Tag: Cabaret Voltaire (Page 1 of 3)

STEPHEN MALLINDER Interview

In a career that started in 1978 with the first releases by CABARET VOLTAIRE, Stephen Mallinder has worn many hats with other outfits such as ACID HORSE, SASSI & LOCO, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW featuring John Grant.

Widely acknowledged as an experimental electronic music pioneer, despite fronting CABARET VOLTAIRE through their imperial phase and a number of iconic tracks such as ‘Nag Nag Nag’, ‘Yashar’, ‘Sensoria’ and ‘Just Fascination’, his releases as a solo artist have been scarce.

Indeed, Stephen Mallinder’s surrealist second album ‘Um Dada’ was only released in 2019.

But it rekindled interest in his first solo record ‘Pow Wow’ from 1982. Ice Machine, a new sub-label of the Canadian electro imprint Suction Records is reissuing an expanded deluxe edition of that debut.

This new version of ‘Pow Wow’ now includes the trippy dub excursion of ‘Temperature Drop’ and the more motorik ‘Cool Down’ from the 12 inch single that came out on Fetish Records in 1981 prior to the album, as well as a recreation of the original iconic Neville Brody designed artwork, painstakingly recreated using scans of the original.

Reflecting on more than four decades in the music business, Stephen Mallinder spoke to The Electricity Club about his solo work, his CABARET VOLTAIRE years and much more.

‘Pow Wow’ was recorded simultaneously as doing CABARET VOLTAIRE, what was motivating you do work on solo material. Had it been intended that maybe some of these tracks would morph into Cabs tracks?

I tend to be quite reactive, and I like a challenge, so it was driven initially by being asked to do a release with Fetish rather than a burning desire to have a solo career.

We were really busy with lots of Cabs things but I was running around doing other stuff, and had friends all over.

There was a direct connection with Rod who set up Fetish, and Neville (Brody) who was a good friend, as were 23 SKIDOO, who came up to Western Works to record ‘Last Words’.

Fetish had become synonymous with Neville, the label’s identity was in part shaped by his designs and detailed ‘look’. So there was collective component, people who I was associated with it so it seemed natural that I’d be happy to record for them.

Musically it was a chance to do things on my own, it was an experiment to play everything myself. We had a studio, Western Works, I had the opportunity and so used the downtime during the night to try things out. They were never intended to be embryonic Cabs tracks because we had a different way of working. We were very collaborative and the tracks were made with us all together – it was never a case of individuals writing a piece and the others adding their names – we worked as a group from initiation to completion.

What would have been your equipment set up at this time at Western Works? 

It was still centred on tape recording as the key process. Although we had synths and a sequencer, these were still cobbled together, with bits of homemade gear and cheap instruments; it still had a futuristic junk shop vibe.

We had built up to using 8 track but didn’t move to 16 track until later when Richard and I did the Some Bizarre / Virgin deal.

We ended to put what money we had into outboard gear so we built up the rack of effects: compressors, noise gates, reverb, delays and processors. I think the MXR Harmoniser and Lexicon delay/multi effects get used a bit on the album. We also invested in drum machines and pedals. Multitracking, overdubbing and processing were the main means of working.

‘Pow Wow’ had a very rhythmic template and coincided with CABARET VOLTAIRE’s growing interest in the dancefloor?

To be honest it was always there, Richard and myself were old soul boys and were originally friends from the hanging out in record shops and blagging into nightclubs, illegally, when were 14-15 years old. But it’s fair to say that there was a growing interest in what was emerging from clubs, and importantly that through dance music, the 12inch single was becoming more accepted as a format which meant we could mess with that extended medium.

If you then throw in our interest in dub, a nod to the repetition of disco, and looser forms of funk and African music, there was a pattern emerging. We were starting to corral all these different elements before electro had even popped its head up so we were well placed. ‘Pow Wow’ was the early part of this curve – ‘Cool Down’ was done as a 12inch single, prior to, and independently from, the album.

How do you think ‘Pow Wow’ helped you in your future musical endeavours?

I’m not sure, perhaps it demonstrated I was capable of playing all the parts and taking on every role whenever I felt I needed to. It did contrast with the Cabs where there was a happy interaction between everyone and we knew it was a consequence of 2 or 3 individuals combining, complimenting and contrasting with each other to achieve a result. I guess it made me aware of different ways of working creatively.

On ‘The Crackdown’, you were working with a young producer by the name Flood, what did you see in him that would fit into the CABARET VOLTAIRE aesthetic?

Haa, it’s kind of funny because I think Flood refers to those as his dark days so maybe you should ask him what he thought of working with us. I don’t think it was us personally as we had some great times making music with Flood.

He was great for us because until we went to record ‘The Crackdown’ in Trident, where Flood was the in-house engineer, we had never really spent time in a proper outside studio.

Flood was open, inquisitive, up for anything so great for us and we had a good chemistry. And he came back to co-produce ‘Micro-Phonies’ with us – he even came to Western Works to contribute to the recording process before we went to Sarm and mixed that album. I think his subsequent history shows how great he was, I hope he has some good memories of it all.

The ‘Crackdown’ title track is often highlighted, but ‘Just Fascination’ was an excellent if underrated single in its John Luongo remix?

Yes, John was our first foray into the specialist club remix. He was great, very amiable and my lasting memory is him working relentlessly to get the perfect kick drum sound – it took pretty much a whole day. But we should also acknowledge Peter Care’s video for that track, the first vid we did together.

How do you look back now on that Some Bizzare / Virgin Records trilogy of ‘The Crackdown’, ‘Micro-phonies’ and ‘The Covenant, The Sword & The Arm Of The Lord’?

With a sense of satisfaction. It was an interesting, and challenging time. We were trying to mould our sound, and whole approach, to a changing situation – technology, formats, media, audiences were all moving rapidly and we were in the middle of all that. We wanted to move forward but not to lose what we had achieved until then – being on the outside creating noise and disruption – but knowing we should embrace the changes. Those albums capture that tension both for us, and the times.

What opportunities did the move to Australia present that weren’t open to you in the UK at the time?

It was a bit of a shock because I had to survive, bring up my daughters, and continue with my creative work. I didn’t know a single person there. I learnt how to adapt but retain the core of yourself.

Although it felt like starting again, it was an opportunity to try things without feeling the weight of expectation on top of me all the time. I could try whatever I wanted without as much attention so I was able to write, start a record label, set up a production company, promote gigs and festivals, become a radio producer running arts and current affairs, DJ, have radio shows, complete my PhD. I did them all in a relatively short space of time which I think was only possible being away from the UK bubble.

How different was Australia to the UK when you moved there? Especially Western Australia which is in itself even more ‘remote’?

It was quite disconcerting at first as you become very aware of how small and distant you can feel when detached from your past, and that very familiar world.

But I was lucky in that I developed strong connections in Sydney and Melbourne so travelled a lot doing music and the label. I was also very lucky in that the radio show was a way of getting people in. That plus the gigs through the production company, meant every week I had someone from overseas coming in or staying with me.

So one week it might be COLDCUT, the next MR SCRUFF, KRUSH, GRANDMASTER FLASH, JURASSIC 5 or mates like MOLOKO, Jarvis Cocker or whoever passing through. I became like Our Man in Havana in Graham Green’s novel.

Also the Off World Sounds label was run by me and Pete Carroll, brother of Central Station’s Matt and Pat, and Shaun Ryder’s cousin, so barely a month would go by without half of Manchester coming to stay.

Was there any particular reason the ACID HORSE project with MINISTRY only produced one single? Was the plan for it to be an ongoing act in the vein of REVOLTING COCKS?

No it could only be a one off. In fact to this day we’ve never owned up to it really. We were in the studio in Chicago with Marshall Jefferson recording tracks for ‘Groovy, Laidback & Nasty’ and did some moonlighting with Al (Jorgensen) and Chris (Connelly) to do ACID HORSE. EMI had paid for the trip to record with Marshall so would have taken a dim view of us doing a bit on the side, hence we were credited under pseudonyms on the release.

You finally followed-up ‘Pow Wow’ after 37 years with ‘Um Dada’, while you had been recording and releasing albums as part of WRANGLER, what was the impetus to do another solo record after so long?

I just felt like taking control for a bit, and because we’d been so busy with WRANGLER, there was suddenly a bit of time to do it.

There was no particular plan, in fact I can’t really remember how it happened. I think I started making tracks at home because I had a bit of time, it followed from there.

I was never conscious of not making solo stuff until it was pointed out it’d been years since I did something under my actual name. I feel ownership of all music that I’ve worked on from CABARET VOLTAIRE, SASSI & LOCO, WRANGLER etc, there’s but tons of releases so really it was just the name for me. I’ve always preferred hiding behind a branded name, but it was nice to think there could be a direct connection by using my own.

How would ‘Working (As You Are)’ have come together and would it have been something you could have done while doing ‘Pow Wow’?

No, technology changes things, and context too. Each are a result of their own specific time and place. Although the common elements of rhythm and simplicity are consistent. I’m the link and what feathers my duster remains pretty stable.

How have the continual changes in music technology influenced the way you work? How would a young Master Mallinder have reacted to the vast libraries of sounds available at the click of a mouse?

Like everyone it gives choices. I can work from home on my laptop, and I can also choose to go into a studio. I do enjoy that flexibility, and I like that each can have their own approach and sound, or grain. And at this moment working remotely but collaborating is a good thing to be able to do.

I think the bigger changes are in transmission – how we share that music and how we choose to present ourselves. As the tangible content – the product itself – has been transformed, almost lost, so has the exchange value and our relationship to creative work. It’s certainly not all good, but we have to work with it. For every annoyance that Spotify and YouTube have made music seem like a free product, Bandcamp, coupled with social media, have given us the opportunity to quickly upload and sell.

Music, like much creative output, has become a utility. A consumable, available at the end of a click.

How did you find the reception for ‘A Situation’, your third album with WRANGLER? Did you enjoy working in Benge’s new Cornwall studio complex and seeing what he had brought into that already vast synth armoury?

Well we’ve been working all along in the Cornwall space – we did the previous album ‘White Glue’ there, recording in the upstairs space before the studio was built, plus CREEP SHOW and I finished ‘Um Dada’ there.

You won’t be surprised to know Phil and I were the first ones in there… we pretty much followed the removal truck down.

But yes, Benge has done a great job – it has taken a few years but it’s brilliant, perfection I’d say. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work there but really it’s about the people and I love working with Benge and the guys. We can work anywhere though… Benge and I finished a Laura Marling mix in an Air B&B in Glasgow.

Yes, we released the WRANGLER album as lockdown happened. We were fortunate to do a couple of gigs before the shutters came down but not great timing… particularly for the videos Aki did, they are too amazing to be missed so I hope they get seen.

The current lockdown is highlighting something you have written about in the past, namely the place of live music in a digital world. With many artists at this time performing set on platforms like Zoom, do you see audiences perceptions of what is ”live” being changed forever?

Zoom is the work of the Devil… a mate just messaged me and said that!

We have to adapt so I see this as a response to a situation, but music was never meant to be experienced live though laptop speakers. I find the funniest thing is how celebrity culture functions in lockdown – the need for attention seems to drive much of it, not a burning creative desire.

Much music is rooted in the experience, and importantly a sense of shared experience. We need a feeling of connection. Live gigs on Zoom seem a bit shit, but everyone is trying to make things work so I don’t want to be moaning on the sidelines, it’ll be interesting to see what we choose to take from all this.

What’s next for you in terms of future projects whether musical or academic, lockdown depending?

Oh I seem to have lots of things on: mixes, collaborations, film projects under way. I’ve shot bits for two promo clips in my bedroom in last three weeks. I’ve written the follow-up to ‘Um Dada’ but need to get to studio to finish.

Sadly all the gigs been cancelled or postponed. I think much seems in preparation for the big return… although that may be a series of small returns right now. One footnote being “try running a Sound Arts course online!”; big respect to everyone out there doing their best to make things work in this different world.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Stephen Mallinder

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘Pow Wow’ is reissued by Ice Machine on 19th June 2020 in double baby blue vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, pre-order via https://pow-wow.bandcamp.com/album/pow-wow

‘Um Dada’ is available via Dais Records as a vinyl LP in three colours plus the standard black as well as CD and download from https://www.daisrecords.com/products/stephen-mallinder-um-dada

https://www.facebook.com/stephenmallinderofficial/

https://twitter.com/stephenmal

https://www.instagram.com/malmallinder/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Interview by Chi Ming Lai and Ian Ferguson
10th June 2020

FINLAY SHAKESPEARE Interview

Influenced by the experimental side of Synth Britannia and the groundbreaking electronica of Warp Records, Bristol-based Finlay Shakespeare has presented one of the most impressive releases of 2020 in his second album ‘Solemnities’.

Passionate and intense in his vocal delivery, the music of Finlay Shakespeare is strangely pop, but his modular laden backdrop will satisfy those listeners seeking more of a colder mechanised edge. Reference points range from THE HUMAN LEAGUE and THROBBING GRISTLE to AUTECHRE and THE FAINT, while the socially conscious lyrics recall Paul Weller during his time in THE JAM.

Also an independent musical device manufacturer via his Future Sound Systems umbrella, ‘Solemnities’ captures the balance of melody and freaky angst that was showcased live to BLANCMANGE fans who arrived early when Shakespeare opened for Neil Arthur & Co in 2019.

Finlay Shakespeare encapsulates the spirit of early Mute Records and that’s probably just as well because he has just been signed by Mute Song for publishing. He kindly took time out and spoke to The Electricity Club about the making of ‘Solemnities’, its lyrical inspiration and gave a fascinating insight into the equipment involved in the album’s realisation.

Your new album ‘Solemnities’ is rather on point in the current situation, but what had been your original concept?

The majority of material that I write, at least lyrically speaking, tends to come from improvisation, and in the case of ‘Solemnities’, recording many iterations and honing in on a finished version. I’ve always tried to capture a sense of the present when writing and recording too – I like the idea that music can form a time capsule to be listened back to. Much of the subject matter across ‘Solemnities’ is politically motivated, and how I see the UK’s current political situation affecting me and others around me.

While you have said ‘Solemnities’ has a rawer approach, it appears to be a lot more focussed and disciplined than your debut album ‘Domestic Economy’?

Hugely – this predominantly came from returning to a more conventional writing form. The base material of ‘Domestic Economy’ comes from the total improvisation of the ‘Housediet’ sessions – no re-takes, simple edits, etc. – which was then fleshed out and reworked slightly for the album.

For ‘Solemnities’, it’s been more a case of overdubbing each individual element as a track comes together. These elements may be rather spontaneously recorded, but through allowing myself to edit and arrange more deeply, the songs became more rigidly structured.

‘Solemnities’ does capture more of what you’re like on stage, how did you find opening for BLANCMANGE?

The BLANCMANGE shows were a great experience – I had been hankering for more live appearances for a while, and was lucky to be given the chance through, not only Neil Arthur, but also Jez Bernholz and Steve Malins. Playing those support slots definitely made me focus more on my live practice. How do I get this modular synth to do what I want it to do? How do I make these songs come to life on stage?

Trying to answer those questions also informs the writing and recording process to a degree. It was also fantastic to spend some time with Neil, Liam Hutton, Oogoo Maia and Adam Fuest – they’re a great bunch of people and I hope to see them all again soon.

What had got you interested in making music with synthesizers? What was your first electronic instrument?

A childhood fascination with my parents’ record collection is really what kicked all this off. LPs and CDs by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, VANGELIS, KRAFTWERK – I wanted to know where all these sounds came from. I remember staring at photographs of their studios, intrigued by all the equipment that surrounded these pioneers.

I took keyboard lessons from a young age and was lucky enough to be entering my early teens at the height of the ‘virtual analogue’ synth boom. My first synth was a Korg Electribe EA-1 – I have very fond memories of it, but sadly sold it a while ago to buy other gear!

You founded Future Sound Systems, so would you describe yourself as electronic musician first or second, or is it all embroiled and co-dependent?

It’s very much a co-dependent thing in my eyes – I got into designing and building equipment because I felt that might be a cheaper way of acquiring more gear. On one hand, that was very much incorrect, but the learning curve (which I’m still very much following) gave me some degree of knowledge that led to the day job I have now. Many of the designs that come from FSS are dreamt up whilst I’m playing music myself, and that music often incorporates some of the equipment we design and build, so it’s very much a feedback loop.

How did you develop musically as you sound like post-punk acts such as THROBBING GRISTLE and THE NORMAL meeting Warp Records? ?

By the time I had exhausted my parents’ LPs, I started getting into the acts that were recording and releasing at the time – I feel lucky to have been growing up when acts like ORBITAL, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, DAFT PUNK etc were at their prime.

I’d drag my family to record fairs and such, buying up what I could save with pocket money and going between various artist recommendations that we’d typically get from the stall holders.

I remember hearing APHEX TWIN’s ‘Come To Daddy’ and ‘Windowlicker’ amidst all this, and those were pretty monumental in terms of showing me that electronic music still had the potential to be very different. We also had a music library local to us, which proved to be a huge resource of harder-to-find music. I’ve still got a cassette of avant-garde works by Mimaroglu, Cage and Berio which I bought at one of their sales – that was ‘really’ eye-opening stuff to hear as a kid!

You also have been very vocal about your love of the ASSOCIATES album ‘Sulk’, why do you think this record is so special?

I’ve got a great deal of respect for artists and bands who really are totally unique, and ASSOCIATES are high up on that list, particularly the partnership between Alan Rankine and Billy Mackenzie. Typically, I find myself listening to ‘Fourth Drawer Down’ more so than ‘Sulk’, but ‘Sulk’ deserves legendary status simply because there’s no other record like it. It’s truly manic in every aspect – its musicianship is frantic, the lyrics are all over the shop, and the mix sounds like nothing else. There’s also the more archival aspect where seemingly no two issues of the album are the same!

So how did your intense fraught vocal style emerge?

I’ve never really thought that much about how I sing.

What I try to do is use my vocal as a way of expressing emotion, almost to bolster the atmosphere of a track, and I guess a lot of what I’m singing about is rather intense!

There’s always the aim of doing something a little bit calmer in the future, but I’m not sure that it’ll ever happen.

The ‘Solemnities’ opener ‘Occupation’ makes a real musical as well as lyrical statement and appears to recall THE FAINT, was it inspired by personal experience?

‘Occupation’ draws from various imagined scenarios given the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, particularly how the exit has been pushed by self-serving politicians, but also how it will prevent citizens of the UK from enjoying various freedoms and privileges that are about to be removed from them. The track began life exactly how it’s heard on the album – the drums came from a really aggressive patch I had going on an ARP 2600 clone and some Serge modular equipment, so vocally and lyrically it needed to reflect that.

‘The Information’ really showcases your love of the early period of THE HUMAN LEAGUE? It undergoes a few structural changes within its four and a half minutes, how would you have constructed this in the studio?

‘The Information’ dates back to tracks I was writing back when I was finishing school, so the majority of elements here are at least ten years old! When putting ‘Solemnities’ together, I wanted to revisit some old work of mine that was never really finished, so I loaded up ‘The Information’ and wanted to see where I could take it. It’s funny how it can take more than a decade to finish off a four-minute track!

What are your preferred tools at the moment? Is it modular all the way for you?

I’m in no way a purist – I end up making a lot of hybrid configurations of synths and other gear at the studio, which I like to think lends itself to finding new sounds and getting to a place that’s a little different from using separate pieces of gear stand-alone. For example, I have a Korg MS-20 and MS-10 which I often chain together to create, what I often label, an MS-30. There’s a lot of that on the album, as well as the aforementioned ARP / Serge combo. Since running the majority of the studio’s equipment into a patchbay, I can treat the entire studio as a patchable modular-esque set-up.

At the moment, I’m trying to get deeper into the Nord G2X that I’ve had for a while – it’s a digital modular environment which is still really powerful and flexible despite being a little old now! Again, there’s a lot of G2X on the new album, but used mainly to process other sounds.

‘Second Try’ appears to play homage to both THROBBING GRISTLE and KRAFTWERK?

‘Second Try’ actually came from powering the G2X up with a ‘mad’ patch on it – that’s what’s heard at the intro, then a couple of passes of that patch get looped to form the drums. ‘Second Try’ came together really quickly, and is actually a great example of how I try to work now – still working very quickly and not spending a lot of time on things, but managing to get a lot done in that session.

The poignant ‘Crisis’ features a range of fantastic textures, one set being the impactful spacey synthetic voices, how you set about sound designing those?

‘Crisis’ came almost completely from my Elektron Digitakt sampler/sequencer. I had been booked to play a show in Nantes and was terrified about checking my modular rig in to the hold in case it never made the connecting flight. The Digitakt was coming in my hand luggage, so I had prepared this back-up improvisatory set using that and the Mutable Shruthi synth that I also use live now. ‘Crisis’ was born out of that set, using the Shruthi for the bass then the Digitakt for almost all the other melodic elements, including that pitched Mellotron choir sample.

You may be pleased to know that the modular never disappeared, but ‘Crisis’ made an impromptu premiere as the encore to that Nantes show!

You show more of your understated side on ‘Fantasy’, had this been a conscious move as part of the album’s journey?

I was definitely trying to form more of an ‘arc’ for this album – two sides of vinyl that feel they have some degree of flow to both – and ‘Fantasy’ felt right in between two relatively more energetic tracks. This track was born out of two sessions coming together – powering up the studio after the recording of ‘Occupation’ and the drum patch falling over itself, hence the pounding bass drum that runs throughout, and a long take of overdubbed feedback guitars I had recorded a few years prior. I also wanted to experiment with building up a small choir of myself, making many overdubs of the same vocal with different harmonies.

You go for an extended banging adventure on ‘She Says / Nothing Ends’ to finish, was it originally two songs that morphed into one epic track?

Almost – it was always treated as one track, but I wanted the feel of two distinct sections to it, both of which would crescendo as much as they do, almost as though they ‘could’ be two individual tracks. However, the fluttery, glitchy chords of the latter half, and the distorted vocals ‘were’ recorded as part of another separate session, and brought in on top of the near-gabber that already existed.

Who do you hope ‘Solemnities’ might appeal to?

I’ve always wanted my music to be a bridge between what I’m influenced by and something more present, perhaps even futuristic. Therefore, I’m hoping ‘Solemnities’ would appeal to fans of the late 70s / early 80s greats who may have been there at the time, as well as younger electronic music fans who perhaps aren’t so aware of all those albums approaching their 40th anniversaries.

If my work puts people on to acts like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, SEVERED HEADS, FAD GADGET etc. then I feel that I’ve definitely done my job.

Your music is released by Editions Mego in Austria, is it still important for modern independent artists to have some kind of label support in your opinion?

Very much so. Whilst self-releasing online is easier than ever, there are more and more people doing it, and with the lack of any curation, it can be really difficult to be found as an artist. I have huge respect for what Peter Rehberg at Mego does – he releases whatever he wants to put out on Mego, there are no stylistic boundaries that he’s following, so the label is truly in line with his tastes. There’s no nonsense.

If you’re into what is on Mego, it’s likely you’ll enjoy whatever the next release is. It’s that curation that is really important for being an artist released by a label – your work becomes part of a stream that can be followed by the label’s fans.

You recently signed to Mute Song, joining a renowned family, what does that bring to you which perhaps you were unable to do when handling your own publishing?

It’s still early days at the moment, but even talking to the Mute Song team has been hugely reinvigorating. It’s a similar story with getting to know Peter at Mego better – it’s really helpful being able to send people music and get an honest response back that you know you can trust. It’s akin to the whole Bowie-ism of never being truly comfortable in what you’re doing – there were things on ‘Solemnities’ that I wanted Peter’s thoughts on, simply because I wasn’t so sure of them at first.

Having a wider net of ‘primary ears’ can only be a good thing, particularly when those ears are working with the roster of artists that are with Mute Song. From an industry point of view, I’d say I still don’t really know what I’m doing, and being able to ask for advice from such an experienced team is a huge benefit.

Where do you think you might like to take your next album?

There are already some initial sketches, but it seems that I’m trying to push the studio further, incorporating more guitars and drums into the mix, but taking the synths into more abstract territory – trying to do weirder things but perhaps make them poppy. I’ve started trying to listen to how musicians whose work I love have played their instrument, and whether I can map any of that to completely different practices. I still want to be able to play a synth the way that Andy Gill played guitar, but conversely, what happens if you have a guitar made to sound like what Ian Craig Marsh was doing in the Human League?

What’s next for you? Is there anything interesting coming out from Future Sound Systems?

There are some really exciting collaborations in the works right now, both new and old, and I’m always striving to bring people together in the studio.

As I hinted at above, I’m really interested to see what happens when different styles and practices are brought together, and I hope I can continue that this year.

Meanwhile, at FSS, we are designing plenty of new equipment which I hope will pique other producers’ interest – there’s certainly a lot of it that I want to spend more creative time with! Watch this space!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Finlay Shakespeare

‘Solemnities’ is released by Editions Mego in vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://editionsmego.bandcamp.com/album/solemnities

http://finlayshakespeare.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FinlayShakespeareUK/

https://twitter.com/FinShakespeare

https://www.instagram.com/finlayshakespeare/

https://www.futuresoundsystems.co.uk/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th May 2020

ERIC RANDOM Wire Me Up

Manchester electronic veteran Eric Random has a fascinating history as a Factory Club stalwart in THE TILLER BOYS and post-punk experimentalist.

As a member of BUZZCOCKS’ inner circle, his first album ‘That’s What I Like About Me’ came out in 1980 on New Hormones ‎who released the seminal ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP; it was co-produced by Stephen Mallinder and Random later worked with CABARET VOLTAIRE on their ‘2X45’ album.

But Random made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’ released by Austrian label Klanggalerie, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES. ‘Words Made Flesh’ then appeared in 2016 before being quickly followed by ‘Two Faced’ a year later.

With his new work ‘Wire Me Up’ released by analogue underground independent Sleepers Records, Random’s stark style of presentation remains, but his vocals in the vein of FAD GADGET take a breather on this primarily instrumental set. However, vocodered vocals do appear by ‘Stealth’ over a chromatic soundtrack of rhythmic passages not unlike DEPECHE MODE when they were good, while they are more robotically direct on the obviously KRAFTWERK-inspired ‘Systematic’.

But it all starts with the gentle pulsing of ‘Nothing Is True’, although that mood is immediately offset by the playful noise arrangements on ’Target’. ‘Monochrome’ offers something dark and bleepy as a slice of voice sample laden electro, with the occasional clatter of an 808 snare and some doomy synth vibrato providing a suitably anxious feel. Meanwhile ‘Commence Countdown’ is catchy techno-funk despite its fits of industrialised noise terror.

Held around a hypnotic bassline, the eerie sweeps of ‘Skid Row’ recall the arthouse cinematic work of John Foxx, while cut from a similar sheet of steel, the brilliant ‘You Seem The Same’ exploits a minimal use of vocoder while catching the ear with some wonderful bursts of cold vox humana strings over what can only be described as a bouncy backbone.

Chunkily uptempo, ’The Louder You Scream’ is accessible with a wide range of buzzy textures and chilling vibes. With lashings of synth arpeggios and simplistic claps, ‘Hypnophobia’ has menace in its claustrophobic air before it all ends with the comparatively ambient overtures of ‘The Outsider’.

‘Wire Me Up’ is an enjoyable collection of classic synth instrumentals with an edge. For those who prefer their electronica to be vocal-free but desiring a musical hook every now and then, Eric Random’s double length long player is an ideal listening experience.


‘Wire Me Up’ is released as double vinyl LP by Sleepers Records, audio preview and information on stockists at https://soundcloud.com/sleepersound-2/eric-random-wire-me-up

https://www.facebook.com/theericrandom/

https://twitter.com/theericrandom

https://www.ltmrecordings.com/eric_random.html

https://www.instagram.com/theericrandom/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th June 2019

THE KVB Only Now Forever

The follow-up to 2016’s ‘Of Desire’, ‘Only Now Forever’ develops on the brooding post-punk sound of THE KVB.

Getting together in 2011, the British audio-visual duo of multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Wood and keyboardist Kat Day actually relocated to write and record in Berlin, adding a more independently-minded edge to their reverb coated sound in the process.

If NEW ORDER had been weaned on shoegaze, they might have sounded like THE KVB.

Signed to Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records, with previous collaborators such as Joe Dilworth and Mark Reeder on their curriculum vitae and a prestigious invitation to perform at Robert Smith’s meltdown Festival 2018, THE KVB certainly have their esteemed admirers.

The excellent uptempo motorik of ‘Above Us’ is a good start, accessible yet suitably mysterious and coming over like LADYTRON fronted by Kevin Shields. Under layers of string synths and attached to a solid bass rumble, ‘On My Skin’ has a good chorus while with more psychedelic overtones, ‘Only Now Forever’ recalls early ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN when they used the odd smidgen of synth and drum machine.

The unsurprisingly gothic ‘Afterglow’ looms with heavy beats and penetrating textural six string as Wood announces “here comes the night” but with ‘Violet Noon’, there’s a more steadfast nocturnal mood, like THE JESUS & THE MARY CHAIN with more washes of atmospheric synths, as if the Reid brothers had been dropped onto the set of ‘Twin Peaks’.

The guitars take more of a backseat on ‘Into Life’ while the spectre of CABARET VOLTAIRE circa ‘The Crackdown’ make its presence felt via a hypnotic bass sequence and assorted sweeps; it also sees Day put her breathy allure to the forefront on this arty slice of moody electro-disco

‘Live In Fiction’ recalls THE CURE meeting THE SOFT MOON but is less reliant on wall of sound intensity, but the wonderful clubby vibe of ‘Tides’ offers some vibrant electricity with a combination of sequences and synths for possibly the album’s highlight.

The 6/8 percussive drift of ‘No Shelter’ looms away but cut from a similar cloth to ‘Above Us’, ‘Cerulean’ does have a slightly more frantic edge, Woods’ vocals harmonised by Day’s angelic tones although the track does seem to disappear into a cacophony of haze.

More refined and sharper than previous offerings, the melodic emphasis on ‘Only Now Forever’ has paid off and there is plenty of crossover appeal for those who like a bit of synth and a dash of alternative rock. Some might find THE KVB’s overall template old-fashioned, but being uninhibited in their willingness to mix technology with live instruments and a bit of darkness like in days of yore can only be a good thing.


‘Only Now Forever’ is released by Invada Records on CD, double vinyl LP and digital formats

THE KVB 2018 live dates include:

Glasgow Hug and Pint (24 October), Newcastle Think Tank (25th October), Manchester Yes (26th October), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (27th October), York The Crescent (28th October), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (29th October), Brighton Green Door Store (30th October), London Corsica Studios (31st October), Bristol Rough Trade (1st November), Roubaix La Cave Aux Poetes (2nd November), Nantes Soy Festival (3rd November), Le Havre McDaids (4th November), Amsterdam Sugarfactory (6th November), Cologne Bumann & Sohn (7th November), Gent Charlatan (8th November), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th November), Copenhagen Stengade (10th November), Stockholm Debaser Strand (11th November), Oslo Revolver (12th November), Berlin Lido (14th November), Poznan Meskalina (15 November), Warsaw Poglos (16th November), Prague Café v Lese (17th November), Brno Kabinet MUZ (18th November), Budapest Dürer Kert (20th November), Vienna Fluc (21 November), Munich Kranhalle (23rd November), Yverdon-les-Bains L’Amalgame (24th November), Zurich La Mascotte (25th November), Rome Largo Venue (27th November), Bologna Locomotivclub (28th November), Barcelona SiDecemberar (30th November), Madrid Moby Dick (1 December), Jurançon La Ferronnerie (3rd December), La Rochelle La Sirene (4th December), Bordeaux Iboat (5th December), Paris Le Badaboum (6th December), Amiens La Lune des Pirates (7th December)

http://www.thekvb.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/thekvbmusic/

https://twitter.com/TheKVB

https://www.instagram.com/thekvb/

https://thekvb.bandcamp.com/music


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2018

CREEP SHOW Mr Dynamite

CREEP SHOW is an electronic meeting of minds between eclectic US singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER, the trio comprising Stephen Mallinder, Phil Winter and Benge.

Brought together for the Rough Trade 40th Anniversary celebrations in 2016, the first fruit of this collaboration is ‘Mr Dynamite’ – an album which was recorded in Cornwall following the move of Benge’s Memetune studio from its original Hoxton location.

Opening with the title track, ‘Mr Dynamite’ sees Grant’s vocal cut-up, pitch-changed and split over different keys on a vintage AKAI sampler.

This is then laid over a minimalist drum machine, bass pulse and a signature John Grant synth lead.

‘Modern Parenting’ sees a hybrid of funky bass synth and echoed sequenced synths with a typical quirky Grant vocal. The addition of female backing vocals give the overall impression of TALKING HEADS ditching their guitars and going fully electronic instead; the surreal chorus hook of “when your doggy jumps the fence and sets its sights on you” also adds to the playful, funky nature of the track.

‘Tokyo Metro’ is a KRAFTWERK-inspired 8-bit Chip-Tune style piece, the vocodered vocal very reminiscent of ‘Dentaku’, their Japanese version of ‘Pocket Calculator’.

‘Endangered Species’ is a chilled glitchy piece with a floaty string synth; the track also gives Grant a chance to go into his full-on crooner mode and take a squealing lead synth solo. The song ramps up a level with the unexpected addition of CULTURE CLUB’s original backing vocalists Mary Pearce, Maria Q and Zee Asher; having originally toured with Grant, they give the slightly creepy “You are the endangered species” hook a brilliantly quirky resonance. For those familiar with Grant’s work, the nearest comparison here would be his solo tracks ‘Voodoo Doll’ and ‘Black Belt’; the ones where he mixes vitriol and downright bitchiness…

On the final two lengthy tracks ‘Fall’ and ‘Safe & Sound’, the band go full-on KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER; the songs are given room to breathe and reveal themselves gradually with some wonderfully warmly melodic synth parts. On ‘Fall’, there are tiny slithers of voices which float over the instrumental backing and on ‘Safe & Sound’, Grant reins in the quirkiness to deliver a hazy vibrato-filled vocal.

‘Mr Dynamite’ is a really fresh and uncontrived sounding album, it’s not over-produced and comes across as a piece of work that all involved had a real blast making. It would have been interesting if the band had pursued the sound of the final track a little further though. There still remains a gaping hole in the market for retro synthesizer-based tracks featuring a real vocalist, not just someone that’s appears to have been drafted in as an afterthought (see: some underperforming UK-based synth acts).

The CREEP SHOW album really plays to the combined strengths of WRANGLER and John Grant; the latter’s vocals being the icing on the proverbial electronic cake and ensuring the listener will undoubtedly reacquaint themselves with ‘Mr Dynamite’ time and time again and again.


With thanks to Danielle Carr at Bella Union

‘Mr Dynamite’ is released on 16th March 2018 by Bella Union

CREEP SHOW 2019 live dates:

Sheffield The Foundry (5th October), Liverpool Arts Club Loft (6th October), Bristol Trinity Centre (8th October), London Scala (9th October), Hove Old Market (10th October), Newcastle Boiler Shop (12th October), Glasgow Art School (14th October)

http://creepshowmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/

https://twitter.com/CreepShowMusic

https://www.instagram.com/creepshowmusic/


Text by Paul Boddy
14th March 2018, updated 26th June 2019

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