Tag: Computer Magic (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

FUTURECOP! Voltrana

Mancunian producer Manzur Iqbal is the man behind FUTURECOP!

Since 2006, the project has grown in popularity, having gained audiences across the globe, sitting comfortably in the niche of synthwave and synth revival circles.

Iqbal, despite having had no previous musical experience, started experimenting with sound to bring back the charm of his youth and FUTURECOP! was born. Known for his collaborations, FUTURECOP! is back with his brand new album ‘Voltrana’, where more synthwave household names are present.

From ambient to spiritual, the album is full of surprises, all cinematically realigned to achieve a shiny retro gem which is bound to bring in the long awaited Spring.

Canada’s PARALLELS delight the album with Holly Dodson’s charming vocals and this opus welcomes back the synthwave princess copiously, starting with the sweet notions of ‘We Belong’. With a thoroughly modern approach interwoven with retro beats and scrumptious arpeggios, the track is a perfect intro to the colourful world of ‘Voltrana’.

Canada is followed the US with the clever changes of texture on ‘Star’, which welcomes COMPUTER MAGIC. New Yorker Danielle Johnson, the sole brains behind COMPUTER MAGIC has made it “big in Japan” thanks to her ethereal approach to vintage pop, often described as “cosmic”. And here, with FUTURECOP! she enters the realms of the otherworldly once again.

PARALLELS chase back again with the delicious ‘Leslie Cheung’, a tribute to the late much loved Cantopop star and actor. Dodson’s candied vocals bring an aura of childhood reminiscence over sugar coated melodies created as a fine example of modern dance music.

Going East, will Iqbal succeed in ‘Finding Shaolin’? Seemingly so, accompanied by heavier synth arpeggios and Moroder-esque templates, while ‘Breeze (Behind Waterfalls)’ eases the journey with the drum extravaganza leading the way further into the unknown.

PARALLELS return with the previously released single ‘Edge Of The Universe’.

“Inspired by a mix of 80s Japanese pop culture, eighties American Teen movies and Retro Space Adventure Japanese-Western cartoons” as described by Iqbal, the track is yet another easy listening beauty, inspiring peace and hope all the way “at the edge of the universe”.

Going back to the tender years of youth, ‘Forgotten Summer’ brings back the sounds and smells of the pivotal formative era, while Ayumi Sasaki joins FUTURECOP! on ‘Shinjinmei’; ‘信心銘’ is a sweet acoustic flavoured ballad, filled with nostalgic emotion that weaves in and out of J-Pop awareness.

Continuing the nod to eastern cultures ‘Zen 4040’, ‘Whispers of Tao’ and ‘Only From Mud (Can A Flower Bloom)’ enter the higher consciousness of pictorial qualities.

PARALLELS feature one more time on the delightful ‘This Moment Forever’, before the German princess of pop NINA finds herself as one of the family on ‘Fade Away’.

Grandiose arpeggios, “perfectly planned”, canvas the fresh sounding vocals from the alluring London-based songstress.

Comfortably at home alongside PARALLELS with whom she toured the US last year, NINA brings a calmer quality into the mix, not too dissimilar from the “mellow Magic” on Magic Radio.

The final collaboration comes from SIAMESE YOUTH, a synthwave duo from Berlin, also in form of a more demure offering, calming the senses and smoothing the rough with delicate melodies and soothing vocals.

The return of FUTURECOP! is a grand one. Twinning with the cream of synthwave artists from around the globe, this Eastern-inspired proposition helps to bring back the days of youth with charm, poise and melancholy.

Not all happy go lucky, yet uplifting and hopeful, ‘Voltrana’ is the perfect easy listening positive affirmation. Namaste.


‘Voltrana’ is released by New Retro Wave Records as a download album, available from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/voltrana

https://www.futurecop.info/

https://facebook.com/futurecopofficial/

https://twitter.com/futurecopx

https://www.instagram.com/futurecopofficial/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
25th March 2019

A Short Conversation with COMPUTER MAGIC

New York based shinnichi Danz Johnson released her first COMPUTER MAGIC album ‘Scientific Experience’ as a Japanese only release in 2012.

While the enjoyably escapist ‘Obscure But Visible’ EP from 2016 was possibly one of her best bodies of work to date, her most recent long player simply titled ‘Danz’ is her possibly her darkest offering yet. The album’s best track is ‘Ordinary Life (Message From an A.I. Girlfriend)’.

Offering some bright synth passages over a classic Linn Drum derived template, it’s a twist to Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ where Artificial Intelligence has allowed a robot to aspire to more than just being a love companion.

The song has now been accorded a jaw dropping video directed by Anise Mariko and produced by Ivan Wong, where our heroine explores feminism and finds empowerment in a symbolic transformation from house maid to belt bondage princess within a neon lit backdrop.

Danz Johnson took time out of her schedule to have a quick chat with The Electricity Club about the latest COMPUTER MAGIC audio visual presentation and how the world needs to dress up more…

What’s the concept behind ‘Ordinary Life (Message From an A.I. Girlfriend)’ as a song?

I was watching a bunch of TED talks about artificial intelligence, watched a little video on these new holographic girlfriends in Japan that live in a little tube. I thought – what if in the future, there are very human like robot girlfriends, that clean, cook, bake, do everything for their “master” without question or an individual thought of their own, like the girl in the tube – but life size and tangible! What if someday they become self-aware and start thinking for themselves. Like a robot girlfriend rebellion. But not in a terminator way, very more light-hearted than that; I think it’s shown in the lyrics. They are just yearning for more in life to experience.

Such a song cries out for a video, so how did you come up with the concept and the messages you wanted to convey, especially empowerment through bondage?

The director Anise and I came up with the concept together. I knew I wanted two strong parallels. I told her about what the song meant to me, the lyrics, and she came up with an amazing concept that really fits the song.

She knew the designer Creepy Yeeha and we got to use one of her outfits, which was such a dream. Creepy Yeeha has outfitted FKA TWIGS, RIHANNA, and CARDI B.

So yeah, I felt pretty invincible in that outfit, although, I still had to do tequila shots to get through the ‘sexy’ scenes, not my forte being used to oversized flight suits! my friend Maureen Goodman who makes handmade bags under Atomic Freedom made the classic maid outfit from scratch. We had a really great team.

Even though technically I am meant to be portraying a human-like robot girlfriend in rebellion, there are many parallels that can be drawn between this character and a human woman in general. Being rebellious and breaking free from the old school box woman are placed in will always be somewhat of a struggle.

There’s this inherent feeling that a woman must be dainty, have their makeup done perfectly, cook, tidy, be perfect mothers, be there for their husbands. Little girls are given Barbies, Baby Dolls and Easy Bake ovens and everything in pink. I can’t stand that. I grew up as a tomboy that played with frogs and had the Metal Moulder instead of the Easy Bake Oven.

Obviously this idea of what a woman needs to be has changed tremendously over the years, women are starting to get equal pay, they’re engineers, they’re astronauts.

It’s coming along, though I still notice in conversation with men sometimes, especially men that don’t know what I’m capable of (producing, mixing, mastering all on my own), I’m talked down to. It’s frustrating of course.

The video has got a very 1950s vibe with a futuristic twist in my opinion and the topic is important. To make a long story short, sometimes you just want to rebel! And that’s what the bondage represents, to me anyway, rebelling!

With rope bondage like Kinbaku and Shibari considered art forms in Japan, did that influence your thinking at all?

Of course those art forms are beautiful to me. I wish we used more ropes! It’s a form of expression. That may have played a role in the direction of the video, and I’m sure that was maybe on the mood board, although Anise would probably be better to answer this question!

Costumes and outfits have been very much part of COMPUTER MAGIC from the start, should we loosen up in the West and cosplay more?

I love cosplay! I love wearing colorful wigs, dressing up for shows, being someone else. For Halloween a couple years ago, I was Chun-Li, that was so fun. I’m so self-conscious that it really helps for me to become someone else. More cosplay please!

‘Danz’ is a far darker album than its predecessor ‘Davos’, which appears to reflect the socio-political mood in the US at the moment?

It is a little darker, because of my state of mind at the time. I was dealing with a lot of self-esteem issues. ‘Amnesia’ and ‘Data’ specifically about not knowing who I was anymore, they all give me a good kind of melancholy feeling. ‘Perfect Game’ and ‘Ordinary Life’ are pretty upbeat, though. ‘Delirium’ was especially political, one of the lyrics goes “the president has lost his mind”, it’s about not following the masses, too.

Probably one of my most experimental records to date, I make a lot of strong statements here in ‘Danz’, it’s less pop than ‘Davos’.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to COMPUTER MAGIC

Additional thanks to mikineko productions

‘Danz’ is released by Channel 9 Records in digital formats worldwide, limited green vinyl LP edition is available from http://www.channel9records.com

http://www.thecomputermagic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/computermagic/

https://twitter.com/zdanz

https://www.instagram.com/danz_cm/

http://www.mikineko.com


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st May 2018

COMPUTER MAGIC Danz

Photo by Chad Kamenshine

“Background noise, breakquest, reverb, spending time, large hadron collider, warp drive, the empire”… that’s how New York based shinnichi Danz Johnson aka COMPUTER MAGIC describes her interests.

Johnson actually released her first album ‘Scientific Experience’ as a Japanese only release in 2012, while her first album proper ‘Davos’ emerged in 2015. There have been EPs and singles as well, with enjoyably escapist ‘Obscure But Visible” EP possibly her best body of work yet. But now at last comes another COMPUTER MAGIC simply titled ‘Danz’; however Johnson has declared that it is a far darker and more personal companion to ‘Davos’.

The bubbling spaciness of ‘Amnesia’ is an ideal dream pop opener but appears with a clouded tinge to Johnson’s voice. This is a statement that tunes like ‘Lonely Like We Are’ from her last EP will not be figuring. Seguing into ‘Nebraskaland’, while obviously using synths, Johnson shares Bruce Springsteen’s solemn 1982 musical picture of the region.

The mood lifts with ‘Ordinary Life (Message From an A.I. Girlfriend)’, but despite offering bright synth passages to classic Linn Drum sounds, it’s a twist to Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ where Artificial Intelligence has allowed a robot to aspire to more than just being a love companion… meanwhile as a variation to the theme, the amusingly titled ‘Delirium (Don’t Follow The Sheep)’ sees rumbling bass drones over a drum loop with a suitably detached Johnson.

Photo by Randy Smith

The wonderful instrumental ‘Teegra’ adds some loungey vibes to proceedings echoing AIR when they were on their ‘Moon Safari, while borrowing from the same part of Western Europe, the nonchalant overtones of ‘Perfect Game’ come over like a less Gallic-centric STEREOLAB.

The sombre string synths and mechanised outlook of ‘Data’ see a shift eastwards to Deutschland for an album interlude before the very sparse and haunting ‘Space and Time / Pale Blue Dot’.

Almost to the point of crying, Johnson’s forlorn demeanour offsets the track’s pretty arpeggios in a cacophony of light and shade.

Adopting a live percussive feel with sombre string synths for the introspective manner of PET SHOP BOYS, ‘Drift Away’ draws the curtains before the departing flight of ‘Clouds’; “Take me with you” she exclaims before cathartically admitting she is “lost again above the clouds”.

Those used to the appealingly kooky and cutesy manner of COMPUTER MAGIC from ‘Been Waiting’ will be surprised by ‘Danz’. But this is a mature and more thoughtful Danz Johnson in action here. Reflecting the mood across the Atlantic, she is among those who are prepared to do some thinking at a time when ignorance appears to be the leading philosophy.


‘Danz’ is released by Channel 9 Records in digital formats worldwide, limited green vinyl LP edition is available from http://www.channel9records.com

http://www.thecomputermagic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/computermagic/

https://twitter.com/zdanz

https://www.instagram.com/danz_cm/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2018, updated 27th February 2018

TEC’s 2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner MARK REEDER used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and GARY NUMAN refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just The Electricity Club 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and ALISON MOYET saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, BRIAN ENO presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; The Electricity Club wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer JORI HULKKONEN released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but MICHAEL OAKLEY and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the ex-pats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC, MATTHIAS, NTTX and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and HANNAH PEEL embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform  were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While The Electricity Club does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, The Electricity Club maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


KERSTIN KEY

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: GOLDFRAPP Systemagic
Best Gig: OMD at Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Halle
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: KATJA VON KASSEL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

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