the weather. The crowd cheered in support when she gamely altered the second verse of ‘Everybody Knows’ to “I lost my voice and everybody knows”, while the progressive cosmic nature of ‘Semaphore’ provided some relief for Gilmer as her band mates Seán Quinn and Eugene Somers interplayed on synths and drum pads respectively.
As Synth Wave Live’s main artistic draw, up-and-coming German songstress NINA took the opportunity to present her excellent new single ‘One of Us’, to be released in the summer by Metropolis Records, home to ASSEMBLAGE 23, DELERIUM and COVENANT.
Her confidence as a performer from having supported DE/VISION and ERASURE radiated on moonlit electronic pop like ‘Beyond Memory’. In addition, some percussive bite was added courtesy of her drummer Laura Fares. NINA’s breakthrough song ‘My Mistake’, which was picked up by Mercedes-Benz for a TV advert, drew the biggest cheers of the night while the treat of a laid-back but passionate rendition of BLONDIE’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ ended things perfectly.
Synth Wave Live finished with the gothic synthpop of MECHANICAL CABARET, a combo who can count opening for electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS on their Curriculum Vitae. Led by comparative veteran Roi Robertson, songs from their most recent album ‘Ortonesque’ provided a fitting soundtrack as the clock flicked towards midnight.
A fine evening’s entertainment, Synth Wave Live was not just any old normal event. It was an electronic music event curated by electronic music enthusiasts. An ambitious international undertaking that came off, it more than satisfied all those who retain a zest for classic synthpop ie pop music that uses synthesizers. And for those who sneer at music that has been created as if acid house never happened, then more fool them… they’re the ones missing out 😉
THE KNIFE ‘Pass This On’
PAUL HAIG ‘The Only Truth’
TITÁN featuring GARY NUMAN ‘Dark Rain’
MIRRORS ‘Ways To An End’
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS ‘Shanghai Metro’
FOX ‘Electro People’
MARSHEAUX ‘Dream Of A Disco’
KOISHII & HUSH featuring JOHN TAYLOR ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ – Black Night Remix
SPARKS ‘When Do I Get To Sing My Way’ – The Grid Remix
JUNIOR JACK featuring ROBERT SMITH ‘Da Hype’
VILLA NAH ‘Stranger’
OMD vs THE TING TINGS ‘That’s Not Gay’
KITE ‘It’s Ours’
DURAN DURAN ‘Boys Keep Swinging’
LUSTANS LAKEJER ‘Diamanter’
DARREN HAYES ‘I Like The Way’
Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
3rd April 2017