Berlin-based Argentinian duo COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO have been making music since 2004.
Reflecting more of the European heritage that is inherent in their home city of Buenos Aires, Maru Pardo Saguier (vocals) and Sebastián Cordovés (synth + programming) have been particularly creative working from their home studio in Alt Tempelhof.
Their underground electronic pop has always been strong on melody and rhythm, best exemplified by the magnificent ‘Fantasy’ from their 2005 self-titled debut.
Their Moroder-inspired template has transcended language, but while COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO have experimented with lyrics in their native Spanish and integrating guitars into their tight synthesized template, their 2017 ‘Humanum’ saw a return to English on several tracks.
Their new three song EP is called ‘Recall’ and can be seen as a younger brother of their previous EP ‘Fast Cars’ as the songs were written at the same time. However, the collection captures the current worldwide mood of fear and uncertainty, reflecting a spectrum of light and darkness as including all the greys in between.
The glistening upbeat synthpop of the ‘Recall’ title song hits home with a strong chorus driven by a bass triplet, while there is the bonus of a delightful Italo style middle eight synth break. In contrast, the darker synthwave intonations of ‘Beginnings Without End’ create some denser atmospherics that work well with Saguier’s intense anguish.
With a fabulously catchy bassline sequence, the heartfelt ‘New Born’ is a Summer statement of rejuvenation, with a fabulous array of electronic sounds from Cordovés contained within its appealing palette which also boasts a rather tangy synth solo.
By releasing a short EP rather than just a single track, COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO have been able to add another chapter to their story, giving listeners a wider snapshot while offering encouragement to seek out more.
COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO’s Berlin residency is working well and with excellent releases recently from other artists based in the former divided city like DISCOVERY ZONE and ULTRAFLEX, there is evidence there is something in Die Spree right now which is cultivating inspiration in these strange and difficult times.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Maru Pardo Saguier and Sebastian Cordoves have been making music as COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO since 2004.
Their underground electronic pop has always been strong on melody and rhythm, although their musical journey has taken them into experimenting with guitars and finding their voice linguistically.
Now located in Berlin, COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO are again reflecting more of the European heritage that is a key part of Argentina and the duo’s love of synthesizers in pop. Whatever, their music influenced by Ralf, Florian and Giorgio transcends language.
Having spent a charming evening having dinner with the couple in their adopted home last Autumn, The Electricity Club finally got round to formally chatting to COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO about their career to date.
Your self-tilted 2007 debut album seems such a long time ago. It featured a fabulous song called ‘Fantasy’, how did you arrive at your style of music?
Sebastian: The first album ‘Cosaquitos En Globo’ was an experiment. When we started, we were a bit bored of the styles of music we were doing with our previous projects, so we tried to do something different.
We started doing some Trip-Hop songs in early 2004…actually, the first release of our first album was independently in 2005!
Then we started to experiment a bit with different styles, some electroclash, electropop and synthpop, until we were comfortable with the later styles and maybe something that today we can call synthwave (as ‘Fantasy’ is very synthwave). So, the first album turned out as an eclectic mix of all that as a result of our search for our own style.
Maru: It’s amazing to think back to that time and remember that ‘Fantasy’ almost didn’t make it to the album. We quarrelled a lot about that. By that time, we were working differently to what we do today. Sebastian would give me a recording of his ideas and I would come up with some melody and lyrics in my dead times at the office I used to work in. The song was very much there musically, but I couldn’t make anything to work on my side.
One day, the lyrics started to be sung by themselves. I was not very happy with my almost spoken melody, but showed it to Sebastian anyway. I thought he would hate it but on the contrary, he loved it and there it was, the first song that really felt like we had something else than the sum of the both of us. It’s the song that we can never take out of a show.
Argentina appears to have more musicians and producers interested in electronic pop than other South American countries, why do you think that is?
Maru: Argentina has always looked to Europe in terms of influence, not only in music and art but also in other aspects. It’s a country that has always welcomed immigration, not only from other fellow American countries, but also a strong part of the population is European, so our ears and sensibility have always been tuned up with what was going on there (or here, now!). We are curious, we receive the info but then, as it always happens, we mix it up with our own DNA and make our own Argentine version.
Sebastian: Also, Argentina had a very rich pop/synthpop scene during the 80s and had some of the artists that can be considered pioneers in the electronic and synth scene in South America. I think that scene influenced a lot the music scene of other countries, but now there are other countries that have a lot of artists making electronic music in all of it forms. Mostly Chile has a lot of electronic pop artists.
Your second album ‘Moving Under’ from 2010 had even more great songs like ‘The System is Running Out’, ‘Out of Presence’ and ‘Silence’, how do you think you were developing at this point?
Maru: After ‘Fantasy’, which we consider the milestone of our personality, songs started to come out more easily. It was a very nice period for us, we were enjoying ourselves because we were convinced about our material and also our live shows were benefited by that sense of, let’s say, pride. In addition to that, we’d found an image to project we felt comfortable with.
Sebastian: We continued the search for our own sound; we were a bit more confident about our direction and what we were doing. I think it’s more electro, a bit darker (I think it is our darkest album) and more consistent than our first one.
But for the ‘Voy a Buscarte’ EP in 2011, you changed direction and starting to exclusively sing in Spanish and add guitars, what were the reasons for this?
Maru: When we started with Cosaquitos we had a guitarist. We were almost getting to a trio stage because we were very much in sync with what he was bringing to the table, but due to one of the many big crises of our country, he emigrated and we went back to “square one”. Time passed and the what if? question about having a permanent guitarist kept haunting us, so we decided that we should give that possibility a shot.
Sebastian: At that time, the music scene in Buenos Aires was very strange, very rock oriented, and we felt a bit disconnected with the public. In the first two albums, we have songs in Spanish and in English but the most popular songs were in English (‘Fantasy’, ‘Out of Presence’, etc). The Spanish songs were more melancholic, so we tried to do some more danceable songs in Spanish trying to make a connection with people.
Maru: it wasn’t easy because we didn’t have an influence in Spanish of the style we were doing. When I tried forcing myself to translate the songs I wrote in English, it didn’t feel natural, but kind of forced and romantic, instead. I felt like a melodic singer from the 70s.
We were much criticized because of the choice of language in Argentina. We were considered too European for our country’s ears, so it was natural that we had better response from outside our own land.
We didn’t have a problem with maintaining this linguistic duality, but at some point we wanted to force ourselves to having more songs in Spanish because the balance had switched too much to the English side. So ‘Voy a Buscarte’ was the sum of that, plus presenting our new formation with guitars.
Around that time was our first European tour. We weren’t sure about how our songs in Spanish would be received but, besides in the UK, Spanish was much celebrated. It’s amazing to see how much time changed, because now the UK is one of the countries that listens to us the most, where our songs in Spanish and English are invited to be part of compilations and where radio shows play our music these days.
Sebastian: By that time, we started playing at places a bit bigger and we started to feel we needed another member in the band to make our shows more dynamic. We’d had guest guitar players before and, as the scene was so rock oriented, having a guitar player in the band looked like a good choice, then.
How did you find working with a guitarist, was it what you had hoped?
Sebastian: Working with a guitar player is like working like any other musician, a real pain, hahaha! Seriously it was a nice experience, especially live. I felt a bit freer to do what I wanted to do live because I had fewer eyes on me. We had some musical differences with both guitar players we had, and the result was that we did some music that was a bit different to what we’d do as a duo, but I think that’s the reason of having another member in the band, to collaborate and do something different…
Maru: There was a rockish sound that we sometimes appreciated, but mostly we thought it was too much. We weren’t looking for that. As the music we were trying to make was not very popular in our country, we struggled to find a guitarist who would understand the role of the instrument in the band – that didn’t have anything to do with playing chords all the time nor with playing all the time!
We enjoyed it though, and it also seemed to be the time where our popularity started to raise in Argentina. Shows were fun and it let the rock part of our influences come out and play for a little while. But that was it. We didn’t want to pursue that line of sound in the future. As the composition always remained between Sebastian and me, we thought we should carry on with just the two of us.
Your 2014 album ‘Asimetricos’ was also in Spanish, but on its follow-up ‘Humanum’, songs in English like ‘Loop of Love’, ‘We Have Enough’ and ‘About Love’ returned, why was there a change of heart linguistically?
Sebastian: I think there are several reasons and no reason at all… we became a duo again and we wanted to make music without imposing anything to ourselves. In ‘Asimetricos’, we had some songs in English but tried to do most of them in Spanish. In ‘Humanum’, we just let the music take control.
Maru: In every stage of Cosaquitos’ life, besides most of our first album, we did exactly what we felt at the time. When we explored the sometimes darker and somewhat detached sound of ‘Moving Under’, we were channelling our man-machine dialog; with the more rough sound that started with ‘Voy a Buscarte’ and had its peak in ‘Asimetricos’, there was some kind of violence within us, how we felt about the world at that moment, that needed to be expressed with those albums. Language-wise English seemed to be suitable for one stage and Spanish for another.
‘Humanum’ came along in a period in which we realized the world and the people were going to hell and we needed to find the sensibility, we thought it was being erased from the face of the earth.
If we were missing sensibility and delicacy, we needed to find it in ourselves and then offer them to whoever needed to connect from that place. We found it to be one of the albums we love the most.
With this in mind, why did you choose to relocate to Berlin?
Sebastian: We visited Berlin in our 2011 European tour (the year that we met you at our show in London) and fell in love with the city.
We liked the vibe, the people and the music scene; so on our second tour in 2015, we decided to spend more time here and we stayed for a month playing around the city. At that time we decided we wanted to live here, at least for some time, but we didn’t know how…
Maru: It took us another four years to really decide to leave everything behind and move here. It wasn’t easy.
So what sort of instrument and software set-up do you use now?
Sebastian: Because of moving to Berlin, we had to sell most of our gear, mostly big vintage synths that were very expensive to bring to Europe. So we came with a minimal set-up and bought a few things here.
At the moment, to produce we use a DIY Modular Synth (5U format), a Korg Prologue 8, a Novation Bass Station 2, an Arturia MiniBrute SE, a Korg R3 and a very modified Roland TR-707 for drums, I added extra sound EPROMs and various mods to the circuit.
At live shows we bring the R3, the Bass Station 2 and MicroBrute, also Maru uses a Digitech Vocalist Pro for vocal effects.
Software-wise we use Cakewalk by Bandlab to produce, record and mix, and Ableton Live 7 LE to play the backing tracks live. I used Cakewalk since the early 90s (it then become SONAR, now it is called Cakewalk again)
Your most recent EP release ‘Fast Cars’ saw you go in an artistic circle and back to the style of your first two albums with no guitars and singing in English, what has been the motivation for this?
Maru: By this time, we had already taken the decision to move to Berlin. We thought we needed to have some new material almost ready to start a new stage of our lives and career with a fresh sound. Besides, we weren´t sure if we would have the time or would find a place where we could turn the volume up… we were not mistaken!
‘Humanum’ had opened a door to us that we didn’t feel like closing. English started to come back to me as naturally as Spanish did in 2011 and 2014. Some songs just are born one way or another and we just stopped arguing with that. I imagine Spanish will still appear in the future, but not in the near future. We have another EP in English that will be released in a couple of months.
Sebastian: I think that our comeback to that synthpop and synthwave sound started with ‘Humanum’. To me, ‘Humanum’ is our more finished album, the one that is closest to the idea we had when we started to make it and the one we made with more freedom, so when we started to make new songs, we wanted to stay in that path. The ‘Fast Cars’ EP is a continuation of the musical idea of ‘Humanum’.
What is the song ‘Fast Cars’ about and what was the idea behind the simple but very effective video?
Maru: ‘Fast Cars’ is a song about closing up to the noise of this world and finding your own way. Sebastian says all of my lyrics are melancholic and I think he has a point, especially when it comes to the melodies. But this song is mainly about hope, to find something good where it’s not supposed to be.
The video is a photoshoot gone… wrong? It was a lovely afternoon we spent with our creative friends Wanda Panda and Marcelo Espinola aka CINERS. They sort of, had prepared a video trap for us and we gladly fell right into it. We were trying to make a change image-wise that would reflect our change of location – and also, hairstyles – that would support our new release, to press a very much needed refresh button in every aspect.
So, they had the concept, the lights prepared and the mood was perfect. We shot it without even realizing and we think they understood perfectly where we were trying to go. We are happy about it! Since our arrival to Berlin, they both have been a great source of help, comfort and creative support for us. Marcelo is joining us in most of our shows here with his live visuals and Wanda takes amazing pictures. Back in 2015, they were responsible of registering our live shows here in video and photos and they also made a short video documentation of our life through the month we spent here.
Has moving to Berlin had a positive effect on your creativity? Have you had much of an opportunity to network with musicians based there and play live?
Sebastian: I think at the moment, it is a bit early to say something for sure. It was a very hard year settling down in the city, doing paperwork to stay legally, trying to learn the language, etc… but I feel it was positive for me.
We finished ‘Fast Cars’ EP and now we are finishing a new one, we did a remix for the Danish band SOFTWAVE, we played some great gigs, mostly in small but very nice venues and now we have a new videoclip. Above all, we started to think about a new album.
Maru: During our first months here we played a lot. We didn’t expect that. It’s an almost surreal thing because being an immigrant has nothing to do with the experience of visiting, coming here to play and enjoy the city.
Paperwork and some sort of depression were the main aspects of our life. If shows weren’t in the middle of everything to remind us of the reason we came for – or who we are -, really, I don’t know what would have happen with us.
Our first plus to being here is teaming up with these two talented friends we were talking about. Now, when things were starting to be smoother and we were starting to warm up again, this Corona crisis came and the shows from the next month were rescheduled. Hopefully, for the sake of all, this will end soon enough…
How are you finding living in Europe anyway, with the difference in climate and food etc?
Sebastian: I feel really comfortable; I like the food and the climate. The winter is dark, there is much less sunlight that in Argentina, but it’s not affecting me much. On the other hand we love Berlin in Springtime, we really enjoy the city. Something we don’t have in Buenos Aires and we love here is the rivers crossing the city. Also Berlin has so much green, we and our little dog enjoy going to the parks. We miss a bit some of the food we have back in Argentina like empanadas, dulce de leche and strangely Argentinian pizza, but here there is a lot of food we like. We love wursts, Currywurst, Sauer Kraut and Döner Kebap…
Maru: Of course as the time passes, you cannot help missing things, people, mainly. The way of life here is less frenetic and we like that. We also love the fact that you can feel history through your bones and live music is still a very important aspect of the personality of the city
Looking back, what songs or albums have been artistic highs for you?
Sebastian: In general, what I think is our high changes over time. Trying to be as objective as possible, I think our best album is ‘Humanum’. Song-wise I think that ‘Fantasy’, ‘Out of Presence’, ‘Cruzando el Puente’, ‘We Have Enough’, ‘Fast Cars’ and in the less popular category but that I like a lot are ‘Explora’, ‘The System is Running Out’, ‘Voy a Dejarte’ and ‘Zero Gravity’…
Maru: I agree. I would add’ Loop of Love’.
What’s next for COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO?
Sebastian: Soon we will be releasing a new EP called ‘Recall’. It’s a three song EP, kind of a brother of ‘Fast Cars’ EP, as we wrote the songs at the same time. Also, we are talking with CINERS about making another video for one of the songs. And we started to think in a new album, possibly for next year…
Maru: We have a couple of festivals we’ll be playing at, providing this pandemic ends soon. Aztec Records have released ‘Pure Latin Synth Vol 1’, a compilation with songs in Spanish in which we participate with our song ‘Cristal’ from our 2017 album ‘Humanum’.
Following that, ‘We Have Enough’, another song from that album is going to be included into another Aztec Records compilation called ‘Synth Songs of Hope’. This compilation was born out of this COVID-19 pandemic situation. Half of the proceedings will be donated to the International Council of Nurses, which supports the advancement of nursing education, research and support for their families.
And hopefully, more shows to come, not only in Berlin. We want to play everywhere!
The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
Here are 30 songs which may have escaped attention as the world went grunge and then had an ongoing hangover in the wake of Britpop.
Denied mainstream recognition and now lost when looking from a UK perspective even within the dwindling synth music community, these offerings come from artists who have mostly remained in total obscurity.
However, some are highly established in their own right, albeit not necessarily in the electronic pop field.
Starting from 1992 when the CD established itself as the dominant format to the year before The Electricity Cub came into being, here are 30 Lost Art School Bops listed by year and then in alphabetical order…
VEGAS Walk Into The Wind (1992)
What happens when you cross FUN BOY THREE, EURYTHMICS and SHAKESPEARS SISTER? This lovely under rated electro-reggae tune featuring Terry Hall, David A Stewart and Siobhan Fahey! VEGAS was a one-off project when Hall and Stewart were between bands, with the former’s forlorn opening gambit of “You have to learn to love by loving” more than suiting the latter’s lush cinematic backdrop on the captivating noir of ‘Walk Into The Wind’.
Sven Väth is a Frankfurt based DJ whose his career started in 1982. Mixmag rated his album ‘Accident In Paradise’ one of the Top 50 dance albums of all time. From that, this synthpopped remix of its most accessible track ‘L’Esperanza’ recalled ‘Magic Fly’ by SPACE and captured the tranquillity of a swim with dolphins. The melodies sang despite the tune being totally instrumental while the groove drove along without being intrusive.
Hear Me Calling captured the spirit of early ultrapop DEPECHE MODE and even had CULTURE CLUB backing singer Helen Terry thrown into the mix of this infectiously catchy number. Although a publicly a trio, there was a silent fourth songwriting member who was represented by a cartoon character called Biff in the band’s promotional material. Biff was actually Richard Stannard who has since written songs for KYLIE MINOGUE, LITTLE BOOTS, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS and SPICE GIRLS.
Available on the single ‘Hear Me Calling’ via Epic Records
INTASTELLA were formally indie rockers LAUGH, until they discovered singer Stella Grundy and adapted their sound to a more dance-orientated style in a vein not dissimilar from fellow Mancunian’s HAPPY MONDAYS. Having had a minor hit with the SAINT ETIENNE flavoured cover of the FRANK VALLI Northern Soul favourite, the funkier electrovibe of ‘Grandmaster’ was the follow-up and later featured on the soundtrack of the ‘9½ Weeks’ sequel ‘Love In Paris’.
Available on the album ‘What You Gonna Do’ via Planet 3 Records
INAURA combined NINE INCH NAILS and DURAN DURAN, with the latter every much in mind when the band were signed to EMI. Produced by Steve Osborne, the metallic finish of ‘Soap Opera’ gave a rock edge to the electronically driven sound. But despite securing a support slot with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, the band got emboiled in internal record company politics with EMI actively trying to bury the band. The shelved album ‘One Million Smiles’ eventually secured an independent release in 1998.
Melody Maker’s Simon Price announced the arrival of a new scene of New Romantic revivalists, with a bold headline declaring, “ROMO – The Future Pop Explosion!” From these Romantic Modernists came ORLANDO who combined stylish, synthesized dance-pop with a love of classic songwriting. ‘Just For A Second’ was their best song, with elements of PET SHOP BOYS euphoric flavour as reimagined by the boy bands of the day, combined with an emotive lyrical backdrop.
Also seen as part of the Romo movement were SEXUS, a Manchester duo comprising of David Savage and Paul Southern Signed by ZTT, ‘The Official End Of It All’ was their second single and recalled ELECTRONIC’s ‘Getting Away With It’. The pair recorded a full album with Trevor Horn but it remains unmixed and unreleased. The duo would later team up again musically under the name PSYCHODELICS.
Available on the single ‘The Official End Of It All’ via ZTT Records
MONO were Siobhan de Maré and Martin Virgo, who found their cinematic sound lumped in with trip hop movement that spawned SNEAKER PIMPS and PORTISHEAD. A mysterious Gallic flavour crossed with samples from John Barry’s soundtrack to ‘The Ipcress File’ provided the song’s spy drama chill. The track was later incorporated into a contemporary film adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’ which starred Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hank Azaria. SPICE GIRLS’ Emma Bunton recorded a cover of it in 2006.
The late Trish Keenan’s ice maiden cool was instrumental to BROADCAST’s cognoscenti appeal and with their experimental electronica, they won many fans among the cognoscenti. ‘Come On Let’s Go’ was their most accessible offering with its spy drama feel, vintage organic textures and Keenan’s sweet nonchalant vocal tones. Futuristic yet with a Cold War chill, this pushed all the tender buttons. The band were a favourite of Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’.
QUEEN OF JAPAN were a colourful European trio consisting of singer Koneko alongside eccentric producers Jo Ashito and Jason Arigato. Specialising in dance covers of an incongruous origin like JOHN LENNON and QUEEN, their fun electronic sound took on a distinct sinister turn with this brilliant synthesized interpretation of rock legends KISS’ neo-discofied 1977 anthem. The track gained prominence after being included as part of 2 MANY DJ’s ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Part 2’ DJ set in 2003.
Available on the album ‘Headrush’ via Echohammer Records
Following Ms Allison’s pop flavoured debut album ‘Afterglow’ in 1999 and prior to her ‘Aftersun’ collaboration with MASSIVE ATTACK, the former ONE DOVE vocalist experimented with some lo-fi electro sounds alongside some more folky acoustic excursions on her album ‘We Are Science’. Playing squelch games over stuttering percussive loops, Allison’s enigmatic breathy vocal style almost acts as another instrument in a mildly hallucinogenic dance fashion.
Apparently based on true events, ‘Party Monster’ starring Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green and Chlӧe Savigny was effectively ‘Electroclash – The Movie’; ‘Take Me To The Club’, written and produced by Bruno Coviell, captured the tension and euphoria of nightlife. Electrofied slap bass and sinister sequences added some gothic grandeur to the aural hedonism. “I only feel right under bright lights… take me to the club” was the profound proclamation!
‘I Feel Love’ meets THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS on this duo’s amazing debut single, SYNTAX consisted of Jan Burton and ex-FLUKE member Mike Tournier. The 8 minute full length version possessed a pulsing hypnotic quality while spacey Sci-Fi synths and full-fat sequences recalled a bygone disco age but updating the template for a new century. Dark but immensely danceable!
WHITE TOWN aka Jyoti Mishra had a freak No1 hit with ‘Your Woman’ in 1997 but kept a low profile, carving out an independent musical career with little regard for public profile. Influenced by his heroes OMD and DEPECHE MODE, ‘Whenever I Say Hello’ first appeared on Ninth Wave’s ‘Electricity 2’ compilation and was the highlight of his album ‘Don’t Mention The War’, eventually released in 2006. A wonderful lonely paean to lost love, this does sound like ‘Things You Said’ reimagined for ‘A Broken Frame’.
Sony Music were none too happy when the former SAVAGE GARDEN front man veered from his drippy ballads to go electro! ‘I Like The Way’ was the highlight from his album ‘The Tension & The Spark’, the title of which came from the chorus of this spiky piece of synthpop. Like ERASURE gone all aggressive if you can believe that, Hayes and Sony Music parted ways following this fuzzy excursion.
THE great lost act of the synthesizer revival has to be VIC TWENTY. Blowing away ERASURE while supporting them on their muted covers tour, Piney Gir and Adrian Morris showed promise with their cartoon-like girl/boy synthpop. One of the highlights in their live set was an ironic electronic reconstruction of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. Released on Mute, ‘Text Msg’ was their only single as a duo, a quirky narrative of the modern generation who can only dump hapless lovers by mobile phone.
Available on the single ‘Txt Msg’ via Mute Records
Argentine combo COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO originally started out as a duo comprising of Maru Pardo Saguier and Sebastian Cordoves. With a heavy KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER influence but adding a rock edge, ‘Fantasy’ from their eponymous debut album was a perfect demonstration of their strong melodies based around club friendly synthetic grooves and new wave sensibilities. Their most recent album ‘Humanum’ came out in September 2017.
After the succes of THE KILLERS, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again and DELAYS almost went the full hog with this Trevor Horn assisted electronic disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were just pure DURAN DURAN, while Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.
Available on the single ‘Valentine’ via Rough Trade Records
Before he worked with MADONNA, NEW ORDER, THE KILLERS, KYLIE MINOGUE, TAKE THAT and PET SHOP BOYS, Stuart Price produced and co-wrote most of the only album by Philadelphia songstress Juliet Richardson. Driven by a heavy percussive mantra coupled to a deep bass rumble, her sultry soulful vocals worked well within the cool electro backing to provide a wonderful sexually charged atmosphere. Richardson is now a yoga teacher with a young family.
This promising band took the best of New Romantic thrill and a tight Stephen Hague production for a brilliant single with a killer chorus and solid beats, reinforced by a big reverberating bassline. Despite a support slot with HEAVEN 17, a chart scandal involving over enthusiastic management on their second single ‘Industry’ destroyed all momentum and the band retreated, re-emerging later as MATINEE CLUB before becoming THE MODERN again! Nathan Cooper has since reappeared as KID KASIO.
LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)
Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ suggested that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved to be nominated for that title far more! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader, with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.
PROTOCOL had some Romo flair and despite being almost entirely based on ‘Atomic’ by BLONDIE, second single ‘Where’s The Pleasure?’ secured that all important radio play. But despite this, Polydor pulled the plug on their excellent follow-up ‘Love Is My Drug’ and the promising debut album ‘Rules Of Engagement’ despite sending out promos to the press and filming a promo video. Lead singer John Pritchard took another punt at stardom by participating in the 2013 series of ‘The Voice’.
This was an excellent ‘Sweet Dreams’ pastiche from vocalist Stefy Rae and producer Jimmy Harry. Aimed at the teen pop market with its Orange County brat subject matter, ‘Chelsea’ was more sophisticated than it appeared and was probably three years ahead of its time. Co-written by the soon-to-be ubiquitous producer Greg Kurstin and accompanied by a video featuring an Adam West cameo, if this had come out in 2009, it probably would have been a Top 10 hit.
Available on the album ‘The Orange Album’ via Wind-Up Records
Victoria Hesketh before she was LITTLE BOOTS, she came to together with Lucy Catherwood and Marie France at Leeds University to produce a series of well received spikey pop numbers before splitting. Their final single ‘You’re Out’ was produced by Greg Kurstin and the start of a more electronic sound in the mix. Treated guitars, fuzzy bass and subtle synths all merged together in a feisty cocktail and the seed of the raw excitement found its way into songs like ‘Meddle’.
Available on the single ‘You’re Out’ via 679/Atlantic Records
Consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST have described their music as upbeat space-pop. This was beautiful electronic dance music from the enigmatic Norwegian duo with Peterson’s soaring soprano and the gorgeous synth vibrato putting minds into a marvellous trance. ‘Sleepwalker’ was the sort of song you would want to play at a rave in the snow! their cool cover of OMD’s ‘Messages’, from the ‘Love! Revolution’ album which ‘Sleepwalker’ came, is also a worthy listen.
Italo disco was a much maligned form of electro kitsch but was rooted in GIORGIO MORODER which eventually influenced NEW ORDER and PET SHOP BOYS; Anglo-Argentine duo HEARTBREAK revived the genre, complete with accents, “wo-woah-ah” chants and heavy dance rhythms. On great catchy songs such as ‘We’re Back’, the sweaty impassioned charisma of vocalist Sebastian Muravchik was more than convincing while Ali Renault provided the meaty electronic backing.
The Dresden sextet were a dreamy but epic cross between A-HA and SIGUR RÓS. Singer Felix Räuber’s falsetto voice polarised but the frantic driven tempo, dramatic electronic strings and rousing melancholic chorus of ‘The Colour Of Snow’ made it a fine follow-up their German No1 ‘Allein Allein’ and gave the band enough of a reputation to be invited to support DEPECHE MODE at their Leipzig gigs in 2009.
Pure octave shift disco heaven on this ode to the IKEA generation by modern electronic take on BANANARAMA. Despite being all under 25, these three ladies grew up to the sound of the synthesizer and learned to dance to the beat of electronic drums via their mothers’ ERASURE and A-HA singles. Paying girl group homage to both YAZOO and DEPECHE MODE, RED BLOODED WOMEN sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD produced by Daniel Miller!
KATSEN were a short lived Brighton duo comprising of Donna Grimaldi and Chris Blackburn who crossed CRYSTAL CASTLES with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA for their own brand of quirky synthpop. ‘Florian’ with its mournful melodica line inspired by ‘Kommetenmelodie 2’ was yet another in a tradition of songs dedicated to the enigmatic quiet man of KRAFTWERK which have included ‘V2 Schneider’ and ‘Rolf & Florian Go Hawaiian’ (sic).
Available on the album ‘It Hertz!’ via Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation
SPUTNIKO! (real name Hiromi Ozaki) showcased her brand of laptop pop around London where she was based. “Exploring intersections between technology and popular culture” as reflected by titles such as ‘The Skype Song’ and ‘The Mixi Song’, her most immediate track has been ‘The Google Song’, a story of love in the modern computer age. Too shy to approach the object of her desire, she simply went home to her faithful laptop and googled him!! “I like you” she proclaimed. It was tremendously catchy too!
Available on the DVD ‘Parakonpe 3000’ via 360° Records
Although South America isn’t usually the prime source of cream of electronica, there are gems, hidden in the depths of the Latin lands, and Argentina shines through with the example of COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.
Since their first appearance in 2004, the now duo consisting of Maru Pardo Saguier (vocals) and Sebastian Cordoves (synths/programming) have distinguished themselves with a strong electro base, strengthened by the fact that Cordoves knows his technique to such extent, he actually builds his own synths.
Pardo Saguier’s strong vocals, performed over melodies often being partial to the rockier side of things, certainly add to the recipe for a solid electronic success.
‘Humanum’, the duo’s fourth album is said to hold an “organic and emotional response to an increasingly less empathic world”, and ‘Cruzando el Puente’ opens with an optimistic, airy and very synthy notion, vibrating nonchalantly around the Spanish lyrics. We are definitely dealing with an Argentinian SPECTRA PARIS here.
‘Cristal’ is minimalistically delicious, offering a hopeful approach to an otherwise, gloomy world of today, while the title track ushers symbolic sounds a la early DEPECHE MODE, wrapped up with a dance bow and elevated to gratifying sci-fi levels.
‘Loop of Love’ gathers its prisoners with sublimely ethereal vocals and capable synthscapes, before coming back to the Spanish ‘Buscando Para Encontrar’, which is an electronic ballad full of ambient sounds envisaging a concept of a search, leading into a rather upbeat ‘Raiz’.
The ‘Root’ has fabulously sprouted from the classic synth seeds, fertilised with club notions and lighthearted vocals.
‘Ansiedad’ floatingly continues the journey where a man meets the machine to achieve a “utopic fantasy” of finding the very core of humanity.
‘We Have Enough’, or quite the contrary; the listener can’t have enough of the clear voice and scrumptious synthesised power pop, bearing the resemblance to the highly charged tracks of BERLIN. After all, it’s all ‘About Love’, with cunningly placed Euro Trance elements and almost JAPAN-like vocal execution. Fancy an excellent dark dance tune? Here it is… a plenty!
‘Ver Mas Cerca’ sees closer into the core of human sensibility and the closing ‘Viaje a Traves del Tiempo’ sums up the ‘Journey Through Time’ with a synthy extravaganza of sound and vision, and the vision is of an optimistic future.
It is time this undiscovered gem got unearthed. Argentina has it going on in the synth world, and COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO have it going on in bunches.
‘Humanum’ is deliciously electronic, wonderfully melodic and wholesome. Don’t understand Spanish? It matters not: the music speaks many languages and transcends many meanings. This stuff is good.