Tag: Assemblage 23 (Page 2 of 4)

ASSEMBLAGE 23, RAINLAND + WITCH OF THE VALE Live in London

Returning to the UK after a successful Spring 2017 stint, ASSEMBLAGE 23 again packed their favourite London venue Electrowerkz with their dark industrial flavoured synthpop.

A23 main man Tom Shear is on something of a high right now, with the acclaimed album ‘Endure’ still attracting live audiences 2 years after its release while his new side-project HELIX with vocalist Mari Kattman has just issued its first album ‘Twin’.

Opening proceedings were WITCH OF THE VALE, a Scottish electronic duo from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, centred around the folk inspired soprano stylings of Erin Hawthorne and the stark instrumental structures of her husband Ryan Hawthorne.

Like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, their music possesses some Pagan fervour. From the eerie beauty of ‘Listen To Your Voice’ to the more unsettling ritualistic overtures of ‘Fever’, their presentation was totally captivating while maintaining that important air of mystery, making them an act to watch out for in the future.

On their second successive UK tour with A23, RAINLAND were very much the party animals who utilised their down-to-earth weegie personas to act as cheerleaders for the headline act. RAINLAND formed from the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL and Tom Shear has recognised the pair’s capabilities for a long time now.

As RAINLAND, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald have been able to follow their synthpop instincts, free of the industrial shackles that occasionally held them back in the past. Ferguson in particular had shown his worth with a tone not dissimilar to Midge Ure on ANALOG ANGEL songs such as ‘No Goodbye’, ‘I Am Me’ and ‘Another Rainy Day’.

The ‘Rainland’ song was a stomping opening salvo that recalled ULTRAVOX with a touch of Vince Clarke too, while the BRONSKI BEAT inspired ‘Touch’ with its digital slap samples had the crowd dancing.

‘Silverlight’ with lyrics co-written by author Ange Chan kept the momentum going, but with only the ‘Touch’ EP to their name so far, their performance closed with the Ferguson-penned ANALOG ANGEL evergreen ‘Drive’.

Tom Shear has maintained a successful career over the last two decades years despite some ups and downs. In ensuring ASSEMBLAGE 23’s survival in the modern music industry, his resilience could be summed up by their opening number ‘Bravery’, a poignant statement that self-doubt which always lingers within the human condition, whatever the circumstances.

Accompanied by the ever faithful Paul Seegers on synths, Shear was his usual engaging self with songs like ‘Let The Wind Erase Me’. Meanwhile from ‘Meta’, the brilliant ‘Damaged’ from 2007 reminded everyone of the sort of tunes that DEPECHE MODE were once good at.

The emotive electro-gothic discoscape of ‘December’ captured being “Silent and alone, trying to make sense” in a song swathed in sadness despite the danceable rhythm construction, while the classic A23 of ‘Let Me Be Your Armor’ is still a firm fan favourite with its trance energy. However when the riff laden ‘The Noise Inside My Head’ made its presence felt, the crowd erupted in a sea of bounce!

Closing with a marvellous spirited cover of INXS’ international breakthrough ‘Don’t Change’, itself borrowing the distinctive swooping synth line from ‘Bunker Soldiers’ by OMD, ASSEMBLAGE 23 provided the perfect conclusion to an excellent triple bill.

This evening proved again that if a line-up is properly curated with acts that actually musically complement one another, it will result in success. As Jim Morrison said in ‘Wayne’s World 2’: “Book them and they will come…”


With thanks to Tom Shear and Ian Ferguson

‘Endure’ is released by Metropolis Records in CD, deluxe 2CD and download variants, available from http://www.assemblage23.com/store

ASSEMBLAGE 23 German live dates include:
Berlin Kreuzberg Maze (11th September), Hamburg Indra Club 64 (12th September),
Frankfurt Das Bett (15th September)

http://www.assemblage23.com/

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

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23

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

https://rainland.bandcamp.com/

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Marilyn Wilson
9th September 2018

HELIX Twin

The long awaited synth collaboration between the East and West of the United States is finally here.

HELIX marks the musical marriage between the Rhode Island songstress Mari Kattman and the man behind everything ASSEMBLAGE 23, Seattle-based Tom Shear.

Kattman, previously of DAY TWELVE and MARI & THE GHOST, debuted with her personal signature sound on a rather fetching long player, ‘Hover’, where she collaborated with Matt Echo. The record settled in a genre of its own and turned many musical heads, including Shear’s.

It wasn’t the first time that his compass pointed East, as the pair had worked together on his side project SURVEILLANCE, where Kattman provided her vocal skills on ‘Husk’ from ‘Oceania’.

Tom Shear needs no introduction within the hard core lovers of electronica; being the musical, lyrical and vocal supplier of ASSEMBLAGE 23, which continuously provides top shelf synth offerings, appreciated not only by those “on the verge of collapse”.

It is therefore imaginable that such collaboration is bound to bring miraculous effects and show yet another side to the Seattle based producer. And indeed the new approach comes out on their debut ‘Twin’, especially with the opening ‘Widescreen’, where floatingly gentle melody creates the base for Kattman’s vocal journey further East.

If she’s out to snake whisper, she certainly succeeds, for ‘Anymore’ ushers a change of mood ear worthy a repeat play time. Subtly subdued, yet containing multiple layers of instrumentation courtesy of Shear, it provides an excellent canvas for the voice reminiscent that of Sharleen Spiteri’s. The power of ‘Bird Of Prey’ accents itself in this uptempo gem, where Shear goes vintage musically and on production, while Kattman channels her inner MADONNA, just like MECHA MAIKO had done on her debut ‘Mad But Soft’ couple of months back.

If you’re expecting ‘Kicking & Screaming’ to do what it says on the tin, you’ll be in for a disappointment. This piercing semi-ballad has plenty of subtle power, that’s best served with the addition of darkness, and perhaps it doesn’t prepare for the corker that is ‘Expensive Things’. Here Shear does what Shear does best: takes that beat and twists it into something amazing, adding a pinch of heavy synth and a dollop of ear teasing percussion, interloping with regularly appearing arpeggios and nudges of beats paying homage to vintage DM via ‘Shout’.

This could be a hard act to follow but ‘We Are’ does a good job regardless, changing the feel into a modern offering of off-beat hipster styles, leading into the school disco of ‘Like A Drug’. What SPECTRA PARIS did on ‘Retromachine Betty’, Mari Kattman does here; enhanced by electrifying guitar, fast paced rhythm and plenty of pink and fluffy synths.

While ‘I May Be Wrong’, HELIX keeps going and now Shear joins Kattman on vocals to make it right. This middle of the road track provides a delicate easy listening experience; star gazing and romantic, making Shear sound a tad like Peter Heppner, which is always a good move.

But the ripe beats return suddenly on ‘Live In My Heart’. And what a fast pleasure that is! Kattman goes quirky with her vocal provision and Shear shows he can do the club feel very well. Pure ASHBURY HEIGHTS on steroids, riding on Space Mountain, getting stoned… hang on, that’s LA based NIGHT CLUB… you get the idea!

As all good things have to come to an end, ‘The Beautiful Unseen’ ushers the wrap for the album. Slightly slower, deeper and marvellously executed, where the piano paves the way for the haunting voice and pointed synth, this closing track leaves plenty of thinking space and hope for continuation.

It comes as no surprise that Shear can deliver musically, it’s also not news that Kattman is a valid artist on her own, but those two twinned together provide higher levels of musical enjoyment.

While the debut offering from HELIX may feel like a mixed bag for some and too demure for others, let’s not forget that musical knowhow is deeply ingrained in the pair, and for their first full album as a newly found partnership, ‘Twin’ provides heaps of listening pleasure.

And if it’s too mainstream for you, go and indulge in ASSEMBLAGE 23 instead. Either way, you won’t miss out on the good thing.


‘Twin’ is released by Metropolis Records on 24th August 2018, pre-order the CD direct from https://www.metropolis-records.com/product/11631/twin

Album previews can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXy3cSLVcbsGBlI4M2pjzLA

https://www.metropolis-records.com/artist/helix

https://www.facebook.com/Helix-744516182407113/

https://www.facebook.com/MariKattman/

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


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
14th August 2018

A Short Conversation with ASSEMBLAGE 23

Tom Shear, working under the alias of ASSEMBLAGE 23 and as the responsible parent of his side project SURVEILLANCE, has been active in the electronica field for over 20 years, being largely inspired by European synth acts, especially those celebrating a more industrial approach.

Although trying to showcase his take on synth pop in the era of the American rock and grunge domination wasn’t easy, ASSEMBLAGE 23 grabbed the existing fans of APOPTYGMA BERZERK, COVENANT and HAUJOBB by ‘Storm’ (pun intended).

Working from Seattle, Tom Shear has established himself as the daddy of harsher electronica and is celebrated in his native land, as well as Europe alike. Having recently released his eighth studio opus, ‘Endure’, backed by a rather impressive crowdfunding, he’s looking forward to coming back to the UK for some live shows.

TEC is chatting to the man himself about past, present and future of ASSEMBLAGE 23.

‘Endure’ has been described as an unorthodox album for ASSEMBLAGE 23, how would you comment on that?

It’s funny, because people seem to fall into two camps. Some people think it sounds exactly like previous stuff and some think it sounds different. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I try to make Assemblage 23 consistent, but of course it is always evolving, too.

Would you say you prefer the hardware or soft versions of synths?

I prefer a combination of both. For me, hardware is more fun to use, but software offers convenience and portability. I can take hundreds of softsynths with me in my carryon bag on the airplane if I want. Try doing that with hardware. I think the technology is getting to the point where the sound differences between hardware and software are virtually indistinguishable, so really more than anything it is a question of personal preference.

Your love of melody is obvious on all of your releases. How are the tracks put together?

I keep an “ideas” folder on my computer. When I get the idea for a melody, or bassline, or chord progression, I sit down and quickly record it into the sequencer.

After I’ve accumulated enough of these ideas, I sort through them and pick out the bits I feel are the strongest candidates and begin building the rest of the song around that initial sketch.

Under the veil of sparse optimism, darker tones always seem to emerge, do we really “brick by brick (we) construct our own personal hell”?

To a large extent, I think we do. Obviously, there are external things that can make your life hell – poverty, abuse, disease, etc. But we are the source of a lot of our own problems and hang-ups.

‘Compass’ was particularly lyrically dark…

I guess I never really noticed one album being darker than another, but the time I was writing that album was a pretty bleak time in my life, so I suppose that would make sense.

Unlike most bands of your genre, A23 songs are fairly long. Consisting of three verses, they seem to go on, as if to exhaust the subject in hand…

I don’t know. Most of my songs weigh in around 5 minutes, I think. FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY regularly has 7 and 8 minute tracks! Haha! It varies, but I do find that three verses tends to be just the right amount. Almost like the first, second, and third act in a movie or play.

Having an over two decades’ success in synth music, how would you describe the American scene nowadays?

It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s more good bands coming out of the US than there has been in a very long time. On the other hand, it can be difficult for new bands to get a foothold, as the scene Is very saturated, so it’s harder to get heard. I guess that’s probably true worldwide.

Any modern favourites coming out of your neck of the woods?

I really like MR KITTY a lot. Unique sound and a very good performer. THE NEW DIVISION is a great synthpop act out of California. MARI KATTMAN out of Rhode Island is an amazing female vocalist who I’ve collaborated with, but whose own music is fantastic.

The now unfortunately defunct ALTER DER RUINE were doing great things. AEON RINGS from the NYC area make some really infectious synthwave.

What’s your favourite European gig destination and why?

It’s hard to choose just one. There’s certainly areas where we have bigger shows, but some places I look forward to playing because of the food, or that I get to see friends I don’t often get to see. Honestly, I just love playing Europe as a whole.

Is the ‘Endure’ tour going to be any different from your previous ones?

We’re playing a longer set and are playing some songs we’ve never played live before. We also worked really hard on improving in the past couple of years and the reviews from the US tour were generally that we’re sounding the best we’ve ever sounded, so I am optimistic!

Is SURVEILLANCE going to be an ongoing project for your more EBM work?

Yes. I plan to start work on the next one soon. I’ve got a number of ideas already sketched out.

You’re known for happily interacting with the fans of your work. How important is it for what you do?

Extremely important. I frankly don’t understand why more bands don’t do it, because it’s enormously beneficial. Interacting with your fans and being accessible is probably the best thing you can do to build a loyal fanbase. If it wasn’t for my fans, I couldn’t do what I love for a living, so I feel like it’s the least I can do.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Tom Shear

Special thanks also to Ian Ferguson

‘Endure’ is available in CD, deluxe 2CD, vinyl LP and download variants from http://www.assemblage23.com/store

ASSEMBLAGE 23’s European tour includes:

Glasgow Ivory Blacks (30th March), Manchester The Zoo (31st March), London Electrowerkz (1st April), Oberhausen Kulttempel (2nd April), Frankfurt Das Bett (4th April), Leipzig Hellraiser (5th April), Kreuzberg Maze (6th April), Moscow Club Theatre (8th April) – please visit http://www.assemblage23.com/ for more information, support on all UK dates will be RAINLAND

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

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23

https://soundcloud.com/assemblage-23/sets/endure


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Bob Libby
19th January 2017

TEC’s 2016 End Of Year Review

What In the World…

tec2016review-mopho2016 will forever be remembered as the year when a significant number of cultural icons and popular musical figures left us; DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, TOMITA, PETE BURNS, COLIN VERNCOMBE, KEITH EMERSON, DON BUCHLA and LEONARD COHEN were just some of the names who sadly departed.

But despite sadness that loomed, the year did produce some good music, particularly in the second half of the year.

GARY NUMAN launched an ambitious Pledge Music campaign and released some excellent collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and TITÁN. But with his retrospective tour of material from his three most popular albums taking up much of his year, his new crowdfunded album did not meet its planned October release deadline.

jarreyello2016Meanwhile JEAN-MICHEL JARRE had an excess of material and issued the second volume of his ‘Electronica’ project which also featured YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS, plus a third instalment to his classic opus ‘Oxygène’.

YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS also released new albums to a positive reception, proving again that partnerships featuring personnel over the age of 60 can still create music that is fresh and relevant.

Incidentally, one of YELLO’s young vocalists FIFI RONG continued to maintain her artistic profile with successful campaigns for her releases ‘Forbidden Desires’ and ‘Alone’.

Hannah-Peel-2016-042016 saw two concept albums emerge in ‘The Ship’ from BRIAN ENO, a solemn art piece with poignant anti-war messages and ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, a very personal musical statement by HANNAH PEEL on the traumas of dementia. It was a busy year for Miss Peel with her also contributing her voice to BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, as well as showcasing her own MARY CASIO side project.

WRANGLER released a new album ‘White Glue’ which exuded a less rigid format compared to its predecessor ‘LA Spark’ and collaborated with JOHN GRANT at the Rough Trade 40 live celebrations, while the prolific Neil Arthur issued another new BLANCMANGE album in ‘Commuter 23’ while also launching a new side project NEAR FUTURE with BERNHOLZ.

midgerusty-2012The Manchester veteran ERIC RANDOM issued ‘Words Made Flesh’, the second album of his recent return to the music while RUSTY EGAN finally presented ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which despite its title, was actually a collection of classic styled synthpop. After many years of trials and tribulations for the co-founder of VISAGE, the long player featuring MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY and CHRIS PAYNE who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ exceeded expectations.

Space travel and synths were just made to go together, so JØTA and VANGELIS conceived projects covering The Cold War space race and the more recent Rosetta probe respectively. Meanwhile, WHITE LIES again showed they are as synthy as they are guitary on their ‘Friends’ album, and even started to sound like A-HA!

Fellow blog Cold War Night Life released ‘Heresy: A Tribute to RATIONAL YOUTH’ which featured PSYCHE and MACHINISTA as well as the Canadian trailblazers themselves. Meanwhile Ireland staked its claim as a new territory for synthpop talent; CIRCUIT3 ‘siliconchipsuperstar’, TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and EMBRACE THE CRISIS ‘Black Heart’ were good examples of what was on offer from the Emerald Isle.

Over in the UK, VILE ELECTRODES, SPRAY and ANALOG ANGEL all released new albums. There were long awaited long players too from SHELTER and SINESTAR, but these suffered when compared to respective acts from Sweden, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM and PRESENCE OF MIND.

So again, Sweden still proved it was special with SILENT WAVE and MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY exhibiting varying degrees of potential. But it was REIN in particular who was causing a stir within the ranks of EBM, while the country’s best kept secret KITE toured North America and Asia. However, neither of these two latter artists figured in the line-up of Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2016 festival.

VILLA NAH2016-01The Nordic region saw the welcome return of VILLA NAH with the album ‘Ultima’ after a five year absence, while TRENTEMØLLER made the case again as to why he is still the perfect producer for DEPECHE MODE with his new long player ‘Fixion’.

However, Norwegian acts APOPTYGMA BERZERK and ELECTRO SPECTRE ensured the Swedes, Finns and Danes did not have it all their own way.

Greece was still the word with LIEBE, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX all presenting brand new releases, while SARAH P. maintained her profile with a series of inventive promo videos highlighting the ongoing issues of equality for women within the music industry. Embracing the same issue on the other side of the Atlantic, I AM SNOW ANGEL immersed herself in setting up the FEMALE FREQUENCY collective while also releasing her own music.

2016 was a good year for female acts with EMIKA, KALEIDA, ANI GLASS, THE HEARING, KITE BASE, KATJA VON KASSEL, HOLOGRAM TEEN and VOI VANG among those making a positive impression. There was also ‘SVIIB’, the final album from SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS and the emergence of CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS, while LADYHAWKE remembered what a good album sounded like with ‘Wild Things’.

night-club-requiem-for-romance-2016Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB developed on the promise of their EP trilogy and got a bit heavier on their debut long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, ending up sounding not unlike Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS in the process!

After gestation periods of nearly six years, both EKKOES and THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND finally released their debut albums.

Meanwhile the instrumental front, Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE provided some ‘Music To Color By’, Brussels duo METROLAND touchingly paid tribute to their late friend Louis Zachert with ‘Things Will Never Sound The Same Again’ and ULRICH SCHNAUSS went ‘No Further Ahead Than Today’. And MOBY offered a gift to profound relaxation with his free ‘Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.’ download package.

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo David FittPERTURBATOR’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’ became a flag bearer for the synth wave movement, along with the acclaimed soundtrack by SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for the absorbing Netflix drama ‘Stranger Things’.

Less well-received though was ‘2Square’ by VINCE CLARKE & PAUL HARTNOLL with its banal experiments in electro swing.

This was a supposed new dance sub-genre that in reality was just computerised jazz… nice! But one artist who did manage to pull off fusing synthpop and jazz successfully was DISQO VOLANTE.

New material from veterans MESH, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, ASSEMBLAGE 23, DE/VISION, IAMX, COVENANT and ROTERSAND kept the black clad European audiences happy, while MARI KATTMAN and BLACK NEEDLE NOISE added some trip-hop and rock edges respectively to their already dark templates. Expressing slightly less intensity were two surprise packages in Germany’s DAS BLAUE PALAIS with ‘Welt Am Draht’ and Canada’s DELERIUM with ‘Mythologie’.

marc-almond-blueBut totally unexpected was ‘Silver City Ride’, a full length electro album from MARC ALMOND in collaboration with STARCLUSTER featuring his most synth laden body of work since SOFT CELL.

The biggest surprise of 2016 was ‘Fly’ the soundtrack souvenir to ‘Eddie The Eagle’, the light hearted biopic of the bespectacled Olympic ski jumper; featuring new material by members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD in collaboration with TAKE THAT’s Gary Barlow, this looked like a terrible idea on paper.

But it was brilliantly executed and the resultant album was a largely enjoyable collection of retro flavoured pop.

Electronic acts actually got to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2016, albeit on The Other Stage as opposed the main event; NEW ORDER and CHVRCHES wowed the crowds when they shared the bill on the Saturday night. There were rumours that KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE might feature in 2017 but this was not to be, although both acts sent social media into overdrive when they announced major tours.

Among those accorded career spanning multi-disc boxed sets were ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, DEAD OR ALIVE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Somehow though, SIMPLE MINDS managed to milk a six disc variant of ‘New Gold Dream’ in the third of their classic album deluxe box editions; it was an amazing feat seeing as only ten songs were completed during the original sessions! The collection boasted no less than twelve takes of the aptly titled ‘Promised You A Miracle’; but the latest incarnation of the Glaswegians combo’ first big hit with KT TUNSTALL for their ‘Acoustic’ album proved to be one version too many.

Associates-dempsey-mackenzie-rankine-getty2Much better value for the money for the discerning music fan were the four ASSOCIATES double CD reissues, supervised by Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey. Based around their first three albums and a ‘Very Best Of’ compilation, each additionally featured a plethora of rare and previously unreleased songs; they were a fitting tribute to the late Billy MacKenzie.

Nostalgia was very much a part of 2016, with HEAVEN 17, OMD and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT all touring popular albums. And following the success in recent years of retro festivals such as ‘Rewind’ and the strangely named ‘Let’s Rock’, classic synthpop finally found itself part of the holiday camp circuit.

Part of the Butlins Music Weekender series, ‘Electric Dreams’ featuring OMD, MARC ALMOND, HEAVEN 17, BLANCMANGE and HOLLY JOHNSON almost went badly off-piste with the addition of GO WEST and THE ZOMBIES (!?!) to the programme. But the organisers pulled an unexpected surprise and booked modern synth acts like MARSHEAUX and AVEC SANS to support the bill.

avec-sansHardened retro festival goers are notorious for not embracing new music, but this ethos has to be welcomed and could provide an interesting new model for the future of event based entertainment. However, based on photographic evidence, the presence of inflatable pink flamingos and coloured wigs indicated the crowd atmosphere might have been no different to any of the usual nostalgia outings, but with a roof and central heating added!

Elsewhere, the second ELECTRI-CITY CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf boasted yet another impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music with JOHN FOXX, DANIEL MILLER and MARK REEDER among those taking part in talks. One of the highlights of the weekend came with Mr Foxx chatting about working with the legendary Conny Plank.

And while TEC004 featuring MARSHEAUX, KID KASIO and RODNEY CROMWELL was not in the same league, it was a fine showcase for the best in independent synthpop.

john-foxx-marsheauxBoth events proved again that the best electronic music events are those actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, something that is not the case with several other events.

In all, 2016 was not a vintage year for electronic pop. If there was a lesson this year, it’s been to cherish and appreciate great life’s moments where possible, especially with the number of music figures that have been lost in the last 12 months.

Things cannot go on forever sadly…


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley
Best Song: SOULWAX Transient Program for Drums & Machinery
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES featuring PARTY NAILS Solid Gold
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES In The Shadows Of Monuments
Best Song: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Barren
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at Denver Oriental Theatre
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


SIMON HELM

Best Album: ERIC RANDOM Words Made Flesh
Best Song: RATIONAL YOUTH This Side Of The Border
Best Gig: Troika! featuring KITE BASE, HANNAH PEEL + I SPEAK MACHINE at Shacklewell Arms
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: ZANIAS


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: VILLA NAH Ultima
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE Diagram Girl
Most Promising New Act: ANI GLASS


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Norwich UEA
Best Video: MARSHEAUX Like A Movie
Most Promising New Act: DISQO VOLANTE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: APOPTYGMA BERZERK Exit Popularity Contest
Best Song: KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Islington Academy
Best Video: BLACK NEEDLE NOISE featuring JENNIE VEE Heaven
Most Promising New Act: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2016

ASSEMBLAGE 23 Endure

ASSEMBLAGE23 EndureSeattle based musician Tom Shear has carved a justifiably successful career over the past 20 or so years with acclaimed releases such as ‘Compass’ and ‘Storm’.

2012’s ‘Bruise’ album saw a move towards a more mature sound which was complimented by a remix disc featuring reworks by the likes of ex-COVENANT man Daniel Myer.

In the interim, Shear returned to a harder EBM style with the side project SURVEILLANCE, made possible via a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign.

The same approach has been deployed for the latest ASSEMBLAGE 23 release ‘Endure’, once again to similar success. This album sees that more sophisticated sound used on ‘Bruise’ and apply it to startling and in places, quite beautiful effect.

A23ClosedEyesThis is an unusual album in the ASSEMBLAGE 23 canon as it goes against not only the accepted genre types, but also in many ways what Shear himself has done before.

This is evident from the start with an actual title track which is also an instrumental. It’s obvious the JOHN CARPENTER albums have been on heavy rotation in the Shear household, as this driving piece would not be out of place on the ‘Lost Themes’ releases

Next up is an apocalyptic tale in the shape of ‘Afterglow’. One of A23’s main strengths, which stands them apart from many contemporaries, is the use of actual melody.

Shear is openly a fan of many Synth Britannia bands and that is obvious on this, one of the album’s standout tracks. It’s here we get a first taste of one of those shifts in sound in the production on Shear’s vocals which foregoes the usual EBM / Industrial effects to allow a more upfront, dry performance.

This in turn throws Tom’s lyrics into sharper relief than before. These lyrics are especially fine on the next track ‘Bravery’ on which we are reminded that we all have self-doubt, fight personal battles and that “some days just waking up is an act of bravery…” – all this is underpinned by a thumping backing track.

A23StudioNext up is ‘Salt The Earth’, a more straightforward EBM track which is not to take away from the strength of the songwriting, but placed on the album between ‘Bravery’ and the track that follows, it fails to stand out. ‘Static’ opens with a very un-A23 way with a plaintive piano motif, which is duplicated as the song builds by synth plucks and then strings. Again, the confidence that Shear has in his voice is demonstrated by the dry production he employs. ‘Call The Dawn’ and ‘Butterfly Effect’ act as strong album tracks, again enforcing the maturity of the overall delivery of both instrumentation and vocals. This is also true of the later track ‘Grid’.

Then comes one of the highlights of ‘Endure’, the excellent ‘Barren’; all of the parts that make up the album come together here beautifully to deliver a track that is in turn, a piece that can be listened to thoughtfully but also sounds fantastic through a club PA. This is destined to become a staple of A23 live shows for years to come.

After the aforementioned ‘Grid’, we come to the album closer ‘December’. Again Shear isn’t afraid to let his voice do the talking and carry the emotional weight of a song dripping sadness and regret belying the dance driven instrumentation.

So what of the 2016 incarnation of ASSEMBLAGE 23? It’s evident that this is an enormously enjoyable release. It stands with ‘Bruise’ as an example of what can be achieved by a musician working with a clear goal, that also delivers what his audience wants with a few surprises along the way.

ASSEMBLAGE23-by-Bob-Libby07This week, it was announced that once again VNV NATION will headline the 2017 Amphi Festival in Germany, one of the scene’s biggest events.

It’s a surprise that this slot isn’t occupied by ASSEMBLAGE 23 as they have the tunes without the bombast employed by Ronan Harris and his band. ‘Endure’ is a highly recommended release.


‘Endure’ is released by Metropolis Records on 9th September 2016 in CD, deluxe 2CD, vinyl and digital variants, available from http://www.assemblage23.com/store

ASSEMBLAGE 23 tour North America throughout September and October 2016, please visit
http://www.assemblage23.com/ for more information

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

https://twitter.com/Assemblage_23

https://soundcloud.com/assemblage-23/sets/endure


Text by Ian Ferguson
Photos by Bob Libby and Tom Shear
1st September 2016

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