Tag: Crystal Castles

TEC’s 25 TRACKS FROM THE CIRCUIT BOARDS OF CANADA

Like Sweden, as a country with a relatively small population in relation to land mass, Canada punches above its weight when it comes to its contribution to popular music.

Canada’s internationally famous artists may be Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morisette, but there have been so many more that have been far more interesting.

Canada has been a significant presence in synth from the post-punk pioneers such as NASH THE SLASH and CERAMIC HELLO, to international MTV-era hits from the likes of MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and KON KAN, up to the present day via the mainstream profile of GRIMES, PURITY RING and CRYSTAL CASTLES. Meanwhile, it also has developed into a hub for the burgeoning sub-genre of Synthwave thanks to FM ATTACK and DANA JEAN PHOENIX.

Like in the UK with the availability of affordability of technology from Japan in particular, Canadian youngsters were taking up synthesizers. And while several were to attain cult status like RATIONAL YOUTH and PYSCHE, some such as the Winnipeg trio EUROPA were destined just to have their moment on domestic television without an official release to their name.

Today, the tradition continues with artists such as DEADMAU5, TIGA, KOISHII & HUSH, LOLA DUTRONIC and TECHNIQUES BERLIN covering a wide spectrum of electronic pop and dance music.

So here is The Electricity Club’s list of 25 tracks from the circuit boards of Canada, subject to a limit of one per artist moniker, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. But notice a void in between 1990 to 2000 when it could be said that the likes of Dion, Adams and Morisette dominated the airwaves of the globe.

However, the number of electronic acts who have appeared in the 21st Century have more than made up for things.


CERAMIC HELLO Climatic Nouveaux (1980)

CERAMIC HELLO were a duo who hailed from Burlington in Ontario, formed by Brett Wickens in 1980 after leaving post-punk band SPOONS. He teamed up with Roger Humphreys who added a more classical bent to their minimal synth in the vein of JOHN FOXX and FAD GADGET. Their first release was the detached cold wave paranoia of ‘Climatic Nouveaux’. Wickens later moved to England to join Peter Saville Associates, making a major contribution to the artwork for OMD’s ‘Architecture & Morality’.

Available on the album ‘The Absence Of A Canary’ via Suction Records

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


NASH THE SLASH Swing Shift – Flexi Version (1981)

NASH THE SLASH opened for GARY NUMAN and was signed to Dindisc Records. It was during this period that he had his highest mainstream media profile with features in ‘Smash Hits’; it was with the pop mag that his best known recording in the UK came via a blue flexi-disc with an early self-produced stripped down version of ‘Swing-Shift’ sitting next to his label mates OMD’s live rendition of ‘Pretending To See The Future’. He sadly passed away in 2014.

Available as a bonus track on the album ‘Children Of The Night’ via Artoffact Records ‎

http://nashtheslash.com/


MEN WITHOUT HATS The Safety Dance (1982)

Hailing from Montreal, ‘The Safety Dance’ was written by MEN WITHOUT HATS lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing, thus it was effectively a protest song against conformity, a call for freedom of expression. it had been misinterpreted as a being about safe sex and as an anti-nuclear protest song. The bouncy almost medieval feel combined with Doroschuk’s vocals like a less doomy Andrew Eldritch to produce a huge international hit.

Available on the album ‘Rhythm Of Youth’ via Bulldog Brothers ‎

http://safetydance.com/


SPOONS Arias & Symphonies (1982)

Hailing from Toronto and lead by Gordon Deppe, after the acclaim for the 1981 debut album ‘Stick Figure Neighbourhood’, the songs on the second ‘Arias & Symphonies’ were more European influenced. With JAPAN producer John Punter behind the desk, the title song was an perfect amalgam of prog theatrics, new wave gallop and synth pomp. SPOONS were soon to be opening for bands such as SIMPLE MINDS and THE POLICE. Today, Deppe is also the guitarist for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Available on the album ‘Arias & Symphonies’ via Ready Records

https://www.spoonsmusic.com/


STRANGE ADVANCE Love Games (1982)

STRANGE ADVANCE were a Canadian new wave band formed in Vancouver, made up of Drew Arnott (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Darryl Kromm (lead vocals, guitars), and Paul Iverson (bass). Utilising synthesizers and advances in programming technology, their music was a fusion of progressive rock and MTV friendly pop that struck a chord, with the lyrical couplet “The time is right / We’ll love tonight” of ‘Love Games’ capturing the mood of times.

Available on the album ‘Worlds Away’ via VR

https://www.strangeadvance.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with Brett Wickens from CERAMIC HELLO on this charming pop tune which echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass while the dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continue his university studies, but contributed synth programming to ‘Holiday In Bangkok’, a sinister overwrought warning about the dangers of becoming international drug mule.

Available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


TRANS-X Living On Video (1983)

French-born Canadian Pascal Languirand was the man behind TRANS-X, and had previously been known for his spacey progressive rock solo albums like ‘Minos’ and ‘De Harmonia Universalia’. Originally issued in French as ‘Vivre Sur Video’, this cosmic octave-shifting electronic dance tune, with additional vocals by Laurie Ann Gill, became a massive hit worldwide after being re-released in 1985 and went onto to influence Electroclash artists such as FISCHERSPOONER and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Living On Video’ via Unidisc

http://transx-music.com/


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo from Edmonton, founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen. Of the foreboding overtones of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, “Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved” Darrin said, “It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.”

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


SKINNY PUPPY Dig It (1986)

“Love cannot attach itself to binding ugliness” goes the theatrical horror of ‘Dig It’; formed in Vancouver by cEvin Key of IMAGES IN VOGUE and vocalist Nivek Ogre, SKINNY PUPPY are widely considered as the pioneers of industrial. ‘Dig It’ was a big favourite of NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor and heavily influenced his own track ‘Down In It’ which appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, so much so that he later confessed he had actually sampled it!

Available on the album ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ via Nettwerk America

http://skinnypuppy.com/


MITSOU Les Chinois (1988)

Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas achieved the comparatively unusual feat of having a francophone pop hit across Canada with ‘Bye Bye Mon Cowboy’. But her best tune was the saucy Fairlighted ‘Les Chinois’ from the multicultural-themed album ‘El Mundo’. Written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac who later worked with Céline Dion, she exclaimed “Non non non c’est pas comme ça, qu’on fait l’amour, regarde les Chinois”… was she trying to make babies?

Available on the album ‘El Mundo’ via Unidisc

http://mitsoumagazine.com/en/


KON KAN I Beg Your Pardon (1989)

The project of Barry Harris, the KON KAN name was a play on the policy of “Canadian Content” which enforced Canadian radio station to air at least 30% domestic music. Voiced by Kevin Wynne, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ was not just content with borrowing off NEW ORDER but inspired by ‘Pump Up The Volume’, used samples of other songs like ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)’ and ‘Get Up & Boogie’, as well as National Lampoon’s ‘Disco Hotline’. This mash-up became a huge international one hit wonder.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via A&M Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


SOLVENT Wish (2005)

Toronto-based Jason Amm is all about “synthesizers, drum machines, fx, knobs, buttons, wires, wave, electro, acid”. But while he is now best known for his documentary film ‘I Dream Of Wires’, he has a vast catalogue of music released under the SOLVENT moniker. With gentle vocoder treatments and glorious whirring synths, ‘Wish’ set a pattern for acts like FOTONOVELA and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS to follow in the understated melodic machine pop stakes.

Available on the album ‘Demonstration Tape (1997-2007)’ via Ghostly International

http://www.solventcity.com/


DRAGONETTE I Get Around (2007)

Toronto’s DRAGONETTE comprised of singer Martina Sorbara, producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. The acclaim for their self-released self-titled EP led to a deal with Mercury Records and a relocation to the UK. Opening shows for BASEMENT JAXX and SUGABABES, the highlight of their debut album ‘Galore’ was ‘I Get Around’ which was previewed on Planet Clique and Lucky Pierre’s ‘Robopop – The Return’ compilation. It also was used in ‘The Vampire Diaries’.

Available on the album ‘Galore’ via Mercury Records

http://www.dragonetteonline.com/


FM ATTACK Sleepless Nights (2009)

With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling being a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Shawn Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk, all with a fine-honed musicality. From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album which opened up the gates and led the way for what was to become Synthwave, ‘Sleepless Nights’ crossed arpeggios with octave lilts for an enjoyable vocoder-laced romp.

Available on the album ‘Dreamatic’ via Starfield Music

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/


CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (2010)

Named after a line in ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’ and capturing a gritty lo-fi electronic sound, Toronto’s CRYSTAL CASTLES were a world apart from other modern duos with chaotic live shows that had an almost demonic energy. With Ethan Kath’s deliberately distorted synthetic goth-punk and Alice Glass’ afflicted vocal presence, ‘Suffocation’ was haunted, yet captured an understated beauty. But in October 2014, Glass announced that she was leaving to pursue a solo career amid acrimony.

Available on the album ‘(II)’ via Fiction Records

https://www.crystalcastles.com/


AUSTRA Spellwork (2011)

Named after the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, Toronto’s  AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of arty electronica fuelled by the sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blended light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrowed from classic DEPECHE MODE and crossed it with THE KNIFE for ‘Spellwork’, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album ‘Feel It Break’.

Available on the album ‘Feel It Break’ via Domino / Paper Bag Records

http://austra.fyi/


GRIMES Oblivion (2012)

While Claire Boucher might be now more widely known for being the girlfriend of Elon Musk, she began as the kooky Montreal sensation GRIMES, sounding like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Presented in a fun leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion, ‘Oblivion’ was a sumptuously infectious tune that despite the almost unintelligible vocals and weird noises, was probably the most immediate track on her ‘Visions’ album which also featured less immediate but equally enjoyable ‘Genesis’.

Available on the album ‘Visions’ via 4AD Records

https://grimesmusic.com/


PARALLELS Moonlight Desires (2012)

Behind PARALLELS is Holly Dodson and on their second long player was a lovely synthpop version of GOWAN’s 1987 rock tune ‘Moonlight Desires’. She said of her love for the song: “We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia. I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha…”

Available on the album ‘XII’ via Marigold Productions

http://www.iloveparallels.com/


TR/ST Gloryhole (2012)

TR/ST began as the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left to return to AUSTRA, the debut ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. From it, the filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of sinister portamento and hypnotic dance beats. Postepski returned to the fold for the recent double album opus ‘The Destroyer’, but Alfons still remains something of an awkward character.

Available on the album ‘TRST’ via Arts & Crafts

https://tr-st.xyz/


FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Killing Grounds (2013)

Bill Leeb formed FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 1986 after his short stint with SKINNY PUPPY under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. With Rhys Fulber as the other long standing member, they were influenced by acts such as CABARET VOLTAIRE, PORTION CONTROL, DAF, TEST DEPT and SPK. Having integrated guitars, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY returned to making exclusively electronic music on their fifteenth album ‘Echogenetic’, the highlight of which was ‘Killing Grounds’.

Available on the album ‘Echogenetic’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mindphaser.com/


ELECTRIC YOUTH Without You (2014)

Hailing from Toronto, ELECTRIC YOUTH‘s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. Echoing Aussie combo ICEHOUSE  and ‘Great Southern Land’ in particular, its bridge and chorus were particularly tremendous with a nostalgic Brat Pack movie presence.

Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian

https://electricyouthmusic.com/


PURITY RING Begin Again (2015)

With CHVRCHES having had success borrowing PURITY RING’s electro template, the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice. The pair off a major surprise by working with Katy Perry on three songs for her 2017 album ‘Witness’.

Available on the album ‘Another Eternity’ via 4AD Records

https://purityringthing.com/


DANA JEAN PHOENIX Only For One Night (2018)

Self-described as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”, Toronto’s DANA JEAN PHOENIX isn’t a stranger to synthylicious ditties. Having moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles, as one of the best live solo synth performers currently, she enjoys rocking out onstage with her keytar Jareth. The sparkling template of one of her most rousing numbers ‘Only One For One Night’ brought along a youthful escapism that reminisced about first loves and first disappointments.

Available on the album ‘PixelDust’ via New EmPire Entertainment

https://www.danajphoenix.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy (2019)

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Torontonian, Hayley Stewart. The delightfully odd ‘Apathy’ from her second album ‘Let’s!’ was an inventive oddball fusion of jazz swing Charleston, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

Available on the album ‘Let’s!’ via ORO Records

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
17th February 2020

PLASMIC Interview

Hailing from Orange County, PLASMIC describes herself as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”.

Detonating infectious lo-fi synth bombs while full of femme rage fuelled by childhood anxiety, a hybrid of CRYSTAL CASTLES, DEVO, MINISTRY and DIVINE forms various parts of her artistic DNA.

Lauren Lusardi is the precocious talent behind PLASMIC. Offering a burst of delightfully odd escapism with a portable Yamaha Reface strapped round her neck, her recent appearance at TEC005 showcased her as a feisty live performer.

Displaying an energetic punk attitude like Siouxsie Sioux genetically mutated with Molly Ringwald if she was into Gothic Lolita fashion, she is already a veteran of three EPs releases.

The undoubted standout from her latest release ‘Validation Nation’ is ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenges the expectations of women to bear children.

And as the song’s brilliant accompanying video produced by Mental Pictures and directed by Kenneth Lui shows, she will NOT say yes to this monster of a dress!

While she was in London, PLASMIC chatted to The Electricity Club about her music and independently minded ethos…

You describe yourself as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”, what was it like for you growing up in Orange County and how did it shape who you are?

I was born in Los Angeles where my parents met, we then moved to Mission Viejo shortly after my brother was born. Growing up in Orange County sounds like a dream, but the more south you get, the more conservative. We know what that means for anyone who is even remotely different. I learned very early on the problems with our country and violence towards women, queers and people of colour.

Where I live you see a trump sign or confederate flag every couple of houses. People protest in front of Planned Parenthood every Sunday. It’s shaped the person I am today and I will always stand up for what’s right.

You studied electronic music at a local community college, what did that involve and how did you realise this would be a good tool for your artistic expression?

I had been toying with production since I was 16 so when I arrived I had realized I taught myself everything.

I took the three only classes that applied to my interests: Ableton 1&2 and audio engineering. I had an awesome professor in my audio engineering class.

I knew being the brain power behind my art was the only way to go. I was eager to learn new recording techniques to bring to my little home studio.

It must have been quite interesting when you brought your portable Yamaha into class? And now Yamaha themselves came calling?

Yeah, I’d been tagging them on Instagram and Facebook with the Reface. Then the NAMM shows came around at the Convention Centre in California where all the musicians are seen and Yamaha asked me to demonstrate their new keytar so that was really exciting!

Which particular electronic acts drew you in and became influences on PLASMIC?

I really love PEACHES, FEVER RAY, CRYSTAL CASTLES and Alice Glass in particular. When I was growing up, I remember I was listening to DEVO and I was like “OH MY GOD!”; it was what really made me want to make music, Mark Mothersbaugh is my favourite.

Your most recent latest release is ‘Validation Nation’, is it a concept EP of sorts?

I guess it’s conceptual. PLASMIC is super confident and fiery, but off the stage validation is what I seek to move forward. I have trouble believing in my work. That’s what sparked ‘Validation Nation’. I didn’t intend for all the themes to go hand in hand, but I guess that concept worked out! On the title song, one of the lines is “I’m gonna wear colour that once segregated me, to prove your words never meant a thing”, that’s kinda my life right there, everything is pink. I wasn’t always this pink, but I’ve embraced this femininity like a happy chaos. *laughs*

From it, ‘Baby Machine’ is catchy feminist electropop anthem… what inspired that?

The song is about the expectations upon female presenting folks to settle down, have babies and conform to the American dream of being a housewife. But where does that leave queer folks and those who cannot conceive?

‘Baby Machine’ is an anthem against pro-lifers and strict parents who have preconceived notions of what their child will do for them. It’s an anthem for anyone who feels pressured to have kids.

Does ‘Compliance’ confront the longstanding issue of patriarchy?

Actually ‘Compliance’ is about opioid use.

You’ve described ‘Revenge’ from your self-titled EP as cathartic?

Writing ‘Revenge’ was the moment I turned my life around. I never stood up for myself, I always felt like my abuse was my fault and that wasn’t the case. There wasn’t a #MeToo movement when I wrote the song. People told me I should apologize for my rapist going to jail (for only a week. Lame.) Instead of continuing to feel sorry myself, I said f*ck it. I’m aloud to be angry. I want other people to hear this and know that their feelings are valid. You need to be your own hero, you bleed when you create art, that’s how I coped.

You recently issued a delightful cover of ‘Female Trouble’ to celebrate the birthday of the late actor and HI-NRG diva DIVINE?

In LA, I perform a lot of shows but my favourites are the Lethal Amounts ones. There was this DIVINE Ball where a bunch of queens were competing to be the best DIVINE and I was invited to perform this cover. I did it differently like if it was on her ‘Jungle Jezebel’ album. It was really fun, Traci Lords was there.

On the other side of the coin, there was also a cover of ‘Every Day Is Halloween’ by MINISTRY, is there anything else you would like to have a go at reinterpreting?

I have a huge list that I want to redo, but that one was a big one for sure, I’m a huge MINISTRY fan and it was a homage to them, they helped shape my sound as I was growing up and learning about drum machines and stuff.

You opened for Marc Almond in LA at Sex Cells, what was that like?

SOFT CELL are the gods of synthpop, every song is so good. Meeting Marc Almond was a big milestone for me. I owe it all to Lethal Amounts for having me on the line-up!

There were a lot of artists on that bill and Marc was the most humble and the kindest person. He was so professional but also so down to earth, not a diva at all, so nice and awesome. I got to see his soundcheck.

It was the first time I played a set with dancers and they killed it. Vladonna and Crystal Pallace were my epic dancers. I still can’t believe I got to dance on stage with Marc when he closed out with ‘Sex Dwarf’. A bucket list moment for sure.

Is it true you are related to Linda Lusardi?

So here’s the story! I was at the airport going through customs and they looked at my name and asked “Are you related to Linda Lusardi?” and I’m like “WHAT?”, I didn’t realise she was a household name in the UK but it’s cool! All the Lusardis from Italy are related, so there’s a good chance that most likely we are. I can’t really do a DNA test! *laughs*

What are your personal hopes and fears as PLASMIC?

I think every musician is not in it for being a hobby, they really want to quit their day job and do what they love, right?

This is truly what I love, it’s my dream, touring the world and inspiring young women and queers to just be awesome.

I have a bit of social anxiety and have trouble speaking up for myself when I’m not on stage, so my biggest fear is probably convincing A&R people, but I think I’m pretty stern with what I do.

What’s next for PLASMIC?

There’s a lot of music and video coming so stick around…


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to PLASMIC

‘Validation Nation’, along with other PLASMIC EPs are available via Devour Records as downloads direct from https://plasmic1.bandcamp.com/

http://www.plasmic.rocks

https://www.facebook.com/plasmicpower/

https://twitter.com/plasm1c

https://www.instagram.com/plasm1c/

https://soundcloud.com/plasmik-1


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
16th April 2019

Introducing PLASMIC

From Orange County in California, PLASMIC describes herself as an “Orange County one-woman dervish” and in a vivid haze that’s pretty in pink, “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”.

Combining J-Pop with CRYSTAL CASTLES and DEVO, like a deviant West Coast cousin to the wonderful Canadian songstress MECHA MAIKO, Lauren Lusardi is the precocious talent behind PLASMIC.

It could be reasoned that PLASMIC is an artistic consequence of Lusardi reacting to her comparatively conservative surroundings. She studied electronic music at a local community college and with her knack of detonating infectious lo-fi synth bombs while full of femme rage fuelled by childhood anxiety, PLASMIC also adds some political fervour into the equation.

Already a veteran of three EPs releases, the undoubted standout from her latest release ‘Validation Nation’ is ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenges the expectations of women to bear children.

Meanwhile, the powerful ‘Validation Nation’ title track observes how modern society’s narcissistic desperation for “being known” has become the dominant motivator in this age of social media and online celebrity…

Also from ‘Validation Nation’, ‘Sister’ takes on a more dancefloor friendly template while ‘Compliance’ is a song confronting the continuing issue of patriarchy in the #METOO era, like BLONDIE meeting NEW ORDER at The Hacienda! Recently, there was the release of a delightful cover version of ‘Female Trouble’ to celebrate the birthday of the late actor and HI-NRG diva DIVINE.

Lusardi’s own favourite song is called ‘Revenge’, a gritty rallying cry to kill rapists from her self-titled EP released in 2017 which she describes the writing of as being “the most fun and cathartic time of my life”.

A feisty performer with a portable Yamaha strapped round her neck and an energetic punk attitude like Siouxsie Sioux genetically mutated with Molly Ringwald if she was into Gothic Lolita fashion, the independently minded art of PLASMIC offers some delightfully odd artistic escapism, but with a mission to deconstruct societies many stereotypes.

PLASMIC’s next live sojourn in London will be at The Islington for TEC005 in March 2019 with ARTHUR & MARTHA and RAINLAND.


‘Validation Nation’ is available as a download direct from https://plasmic1.bandcamp.com/

plays TEC005 with ARTHUR & MARTHA, + RAINLAND on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 at The Islington, 1 Tolpuddle Street, London N1 0XT – tickets are available now from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/457122

For further updates and info, visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/757337877964541/

http://www.plasmic.rocks

https://www.facebook.com/plasmicpower/

https://twitter.com/plasm1c

https://www.instagram.com/plasm1c/

https://soundcloud.com/plasmik-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Hannah Verbeuren
22nd December 2018

CRYSTAL CASTLES (III)

Making aggressive or confrontational music using synthesizers or electronics has never been the norm, although acts from THROBBING GRISTLE through to NINE INCH NAILS have used the technology available to often embrace the darker side of these machines and use distortion rather than melody to get their message across.

At the heart of these acts and others was usually a punk aesthetic which took instruments that were often incredibly difficult to program to make sounds which could shock and disturb… even THE HUMAN LEAGUE Mk1 famously mocked punk guitarists for only learning 3 chords when “we could play a synth with one finger!”

Which brings us to CRYSTAL CASTLES and their new album and the third to be titled eponymously…

If you had never heard this Canadian duo before and checked them out on Wikipedia beforehand, you would be confronted with a quote from Drowned in Sound describing their music as “ferocious, asphyxiating sheets of warped two-dimensional Gameboy glitches and bruising drum bombast that pierces your skull with their sheer shrill force, burrowing deep into the brain like a fever”… which is probably enough to send your average electronic music fan scurrying for his or her nearest MARSHEAUX album… however, if you fall into this category, fear not as this is CRYSTAL CASTLES most accessible album to date.

So what has caused this shift? For a start, with this album, producer and one half of the duo Ethan Kath has ditched the laptops and embraced analogue synthesizers and drum machines, softening their sound by leaving behind the multitude of glitch/warping plug-ins available to easily distort at production level. Having said that, a casual read through the song titles… ‘Violent Youth’, ‘Transgender’ and ‘Child I Will Hurt You’ are clues enough to let you know that this album still isn’t going to be an easy ride…

The first thing that hits you is the wall of sound, it’s as if Phil Spector was around and producing today and had embraced synthesizers, drum machines and even bigger reverbs rather than the traditional instruments he was known for working with. Most of singer Alice Glass’ vocals are buried in long, swimming reverbs, pushing them to the back of the mix, meaning that most of the lyrics are often frustratingly unintelligible. What also becomes apparent is that the band have ditched much of the distortion to embrace a different sound, also jettisoning along the way their trademark 8 bit/chiptune sonics for textures which could quite comfortably appear on early DEPECHE MODE, FAD GADGET or OMD albums. In a way with this development, there are parallels with LADYTRON whose sound has also become more dense and reverb-drenched on their last album ‘Gravity The Seducer’after initially starting with a minimal, monophonic one finger approach.

The only danger with this progression, is that the band is potentially caught in a limbo/middle ground where hardcore fans will miss the sheer onslaught of earlier tracks such as ‘Doe Deer’ and ‘Alice Practice’ but newcomers will be put off by the way in which almost electro-pop tracks such as ‘Violent Youth’ and ‘Transgender’ are rendered difficult to truly love because of the obtuse vocal mix/production.

What is most surprising is the usage of commercial, gated R’n’B-based synthesizer sounds on the tracks ‘Wrath Of God’ and ‘Affection’ which were the sort of thing US producer Timbaland was using with Justin Timberland back in 2006…whether these production elements are being used in an ironic/postmodern way by the band is hard to gauge, but to these ears they give the album a dated feel.

A couple of the tracks even dip their toes into Europop/dance – ‘Sad Eyes’ which (with a slightly more coherent/conventional mixdown) could quite happily appear on an early PET SHOP BOYS album… all of the elements are present and correct, just hidden beneath the production values…

Probably the nearest thing to the old CRYSTAL CASTLES aggression is ‘Insulin’ which from start to finish is buried in distortion, making it a difficult listen even on iPod headphones, let alone imagining it being played at a punishing volume through a big PA system during one of their now (infamous) live shows.

Album highlights are the opening and closing tracks ‘Plague’ and ‘Child I Will Hurt You’, where the duo achieve a dark, atmospheric balance between melody and menace, the former opening with a sound which feels like it was sampled from Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’… also worth a mention is the primarily instrumental ‘Mercenary’ which marries a psychedelic backwards synth part with ghostly trails of background vocals before descending into a maelstrom of bass distortion at it’s climax.

This album is worth a listen if you are new to CRYSTAL CASTLES (all of the tracks have sounds and melodies which will appeal to fans of acts championed by The Electricity Club), but be warned, it doesn’t give up its rewards easily and whether you are a new or an old listener you could feel frustrated with what might have been…


CRYSTAL CASTLES (III) is available now on Last Gang/Fiction Records

UK Tour dates include:

Birmingham HMV Institute (22 November), Norwich UEA (23 November), London Brixton O2 Academy (24 November), Glasgow O2 ABC (26 November), Leeds O2 Academy (27 November), Manchester Academy (28 November)

http://www.crystalcastles.com/


Text by Paul Boddy
20th November 2012

Introducing SOFT METALS

SOFT METALS are a snappy new duo comprising of Patricia Hall on vocals / synths and Ian Hicks on synths / drum machines / programming / sequencing.

Originally from Portland, Oregon but now resident in Los Angeles, on first impression they may be considered part of the Minimal Wave, but perhaps have a more immediate sound than say XENO & OAKLANDER.

Compared with other North American duos, they are maybe also a bit shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES. 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. They released their first EP The Cold World Melts in 2010.

Armed with an arsenal of cool vintage synths such as the Sequential Pro One, Micromoog, Korg Mono/Poly and Roland Juno 60 as well as modern ones such as the Dave Smith Mopho, SOFT METALS aren’t afraid to occasionally crossover into pop. ‘Eyes Closed’ is probably the highlight from their promising debut album, elements of ORBITAL and DERRICK MAY creeping into the rugged squelch ‘n’ bleep framework. Meanwhile, the marvellous ‘Voices’ is five and a half minutes of synthetically charged joy, dripping with cute and bubbly romance.

The brilliantly titled ‘Psychic Driving’ has Hicks’ soundtrack hypnotically pulsing away while his riffs and Hall’s angelic tones complement this delicious ditty. The widely processed chorals on ‘Celestial Call’ add a humanic touch to an atmospheric beat instrumental while ‘The Cold World Melts’ is their calling card, industrialised European electronics and a slightly unsettling vocal sent into a melodic dreamlike state like a less Teutonic GINA X.

With ‘Do You Remember?’, there’’s wonderfully doom laden but appealing electronic disco a la SECTION 25’’s ‘Looking From A Hilltop’. At times, Patricia Hall flirtatious demeanour even sounds like DOT ALLISON in her ONE DOVE days.

Throughout the collection, the Roland TR family of Rhythm Composers happily clatter away for an enjoyable percussive template, proving that darkness can be fun and without necessarily the need to practice witchcraft. Although several of their other tracks are a touch repetitive, SOFT METALS are ideal for those who like to listen to music in an unlit room, but happily tap their foot incessantly at the same time while unsure whether to get up and dance!


SOFT METALS eponymous debut album is available now on Captured Tracks as a CD and download

https://www.facebook.com/SOFTMETALS

http://soundcloud.com/soft-metals


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th December 2011