Paul Boddy, freelance producer, musician and writer looks back on ten years of The Electricity Club.
I had known Chi Ming Lai previously via another now defunct website which I used to contribute a variety of bootleg remixes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE. Once we were on each other’s radars and had moved on, I was very flattered when Chi asked me to start contributing to The Electricity Club.
One of the first pieces I did was an interview with ADAMSKI in 2012. Looking back, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done and completely out of my comfort zone at the time. This was primarily because a) he was a bit of a musical hero of mine as a previous band I was in had covered ‘Killer’ and b) I was faced with the proposition of trying to interview the guy over the phone and then record it using a mobile digital recorder (untried technology for me).
Despite his mobile signal dipping in and out (as he was ambling around London at the time I interviewing him) and the batteries running out on my recorder half-way through, the interview went well and I got a huge sense of achievement once the piece had been transcribed and eventually published.
The main enjoyment I get from occasionally contributing to the site is the ability to interview bands and people within the scene, Chi has kindly put some interviews my way including WANG CHUNG, SHRIEKBACK, KOSHEEN, CHICANE, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW as well as two of my own personal favourites John Foxx and Ulrich Schnauss. Having the platform to interact with these kind of artists is mind-blowing for me, especially the ones who I have admired and in some places influenced my own musical development. My other approach and contribution to the site is tracking down (some may call this stalking!) artists via social media and approaching them with a view to TEC featuring them in its ‘Missing in Action’ series.
Although a bit hit and miss as some artists don’t always respond when messaged, it has borne fruit with many artists accepting and using the opportunity to reflect and look back on their tenure in the music industry.
In terms of the people I’m most proud of ‘snagging’ in this manner are Scott Simon (OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING), Dave ‘Dee’ Harris (FASHIØN), Jerome Froese (TANGERINE DREAM) and Rob Dean (JAPAN). Because of the big interviews already done on the site by Chi, I find that this gives a lot of traction when cold approaching these kind of artists.
However, the icing on the cake was when Chi and myself spent a glorious few hours in a Liverpool Street pub with Stephen Singleton and Mark White from ABC and VICE VERSA. Getting this interview was a long process which started when Stephen contacted me in 2015 with regards to reviewing the VICE VERSA box set; this led to linking up with Mark and after a long period of negotiation and Facebook messenger chats, a face to face interview in 2019 with lots of laughter.
For me this has definitely been my highlight of TEC and although the transcribing of the interview was one of the longest processes I’ve done (the guys LOVED to chat!), the sense of achievement upon completion was huge.
Moving away from the artists themselves and onto electronic synth music itself, Chi and myself have quite differing tastes in music, but with enough crossover that we can still happily work together. The material I favour tends to be male-fronted, often dance-inflected and also with elements of guitars thrown into the mix (see BATTLE TAPES, MAPS, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and SPLEEN UNITED).
If you are a reader of the site, you won’t be surprised to hear that along with the other TEC contributors, I continue to be disappointed with the lack of decent UK based synth acts and the exposure that so many second-rate bands continue to get. For a country that has such an amazing heritage of electronic music (like DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, EURYTHMICS, OMD… I can go on), why is it that there are so few acts of quality which are continuing the tradition of these incredible acts?
What grinds my gears the most is the complete lack of emphasis on quality vocals that some UK synth bands have; for many it appears that once a synth backing track has been made, the process of adding vocals is treated as an afterthought. Very little attention is paid to crucial things like tuning / character / lyrics, all traits which have made vocalists such as Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox titans in their field. Whether this will improve and we will get another CHVRCHES or MIRRORS is doubtful, but I live in hope!
Although the original music that I write and produce (J-Pop / K-Pop) isn’t the kind of thing that TEC would champion, it still features a lot of electronics and I have been fortunate to have had success with some major Japanese artists including ARASHI and E-GIRLS (who covered YMO’s ‘Rydeen’).
I continue to write and produce for this market which is great fun. I continue to enjoy performing live as well in various cover bands.
Signing off, TEC has been a wonderful platform for me and has enabled me to interact with many of my musical heroes and also review some of their work too, long may it continue…
There are many bands from the Synth Britannia-era that are often perceived as being electronic, when in fact they either started off in a traditional band format and integrated synthesizers/sequencers or remained like that throughout most of their career.
ULTRAVOX, NEW ORDER and GARY NUMAN all fell into that format, but what about others who have successfully managed to meld the rigidity and coldness of electronics with the more human element of guitars.
This list aims to highlight tracks both vintage and more recent that give the listener the “best of both worlds” when it comes to an electronic and live band aesthetic. It is presented in chronological order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker…
ULTRAVOX All Stood Still (1980)
With the exception of ‘Mr X’ (and even that featured Billy Currie’s viola), all of the tracks on ‘Vienna’ featured live instrumentation of one form or another; whether it be Midge Ure’s guitar or Chris Cross’ live bass. Despite being underpinned by the band’s’ trademark Minimoog bass pulse and Currie’s squealing ARP Odyssey solo, ‘All Stood Still’ rocks pretty hard with Ure’s guitar running throughout in what would become the fourth single to be released from the album.
A hybrid of Giorgio Moroder electronics and heavy guitars, the song with its extended middle section showcases some truly wonderful interlocking sequencer parts. Despite some major axe-wielding done by Midge Ure and John McGeoch, there was still room for some Simmons drum rolls by RUSTY EGAN and a trademark BILLY CURRIE synth lead.
Available on the album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records
‘Quiet Life’ which was originally the B-side to the UK single ‘I Second That Emotion’, only became a chart hit when it was released by Hansa Records to capitalize on the success of the ‘Tin Drum’ album. Featuring guitar work from Rob Dean (who used an E-Bow to achieve the long sustained notes on the track), he departed the band after the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ album when his guitar work started be regarded as superfluous to the band’s sound.
Combining Jupiter 4 arpeggiators, a Roland CR78 and chugging guitars, ‘I Die: You Die’ was a song written by Numan about the symbiotic relationship he had with the music press. Considering the track was a single, it was notable in that during its 3 and a half minute length, nearly half of the track was instrumental with a long intro and extended musical outro.
Combining both of the signature electronic sounds from their eponymous debut, flanged sequencer and string synth, ‘Careless Memories’ also rocks because of Andy Taylor’s guitar which takes over the track from the second verse onwards, affirming The Guardian’s 2015 synopsis that DURAN DURAN were indeed “an electronic band with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on”.
Although only charting at No42 in the UK charts, ‘Love My Way’ still remains a mainstay of New Wave / synth compilations from its era. Featuring Numan-inspired synths and a marimba played by track producer Todd Rundgren, the promo video was directed by Tim Pope who would go onto make his name as director of choice for THE CURE while guitarist John Ashton had a sideline producing THE SISTERS OF MERCY.
TEARS FOR FEARS’ ‘Pale Shelter’ was released three separate times with an edit of the Mike Howlett produced version being made available after the success of the ‘Songs From the Big Chair’ album. The promo video for the Ross Cullum/Chris Hughes re-recording of the track is in turns both surreal and incomprehensible, but still doesn’t diminish the power of a song which combines acoustic guitars and electronics seamlessly.
Notable for its use in the sci-fi film ‘Hardware’, ‘The Order of Death’ is a primarily instrumental piece with Floydian-influences and a mantra-like chant of “This is what you want, this is what you get” being the only featured vocal throughout. This atypical PiL track was arguably one of the better things about the film ‘Hardware’ which was a low-budget affair that owed more than a passing debt to ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Alien’, while it also latterly appeared in ‘The Blair Witch Project’.
The glorious string synth melody helps this CURE track make it into the 25 of this listing. One of Robert Smith’s most covered songs, with interpretations ranging from a grunge guitar version by DINOSAUR JR through to one by the wildly inoffensive KATIE MELUA; what is less known is that an instrumental version of ‘Just Like Heaven’ was used as the theme music to the French TV programme ‘Les Enfants du Rock’, helping give the song a wider European exposure prior to its eventual release.
Despite courting controversy, ‘Personal Jesus’ was inspired by a book about ELVIS PRESLEY’s wife Priscilla; Martin Gore revealed to Spin Magazine: “It’s a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care. It’s about how Elvis was her man and her mentor and how often that happens in love relationships; how everybody’s heart is like a god in some way. We play these god-like parts for people but no one is perfect, and that’s not a very balanced view of someone is it?”.
Available on the album ‘Violator’ via Mute Records
With a verse vocal melody scaringly similar to ABC’s ‘All of My Heart’, ‘Get The Message’ was the second single from the debut ELECTRONIC album. The Marr/Sumner collaboration cracked the Top 10 in 1991, but didn’t go down well with Melody Maker who described listening to the track as “Like watching a pony chew on a carrot for half an hour”!
With a synthetic introduction that sounds like a prime Violator-era DEPECHE MODE track, the song also features the twin guitar attack of Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers. Translated as “I want”, the track is noteworthy for the call and response section latterly in the piece, where RAMMSTEIN fans were recorded in an arena to get the epic and some might say, controversial Teutonic rally feel.
There are countless NEW ORDER tracks that could feature on this list, in fact you could probably fill all 25 slots with their hybrid electronic / rock tracks. The ‘Crystal’ promotional video is notable for inspiring Brandon Flowers from THE KILLERS to name his act from the fictional band which mimes to the song has the name emblazoned on the drummer’s kick drum!
Available on the album ‘Singles’ via Rhino Records
‘This Is The New Sh*t’ takes a lyrically cynical swipe at over-obsessed music fans devotion to their favourite bands. The track combines glitchy synths, analogue step sequencers, a ‘When The Levee Breaks’-style drum pattern and a dynamic screamed chorus from MANSON. In one of music’s most unlikely (and inspired) pairings, GOLDFRAPP re-interpreted the track with Alison adding a wonderful 20s influenced outro replete with her interpretation of the sweary vocals.
Available on the album ‘Hot Fuss’ via Interscope Records
With an opening 20 second blitzkrieg of synths and guitars, ‘Somebody Told Me’ needed a couple of releases for it to become a decent chart hit in the UK. Amusingly described by singer and keyboardist Brandon Flowers as “‘Rio’ with chest hair”, the song eventually reached No3 in the UK singles charts when it was re-released in 2005.
Available on the album ‘Hot Fuss’ via Lizard King Records
American act THE BRAVERY actually won ‘BBC Sound Of 2005’ and had a Top 10 single with their debut track ‘An Honest Mistake’, but unfortunately weren’t able to follow it up. Successfully merging sequenced synths and NEW ORDER-style guitars, the band also secured the support slot on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Touring The Angel’ set of live shows but ditched the synths by their lukewarm second album ‘The Sun & The Moon’.
Led by Emily Haines, Canadian combo METRIC and their ‘Poster Of A Girl’ features a mixture of fizzing monosynths that evoke those used on THE CURE’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and ‘Faith’. The song’s deliciously filthy lyrics and seedy video combine to make this track a classic hybrid of guitars and synthesizers.
‘Only’ breaks all the rules of song structuring (the listener has to wait a full two minutes and eighteen seconds before the chorus hook comes in) and showcases a video promo which owes more than a passing debt to MIDGE URE’s ‘If I Was’. The song itself has one of those signature Reznor synth parts that immediately identifies it as a NIN track and combines this with sequencers and guitars to great effect.
It would be easy to dismiss Israel’s INFECTED MUSHROOM as an EDM / Psytrance act, but dig a little deeper and you will hear a multitude of influences. ‘Smashing The Opponent’ featuring vocals from Jonathan Davis of KORN, owes a major debt to DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Behind the Wheel’. A superb sequenced synth bassline drives the track along whilst a mixture of clean and distorted guitars help give the track an added live dimension & power that electronics alone would struggle to manage.
An unholy mix of the ‘Dr Who’ theme, ‘White Wedding’ by BILLY IDOL, ‘Call Me’ by BLONDIE and the BLACK SABBATH track ‘Children of the Grave’, ‘Uprising’ saw MUSE bring synths to the fore with this GOLDFRAPP-inspired schaffel stomp from the album ‘The Resistance’. The similarity with the BLONDIE song resulted in Debbie Harry and co mashing up the two songs when playing live.
One of the standout tracks from their debut album ‘To Lose My Life’, ‘E.S.T.’ was inspired by Electric Shock Therapy, the form of medical treatment that was given to WHITE LIES bass player Charles Cave’s mentally ill great grandmother. The track combines U2 style guitar lines and bombastic synths with Harry McVeigh’s Julian Cope aping vocal style to great effect.
KORN featuring SKRILLEX + KILL THE NOISE Narcissistic Cannibal (2011)
From the ‘When KORN went Dubstep’ phase, with SKRILLEX on production duties and synths/programming. The Electricity Club vividly remembers the general confusion which greeted KORN when they unveiled their new electronic direction in 2012; the act played Brixton Academy supported by Dubstep act DOWNLINK and a DJ set from frontman Jonathan Davis, much to the general bemusement of the band’s hard core fans.
With a German lullaby-style intro vocal, ‘I Come With Knives’ has a pretty low-key start until the listener is dragged screaming and kicking into the chorus with Chris Corner’s histrionic vocals at times evoking MUSE’s Matt Bellamy. The track successfully combines live drums, guitars and synths and is a definite standout in the IAMX catalogue.
The standout track from LA-based BATTLE TAPES’ debut album ‘Polygon’. ‘Valkyrie’ is a brilliant merging of rock band dynamics and sequenced electronic elements. Lyrically the song is one of those that the listener can analyse countless times and still not have a clue what it’s all about (…and that’s a good thing).
Taking their cues from JOY DIVISION but welding them to a dance music aesthetic, France’s VOX LOW’s epic 8 and a half minute single ‘Something Is Wrong’ is a slow builder with wonderfully quirky lyrics about patching synths and flangers. “You plug the wire… not the good wire…”
It was a year when the veterans re-established their standing within electronic pop.
That was not to that comparatively newer acts weren’t making a good impression, it was just that a fair number of established acts gave their all and were producing some of their best work since their imperial heyday.
Great tracks by SPARKS, OUTERNATIONALE, SPACEPRODIGI, iEUROPEAN, PARALLELS, KITE, FEVER RAY, SOL FLARE, SOFTWAVE, KNIGHT$, 2RAUMWHONUNG, JORI HULKKONEN, FIFI RONG and KITE BASE made it onto the shortlist, but despite their quality, they did not make the final listing.
Also not included are songs from ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, the debut album from RUSTY EGAN; although gaining a physical release this year, it was reviewed by The Electricity Club in the Autumn of last year when download versions of the long player were distributed to those who had purchased it in advance via Pledge Music. Meanwhile, its closing track ‘Thank You’ was included in The Electricity Club’s 30 Songs Of 2016.
So restricted to purchasable releases only and one song per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 Songs Of 2017 in alphabetical order…
AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix
Additionally featuring NYXX and WILLIAM CONTROL on vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s industrial pop to the next level via his new singles only policy. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised this oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!”
From only the third solo album in the long career of Richard Barbieri, ‘Solar Sea’ was a sleazy rhythmic excursion into another world. With the one-time JAPAN sound designer using a Roland System 700 for its bassline, the track’s atonal jazz feel was augmented by the haunting voice manipulations of Lisen Rylander Löve through a vintage Soviet submarine microphone and warping noises offset by soothing brass inflections and live drums.
The American electronic rock quartet BATTLE TAPES continued to develop from their 2015 debut album ‘Polygon’ via their ‘Form’ EP. The best track ‘Control’ hinged around a syncopated filtered synth bass and a brilliantly catchy chorus sung by Josh Boardman, with enough guitars for power and texture without distracting from the overall electronic aesthetic, and even coming over like a heavier Stateside version of SIN COS TAN.
“International in flavour, cosmopolitan in style” and sounding like a long lunch followed by a round of cocktails, Australian duo CLIENT LIAISON roped in one-time TV talent show star Tina Arena to duet on a lush slice of romantic pop that also rode on the current fashion for Synthwave. ‘A Foreign Affair’ could have easily been a Rat Pack movie song.
CULT WITH NO NAME All I Have Is Yours (Including You)
CULT WITH NO NAME have never been short of mood, but their eighth album ‘Heir Of The Dog’ proved to be their best yet, combining a variety of tempos and textures. With a memorable crooning vocal from Erik Stein complimented by an enticing harmony from Sirena Riley and lush electronic backing sounding like OMD by the Aegean Sea, ‘All I Have Is Yours (Including You)’ was a song that rose forever and ever like one of Aphrodite’s grandchildren.
Johan Baeckström made positive waves with his debut solo album ‘Like Before’ in 2015 but reunited with his musical partner Jarmo Ollila, producing an excellent third album with more tempo variation than their 2014 offering ‘Two’. Featuring the guest vocals of Mac Austin from cult synth trio WHITE DOOR who were one of the inspirations for DAILY PLANET, ‘Heaven Opened’ was an uncomplicated but wonderfully poignant slice of classic synthpop.
ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is the musical vehicle of Chris Payne, the one-time Numan band member who also co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’. With a symphonic theme bursting with melody and musicality like ULTRAVOX galloping across the plains of Normandy, the brilliant neo-instrumental ’The Trapeze’ was given a wondrous tone of humanistic unity when Payne’s wife and daughter joined in on the final straight in Latin.
FADER are the synth superduo featuring BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur and Benge; ‘3D Carpets’ captured an independent post-punk intensity, like JOY DIVISION or THE CURE but realised with analogue electronics rather than guitars. While the pair worked on their parts separately, their creative dynamic produced a great debut album in ‘First Light’.
From the Welsh synth songstress’ first EP, the fabulous ‘Geiriau’ was a driving sequential drama that had more than a passing resemblance to the first part of SPARKS’ ‘No1 Song In Heaven’. Revolving around ANI GLASS’ experience of flying the nest and returning years later to reconnect with her Welsh and Cornish heritage, it was a spacey and futuristic soundtrack for a wonderfully uplifting homecoming.
‘Volupsa’, the promising Nordic flavoured debut album from THE GOLDEN FILTER came out in 2010, but the Aussie American duo of vocalist Penelope Trappes and synth programmer Stephen Hindman took their time with the follow-up ‘Still//Alone’, having relocated to London after spending several years based in New York. The hypnotic pulse of ‘Rivers’ with its precise drum machine pointed to a female fronted OMD, complete with a catchy riff and synthy jabbing bassline.
The immensely catchy ‘Systemagic’ was a prize electronic gem from the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, reminiscent of the lusty and beat laden electronic material from ‘Black Cherry’. But its riff asked the question as to whether you will always find Alison Goldfrapp in the kitchen at parties? In the event of Jona Lewie filing a lawsuit, the lucrative income from the song’s use in a BMW advert may ease any potential net payout.
After three acclaimed albums as IAMAMIWHOAMI with producer Claes Björklund, Jonna Lee went solo in 2017 although it was actually difficult to hear the join on the glorious ‘Not Human’, so seamless was the transition; there were still the icy electronic soundscapes, spacey dance beats and uplifting Scandipop vocals while the delightfully odd visuals were all present and correct.
Available on the download single ‘Not Human’ via To Whom It May Concern
I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio / visual collaboration between musician Tara Busch and filmmaker Maf Lewis. Soundtracking their film ‘Zombies 1985’, the story was one of greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to the zombie apocalypse going on around him. Co-written and co-produced with Benge, the brilliant ‘Shame’ with its cascading synths and noise percussion was a wonderful hybrid of THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and GOLDFRAPP.
After a number of years gigging around London, KATJA VON KASSEL finally unleashed released her electro Weimer Cabaret to the world. The pulsating ‘In Little Rooms (Show Me Love)’ captured an aesthetic which closely resembled that of RONNY, a former protégé of Rusty Egan. Attached to Alex Gray’s intricate filmic electronics, Fraulein von Kassel’s deep vocal detachment was art cool sexy.
James Murphy returned as LCD SOUNDSYSTEM after seven years with this widescreen musical statement reflecting on the political situation in the US. Glancing across the Atlantic and back to the Winter Of Discontent, this 3/4 synth laden tune that had more than a passing resemblance to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Circus Of Death’. So did “The Clown” referred to in that song remind Murphy of someone in particular?
Having started out in a more rave inclined environment, Lizette Nordahl ventured into more synthy climes and her debut mini-album had the air of KITE is all over it, which was not entirely surprising as its co-producers were Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg from the acclaimed duo. ‘Rest’ with its swirling synth sounds and widescreen Nordic atmosphere had an optimistic air of acceptance despite the melancholic tone and majestic growls.
Led by British born musician Dylan Willoughby, LOST IN STARS is a floating ensemble which also includes Elena Charbila aka KID MOXIE and producer/songwriter Darren Burgos. The latter takes the lead vocal on the spirited electronic pop of ‘Sky’; now if NEW ORDER were from Los Angeles instead of Manchester, they would have sounded like this.
After releasing her first solo album ‘Crystal World’ in 2013, Helen Marnie added more prominent choruses and guitar onto her second, resulting in a catchy Scandipop style. ‘Bloom’ was an optimistic burst of synth laden pleasure and while not totally dissimilar to LADYTRON, it was without their usual hardness or gothic gloom.
Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, an acclaimed album which saw ALISON MOYET return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…
With the narrative of ‘Savage’ provoked by Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord, the mighty apocalyptic rock of ‘When The World Comes Apart’ was something of a revelation for GARY NUMAN. Using synths as the dominant instrument and having guitars less obviously prominent in the mix, with its richly anthemic chorus, this was the magnificent crossover song that both old and new Numanoids had been waiting for.
MICHAEL OAKLEY is a talented Glaswegian who describes his music as “Melancholic postcards from my heart wrapped up in synthesisers and drum machines”. The melodic ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ came complete with Italo “woah-oh” chants and whether it was Synthwave, synthpop, electropop, Italo or whatever, it showcased Oakley’s fine songwriting abilities, regardless of genre.
The excellent ‘One More Time’ was a classic bittersweet OMD stomper, where “everything you gave me didn’t last”. Using electronic percussion as opposed to drum machines, the enticing verse and uplifting bridge were set to a plethora of gorgeous textures and distorted synth to add a touch of enigmatic weirdness. While Andy McCluskey cried “you can break my heart just one more time”, the track’s star was Paul Humphreys with his crystalline synth sounds laced with some portamento bounce.
As well as keyboards and violin, HANNAH PEEL can also play the trombone. Featuring an array of analogue synthesizers and a 29-piece colliery brass band, ‘Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia’ was her instrumental story about a fictional elderly musical stargazer. Beginning with the lift-off of ‘Goodbye Earth’, Miss Peel’s electronic arpeggios and synthetic noise built up to a crescendo of brass and timpani for a quite unusual combination of two very different musical worlds.
From the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL came forth RAINLAND. Their self-titled calling card was a vibrant synthpop statement, embroiled in a musicality that provided a journey through the Grampian Mountains. Ian Ferguson had already proved himself a worthy vocalist in his previous combo with dulcet tones not dissimilar to a certain Midge Ure and this was allowed to reign free on ‘Rainland’. Meanwhile, the ivories of Derek MacDonald stylistically aped the symphonic overtones of ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie.
Between 1980 to 1984, RHEINGOLD were at the forefront of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, releasing three albums and achieving their first domestic hit ‘3klangsdimensionen’ in 1981. Led by Bodo Staiger, ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ was their first album of new material for many years. The melodic synth of ‘Paradieshafen’ drove along a beautiful instrumental that came over like a dream collaboration between OMD and Michael Rother.
With hypnotising hints of Kate Bush and percolating Ryuichi Sakamoto style textures, ‘Who Am I’ by electropop goddess SARAH P. was an ode to “humanity, the world we live in and our importance (or unimportance) as individuals and/or as a whole”. And as the Greek-born songstress announced that “I don’t know where I come from… do you know my name?”, a metronomic beat kicked in to lead a dramatic house-laden climax.
Available on the album ‘Who Am I’ via EraseRestart Records
The normally flamboyant Welsh duo SHELTER surprised all with their darkest and most accomplished song yet in ‘Karma’. “What you want is what you’ll get…” sang Mark Bebb, “…you will get a lot more that you planned”. A vibrant but edgy production from Rob Bradley complimented the sentiment as the message was relayed loud and clear…
Available on the single ‘Karma’ via Ministry Of Pop
From ‘From Deewee’, the first new SOULWAX album since 2004’s ‘Any Minute Now’, ‘Conditions Of A Shared Belief’ was a modular synth lover’s wet dream from the Dewaele brothers. With a retro-futuristic collage of detuned blippy sounds and a backbone of smashing white noise percussion recalling THE HUMAN LEAGUE in their Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh phase, it was complimented by some suitably abstractly pitched TALKING HEADS inspired vocals.
TINY MAGNETIC PETS had their best year yet with a UK tour opening for OMD and to accompany it was their second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’. Featuring Wolfgang Flür, the album’s best song ‘Never Alone’ sounded appropriately like SAINT ETIENNE fronting KRAFTWERK. Paula Gilmer has one of the best voices in modern synthpop and her alluring tone no doubt added to the song’s breezy dreamlike state.
The adventurous third VANBOT album ‘Siberia’ was composed and recorded during a 17 day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway. The crystalline ‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ though captured a more Nordic vibe with its gorgeous melodies, while the surrounding rhythmic pace of a train ride made its presence felt. An aural exploration of the relationship between time, location and emotion, ‘Siberia’ was a bold musical experiment.
‘Form’ is the brand new five track EP from Los Angeles-based BATTLE TAPES.
‘Form’ continues the hybrid rock / electronic sound that the band so successfully cultivated on 2015’s ‘Polygon’ and which went onto become a firm favourite in The Electricity Club camp.
Cryptically titled opening track ‘Last Resort & Spa’ is a loping / swaggering beast, built around a huge octaved synth riff and multi-layered vocal by frontman Josh Boardman.
The combination of compressed live drums and electronics works incredibly well, giving the track just the right amount of human feel and complimenting the emotionally driven “If I can hold you tonight” chorus hook.
The previously released ‘No Good’ has a double whammy of a catchy DM-ish synth hook and the kind of chorus vocal which lodges itself into the listener’s brain after a single listen. The DM connection is maintained with a sly reference in the “I couldn’t help what I overheard, blasphemous rumors I know how absurd” lyric which appears a couple of times during the song.
Worthy of a mention is the fact that the band took a DIY approach to making the promo video; self-directed and produced using Final Cut software, an iPhone video rendering app Glitche and a gimble camera stabilizer, and all for the princely sum of $500.
‘Control’ hinges around a syncopated filtered synth bass and another catchy chorus vocal from Boardman, whilst ‘Rhyme Or Reason’ lowers the tempo and takes things in a more reflective direction. ‘Alive’ is another synth bass driven anthem but with the addition of a fabulous SUPERTRAMP-style electric piano gatecrashing the party at 2:43. Additional layers of sequencers drive the track towards the end and round off what is a really strong collective of songs.
There is that old adage, “If something ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it” and all of the tracks here could fit seamlessly on to ‘Polygon’. In terms of progression in sound there is little (if any) guitar here (which had a greater presence on the debut album) and there is definitely more of an overall electronic aesthetic, plus the vocal production levels have been raised a notch.
BATTLE TAPES are criminally overlooked and if they can maintain this level of quality it is surely only a matter of time before they manage to break through the glass ceiling to a much wider audience.
An upcoming EP ‘Function’ will be released later in the year to complement ‘Form’ and if it’s anything like its current predecessor will be an essential release to seek out.
Los Angeles’ BATTLE TAPES, who last year released their debut album ‘Polygon’, a sleek fusion of electronics and rock have just promo-ed a video for the album track ‘Solid Gold’.
Featuring the vocals of PARTY NAILS’ Elana Belle Carroll, the track itself hinges around a Bowie-esque ‘Fame’-inspired guitar lick with fizzing synths and a blinding middle eight which showcases some quite outstanding songwriting.
The video features Carroll being kidnapped and bundled into the back of van (which features a handy karaoke set-up) and proceeds to get driven around the streets whilst vocalling her own song. The band themselves have a cameo appearance with clips of them performing projected within the van along with karaoke-style song lyrics.
BATTLE TAPES’ vocalist Josh Boardman kindly told TEC: “Part of the concept for the ‘Solid Gold’ video was a 90s style performance karaoke / music video. One of our favorite things about doing performances for videos is that we get to use the actual gear that we used on the record. If you blink you might miss it (photo from the Raw Hi-8 footage at top), but towards the end of the video you can see Riley (Keyboardist) rockin’ the Juno 60 (with… a JSQ-60 sequencer) and the Korg MS-20 which make up the bulk of the synths on the track. It’s always fun when you can get the older fellas out of the studio and into the spotlight!”
Over the last couple of years, BATTLE TAPES music has been featured in computer games ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ and ‘Need for Speed’ which has resulted in a wider exposure for the band.
The Electricity gives its sincere thanks to BATTLE TAPES
‘Solid Gold’ is released as a 7 inch single by Battle Arts or a 4 track digital EP featuring remixes by THE BETA MACHINE and STORY OF THE RUNNING WOLF. The album ‘Polygon’ is still available through the usual online outlets