REED & CAROLINE’s debut album ‘Buchla & Singing’ did what it said on the tin and with it came charming quirky synthpop like ‘John & Rene’, ‘Singularity (We Bond)’ and ‘Electron’.
Championed by none other than Vince Clarke and signed to his Brooklyn-based Very Records, Reed Hays and Caroline Schutz successfully combined tunes with electronic experimentation.
Their second album ‘Hello Science’ is more of the same, but with cello and a Vako Orchestron added to the playground apparatus.
The Orchestron was a polyphonic electronic keyboard made famous by KRAFTWERK on ‘Radio-Activity’ and ‘Trans Europe Express’ which used optical discs containing pre-recorded sounds such as choirs and strings; for ‘Hello Science’, discs of Caroline Schutz’s voice were specially made using the original Orchestron factory equipment courtesy of its current custodian Pea Hicks!
Buchla launched its Music Easel in 1973 and ‘Hello Science’ certainly comprises of many airy sonic colours in a concept album of sorts inspired by Hays’ hometown of Huntsville, Alabama to where a community of rocket scientists had decamped from Europe after World War Two.
The album’s strapline is “Formulate hypotheses and gather all the facts – it’s science! It’s all about science!” and begins with the celebratory ‘Before’; the combination of watery arpeggios, cello and Schutz’s lightly treated voice provides a pleasant start to proceedings with this pretty electronic folk ballad.
The more uptempo and bouncy ‘Dark Matter’ adds vocoder plus some Hooky bass and vocals from Kendra Frost and Ayşe Hassan of KITE BASS. Despite the Brit presence, the track affirms REED & CAROLINE’s distinctly North American sound not unlike AU REVOIR SIMONE, especially in its enticing “dah-da-da-da” refrain.
With a tinge of techno, ‘Buoyancy’ provides a dancey lift while ‘Another Solar System’ is a direct “pie in the sky” reference to the ambitions of NASA with sparkly synths which reflect Hays’ belief that “my love of science is something spiritual and optimistic”.
The title track springs a surprise by being completely acoustic with this cello overture recalling SPARKS in its vocal arrangement and layering but despite this, it doesn’t sound at all out of place.
‘Digital Trash’ is what DUBSTAR would have sounded like if Sarah Blackwood had been born in Brooklyn instead of Halifax and is a wonderfully poignant commentary on social media, data manipulation and online privacy.
Treading not dissimilar musical territory, ‘Ocean’ is full of breezy nautical escapism and Buchla 100 handclaps.
The haunting ‘Entropy’ is a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching Numan homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie Roland CP30 electric piano is complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
A variety of synthbass wobbles, Orchestron choral sweeps and sequenced pulses shape the appropriately robotic ‘Computers’ while with a militaristic offbeat that comes over like mutant chromatic reggae, ‘Internet Of Things’ is a cutely bizarre offering that lyrically highlights the potential downfalls of modern society’s over-reliance on web-connected devices and home appliances.
‘Continuous Interfold’ acts as an abstract art piece before the main act closes with ‘Metatron’ which delightfully goes all Philip Glass with its cacophony of voices. As a bonus, Vince Clarke provides his distinctive studio magic to a remix of ‘Before’, giving it a more percussive mainstream accessibility.
Speaking of which, with fewer of the instrumental interludes that formed a significant part of ‘Buchla & Singing’, ‘Hello Science’ is a much more distinct pop focussed offering with songs kept quite short and on point.
If there is a criticism, it might be there are slightly too many tracks, but it does not disguise the fact that this record is a very enjoyable listen.
Despite the science, the maths, the machines and the tuned vocal aesthetic, there is also flesh and blood that has to work it out and get it all together.
“My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast”.
And so we are invited to go in; into the mysteriously twisted, sickening at times, never straightforward world of David Lynch. One likes the arts and photography, another excels in music, or vocals, few make good films, while the rest write or paint; Lynch has done it all. Having introduced his unparalleled strangeness into American film making and being true to his own ideas, the “madman” (as Mel Brooks called him), even refused to direct ‘The Return Of The Jedi’, claiming that Lucas would do it better his way.
Meeting Angelo Badalamenti, while filming his hugely successful ‘Blue Velvet’, proved to be the start of a captivating musical relationship, which Lynch has proven to treasure till today.
Angelo Badalamenti, whose superlative musical understanding led to various working relationships with many a pop and rock band, with Pet Shop Boys, Orbital, Tim Booth, Anthrax, Marianne Faithful and others, all creating electrifying soundscapes with a little help of the virtuoso.
As Lynch’s films gained critical acclaim worldwide, his musical interests and collaborations grew in parallel.
Who directed a 2011 Duran Duran gig streamed live from Mayan Theater in LA? Lynch did…
Who collaborated with Interpol on ‘I Touch a Red Button Man’ animation? Lynch did…
Who directed Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Came Back Haunted’ video? Lynch did… (incidentally striking a further musical pact with Reznor)
Photo by Michel Delsol/Getty Images
As it often appears, happenstance creates the optimal conditions for working relationships, and that’s exactly what happened with Lynch and Cruise.
The ethereal sounding, dainty Julee may have never worked with the visionary, if it wasn’t for the fact that Lynch couldn’t use Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’ covered by This Mortail Coil in a key scene of ‘Blue Velvet’. As an alternative, he commissioned Badalamenti to compose a song of similar feel, with lyrics by Lynch.
As someone had to sing ‘Mysteries Of Love’, Badalamenti recommended Cruise, known for her sublime voice. Recently the rather talented Kid Moxie re-visited the tune with Badalamenti , putting her own spin onto the Badalamenti/Lynch hit.
And so enter ‘Twin Peaks’; first aired in 1990 on ABC, later being taken off air due to dwindling popularity, the series was far more than the crime drama with a twist, expected by the fans of Lynch. Having teamed with Mark Frost, the master created a cult program, which is often described as one of the best TV series ever.
The story of the death of young and beautiful Laura Palmer, set in idyllic landscapes of rural Washington state, and the search for her murderer has, for years, evoked fear, lust, wonder and interest into the metaphysical and mystical.
Needless to say, a correct musical setting was necessary to depict the uncertainty, terror and weirdness of the events unfolding in, otherwise, quiet town of Twin Peaks.
A quiet town… at least that’s what one expects on the surface; but Twin Peaks has its own dark secrets. The horrors and wrongdoings that underline the death of Laura Palmer are palpable and Lynch made sure that his take on the human immorality is fully stamped on his characters.
Cruise was again chosen to perform a number of songs, and Badalamenti provided the musical mysticism, resulting in a multi-million selling soundtrack to the series, even with the tracks being largely instrumental.
But within those magical non word pieces, lay three acutely polished gems, all performed by Cruise. ‘Falling’, acting as the theme tune, must be, by far, one of the most recognised songs that go with any TV series.
Cruise further benefitted from the Lynch/Badalamenti collaboration by releasing her first album ‘Floating Into The Night’, which housed ‘Falling’, ‘Into The Night’ and ‘Nightingale’, all used in ‘Twin Peaks’.
‘Rocking Back Inside My Heart’ is one of the songs performed by Cruise live on stage at the Twin Peaks bar everyone gathers at, with most of the young female characters singing to it.
‘Falling’ has been so popular, that a number of artists decided to cover it, and further inspirations appeared by Apoptygma Berzerk, Bright Light Bright Light, The Joy Formidable, The Wedding Present and many others. The latest cover is, interestingly enough, performed by Chrysta Bell, who appears in the Twin Peaks revival series, and has been involved in working with Lynch for many years.
Joined by LA based music magician and celebrated producer John Fryer, Bell provides a synthy rendition, which is a true testament to the song’s longevity and prowess.
Lynch and Badalamenti also produced ‘Summer Kisses Winter Tears’, which, originally by Elvis Presley, was covered by Cruise and featured in ‘Until The End Of The World’ movie. A wonderfully presented come back of the 50s, with dreamy guitar and lazy piano, floating over the consciousness, not without an underlying uncertainty, however.
Chrysta Bell met Lynch in 1999 and the pair have collaborated since, with the master co-writing two of her albums. Her stunning song written with the director himself, ‘Polish Poem’, was featured in the closing scenes of ‘Inland Empire’. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful, but depicts the end of the movie in a sublime manner.
But Lynch sings himself too, oh yes! ‘Good Day Today’ is minimal electro, breaking into the popular culture, with heavily melodyned vocal pleading for the want of having “a good day today”. The lensman wants to be sent an angel, and complains of tiredness over a fast paced, catchy beat; all this happening against a back drop of a disturbingly Lynchian video.
Karen O joins the magician on ‘Pinky’s Dream’, which has been skilfully remixed by Trentemøller into an electronic burst of metallic beats and heavy bass. Together with ‘Good Day Today’, both taken from ‘Crazy Clown Time’, the first album by Lynch, the tracks have been described as having serious electro pop influences.
‘I’m Waiting Here’, performed by the Swedish singer and songwriter Lykke Li, found itself on Lynch’s second album ‘The Big Dream’. Featuring a video, which could have been taken from any of Lynch’s productions, the dreamy arrangement gets abruptly cut off by unexplained noise and the uncertainty is ushered, breaking off the waltzing style of the music. This is what David is about; nothing is ever perfectly straightforward.
He remixes too… ‘Evangeline’ by John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen was masterfully adapted by the filmmaker. It’s gritty, dirty and fragmented: mechanical in texture. It feels like observing the intricate workings of a Swiss watch, while on blow, being surrounded by robots.
Moby has collaborated with the master for years too. This includes video directing, interviews and remixes. ‘Go’ was largely influenced by the Twin Peaks theme, which is sampled here, and it sold a staggering two million copies. And now Richard Melville Hall stars as the guitar player in Rebekah Del Rio’s band, performing live in Part 10 of ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival.
The Lynch collaborations are endlessly eclectic when it comes to genre and style. From ambient, pop, rock, via synth, classical and experimental. The working relationship with Marek Zebrowski, a Polish-American composer, also started during the production of ‘Inland Empire’, part of which was shot in Łódź. As both displayed interests in musical experimentation and improvisation, a concept evolved under the name of ‘Polish Night Music’.
More recently the hungry fans of the original ‘Twin Peaks’ series have been in for a treat. Lynch has always stressed that the story of Laura Palmer wasn’t complete and this year has seen the revival series hit the television screens. When Julee Cruise happily took to the stage in the original series, dazzling with a plethora of eerie, ethereal notes and semi-shy demeanour; the Revival brings plenty of musical surprises, inviting different performers to do their own sets in The Bang Bang Bar, a roadhouse in Twin Peaks. Each episode features a live performance from handpicked musicians, many of whom have a long history of association with the film master.
First off, Chromatics showcase ‘Shadow’, the video to which reminds of the Black Lodge’s red curtains. The Portland based band has undergone many a member change, but ‘Shadow’ certainly proves that the current set up is perfect. The track is Badalamenti dreamy, still bearing the electronic sounds of the now, and as an opener to the newest of the tales of the sleepy Washington town, it blends in nicely.
Au Revoir Simone from New York picks up the baton in Part 4, following The Cactus Blossoms. ‘Lark’ keeps in with the intangible atmosphere, leading through to Trouble’s ‘Snake Eyes’. An Americana rock and roll style, with added sexy saxophone and jazzy influences, this instrumental track leads into Part 6, with Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tarifa’. With the copious amounts of folksy soothing day dream, the quirky vocal and bluesy elements, at times a la Fleetwood Mac, it’s a perfect summer evening track.
None other than Lynch’s old collaborator Trent Reznor comes back to mingle with the master yet again, after having worked on the score for ‘Lost Highway’, and Nine Inch Nails’ video for ‘Came Back Haunted’. This time taking the role of a goth band frontman, the leather clad Reznor and co, take to the Roadhouse stage to deliver ‘She’s Gone Away’.
As the first band to be actually introduced by an MC, NIN hauntingly induce their semi psychedelic, disturbingly mish-mashed track full of guitars over Reznor’s seductive male interceptions. Backing vocals are provided by Mrs Reznor, Marqueen Maandig.
Hudson Mohawke takes the DJ reins on ‘Human’ in Part 9, while Au Revoir Simone returns in the same episode with ‘A Violet Yet Flammable World’, which begins with a similar beat to Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Ice Machine’, to develop into an all girl extravaganza of voice and purely electronic sound, reminiscent of Marsheaux.
Rebekah Del Rio delivers memorable rendition of ‘No Stars’ written by Lynch. The Latin-American songstress has been a muse for the filmmaker for years, providing a cameo appearance in ‘Mulholland Drive’ to perform a Spanish a cappella performance of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’. In ‘Twin Peaks’, she is seen in a dress with a pattern reminiscent of the Black Lodge floor, ushers in a stunning vocal, both in English and Spanish. Yet another classic ‘Twin Peaks’ track.
What follows in Part 11, is a twist: a beautifully composed piano piece ‘Heartbreaking’ performed by Count Smokula.
Chromatics return in the next episode with instrumental ‘Saturday’, while the ominous number 13 brings the original series’ familiar James Marshall with ‘Just You’, which also appears on ‘Twin Peaks Music: Season Two Music and More’.
Folksy Lissie performs ‘Wild West’, just where David Bowie appears for the first time in Cole’s dream as Phillip Jeffries of ‘Fire Walk With Me’ movie.
Bowie moves back in in Episode 15, which is wrapped up by The Veils performing ‘Axolotl’. The London based indie band has been yet another of Lynch’s favourites chosen to perform live in Twin Peaks and they don’t disappoint with the quasi electronic, gripping tune, which injects a further dose of fear and uncertain weirdness so typical of Lynch’s disciples.
Number 16 showcases none other than Pearl Jam’s finest, Eddie Vedder, introduced as Edward Louis Severson with ‘Out Of Sand’. The fact that Vedder had been listed as a cast member well before the episode aired, created a stir and many fans eagerly awaited his performance at the Bang Bang Bar. Although the tune had been available prior to the premiere of Part 16, EV toned it down to acoustic guitar as the only instrument accompanying his hauntingly hungry voice.
Interestingly enough Vedder isn’t in the closing titles; Audrey Horne gets to perform ‘Audrey’s Dance’ once more, with a more sinister ending however.
The real treat wraps up Episode 17, with none other than Julee Cruise returning beautifully to finish the part, where Cooper and co go back to the past to try and save Laura Palmer. Julee’s second to none, ethereally magical voice on ‘The World Spins’ is an ultimate tribute to the whole of the series, with Number 18 (being the last) stripped off the, now familiar, musical end.
If anyone wanted answers in the Revival series, they’re probably banging their heads against the wall (or are getting tangled in the Black Lodge curtains), because more questions were introduced and the aura of weirdness has been intensified to almost mystical levels. Has the evil been eradicated? We don’t think so.
Have we got a happy ending? Certainly not so.
But isn’t that what Lynch is all about?
Riddles, riddles, riddles…
And what’s next for the genius? More music perhaps? Who knows, but with the wealth of experiences from the master over the years; musical or visual, haven’t we all been in for a treat?
Following the publication of a ‘25 Frontwomen That Defined Britpop Beauty’ list by fashion blog Never Under Dressed, The Electricity Club pondered as to what a synthpop list would look like…
The Electricity Club readily admits it features a significant number of new female fronted synth acts. In TEC’s opinion, many of these artists are pushing the genre forward in directions that have not been pursued previously.
In the Synth Britannia heyday, other than Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Gillian Gilbert, Claudia Brücken and Terri Nunn, there were very few women involved in electronic pop music as equals.
Of course, today it is very different. Portable music technology accessible via laptops and compact keyboards such as the MicroKorg has opened up endless possibilities for the independent female musician. So when a classic styled synthpop track has feminine voices and talent driving it, there is a freshness to the approach that manages to avoid sounding completely retro. With so much being hung on a so-called synth revival, there are a number of male dominated acts that are quite clearly pastiches of key bands from back in the day.
So in alphabetical order and confined to women who front primarily electronic acts and / or play synths in the new millennium, here are The Electricity Club’s choices to represent The Beauty Of The Synthesizer…
While LADYTRON are very much a quartet musically, imagewise it has been the band’s female pair who have been the focal point. When Mira Aroyo first appeared on the scene, her icy East European demeanour suited the band’s dark terrorist chic meets the catwalk. With a look akin to the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang, Mira was armed with a Korg MS20 as her weapon of choice. As well as DJing, other projects have included her stark deadpan presence on the appropriately dystopian ‘Watching A Building On Fire’ with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in 2011.
It’s triple keyboard action with Brooklyn’s studious librarians whose shows are a bit like musical slumber parties. No-one in the band is called Simone; there’s Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo who each have their own sweet sense of style while handling an assorted array of synths including the Nord Electro2, Roland Juno 60, Casiotone MT70 and ubiquitous MicroKorg. With four albums to their name, AU REVOIR SIMONE are still very much considered hipster faves although they are a symbol of how the synthesizer can be universally integrated.
The charming, down-to-earth lass from Halifax has been a stylish presence since first hitting the mainstream with DUBSTAR in 1995, who managed to combine synth melodies with the more guitar laden manifesto of Britpop. Sarah Blackwood’s girl-next-door charm has always been her appeal but when she formed CLIENT with Kate Holmes to adopt a harsher electronic sound complimented by the duo’s uniformed Cold War chic, Sarah’s position as a modern day synth icon was assured.
The all female Texas based quartet feature a flexible line-up, but the one constant in FEATHERS is singer / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou. As one can expect from a lady of Greek ancestry, Anastasia has an enigmatic Goddess-like quality about her that with her bandmates, results in a mysterious odyssey best exemplified by the video to debut single ‘Land Of The Innocent’. Musically, FEATHERS’ sound could be likened to THE BANGLES fronting DEPECHE MODE. They supported Basildon’s finest on the final European leg of the ‘Delta Machine’ tour.
Modern electropop’s most influential chameleon. From thigh booted dominatrix, to unicorn tailed X-rated Kylie and even sexy pink jump suited alien, costume has always been a way of overcoming Miss Goldfrapp’s awkwardness with being a pop star. Her presentation sensibilities have ensured that all the looks have been alluring; “She’s got great legs!” observed Sarah Blackwood. Meanwhile, her on-stage antics using a portable Theremin have been unforgettable; “Every girl should have one” she cackled when GOLDFRAPP supported DURAN DURAN in 2004.
Montreal’s GRIMES aka Claire Boucher and her faithful Roland Juno G have provided some interesting hybrid electro influenced by K-Pop, New Age and R ‘n’ B. Her kooky charm, leftfield aspirations and macabre artwork have impressed both hipsters and old fashioned synthheads alike. Her new song ‘Go’ features perhaps a more soulful, laid back groove whilst still playing around with technologically manipulated sound sources as she prepares to deliver even further after her acclaimed album ‘Visions’ in 2012.
SOFT METALS lead vocalist Patricia Hall has that look which wouldn’t be out of place in the Shoreditch set, but her willingness to join in the synth battles with her partner Ian Hicks makes her all the more appealing. Although she has described her look as being influenced by the timeless style Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin, she has admitted that most of the SOFT METALS kitty ends up buying equipment rather than clothes. Her favourite synth happens to be the Roland Juno60, thanks to its patch memory and user friendly layout.
With her eccentric professor persona, Ms Heap could be considered to be the female Thomas Dolby. As well as being a crowdfunding trailblazer, she has also been involved in the development of new musical interfaces like the MIDI Glove, which she describes as an extension of her “no smoke no mirrors” approach with her audience. And she’s not to be messed with either; when an advance promo copy of her 2009 album ‘Ellipse’ appeared on eBay, she rallied her loyal followers to sabotage the sale with bids of £10,000 and complaints to the online auctioneer.
The location of the 1980 Winter Olympics, it is the apt that this village in the Adirondack Mountains should be at the heart of the beautifully gentle electronica of I AM SNOW ANGEL. The self-produced vehicle of the now Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn, as can be imagined from the artist moniker, the music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins. Proficient as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer, she adds some traditional Americana twang to the electronica aesthetic which in itself, is quietly subversive.
The stunning multi-talented Elena Charbila is a proficient bassist and programmer. Her abilities also extend into acting where she has appeared alongside Al Pacino and Malcolm McDowell. While her music has moved towards a cinematic electronic direction on her most recent offering ‘The Bailor’ the Greek born beauty has a love of pop music in all its forms which feeds her artistic mindset. One of her favourite all-time records is ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ by The Walker Brothers. Her second album ‘1888’ features contributions from Angelo Badalamenti.
With her Korg Polysix, MicroKorg and Yamaha Tenorion, LITTLE BOOTS aka Victoria Hesketh perhaps represented what Joanne and Susanne from THE HUMAN LEAGUE would have done had they been teenagers in the 21st Century, ie get a laptop and take up the synthesizer themselves, rather than join a band of blokeys! She remains first and foremost, a musician / songwriter and whether she will ever recover from 679 / Atlantic Records attempt to turn her into the new Kylie Minogue remains to be seen.
If Mira Aroyo is the Anni-Frid Lyngstad of LADYTRON, then Helen Marnie is Agnetha Fältskog. The sweeter, more pop inclined of the pair, Helen certainly appeared at home with a more glamorous image when LADYTRON relaxed their uniformed stance after their third album ‘Witching Hour’. It was probably Helen who persuaded Mira Aroyo to sport swimwear on their 2003 DJ mix compilation ‘Softcore Jukebox’. She is obviously comfortable with that look as she has continued with the swimwear and gone for some glossy imagery in support of her pristine first solo album ‘Crystal World’.
The Athens based synth maidens borrowed their uniformed look from CLIENT, but have carved out their own wispy form of synthpop while performing in unison on a pair of MicroKorgs. Marianthi Melitsi is the Helen Marnie of the pair with her sweet vocals and porcelain looks. Meanwhile, Sophie Sarigiannidou is more akin to Mira Aroyo with a more smouldering demeanour which is deadpan in comparison. Their understated glamour has attained MARSHEAUX a cult following in Europe and gained admirers as diverse as OMD and 30 SECONDS TO MARS.
Miss Mayberry looks like she would be ID-ed at every licensed venue she is due to be playing at. But behind the sweet Humanities undergraduate look is a strong minded writer and campaigner for women’s rights. Despite the serious misogynistic abuse she has had to confront since the success of CHVRCHES, she retains a terrific sense of humour while performing… well, she would have to every time Blokey steps up to the microphone and tries to upstage her! What must she be thinking from behind that Roland A800?!
Anais Neon from VILE ELECTRODES is a synth nerd’s dream, she played the part of Gillian Gilbert in the NEW ORDER tribute band RE: ORDER. She was once mistaken for Hannah Peel… this was not an entirely ridiculous observation as both have long red hair, but this incident took place at a JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS concert while Hannah was on stage with the electro pioneer! When VILE ELECTRODES supported OMD in Cologne, Anais endearingly said the only phrase she knew in Deutsch was “Mein Kannichen ist töt”… now what’s the German word for “batteries” again?
“I was brought up to the sound of the synthesizer, I learnt to dance to the beat of electronic drums” proclaimed Miss Nixey on the song ‘Andrew Ridgley’ in 2003. With BLACK BOX RECORDER, her sophisticated allure has probably been exasperated by her ice cold lack of availability. The sexy school headmistress fantasy was fully exploited on songs such as ‘The Facts of Life’and ‘The School Song’. “You lot need toughening up” she deadpanned on the latter as the order to dive into an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of February was given!
The statuesque Swede has a towering, entrancing presence on stage with her animated stares and jerky movements. Between songs and offstage though, Karin Park is gregarious; quite the opposite of the other Karin (Dreijer-Andersson). An impressive multi-tasker who dabbles with a Korg MS20 and keytar as part of her act, she even succeeded in penning a credible Eurovision entry with the DM influenced ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Norwegian popstress Margaret Berger. Following the critical success of ‘Highwire Poetry’, her new album is eagerly awaited.
Known to her parents as Lucy Taylor, the earthy flute playing North Londoner has done stints touring with MGMT, but having acquired a Roland JX8P and borrowed a Jupiter 8, her own sugary pop sound has been bolstered by a use of classic electronics. The Sunday Times described the title song from PAWWS‘ EP ‘Sugar’ as sounding “As if Kylie had worked with OMD” and as she finds her feet, she could fill the void left open by LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX for a UK synth songstress.
If Berenice Scott is the sexy but strict school teacher of the list, then Hannah Peel is her sweet, smiling student counterpart. Known as part of JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ live presentation, the former Dennis Leigh described her look as being straight out the Andy Warhol ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ scene. The multi-talented Hannah has the most captivating synth girl wiggle while playing along to tracks such as ‘Catwalk’. Her own burgeoning solo career has seen her experimenting more with synthesizers as heard on her ‘Fabricstate’ EP.
If Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES can sometimes sound like Taylor Swift gone electro, then our young royal looks like Taylor Swift gone electro via Queen Amidala. She once tweeted: “If it ain’t electro, I don’t wish to know x”. Her debut album ‘Cocoon’ has been a long time coming but she has been steadily carving out a elegant niche and even adding her own vocals to DAFT PUNK instrumentals from ‘Tron Legacy’. QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing allure has won over many fans including Berlin based producer Mark Reeder, who has now worked with her on several occasions.
Beijing born Fifi Rong has taken music and fashion into some intriguing fusions. She first came to prominence as a member of THE TENORIONS, but has since embarked on a journey which has involved collaborations with TRICKY and releasing her first album ‘Wrong’ in 2013. With influences such as COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR, the development of her own traditionally inspired brand of crisp electronica has resulted in ‘Next Pursuit’, possibly her best work to date.
The ever smiling Maria Schiptjenko, along with Gillian Gilbert, was one of the first female synth players following the post-punk revolution as a member of Swedish duo PAGE, although their first album did not appear until 1991. Also a member of BWO, VACUUM and more recently JULIAN & MARINA, she has always possessed a European elegance that has served her well in all her projects, be they in music or art. Another exponent of the MicroKorg, Marina’s sophisticated poise has complimented the more intense, animated stance of PAGE partner Eddie Bengtsson on their recent live dates.
With key influences such as Bjork and Kate Bush, Polly Scattergood has combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. At times like GOLDFRAPP crossed with COCTEAU TWINS and rousing with an air of fragility, her kooky on-stage persona delightfully combines Sarah Brightman with Sally Thomsett. Meanwhile, her lyrical vulnerability, as best exemplified on her most recent album ‘Arrows,’ is perfect listening on those rainy winter nights. And she even has her own Polly Moog, a Little Phatty no less!
Berenice Scott is currently HEAVEN 17’s live keyboardist and a solo artist in her own right with a new album ‘Polarity’ having just been released. TEC once described Berenice as “possibly the sexiest lady ever to get behind a synthesizer”. With her synth of choice being the Roland Fantom G8, in her short skirt and high heels, her appeal is enhanced even further by the fact she reminds you of your favourite school teacher. This is especially evoked with her raised eyebrow and stern look of disapproval whenever Messrs Gregory and Ware are larking about in front of her ‘desk’! No, she doesn’t smile much on stage, but like any good teacher, she is fully focussed on her job.
As referenced in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, Mademoiselle Simon studied electronic music at the Sorbonne and then later the IRCAM. There she found “Using the computer meant that I also felt very independent artistically”. With a Kate Bush influenced dynamic, she exudes Gallic beauty and charm in her one woman shows where the Yamaha Tenorion and Casio guitar synth feature in addition to her array of keyboards. She also has a device not unlike Imogen Heap’s MIDI Gloves, courtesy of a Steampunk styled arm controller developed by Cyrille Brissot.
AU REVOIR SIMONE released their last album ‘Still Night, Still Light’ in 2009 and from it, ‘Another Likely Story’ was their breakthrough to wider acceptance.
But while songs such ‘Tell Me’showed there was nothing awry with their songwriting, an epic gothic disco reworking by MIRRORS and a bouncily percussive reinterpretation by VILLA NAH indicated that production and arrangement wise, the threesome’s numbers were maybe not always fulfilling their potential. After three albums in four years, the studious trio took a well deserved break; Annie Hart started a family, Heather D’Angelo completed her University studies while Erika Forster took a buswoman’s holiday and released a solo EP as ERIKA SPRING which included a cover of EURYTHMICS’ ‘When Tomorrow Comes’.
On reconvening, the threesome’s drum machine guardian Heather D’Angelo expressed her concerns that after three albums, ARS’ instrumentation manifesto was becoming too restrictive to develop much further. Thus after eschewing the perils of the drum kit since their formation, ‘Move In Spectrums’ becomes their first album to fully embrace nosier live percussion. But interestingly, although a drummer James Richardson performs on two tracks, the girls’ approach on the rest has been to tackle the duties themselves, much like the early days of OMD when Paul Humphreys took on the percussive role.
Indeed, on the opener ‘More Than’, the combination of the looser rhythmical template, deep drones and organic swimmy synths evoke the atmospheres of early OMD. ‘The Lead Is Galloping’ is dark and mature but following on, there’s a surprise with the album’s second single ‘Crazy’. With a harder, almost rockier NEW ORDER guitar driven sound, the resigned refrain of “Ooh, you girls, you drive me crazy…” empathises with the more aggressive backing and shows that AU REVOIR SIMONE are in reality, more CAMERA OBSCURA than MARSHEAUX.
Producer Jorge Elbrecht of VIOLENS has noticeably beefed up the dynamics but while the fresh rhythmical outlook adds a new dimension, the classic ARS hallmarks of repeated synth riffs and drum machine still remain, particularly on the DMX dominated ‘Just Like A Tree’ and the mechanical conga drive of the sweet launch single ‘Somebody Who’.
There are also several other interesting diversions on ‘Move In Spectrums’; ‘We Both Know’ for example is instrumental for over three of its four and half minutes with the tension building up accordingly while ‘Hand Over Hand’ mutates into something boomingly hallucinogenic. ‘Gravitron’ on the other hand is decisively militaristic before the drifting wispiness of ‘Boiling Point’.
Otherwise, the usual down-to-earth, charm of the trio exudes over a melancholy that is never depressing but always tinged with hope.
However, one regular criticism of AU REVOIR SIMONE in the past has been that they can usually only be sampled in small doses.
In that respect, ‘Move In Spectrums’ doesn’t change that, especially with the album’s washy, chilled-out but noodling final third. The timely solution may be that elusive AU REVOIR SIMONE ‘best of’ compilation; “Smithers… release the album!” 😉
‘Move In Spectrums’ is released by Moshi Moshi Records as a CD, vinyl and download
Brooklyn’s AU REVOIR SIMONE have returned with a stylish new video for the song ‘Somebody Who’ to launch their brand new album ‘Move In Spectrums’.
In it, Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo have glammed up for what looks like Hello magazine shoot in a stately home but retaining their girl next door aura, they poke fun at the process by brushing their teeth and blowing bubblegum.
It’s been four years since their last long player ‘Still Night, Still Light’ and during this period, Annie has started a family while Erika Forster released a solo EP in 2011 as ERIKA SPRING.
But the girls are back with their psychedelic electro sound. ‘Somebody Who’ beefs up the dreamy earthy atmospheres of previous single adventures ‘Another Likely Story’ and ‘Tell Me’ which incidentally was given a tremendous gothic disco makeover by MIRRORS in 2010! However, ‘Somebody Who’ still retains the band’s trademark triple keyboard eloquence with repeating riffs and counter melodies but embellishing with more noisier off-kilter synth elements than previously heard on their work.
The trio started out when Erika and Annie exchanged stories on a train journey home and realised that they had a common desire to form an all-keyboard covers band. Heather joined later and they started playing shows locally with a manifesto to make “warm and organic electronic music with forthright female vocalists”. They have now earned a reputation for being a most charming live act with the on-stage banter at times coming over like a Casiotone slumber party. The band have announced a European tour including a date at London’s XOYO on Tuesday 17th September.
‘Move In Spectrums’ is released by Moshi Moshi Records on 24th September 2013
AU REVOIR SIMONE European Tour Dates include:
Helsinki Tavastia (13 September), Leffinge Festival (14 September), London XOYO (17 September), Paris Nouveau Casino (18 September), Kaserne Basel (19 September), Zurich Stall 6 (25 September), Rimini Sala Vertigio (26 September), Roma Circolo deli Artisti (27 September), Berlin Kantine am Berghain (30 September), Prague Meat Factory (1 October)