Tag: Assemblage 23 (Page 1 of 4)

ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn

Consistency is a dangerous word to use when referring to music. Sadly for many in the current ‘scene’, the definition pertaining to porridge is the most appropriate, though I guess many of these bands ability to deliver stodgy fare over and over could also bring the other meaning into play.

One act that can’t be accused of dishing out plates of grey sludge is ASSEMBLAGE 23. Ostensibly, in the studio at least, a vehicle for singer and instrumentalist Tom Shear, A23 have delivered some of the best electronic music released over the last 20 plus years and the latest album ‘Mourn’ continues that trend.

Full disclosure… I am not only a fan of ASSEMBLAGE 23 but have also toured on a number of occasions with the band and count Tom and his band mates Paul Seegers and Michael Jenney as close friends, despite the number of restraining orders all parties have issued against one another. What this does mean is, I won’t sugar coat any views I have of them, they wouldn’t want that. It is however challenging not to sound ‘gushy’ when presented with material this strong.

The brooding intro to album opener ‘Epiphany’ sets the tone immediately. From the outset it’s clear this is an A23 release. One thing I am glad to report is the production on the vocals is carried over from the last album ‘Endure’, so is upfront and free from any unnecessary effects. This means the listener can quickly catch the lyrical punch many of the tracks carry. Like many of the cuts on the album, ‘Epiphany’ has a double meaning both as a commentary on, when written, current global events and on a more personal level.

This punch continues through to the next song ‘Factory’ which is a withering critique of how governments are manufacturing whole generations of broken ‘men’ both at home and also those returning from conflicts abroad.

It asks why those self-same leaders are surprised by the actions of these damaged souls. If you follow Shear on social media, you will know he isn’t shy when it comes to his politics and this is shown here and across the album.

‘Bloom’ is a dark piece of EBM that has its downbeat verses counterpointed by a hopeful, uplifting chorus. Following this is the most ‘traditional’ EBM/Industrial song on the album, ‘Anxiety’. This an driving insistent bass and drums and easily chantable chorus this will no doubt become a live favourite as and when live shows can begin again.

Anyone familiar with the history of the ASSEMBLAGE 23 project will know the catalyst for Tom starting the band was hearing a DJ spin various electronic tracks at a DEPECHE MODE show back in the later part of the 80s. He has never hidden his love of DM and this is shown on ‘Confession’. DM fans will find much here to love with its Wilder-esque arrangement and instrumentation but still retaining a very A23 sound. It is not hard however to imagine Gahan singing this lyric. Is it too early to start the campaign to get Shear to produce the next Depeche album…?

Next up is simply a blinding good pop song in ‘Dissonance’. Dripping with melody and driven by a thumping bass line, this is destined to become a club favourite.

As previously stated, Shear has no issue in pinning his political colours to the mast and ‘Welcome, Apocalypse’ doesn’t so much pin but nail gun them. A cataloguing of current events brought about by “narcissistic imbeciles” (I wonder who this could be…?), this is not just the centre piece of the album but the track that will I am sure become the biggest favourite amongst fans.

Good songwriting comes from the experiences of the artist and the final three tracks have a more more personal ring to them. ‘Could’ve’ takes on people who relish the problems of others to the detriment of friendship and without getting both sides of the story. We have all been there I am sure.

‘Tragedy’ wraps those questions that arise from the end of a relationship in yet another great pop song. Again there is melody aplenty: others should take note, this is how to write an engaging electronic song without it sounding like you are moaning that you aren’t getting beans for tea.

Closer ‘This House Is Empty’ builds from a sparse intro to end on a strangely upbeat feel despite the main lyrical hook extorting the burning down of said domicile.

As part of the excellent special edition, there is a disc of remixes from the likes of ALPHA QUADRANT, :SITD and KLACK alongside 2 further tracks ‘Crescendo’ and ‘Black Dog’. Don’t mistake these as mere throwaways as they could easily sit alongside the ‘main’ 10 tracks. ‘Black Dog’ especially is a thumping piece of modern danceable electronica.

So what of the 2020 version of ASSEMBLAGE 23? It’s not unusual for an act that has been around as long as Tom Shear to start taking it easy but on the evidence of this and the work he has done in offshoot SURVEILLANCE and the excellent HELIX with partner Mari Kattman, this is clearly not the case.

This is yet another progression from his previous release. It’s appropriate that the album will be released on the September 11th, a day which America now looks back on with understandable sadness and loss. There is sadness and loss aplenty on ‘Mourn’ but also hope for the future.

We can all take comfort that hope is available to us all, no matter what the journey of late has been.


‘Mourn’ is released by Metropolis Records on 11th September 2020 in CD, deluxe 2CD, double vinyl LP and download variants, available at https://assemblage23.bigcartel.com/ or direct from https://assemblage23.bandcamp.com/

http://www.assemblage23.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-Assemblage-23/138651156153800

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23


Text by Ian Ferguson
12th August 2020

Ten Years Of TEC: BIRTHDAY GREETINGS FROM SOME PEOPLE WHO YOU MIGHT KNOW…

Over the last 10 years, The Electricity Club has been a voice for the discerning enthusiast of electronic pop.

With a balancing act of featuring the classic pioneers of the past alongside the emergent new talent for the future, The Electricity Club has become well known for its interviews and reviews, asking the questions people have always wanted to ask while celebrating the continuing development of the synthesizer in popular music. All this while holding to account those who deliver below expectations, assuring the listener that if they are perhaps not hearing the genius that some devoted fans are declaring, then The Electricity Club is there to assist in affirming or denying that assessment.

But when artists do deliver, they tend to build a strong relationship with The Electricity Club. So with the site celebrating its first 10 years, presented here are greetings and messages from some people who you might know…


Rusty Egan, VISAGE

TEC is 10 years old with the synth knowledge of a 50 year old. If I can’t remember something electronic I don’t Google, I TEC!


Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17

The Electricity Club and its wonderful leader Chi is like the League Of Super Heroes for Electronic Music. Our future is safe in his hands.

I have been involved in electronic music making for 40 years, yet one half hour conversation with Chi makes me realise how little I know. From then to now, he’s knows!


Neil Arthur, BLANCMANGE

Chi has been brilliantly supportive of BLANCMANGE, for which I am very grateful. We’ve always managed to have a good laugh during our interviews, as he would ask me about the darkness and gloom lying within a given BLANCMANGE song! I look forward to our next chat.

The Electricity Club has a very important place and a role to play, in spreading the news of electronic music, new and old, far and wide. Here’s to the next ten years. Well done and good luck.


Gary Daly, CHINA CRISIS

Thanks for all your wonderful support Chi, so glad someone has taken the time to ask some great questions…


Sarah Blackwood, DUBSTAR

I love The Electricity Club website. It’s a treasure trove of informative articles, both a very readable historical archive and a forward looking platform for encouraging new talent. In what can be traditionally and lazily categorised as a very male dominated scene, Chi encourages great music regardless of gender and I enjoy the updated Spotify playlist if I’m ever stuck for what to listen to whilst running.

As regards interviews, it’s always enjoyable – Chi is a bit too easy to talk to and his passion for music and synth geekery shines through – heaven forbid you try sneaking a (cleared) sample past him, he will spot it!

Is it 10 years already? Happy birthday TEC!


Chris Payne, DRAMATIS

With 18,000 likes and 12,000 Facebook followers; The Electricity Club under the guidance of its purveyor Chi Ming Lai, has become the leading place for the Electronic Music fan. Intelligent, well written and well researched journalism with a great team of writers presenting an array of brilliant fascinating new acts (and some older ones as well!), hopefully it will continue for at least another 10 years.


Tracy Howe, RATIONAL YOUTH

Congratulations to The Electricity Club on ten years of brilliant reporting of, and support to, the electronic pop scene. TEC is the authoritative publication “of record” for fans and makers of synthpop alike and is the international rallying point and HQ for our music. We look forward to many more years of in-depth interviews and probing articles, all in the beautifully written TEC style. Happy birthday TEC!


Mark White, ABC + VICE VERSA

Chi Ming Lai and Paul Boddy are two of the most learned, nay, erudite music journalists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, a rare experience indeed to be quizzed by a pair who know their onions. And unusual integrity. Chi promised me if we asked, he would turn off the tape recorder and it would never appear in print. And has been true to his word. This has literally never happened in my career. Also these two chaps are bloody good fun. I laughed til I cried. Go see the movie!


Rob Dean, JAPAN

10 years of The Electricity Club? Only one for me (yes, I know…), but it’s heartening to know that Chi and the crew have created a site so cutting edge for us die-hard fans of electronica. Having read the highly entertaining VICE VERSA chaps interview, I was delighted to be asked to do my own, confident that the questions would be thoughtful and intelligent and yes, a little bit probing too. Here’s to the next 10 and thank you!


Richard Silverthorn, MESH

On several occasions I have done interviews for The Electricity Club. Every time I felt like they actually cared about the music and scene and put some educated thought into the questions. It’s good to feel that enthusiasm.


Tom Shear, ASSEMBLAGE 23

Congratulations on 10 years of covering and supporting the scene! Here’s to another 10 and beyond…


Sophie Sarigiannidou, MARSHEAUX

I first met Chi at Sparrowhawk Hotel, Burnley in November 2000 for an OMD convention. It took me 13 hours to reach by train to Burnley from London due to bad weather.

I saw him playing live (!!!!) with his covers band THE MESSERSCHMITT TWINS, they were having their time of their life, dancing and singing, so so happy! Us too of course!! From that moment on we became friends.

Then he supported our band MARSHEAUX from the very early beginning and I thank him a lot for that! It’s always great having Chi asking questions for interviews . We as a band had our best interviews with The Electricity Club! We spent a lot of hours talking about the history of electronic music and the future of synthpop. My favourite articles on TEC are the “A Beginners Guide To…” series, you have a lot to learn from these pages!!! Happy Anniversary Chi, we’ve indeed had 10 amazing years with TEC. I hope and wish the next 10 to be even better.


Erik Stein, CULT WITH NO NAME

The Electricity Club elected not to review earlier CWNN albums, so we just had to keep making better and better records until they would finally relent. They finally gave in from album number 7 onwards, and it was well worth the wait. The writing was spot on and not a single DEPECHE MODE reference in sight.


Mark Reeder, MFS BERLIN

Congratulations and a very Happy 10th Birthday TEC! Over the past 10 years, The Electricity Club website has developed into becoming the leading website for all kinds of electronic synthpop music. It has become a familiar friend, because it is something I can personally identify with, as it is maintained by fans, for fans.

However, it is not only commendable, but can also be quite critical too, and that is a rare balancing act in the contemporary media world. It has been a great source of regular electronic music information. I have discovered and re-discovered many wonderful electronic artists, and regularly devour the in-depth interviews and features.

Through TEC, I have been introduced to and worked with some of the wonderful artists presented on your pages, such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or MARSHEAUX and in return, it has supported my work, my label and my artists too, and I thank them for that! We can all celebrate ten years of TEC and together, look forward to the next 10 years of inspiring electronic music.


Per Aksel Lundgreen, SUB CULTURE RECORDS

The Electricity Club is a highly knowledgeable and very passionate site! They are digging out rarities from the past as well as exploring and discovering new acts, giving them attention and writing about them often before anybody else around have even heard of them.

This makes TEC a very interesting page to follow, as their in-depth stories about older bands “missing in action” as well as the latest stuff “in the scene” gets perfectly mixed together, giving you all you want basically in a one-stop-site for everything electronic. I also love the way they give attention to unsigned / self-released bands and small indie-labels, giving everybody a fair chance as long as the music is good enough. Congrats on the 10th Anniversary, well deserved!


Jane Caley aka Anais Neon, VILE ELECTRODES

When VILE ELECTRODES were just starting out, we heard through the Facebook grapevine about a new electronic music blog called The Electricity Club. We had a London gig coming up, and had recently made a promo video for our song ‘Deep Red’, so we dropped them an email about both, not expecting to hear back, since we were virtually unknown. However it transpired they really liked our sound, likening us to “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”.

The Electricity Club subsequently gave this very description to Andy McCluskey, which piqued his interest such that he checked out our music. We were invited to tour Germany with OMD as a direct result!


George Geranios, UNDO RECORDS

Chi is a really rare quality of a man. He is passionate about music which is so obvious of course while reading The Electricity Club. Through our mutual love for OMD, we discovered that we have the same musical taste. TEC helped us promote all of Undo Records projects and finally we ended collaborating and releasing this brilliant TEC double CD compilation! Chi, I wish you health and to continue writing the best music texts in the industry!!


Adam Cresswell, HAPPY ROBOTS RECORDS

Some people say The Electricity Club doesn’t support the scene but I’ve not found that to be the case; having been a part of two TEC gigs and the recent CD, I know how much blood, sweat and tears they put into what they do. TEC might get a few people’s back-up, but they know their stuff when it comes to synth-driven music and I’m massively grateful that they have supported so many Happy Robots artists since 2010.


Stuart McLaren, OUTLAND

It’s no secret that the burgeoning new synthwave genre shares a common history with the great synthesizer acts and pioneers of the 80s, like Dolby, Jones, Luscombe, Wilder, Daly et al who created new soundscapes with what we now define as vintage synths.

These sounds are brought back to life by pioneers in their own right like FM ATTACK, GUNSHIP, ESPEN KRAFT and BETAMAXX to name a few.

The Electricity Club and Chi Ming Lai have always been at the forefront of championing, interviewing and reviewing the luminaries of this great instrument past to present, and are likely to remain the de facto voice of the synth scene well into the future… we agree on one thing and that is FM-84’s singer Ollie Wride is deffo one to watch as a star for the future!


Paula Gilmer, TINY MAGNETIC PETS

Happy Birthday TEC. thank you for your support. You never fail to impress with your encyclopedic knowledge of synthpop. Here’s looking forward to 10 more!


Mr Normall, NUNTIUS

I’ve been following most of my favourite artists since they were brand new and often this means 30+ years, yet reading articles and interviews by The Electricity Club, I have learned every time something new about of my favourites.

Following The Electricity Club have made me paid attention to several new acts that I would likely know nothing about if they hadn’t appeared on the page.


Catrine Christensen, SOFTWAVE

An outstanding magazine supporting new and upcoming artists whom they choose carefully as they have great taste of music regarding to their huge knowledge within the synthpop genre, when it comes to their writing and promotion – there’s no one like them. Happy birthday 😘


Elena Charbila, KID MOXIE

Happy 10th birthday TEC! Your love and commitment to the synth community is unparalleled and your support has meant a lot to me on a professional but also on a personal level. Here’s to the next 10 years! 😘


Alexander Hofman aka Android, S.P.O.C.K

I’m a fan of The Electricity Club for several reasons. You showed up when I perceived the majority of the electronic scene had turned more and more harsh; as much as I can appreciate an occasional emotional outburst, I’m a happy guy and thus I’m into pop – TEC showed, and still shows me that there’s still electronic pop music being made. Good electronic pop! Which makes me glad, as I find the greater part of the generally popular darker scene to be of lower musical quality.

Moreover, TEC writes in an amazingly happy tone – remember, I’m a happy guy, so it’s right up my alley. Add the fact that TEC regularly publishes interesting articles, using intelligent and varied vocabulary, shows enormous knowledge and interest of the theme, the style, the scene – and I’m hooked. Thanks for being around – keep up the good work, it’s much needed! And congratulations – let’s grab a beer again! 🍻


Text compiled by Chi Ming Lai
15th March 2020

Ten Years Of TEC: A DECADE OF MEMORIES

Ian Ferguson, founder member of RAINLAND, one-time member of ANALOG ANGEL and occasional contributor looks back from both sides of the fence at The Electricity Club…

It’s appropriate that a 10th anniversary is celebrated with tin or aluminium given the current state of the UK electronic scene (spoiler, there is no ‘scene’, just folk making scenes) as when looking for gold, you are more likely to dig up an old mouldy dog food can than a nugget of rare and precious metal.

Like the UK industrial scene before it, this loose of collection of folk making noise is slowly eating itself alive in the pursuit of success that was never going to be attainable in first place.

Seriously, the number of grown adults acting as though they are members of a million selling act rather than one that can’t fill a phone box would be hilarious if it wasn’t so toxic in the way it manifests itself, but more of that later..

So what of my last decade as a fan of electronic music, a contributor to TEC and someone that has thrown out a few releases of my own in that time? Highlights and lowlights abound and here are a few of them…

‘Electronic music, what like 80s stuff…?’

The last decade has been in turns brilliant and infuriating for a fan of synth music. The re-emergence of some of my favourite bands producing music of a similar quality to their releases from the height of their fame has been particularly gratifying. The number of excellent new bands that have come through in this time has also been a joy to behold. This is due primarily to the real advances in technology which has allowed anyone with a laptop and a few plugins to make music.

These tools also mean that bands can now play live easier than ever, not needing to haul a van load of keyboards around to replicate their sound. Still however we see folk ‘jazz hands-ing’ live, thinking dressing up in age-inappropriate clothing and dancing around like you are holding in a wee is a live performance… news just in, it’s not…

This of course means you have to wade through tonnes of chaff to find the wheat and TEC has been invaluable in doing a lot of the ‘leg work’ in this task.

The best releases of the last decade would fill a number of Op Ed pieces but standouts include the ‘English Electric’ and ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ albums by OMD, which show that if you stick with what you know the quality will shine through, the ULTRAVOX album ‘Brilliant’ and numerous KITE EPs.

The aforementioned ‘scene’ featured a number of standout releases from the likes of VILE ELECTRODES, ASSEMBLAGE 23 and MESH who let the music do the talking and reaped suitable rewards. These bands and a number of others all show how to conduct yourself in a professional way without fermenting what basically amounts to a hate campaign against those that don’t subscribe to your narrow view of how things are done.

The childishness of certain corners that house a handful of bands and hangers on from the UK has been one aspect of the last 10 years that I personally could do without. These self-proclaimed ‘scene’ gatekeepers have actually done themselves more damage than good.

It’s funny that they think they are all in a self-supporting community when any one of them would throw the others under the bus (a tour one, you can come on-board if you sell 30 tickets to each show, then you can pretend you are an in-demand support) given the chance of a gig with a named act or coverage on this site. This petulance has escalated more recently to thinly veiled racism and this needs to be stomped out, preferably by a big pair of New Rock boots. They need to grow up and concentrate on producing decent music and not poorly thought through opinions.

‘I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because sometimes they take a rest…’ Alexandre Dumas

I have been writing for TEC for around half of its existence and I have had the chance to meet some of my heroes thanks to this association. Highlights include bumping into Imogen Heap who on hearing I had written the TEC review of her ‘Sparks’ album, thanked me for my kind words and asked for a selfie (a proper fan boy moment), recommending soft synths to Martyn Ware and Green Gartside, chatting with John Foxx and seeing quotes from my reviews being used in NO-MAN promotional ads.

You only need to look at the people that give up time to speak to TEC and the PR people that approach TEC for coverage to understand how highly the site, and by extension site founder Chi Ming Lai, is held by the people in the know in the industry. From NEW ORDER to OMD, BLANCMANGE to Midge Ure, various members of JAPAN to HEAVEN 17 all have spoken openly at length about their careers giving insight to the people behind the music we all love.

And what other site can discuss an obscure electronic release by a leading light of the UK Prog movement one minute and chat with Synthesizer Patel the next without missing a beat or it appearing to jar?

‘You’re still in a band… Aren’t you a bit old for that behaviour…?’

I have come back to music this last decade after a considerable time out from writing and performing. I am sure there are a number of folk that wish I had stayed ‘retired’ and I accept that though I will be setting up a website soon called The Electrikery Club to let them all know why they are wrong, I am right and to give some much needed exposure to my mate Colin’s magnum opus recorded on a VL-Tone on his mum’s old Bush tape recorder…

Since returning to the fray, I have toured with some well-known names, played some big festivals both in the UK and further afield (actual festivals, not vanity gigs with 38 bands on the bill in a pub in Peckham), seen folk do questionable things with chicken nuggets and on more than one occasion, almost killed a well-known electronic percussionist and filthy hippy (who may or may not be my son…)

I have spent way way too long listening to subtle mixes of the same song, locked in windowless rooms with my musical compatriot Derek MacDonald and eaten considerably more motorway service station sarnies than is healthy. And you know what, I wouldn’t change one bloody minute of it.

I would even do Glastonbury again with Keith Trigwell and that included watching him dancing and let’s be honest, nobody wants that…

When a week is a long time in politics, a decade publishing music related guff on the web is an eternity… TEC has been around for 10 years and I get the feeling this is really just the start of the journey. Stay on-board, it’s been and will continue to be one hell of a ride


RAINLAND’s ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.rainland.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

http://www.electricityclub.co.uk/rainland-interview/


Text by Ian Ferguson
14th March 2020

RAINLAND Interview

Returning to London on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 to open TEC005 will be Glaswegian synthpop duo RAINLAND.

Having accompanied ASSEMBLAGE 23 on two UK tours, their rousing stage manner make them perfect as cheerleaders to begin any live presentation.

Although RAINLAND have so far only one EP ‘Touch’ to their name, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald are experienced hands having been the musical lynchpins of their previous band ANALOG ANGEL, best known for songs such as ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ and ‘Drive’.

Settling into a two piece set-up has been straightforward with Ferguson having already proved himself a worthy vocalist on a number of ANALOG ANGEL tunes, while MacDonald has had more of a free rein to explore his purer synthpop fantasies.

While The Electricity Club opted for an IRN-BRU, the pair settled down with a wee dram each to ponder the state of the synth nation and much more…

Ian: So here we are Derek in our top secret studio to answer some questions from Uncle Chi and TEC about all things RAINLAND…

Del: Yeah, top secret studio in a back bedroom cos that’s what you do if you’re in a synth band these days, or say you’re in the studio by posting a photo of Sarm West to pretend you are being something you aren’t…

Ian: Hahaha! Anyway, on with the questions…

RAINLAND seems more relaxed than ANALOG ANGEL, how’s it been to free of its industrial shackles?

Del: I’ve always loved melody, you can’t have a song without a melody. The world is awash with tuneless industrial music currently

Ian: When we started, we didn’t have many outlets for us to play live and that’s what we always wanted to do so we were ‘tarred’ with the industrial brush as those were the bands we played with or supported.

Del: I don’t think we ever really were. The first two albums had an industrial edge but they were still songs based.

Ian: That whole ‘scene’ has turned into a bit of a parody of itself, which the synth scene has a danger of doing too. Never understood why, it was more style over substance.

Del: The whole dressed like a Nazi shouting “DAS!” covered in dog sh*te, you’re from Doncaster FFS!

Ian: I would say it’s been liberating doing the RAINLAND stuff.

Del: Exactly, I was always more into YMO who as we know are as industrial as f*ck!

So how has the creative dynamic and attitude changed working as a duo?

Ian: There are half as many people to satisfy, so the voting process as to what does and doesn’t make the cut is simpler.

Del: You and I tended to write together anyway in AA or were the folk that said “yeah let’s work on that” if an idea was presented…

Ian: It’s an interesting question as our attitude hasn’t changed but we can use more expansive soundscapes now, things like harmonies for example which is a big thing.

Y’know, I can’t help smirking at comment… *laughs*

Del: We couldn’t do that in AA as we weren’t the singers, so didn’t carry that part of the song and melody.

Ian: We tried to introduce it in places though… I’m a fan of pop music, I do love my metal and prog rock too of course which you’ve been getting into more Del…

Del: I listen to punk, INXS who are an incredibly melodic band…

Ian: Yeah, but could you imagine folk from ‘the scene’ going to see for example CAMEL or URIAH HEAP who are both in the diary for later in the year?

Del: Or Steven Wilson! We can now draw on more of our influences…

The eponymous ‘Rainland’ was a really rousing calling card, please describe its genesis…

Ian: I had the chorus part kicking around for a long time and never developed it beyond a few scribbled notes. At that point it was called ‘Homeland’… it’s played on a synth called Dune and the opening sequence developed from working with that software. I married it to a piano part from my Work in Progress folder called ‘Keane Thing’. The lyric came together walking along the marina in Ipswich on my way to work.

Del: We both have large WIP folders on our hard drives!

Ian: At the time, we wanted to keep playing and working together but weren’t sure what that was going to be or if it would happen at all. We ended up choosing the name, which I stole from a track title by a friend Simon Godfrey and his band TINYFISH, got a logo and booked a tour before we even had any finished songs so that forced our hand to get stuff written/finished. ‘Rainland’ was the first completed track and feedback was encouraging enough to convince us we were going in the right direction

Del: It had to be the opposite of what we had just finished. The initial reaction was “didn’t expect that!”… folk have compared it to all sorts of bands including A-HA and ENDGAMES, we’ll take that happily

Ian: ENDGAMES… that’s because according to some people we come from a town with no musical heritage! *laughs*

Vocally and musically, ‘Rainland’ appears to have overtones of ULTRAVOX?

Ian: I’m Scottish, I’m from Glasgow and anyone that knows me knows I’m a massive ULTRAVOX and Midge Ure fan, they are my favourite band from that Synth Britannia era so that’s all going to rub off on me. I’m either going to sound like Midge or one of THE PROCLAIMERS!

Del: Or Lauren Mayberry!

Ian: That’s not gonna happen!!!

Del: Talking of Midge and THE PROCLAIMERS, we have performed songs from both live in the past! It’s that whole thing about melody and big sounds.

Ian: Yeah you listen to the late Foxx / early Ure ULTRAVOX and it’s very simple, the playing is great but there’s a lot of space and we try to replicate that.

‘Touch’ seems to have a nod towards BRONSKI BEAT maybe?

Ian: That’s your area Del!

Del: BRONSKI BEAT?? You mean the melody?

Ian: I thought more the bass sound, that layered PPG Wavestation slap bass? I thought that was more PROPAGANDA… I don’t know, you’re more the BB guy than me…

Del: I did like ‘Smalltown Boy’, but thought the rest of the songs were pish…. Sorry!

Ian: Oh well maybe not then!

‘Silverlight’ featuring lyrics by poet and novelist Ange Chan started off as an ANALOG ANGEL number?

Ian: Back to that thing of being in AA, there were 4 people that got a vote and this somehow never made the cut… I wrote this song about 6 years ago when I first joined AA. It was one of the songs I wanted to work on with RAINLAND but it wasn’t until Del and Phil Morrison, our producer, suggested swapping the chorus and verse round musically…

Del: Phil has a brilliant ear for that kind of thing and it clicked. I know you weren’t sure at first…

Ian: Yeah but it really works. It’s a f*cker to sing live though which is why it tends to be early in the set! Cos it’s got a weird structure!

Del: To get it out the way! It would be good if Ange would write some more stuff.

Ian: Yeah she has an unusual lyrical touch.

‘The Light Of The Sun’ showcases some engaging uptempo synthpop songcraft?

Del: Another one written for AA during the ‘Four Front’ album sessions which didn’t make the final release.

Ian: I wrote that with Tracy from AA and I don’t think it’s unfair to say we added it to the EP as a filler and it’s become one of our more popular songs, shows how much we know…

Del: It’s a great song though, lots of melody.

Synthpop is pop music using synthesizers, not a by-word for fluff… discuss!

Del: Synthpop… electronic music in general, it depends how you look at it, can be viewed that way, but that’s the same as any genre.

Ian: I think there’s still a lot of sniffiness, even 40 years after the whole Musician’s Union campaign about synths from certain people. It’s nonsense… is a Billy Currie ARP solo any less exciting or musical than an Eric Clapton or Dave Gilmour guitar solo?

Del: As I’ve always said, if Beethoven had a MacBook, there would have been a whole orchestra out of jobs, instantly…

Ian: I get p*ssed off at folk turning their noses up at my chosen instrument. They are tools to do the job. Would you say an OMD hit from the back in the day has less right to be called a classic than say ‘Layla’ or ‘Comfortably Numb’? Different audiences yes, most of the time…

Del: Something like ‘There She Goes’ by THE LA’S is fluff, it’s no ‘Stanlow’ or ‘Statues’!

Ian: When people think of synthesizer music, they do think of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ I suppose…

What do you think about the current state of modern electronic pop at the moment? Do you have any interest in Synthwave for example?

Ian: To be honest I don’t listen to a lot of modern bands. There are a couple of the newer bands yes, like KITE, but by and large they don’t feature on my playlists. A lot of the bands producing music at our level seem to rush the product out the door and it sounds like it. Probably setting myself up for some brickbats with that statement, let him without sin etc…

Del: It’s all presets, homogenised, Apple loops and stuff…

Ian: Which brings us onto Synthwave…

Del: Yeah but some of that is good…

Ian: Yeah, THE VAN DAMMAGE and ELECTRIC DRAGON… Michael Oakley and FM-84, though that’s a Scottish thing. Synthwave is trying to capture something that didn’t really exist back in the day.

Del: Yeah, some ‘Miami Vice’ soundtrack stuff and ‘Axel F’ maybe…

Ian: I’m not a fan of the majority of it…

Del: Barry Douglas, our friend from Glasgow, is a massive supporter of the Synthwave scene so we have seen a lot of those bands that have gone on to big things on that scene, he gave many of them their first UK gigs so I guess it’s his fault!

Are there any new acts you’ve encountered in the last 12 months that you would recommend to look out for?

Ian and Del together: WITCH OF THE VALE!

Ian: They really are the ones that stand out… they have a certain something that stands them apart.

Del: Erin and Ryan are great, yeah!

Ian: The new Michael Oakley stuff and FORM.

Del: For me it’s all the classic bands… The last BLANCMANGE album was brilliant.

Ian: I tend not to listen to a lot of synthesizer specific music TBH.

You’ve toured with ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their two most recent UK visits, how are your livers? 😉

Ian: This tour not as bad as 2017 when we tried to kill Mike their drummer

Del: Aided and abetted by an Australian Pirate Metal band…we were very well behaved this time apart from the night of Scott our merch / crew guy’s birthday. We are very old now however…

Ian: It’s like being on a school outing with those guys, we pile into a bus, point it down the motorway.

Del: And rip the piss out of one another for the duration.

Ian: The ASSEMBLAGE 23 guys are different class… They are head and shoulders above the likes of VNV NATION and AND ONE in respect of songwriting and production

Del: And Tom doesn’t have ridiculous stage height demands…

Ian: You’ve seen him dancing, nobody wants that!

How do you think RAINLAND went down with the ASSEMBLAGE 23 crowd?

Ian: We didn’t get bottled off stage so that’s a plus… Our job was as support, which used to be called the warm-up act and I’d like to think we did that. I’ve seen so many bands play those slots, not interact with the audience and then f*ck off after the show, that’s not your job!

Del: The crowd appeared to enjoy it, we seem to be a good fit for the band and have been told our music works well in that line-up by people after the show, so all good.

You’re playing TEC005 with ARTHUR & MARTHA and PLASMIC, what can punters expect who have not seen or heard of you before?

Ian: We are opening the event, working with TEC has been a long time coming. Hopefully we will start the show as we all mean to go on.

Del: Help everyone have a good night… PLASMIC looks like it will be a fun set

Ian: And ARTHUR AND MARTHA! Looking forward to catching up with the guys

Del: We always like playing in London, come and buy us a beer!

What’s next for RAINLAND, is there a follow-up EP to ‘Touch’ in the works?

Ian: RAINLAND is a hobby, we released ‘Touch’ in 2017 and then life got in the way and I ended up going abroad to work for a year which is why things have been slow. We don’t have any delusions of being superstar musicians… if as a 50-something you aren’t a successful, million selling songwriter / artist already guess what, you’re probably not going to be a million selling songwriter/artist!

Del: We do have another EP written, just need to get all our diaries to align especially with Phil. We hope to showcase some new material on the TEC005 show though as it is ready to play live.

Ian: Just playing it by ear… we have a couple of other gigs lined up to be announced which are exciting.

Del: Just looking forward to seeing everyone at the TEC show.

Ian: Exactly, we will see you soon!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to RAINLAND

ARTHUR & MARTHA, PLASMIC + RAINLAND play TEC005 on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 at The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, London N1 0XT – tickets are available now from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/457122

Further information on the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/757337877964541/

The ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th February 2019

TEC’s 2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame. Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour. Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit.

There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, NEW ARCADES, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption. However, the side was let down by the conveyor belt of lame profanity laden offerings from a number of British acts afflicted with deluded normality.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year. The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, The Electricity Club’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that The Electricity Club has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band. Out of all the synth based pop acts of the Synth Britannia era, The Electricity Club had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, The Electricity Club bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

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