Tag: Chris & Cosey (Page 2 of 2)

CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984

CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR artworkTwo years in the making, ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is a Cherry Red Records compilation which binds together many of the formative roots of UK electronic music.

It mixes up recognised artists such as THE HUMAN LEAGUE, BLANCMANGE, BEF, OMD and THROBBING GRISTLE side-by-side with those that for a variety of reasons, managed to remain in the shadows of obscurity. This compilation makes a worthy companion piece to the ‘Mute Audio Documents’ set which was released back in 2007 and showcases that it wasn’t just Daniel Miller’s Mute label that was championing experimental synthetic music.

The four disc set lovingly curates an era of musical experimentation of artists initially “enthralled by the mysterious electronics of PINK FLOYD, HAWKWIND and German Kosmiche artists” and then went on to evolve into a scene, which would provide the stepping stone for the chart-conquering likes of DEPECHE MODE and GARY NUMAN.

In this 60 song collection, there are a few definite gems hidden here; ‘Tight As A Drum’ by THOMAS LEER is a sparkling piece of electronic music, with KRAFTWERK-ish percussion and a semi-improvised synth solo winding its way throughout.

CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR 4CDs‘Holiday Camp’ by BLANCMANGE which made its re-appearance on the reissued ‘Irene and Mavis’ EP still remains an almost OMD-ish charming lo-fi slice of electronica.

‘I Am Your Shadow’ by the distinctly un-rock’n’roll sounding COLIN POTTER is an out-there electronic reimagining of Dick Dale’s ‘Miserlou’ combined with added lyrics from a stalker’s perspective, whilst ‘D’Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ (yes, that one!) by BRITISH STANDARD UNIT is transformed from its Rod Stewart sleazy / cheesy original into a hilariously dark and twisted piece with deadpan lyrics and menacing electronics.

‘Drugrace’ by THE PASSAGE has some wonderful almost TANGERINE DREAM style synth melodies and ‘(Leaving Me) Now’ by WORLDBACKWARDS is like a long-lost GARY NUMAN track with female vocals and added sampled dialogue.

Disc three of the set changes direction in that it mainly showcases instrumental or more soundscape-oriented electronic pieces. It is here that sees instrumental synthesists MARK SHREEVE (‘Embryo’) and PAUL NAGLE (‘Yns Scaith’) gaining some long overdue recognition – whilst JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, KLAUS SCHULZE and TANGERINE DREAM dominated this genre, it is easy to forget that there was a thriving underground scene in the UK too.

Although as you would expect from a collection of music of this type, a lot of it is (putting it kindly) “challenging”, or if listened to as a teen “back in the day” would have a probably prompted a parental response of “turn that bloody racket down!”.

‘Sedation Strokes’ by MALCOLM BROWN on disc one neatly falls into this particular category with a cyclical bassline overlaid with what sounds like a mix of an elephant being abused and a screaming woman thrown in for good measure.

Unsurprisingly, ‘All Day’ by THROBBING GRISTLE falls into this category too and alongside tracks such as ‘In The Army’ by BLAH BLAH BLAH, these are pieces that are unlikely ever to appear on your typical ‘Now That’s What I Call Synthpop’ compilations any day soon!

However, songs which have since been recognised as classics of the genre also feature (‘Being Boiled’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE being the most obvious), but thankfully the choices are not always predictable, hence ‘Almost’ by OMD, rather than the ubiquitous ‘Messages’ and an alternative mix of ‘A New Kind of Man’ by JOHN FOXX features instead of ‘Underpass’ or ‘No-One Driving’.

The main feeling you are left with after listening to ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is how the punk DIY ethic of four track portastudio production and affordable synths, with a probable lack of A&R involvement, became the ultimate glass ceiling for these acts being able to break through to a wider audience and any form of commercial success. ‘Back to the Beginning’ by SPÖÖN FAZER would be a typical case in a point, a potential hit with a killer chorus given a bigger budget and some quality control in the lyrical department… “You want babies with curly hair, well come on, dance if you dare”(!).

The ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ package itself also contains over 9,000 words of artist sleeve notes, archive photographs and extracts from Sounds journalist Dave Henderson’s ‘Wild Planet’ overview of the underground / industrial electronic music scene. Although you may find yourself listening to some of these tracks only once, there is plenty here to give you an appreciation of a wildly experimental and creative era, the likes of which we are unlikely to see again…


‘Close To The Noise Floor’ is released by Cherry Red on 29th April 2016

Details of the full tracklisting and how to pre-order at:
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/close-to-the-noise-floor-formative-uk-electronica-1975-1984/

https://www.facebook.com/closetothenoisefloor/


Text by Paul Boddy
23rd April 2016

SOFT METALS Live in London

2014-05-27 22.11.44SOFT METALS delightfully impressed with their debut London gig at The Shacklewell Arms in Daltson.

Part of their first sojourn in Europe which has also included dates in Glasgow and Dublin plus a show with GAZELLE TWIN in Berlin, the LA based duo have felt an affinity with Europe since their ‘The Cold World Melts’ EP released in 2010.

Indeed, the title of one the tracks ‘Métaux Mous’ (French for “Soft Metals”) summed up their enthralling angelic mix of Detroit techno fused with minimal European synth forms as influenced by the likes of THROBBING GRISTLE and its offshoot CHRIS & COSEY.

And that’s not forgetting to mention the style of singer Patricia Hall with its nods to fashion icons such as Françoise Hardy. SOFT METALS made further in-roads with their first self-titled full length album in 2011 and its naturally progressive follow-up ‘Lenses’ released last year.

2014-05-27 21.42.04For this European tour, instrumentalist Ian Hicks’ arsenal of vintage synths and drum machines was simplified to feature a more straightforward, modern but still analogue set-up that was obviously easier to carry but no less punchy. Meanwhile, as well as providing her innocent reverbed vocals, Patricia Hall had a Dave Smith Mopho x4 at her disposal instead of her usual Juno60 and added some icy string machine sections to the bright and danceable electronic sketches that came forth.

SOFT METALS’ repeating rhythms, incessant blips and uplifting arpeggios on tracks such as ‘Voices’, ‘Lenses’ and ‘Always’ were powerful and crisp although occasionally, Patricia Hall’s vocals did struggle to be heard. But this did not hinder her flirtatious enthusiasm as she occasionally ventured toward her studios musical partner in the engine room, clearly enjoying her first time performing in London. ‘Psychic Driving’ and ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ allowed for some dreamy breathers in the middle amongst all the frantic action but it was the final part of the set that stole the show.

2014-05-27 21.41.00The wonderful ‘Tell Me’ totally mesmerised the audience into a trance, the detuned bursts providing a arty counterpoint to the dance while the sexy ‘In the Air’ provided a euphoric climax with Ian Hicks controlling the various pulsing layers to provide the dynamic highs and lows for a perfectly hypnotic finish. But there was more as the good looking couple threw in a brilliantly alluring club friendly version of THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ as a bonus.

With the likes of TRUST, FEATHERS, AUSTRA, GRIMES, NIGHT CLUB, I AM SNOW ANGEL and ELEVEN: ELEVEN proving that North America is currently the proving ground for new, quality electronic pop music, SOFT METALS more than confirmed that they were part of this elite group with this first London performance.

The message from The Electricity Club is please come back soon 🙂


The albums ‘Soft Metals’ and ‘Lenses’ are released by Captured Tracks and available in CD, vinyl and download formats

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals

http://metauxmous.tumblr.com

http://soundcloud.com/soft-metals

http://capturedtracks.com/artists/softmetals/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2014

SOFT METALS Interview

Making sine waves on their extensive tour of North America at the moment are LA based duo SOFT METALS.

The couple met through a mutual love of art and music, releasing their first EP ‘The Cold World Melts’ in 2010. Fusing Detroit techno and elements of acid house with European experimental forms, Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks have just released ‘Lenses’.

It’s the follow-up to their well received eponymous debut album, through notable Brooklyn indie label Captured Tracks. Over an arsenal of cool vintage synths and classic analogue drum machines, SOFT METALS’ repeating rhythms and incessant arpeggios at times recall ORBITAL, particularly with tracks featuring female vocalists such as ‘Funny Break’.

They have an accessibly minimalistic sound with Hall’s pretty vocals reminiscent of DOT ALLISON’s flirtatious aura combined with ASTRUD GILBERTO’s innocent vulnerability as brilliantly showcased on ‘Voices’, ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Psychic Driving’. The result is a sexy ice maiden allure over bright hypnotic electronic sketches that comes over exquisitely Métaux Mous.

Compared with other North American duos, they are maybe a bit shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES and perhaps have a more accessible sound than XENO & OAKLANDER. But that’s not to say SOFT METALS don’t have much weightier influences as their affectionate cover of THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ proves.

In the midst of a busy touring schedule, SOFT METALS were kind enough to took time out to chat to The Electricity Club…

How did you arrive at using vintage synthesizers for your sound?

Ian: It is the sound of a lot of music that I like; software instruments don’t sound the same. If you want a specific sound, you have to get the instrument. The tactical interface, the limitations of the machines and the quirks of the individual interfaces inspire sounds that you might have otherwise not discovered.

Which particular synths are your favourites and what is it about them that you like?

Ian: I like the Pro-One. It has the 2 track step sequencer which is good for sketching out simple melodies and basslines. It also has very extensive modulation capabilities which can result in near modular sounding tones. I also like the Mono/Poly. It has a really nice SSM filter which is really smooth and silky sounding. Having 4 oscillators that can have different wave shapes and octaves can result in complex tones. If you couple that with the arppegiator, it creates a very hypnotic soundscape.

Patricia: My favorite synth to play is the Juno 60. It’s a great synth for live performances since it has patch memory and the layout is very user friendly. Its tones are a big part of the SOFT METALS sound.

You appear to have quite European influences in your sound with the rhythmical template locked in more American dance forms?

Ian: We draw a lot of or inspiration from early Detroit techno from artists such as DREXCIYA, CARL CRAIG, etc. We continue to be influenced by early Warp records releases and early industrial/underground synth music like THROBBING GRISTLE, CHRIS & COSEY and LIAISONS DANGEREUSES.

SOFT METALS suzy poling-thumb

Photo by Suzy Poling

What is the creative dynamic between the two of you when writing and recording?

Ian: Usually we start a recording session with a jam. That could come from a beat and a bassline.

It usually begins with the 808 and Pro-One. We try to keep it pretty simple, maybe adding an additional melodic line from the JX-3P or Juno 60.

Patricia will take the raw form of the jam and work in vocals. Once a solid vocal idea is in place, we edit, arrange, and add flourishes to the song.

With EDM being so popular in the US plus the more underground scenes like in New York with XENO & OAKLANDER, Wierd Records and the Minimal Wave label, do you feel an affinity with any of the movements or tribes?

Ian: Yes, we played at Weird Records night a few years ago. We are big fans of XENO & OAKLANDER, Weird Records and the Minimal Wave label.

To The Electricity Club’s ears, SOFT METALS have quite warm sound despite the chills as it were…

Patricia: The dark/cold place that our music comes from is a mysterious place inside your psyche rather than a dystopian outside world. We are more interested in psychedelia and exploring the stratification of consciousness. It’s an adventure of the mind and perception. A feeling of caution and reluctance is there, but it’s never cold or unfeeling. There are moments of love, beauty, doubt, sadness, ecstasy, and fear, and curiosity in our music. Our music is about intimacy with yourself, the person you love, a feeling of wonder and the weight of life. Some people say that synthesizers can’t convey emotions like traditional instruments, but I disagree. I hear my emotions reflected in synthetic tones.

soft-metals-voices-150x150How do you look back on your first album back in 2011?

Patricia: I was really proud of us when we made our debut album and I am really proud of our new album ‘Lenses’. SOFT METALS is about learning and growing and dancing and feeling. We give our best to our music and as time goes on, I think we get better and better at what we do. Each recording is a snapshot into out lives, feelings, and skill level at the time. It’s exciting for us to see the evolution.

‘Lenses’ appears to be a natural progression from your debut, how do you see it?

Patricia: I agree. It is a natural progression. Our music comes about very organically. It’s a reflection of what we are feeling and thinking at the time. It’s a pure expression.

You’re experimenting more with tuning, both synthetically and vocally on this album?

Patricia: On the song ‘Lenses’, the bassline and the lead melody are a shallow experiment with bi-tonality. We were inspired by DREXCIYA with that one. They play with that dynamic a lot and we love it. This is also a device employed by Darius Milhaud who has been an inspirational figure in composition for Ian for a long time. We wanted to try it out.

 SOFT METALS-Patricia-Brock Fansler

Photo by Brock Fansler

‘Hourglass’ is a rather fabulous instrumental. How do you decide whether a track should have a vocal or not as you have done a fair number?

Patricia: I really wanted to write lyrics for that one, but was never quite satisfied with what I came up with. I decided it would be better to let that one be an instrumental. I think it holds up on its own. It’s nice to give the listener a chance to interpret its meaning on its own rather than direct them with words.

It was quite a brave move to put a lengthier ambient track such as ‘Interobserver’ on the album?

Patricia: The first inspirations of SOFT METALS are the improvised sessions we do together. We don’t want to get too far removed from what breathed life into SOFT METALS.

Over your two albums, which of your tracks have been your favourites and why?

Ian: I like the mood of ‘No Turning Back’. I was really happy with how the drums ended up sounding on that song.

On ‘Lenses’, I like its simplicity and off-kilter feeling. It feels like it’s not quite right, but that’s what makes it engaging. ‘Celestial Call’ was recorded all in one take with no overdubs. I loved how it turned out.

Patricia: ‘Psychic Driving’ has probably been the best showcase of my voice in a song and when I perform it well at a show, it seems to transfix and captivate the audience. The melodies and tones are beautiful. ‘In the Air’ is my favorite SOFT METALS song to dance to. We have been getting a great response from the audience with that one. ‘Always’ is a lot of fun to me, too. I love its spaced out vibe.

You are a well presented duo… is the visual aspect of SOFT METALS important? Will you utilise video more in the future?

Patricia: Yes, we have been taking a DVD of original video art created by our friends Eva Aguila and Brock Fansler on tour with us to be projected at our shows. It looks amazing. We shot 3 music videos for this album and will be in the videos which is a new for us.

You’re embarking on a very extensive tour of North America at the moment. How are you finding it and does being a couple make it easier, or more challenging?

Patricia: So far the tour has been going very well. We are currently driving through Wyoming in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. The shows have been a lot of fun. I think we needed to do an extensive tour. Previous to this, we only felt comfortable with the studio environment which made live performances come off stiff. We have shaken off our inhibitions and have become more adaptable to various environments. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m not tired yet. Every show has been different, but that’s a good thing. Being a couple makes it feel like we are on holiday.

What next for SOFT METALS. Have you any plans to come to Europe?

Patricia: We definitely want to come to Europe.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to SOFT METALS

Special thanks also to Sara Casella at Captured Tracks

softmetals_cover_042913The albums ‘Soft Metals’ and ‘Lenses’ are released by Captured Tracks and available in CD, vinyl and download formats

They undertake an extensive tour of the USA and Canada throughout August and early September. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/softmetals for more details

http://soundcloud.com/soft-metals

http://capturedtracks.com/artists/softmetals/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
17th August 2013

SOFT METALS Lenses

Los Angeles based duo SOFT METALS’  2011 eponymous debut album was a promising collection of danceable bubbly electronics, with one foot in the squelch ‘n’ bleep framework of ORBITAL and the other in more experimental climes such as THROBBING GRISTLE and SECTION 25.

Soft-metals;2013Wonderful tracks like ‘Eyes Closed’, ‘Psychic Driving’, ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Voices’ showcased Patricia Hall angelically vulnerable voice over Ian Hicks’ inventive vintage synth and drum machine interplay.

However, some of the album’s other tracks were slightly on the repetitive side so for their second album ‘Lenses’, the tracklisting has been rationalised to eight key musical constituents in just 37 minutes.

Layered with reverbed sequences and driven by the snap of analogue rhythm composers, ‘Lenses’ continues where ‘Soft Metals’ left off and visually, the artwork follows the continuity of its predescessor as if to indicate this.

Like ASTRUD GILBERTO gone electro with CHRIS & COSEY at the production helm, the ‘Lenses’ title track sets the scene and is vibrant yet dreamy. The wonderful launch single ‘Tell Me’ is one of the duo’s trademark adventures in hypnotism like earlier single ‘Voices’ but adds some unsettling bursts of portamento for an aural twist.

Soft-Metals-korgEasing off the tempo slightly with a strange, almost electro-reggae beat, ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ is sexily morbid with Patricia Hall exclaiming “I wonder how it ends?” when “I die and he dies, we all die!”. Following that, ‘No Turning Back’ builds with pulsing arpeggios but swathed in a bare, eerie atmosphere, it retains the ice maiden quality prevalent throughout the SOFT METALS sound.

SOFT METALS are adept as instrumentals as ‘Celestial Call’ from the debut and their ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ tribute ‘Implanted Visions’ have proved.

‘Hourglass’ allows Hall to take a breather and this beautiful wordless wonder sections nicely with some fabulous harmonic oscillations. This vibrancy continues on ‘In The Air’, another metallically tingly and danceable tune that harks back to the days of acid house.

Also, complimented by that hard acid squelch, ‘On A Cloud’ does what it says on the tin and ventures into neo-ambient territory despite its lively tempo construction. But ‘Interobserver’ goes the full hog with a lengthy surrealistic journey that throws in the spectre of cosmic legend KLAUS SCHULZE. It’s all very brave but quite whether it belongs on an album of songs though is debatable.

SOFT METALS colourBut overall, where SOFT METALS will appeal over other girl / boy duos is that their approach is quite visceral.

How many times is does it seem XENO & OAKLANDER are deliberately singing off-key, that CRYSTAL CASTLES are being as difficult as possible by piling on the distortion or that TOMORROW’S WORLD won’t up the tempo in case it’s seen as uncool?

With their Eurocentric influences, shadowy techno template and altered state of escapism, SOFT METALS make the best of what they’ve got and run with it. Between their first two albums, Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall have showed their potential and proved they can produce some excellent work. When they push all the right buttons, SOFT METALS are quite superb.


‘Lenses’ is available now on Captured Tracks as a CD, blue vinyl and download

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals

http://soundcloud.com/soft-metals

http://capturedtracks.com/artists/softmetals/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Suzy Poling
15th July 2013

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