Tag: De/Vision (Page 1 of 3)

ARCTIC SUNRISE Interview

Mönchengladbach is best known for the Borussia football team and F1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

But the North Rhine-Westphalia city is also the base of electronic duo ARCTIC SUNRISE. Comprising of Torsten Verlinden on vocals and Steve Baltes on synths, the seasoned pairing cite DEPECHE MODE, ULTRAVOX, HEAVEN 17, VISAGE, BLANCMANGE and OMD among their influences.

Opening for DAF’s Robert Görl, ARCTIC SUNRISE performed at the 2017 Electri_City_Conference in Düsseldorf. The intuitive crowd warmed to their enjoyable brand of dark synthpop showcased on songs like ‘Tell The Truth’ and ‘When Traces End’ which recalled the overtones of fellow German acts such as DE/VISION and CAMOUFLAGE.

The Electricity Club caught up with Steve Baltes from the duo to chat about music, synths and stuff…

With two successful albums bagged, are you pleased with how you’ve been received in the synth circles?

We are actually quite overwhelmed by the extremely warm welcome in the scene, since we pretty much came out of nowhere, with quite different musical careers before ARCTIC SUNRISE. We were very surprised especially by the global reception, worldwide airplays and fantastic reviews – so, yes… we are way more than pleased!

You cite the influences from DEPECHE MODE, HEAVEN 17, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE and BLANCMANGE. All things British then?

Good call! There’s some kind of spiritual connection to cities like Sheffield and Manchester. Synthpop-wise, the UK is where it really started and the most amazing and for us most influential music came from.

It’s the first thing which blows you away which will stay for you the whole life and that just was the sound of ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, NEW ORDER, HEAVEN 17, OMD and others…

Do you mind being compared to DE/VISION?

It’s not a bad thing to be compared to great bands, but to be honest we actually do not know too much of their material and are a bit surprised that we get compared quite often. We do think that they sound a bit more Depeche than us and vocal wise, we also sound quite different. If you do electronic pop music, you just share kind of the same DNA.

Germany mothers many a synth band. How would you say your sound differed from the rest?

We are not following this too closely, but we think that due to the way we work we might have developed our own sound. Part of that is to not use virtual instruments in the studio and the use of old drum machines in a contemporary way as well as making your own sounds. A lot of the bands use the same pool of sounds especially with drums or the more trancey preset lead hook sounds which we are not into too much and this makes a lot of projects sound quite similar. But there’s still much interesting stuff out there as well.

You like your vintage synths and drum machines. Any firm favourites?

If I have to name just one it’s probably the Linn Drum, this one really shaped a decade and gives you that warm feeling in your stomach by just switching it on 😉

I really love the fact that there is just one Kick and on Snare instead of gigabytes of Drum Libraries you carry on your computer.

Synth-wise, it would be the Roland System 100M Modular Synthesizer, which we pretty much use on every song – pure synthpop bliss.

What selection of hardware did you predominantly use on ‘When Traces End’?

It’s quite a long list, to name a few… drum machines like the Linn and Oberheim DMX, Korg DDD-1, Kawai R100, the mighty Simmons SDSV, some weird soviet effects, drum boxes and synthesizers like the fantastic Aelita which is 90% of ‘Tell The Truth’.

More synths we used a lot are the Roland System 100M, Akai AX60, Polymoog Keyboard as well as newer analogue stuff from my favourite companies (and friends) like Dreadbox from Greece or Analogue Solutions from the UK, especially the Nyborg12.

How does the use of vintage synthesizers translate to live gigs?

For gigs we try to keep it quite simple, safe and not too heavy.

Some sounds I play on stage, I recreated on virtual instruments like the U-He Zebra or Alchemy from Camel Phat inside of Ableton Live which also runs the drums and sequencer stuff.

For the analogue vibe, I play a quite rare Korg SB100 Synthesizer which I love a lot and mainly use for bass live. It’s small, built into a handy case and adds a really nice low end to the setup. It’s also built like a tank and even though it’s very old, it’s very reliable. Some of the other machines from the studio would be a bit scary on stage, since they have their own life sometimes.

Any plans to visit the UK Soon?

It would be fantastic to actually play in the UK since we feel very connected because of our musical heroes, but unfortunately nothing planned yet … we’ll see. From time to time, I go to the UK for some shows of bands like BLANCMANGE who are not playing in Germany since they became active again. Recently I also played with my ambient project BALTES & ERBE near Birmingham which was nice.

After two albums, is there a third one looming?

Yes, absolutely – we are working on it and have a couple of songs written, loads of ideas and so far around 3 songs completely finished. Since we were very pleased especially with the last album, we try really hard to take things even further, which we think we did with a couple of the new ones. We don’t have a roadmap for a release yet, but we think maybe around the end of 2018. We just want to make sure it’s as good as possible. So please be patient 😉

You mention the influences derived from the pinnacle years of synth, any contemporary artists that take your fancy?

I love the latest stuff by TRENTEMØLLER which has a nice 80s vibe without just being retro. Also I was blown away by the latest BJÖRK album, very innovative and strange in the best way. Also THE XX, WRANGLER and FADER… not sure if you could call this contemporary though 😉

How did the Electri_City_Conference gig come about and how do you think it went?

I’ve known Carsten Siewert, who was organising the Conference, loosely for about 30 years. Back then I was working in a Supermarket and he worked for a company who delivered CDs to the shop – back then we always had a nice chat mainly about DEPECHE MODE or electronic music.

We then met from time to time and I visited the Conference as well. At one point we were thinking about showing some gear at Electri_City as well and he mentioned ”hey, if you there for the gear anyway, you of course have to play with your band as well” which we of certainly couldn’t resist.

It was a great event and show, the people were very friendly. It was almost family like and the reception was fantastic. So we were more than happy to get the chance to play an event like this. Stage looked great, sound was great, we think we played quite good and people seem to like it … what more to ask for, we were VERY happy to be part of this!

The synth world is raving about the new Minimoog Model D, have you got yours yet?

Actually I finally ran out of space for more keyboards and only might be able to add some smaller stuff like drumboxes or Eurorack modules. Regardless I played the new Model D a few times and I must admit that I really like it a lot. Next to the Moog Sub 37, it’s the first of the newer Moogs I really loved. I used to have a Minimoog Voyager which I never really got along with too, well since it sounded a bit “static” in my opinion (sorry!) … so if I find some extra room or a larger space, or maybe bring some stuff to my repair guy I might finally join the party.

What album would you say you loved the most in 2017?

I think probably ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ by OMD, what a great return – it was a big surprise and still sounded fresh! Also the latest GARY NUMAN album – fantastic production!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Steve Baltes

Both ARCTIC SUNRISE albums ‘A Smarter Enemy’ and ‘When Traces End’ are released by Echozone

https://www.facebook.com/wearearcticsunrise/

https://www.reverbnation.com/arcticsunrise4

http://www.echozone.de


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
31st January 2018

SYNTHPOP GOES BERLIN – Day 1

Featuring DE/VISION, FORCED TO MODE, BEBORN BETON, EMPATHY TEST + NINA

Located a short walk from Eberswalder Straße U-Bahn, the Kesselhaus venue is situated in the heart of the Kulturbrauerei.

A complex built around a 19th century brewery, it features a museum, bars and numerous art spaces.

The venue’s industrial aesthetic was perfect for a weekend’s festival of electronic music and certainly made a pleasant change to what would have been the UK’s equivalent, the increasingly grimy Electrowerkz!

The line-up over the Synthpop Goes Berlin weekend, which included MESH, Marcus Meyn from CAMOUFLAGE in his new guise of M.I.N.E. and ADAM IS A GIRL on the second day, was an interesting one in that within the heartland of electronic music, it featured two UK acts which in itself must be seen as a sign of home-grown synth artists being able to hold their own against their European counterparts.

Opening act was NINA on vocals and synths, supported by her electronic percussionist Laura Fares.

The UK-based German solo artist made a breakthrough with her second single ‘My Mistake’ when it was picked up by Mercedes-Benz for an ad campaign. As a finale, the crowd was treated to a slowed down version of BLONDIE’s ‘Heart of Glass’ which was well received.

After a short changeover and a video introduction by Daniel Graves of AESTHETIC PERFECTION, next up was EMPATHY TEST; having seen the band a couple of years ago, it was interesting to see how they’ve developed both sonically and image-wise.

Gone thankfully is the bored-looking guy staring at his iPad along with vocalist Isaac Howlett’s inappropriate man-bun. Meanwhile musically, things have definitely ramped up a notch with the band’s newer material showcasing a welcome deviation away from some of their formulaic earlier music.

Newer tracks ‘Seeing Stars’ with its ‘Blasphemous Rumours’-style scissor sample and ‘By My Side’ were played alongside older material, with the B-side ‘Vampire Town’ being dedicated to London.

Unsung hero of the band was electronic percussionist Christina Lopez who provided some excellent visual interest amongst the synth prodding.

Along with headliners DE/VISION, their one-time label mates BEBORN BETON were the other veterans on the bill. ‘A Worthy Compensation’ was their 2015 return after 13 years off the electronic scene having made a breakthrough in 1996 with their fourth album ‘Nightfall’.

Comprising of vocalist Stefan Netschio, synth player Michael B Wagner and on synths/electronic drums Stefan ‘Till’ Tillmann, the band upped the energy level in the venue with a harder driven sound.

Visually there were some interesting things going on with Tillmann effortlessly switching between synths, a hand-held Arturia Beatstep (cleverly used as a MIDI controller) and a large set of white latter-day HUMAN LEAGUE style synth drums.

Next up was the DEPECHE MODE tribute act FORCED TO MODE, their positioning on the bill a testament to how popular some DM tributes have become, now that their real-life counterparts appear to have lost their way in their live delivery of their back catalogue. Opening with ‘The Sun & the Rainfall’ from ‘A Broken Frame’, it was interesting comparing the act with the real DM, with vocalist Christian Schottstädt making a perfect ‘Devotional’ period Dave Gahan with his longer hair, whilst the two accompanying musicians, although sounding good, would have had the purists scratching their heads at a couple of ways they delivered the songs.

Matthias Kahra played guitar on every song regardless of the fact of whether there was any on the track originally, and this came across rather odd on tracks such as ‘Shake the Disease’ and ‘Photographic’.

Meanwhile, synth player Thomas Schernikau utilised a rather lowly Yamaha SY85 which certainly wouldn’t have darkened the door of any Depeche track let alone appear on stage!

Ending their twelve song set with ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, the band nevertheless had the majority of the crowd singing along to the mix of singles and album tracks to provide a perfect warm-up for headliners DE/VISION.

Comprising of vocalist Steffen Keth and synth player Thomas Adam, the band were joined live by percussionist Markus Koestner on a full acoustic kit which unfortunately conjured up unwelcome comparisons with Depeche session player and drumhead Christian Eigner.

Opening with ‘In The Cold Light of Day’, the band’s set mainly consisted of tracks from last year’s album ‘13’, plus three from ‘Popgefahr’ before closing with ‘Your Hands on My Skin’ from their 1994 debut album ‘World Without End’.

The band themselves are highly respected in Europe and it’s easy to see why, with consistently strong songs and a melodic take on synthpop, they soon had the Berlin crowd eating out of their hands.

All-in-all this was a strong all-round synthpop bill; a perfect venue and a definite highlight of TEC’s trip to Germany… highly recommended.


http://www.devision-music.de/

http://forcedtomode.de/

https://www.bebornbeton.de/

http://www.empathytest.com/

http://www.ninasounduk.com/


Text and Photos by Paul Boddy
23rd February 2017

A Short Conversation with NINA

Since her debut single ‘We Are The Wild Ones’ in 2013, Berlin-born songstress NINA has grown in profile and stature.

Support slots with ERASURE and DE/VISION followed in 2014 but it was her cinematic second single ‘My Mistake’ that was to become her breakthrough. Picked up by Mercedes Benz, the song featured on an advertisement that played throughout Europe.

2015’s synth laden cover of BLONDIE’s ‘Heart of Glass’ kept the momentum going, but new material arrived in the shape of ‘Beyond Memory’ in 2016. Produced by Richard X, best known for his work on SUGABABES ‘Freak Like Me’ and RACHEL STEVENS ‘Some Girls’, the tune takes NINA’s own brand of pulsating electronic pop into nocturnal territory, with her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus.

Soon to headline Synth Wave Live on SATURDAY 1ST APRIL 2017 in London, NINA kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about her career to date…

How would you yourself describe your sound?

My sound is melancholic, dreamy and Paradise longing synthpop.

Many artists move to Berlin but you moved away from the city?

I moved to London over 13 years ago. Berlin was quite different back than (2004), especially the music scene. I guess I was a bit bored and wanted to explore a new world and really dive into the British music scene.

However I’m a real ‘Berliner’ at heart and always will be. I guess you could say I never really ‘moved away’ from Berlin, as I fly over several times a year. I’m in between and got the best of both worlds.

Which artists particularly influenced you musically?

A lot of British artists like QUEEN, DEPECHE MODE and DAVID BOWIE but also growing up listening to German synthpop and new wave artists like ALPHAVILLE, KRAFTWERK and NENA.

How would you describe your composition and production process?

It varies but normally I come up with the concept and set the mood first. I write down whatever I feel. It can be moody, melancholic or abstract. Dreams, travels, fear, tears and the past inspire me.
I then get together with my drummer Lau and decide what production we’re going to go for. We have an incredible network of producers like Oscillian, Sunglasses Kid and Richard X, so we tend to collaborate quite a bit with them.

What is the story behind ‘My Mistake’ getting picked up for a Mercedes Benz advert?

Mercedes Benz interviewed me for their blog M! a couple of years ago and they loved what I was working on and were very supportive. About a year later, my publishers Aztec Music Publishing sent the track to an agent (DMS) who was looking for music for the ad and it got chosen. The campaign was just renewed for another year, which is great.

You’ve shared a stage with German veterans DE/VISION and Marcus Meyn from CAMOUFLAGE, do you feel any spiritual affinity with bands from this past era?

Oh yes! We share the same passion. Music connects people like nothing else. I really admire all they have achieved. Watching them perform is very inspiring and I really take everything in.

My favourite DE/VISION song is ‘Where’s The Light’ and I love CAMOUFLAGE’s ‘The Great Commandment’.

You also supported ERASURE on their US East Coast tour in 2014, what was that like?

Incredible! It’s been 3 years and I still can’t believe I actually toured with them. I wish I could do it all over again. Andy Bell is a fantastic performer and a lovely person.

One thing you have in common with ERASURE is that you have both covered BLONDIE’s ‘Heart Of Glass’; what made you choose that song in particular?

Well, ‘Heart Of Glass’ is my favourite BLONDIE song. I’m always quite mindful about recording a cover, as I want to show people who I am as an artist and make sure I put my own twist on it. I decided to slow it way down and make it quite emotional. I’m glad it was so well received.

Your most recent single is called ‘Beyond Memory’, what is it about?

‘Beyond Memory’ is a very personal song. It’s about failed relationships and the void you feel after a painful breakup, which really can make you lose yourself.

How is your debut album coming together?

We’ve got lots of songs ready, so I’m very excited. We’re releasing a new single first and the debut album probably sometime in 2017.

You recently had a discussion on Facebook about whether your drummer should use an electronic or acoustic kit. Why the dilemma?

We just wanted to hear the fans views. We’ll soon be incorporating some acoustic drums to her electronic kit. It’s all about finding that beautiful balance of sounds for the live shows.

What’s next for you?

My new single EP is out around February time via Aztec Records / Metropolis and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it. It will include a few awesome remixes too. The single is about not quite conforming to what society expects from us. I will be announcing more details very soon.

I’m also super excited to play at ‘Synth-Pop Goes Berlin’ on February 17th and the ‘Synth Wave Live’ festival in London on April 1st.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to NINA

Special thanks to Rob Green at The Synth Wave Show and Laura Fares at Aztec Records

NINA headlines Synth Wave Live on SATURDAY 1ST APRIL 2017 at Zigfrid von Underbelly of Hoxton in London

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/NinaSoundUK

http://www.aztecrecords.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
26th January 2017

TEC’s 2016 End Of Year Review

What In the World…

tec2016review-mopho2016 will forever be remembered as the year when a significant number of cultural icons and popular musical figures left us; DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, TOMITA, PETE BURNS, COLIN VERNCOMBE, KEITH EMERSON, DON BUCHLA and LEONARD COHEN were just some of the names who sadly departed.

But despite sadness that loomed, the year did produce some good music, particularly in the second half of the year.

GARY NUMAN launched an ambitious Pledge Music campaign and released some excellent collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and TITÁN. But with his retrospective tour of material from his three most popular albums taking up much of his year, his new crowdfunded album did not meet its planned October release deadline.

jarreyello2016Meanwhile JEAN-MICHEL JARRE had an excess of material and issued the second volume of his ‘Electronica’ project which also featured YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS, plus a third instalment to his classic opus ‘Oxygène’.

YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS also released new albums to a positive reception, proving again that partnerships featuring personnel over the age of 60 can still create music that is fresh and relevant.

Incidentally, one of YELLO’s young vocalists FIFI RONG continued to maintain her artistic profile with successful campaigns for her releases ‘Forbidden Desires’ and ‘Alone’.

Hannah-Peel-2016-042016 saw two concept albums emerge in ‘The Ship’ from BRIAN ENO, a solemn art piece with poignant anti-war messages and ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, a very personal musical statement by HANNAH PEEL on the traumas of dementia. It was a busy year for Miss Peel with her also contributing her voice to BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, as well as showcasing her own MARY CASIO side project.

WRANGLER released a new album ‘White Glue’ which exuded a less rigid format compared to its predecessor ‘LA Spark’ and collaborated with JOHN GRANT at the Rough Trade 40 live celebrations, while the prolific Neil Arthur issued another new BLANCMANGE album in ‘Commuter 23’ while also launching a new side project NEAR FUTURE with BERNHOLZ.

midgerusty-2012The Manchester veteran ERIC RANDOM issued ‘Words Made Flesh’, the second album of his recent return to the music while RUSTY EGAN finally presented ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which despite its title, was actually a collection of classic styled synthpop. After many years of trials and tribulations for the co-founder of VISAGE, the long player featuring MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY and CHRIS PAYNE who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ exceeded expectations.

Space travel and synths were just made to go together, so JØTA and VANGELIS conceived projects covering The Cold War space race and the more recent Rosetta probe respectively. Meanwhile, WHITE LIES again showed they are as synthy as they are guitary on their ‘Friends’ album, and even started to sound like A-HA!

Fellow blog Cold War Night Life released ‘Heresy: A Tribute to RATIONAL YOUTH’ which featured PSYCHE and MACHINISTA as well as the Canadian trailblazers themselves. Meanwhile Ireland staked its claim as a new territory for synthpop talent; CIRCUIT3 ‘siliconchipsuperstar’, TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and EMBRACE THE CRISIS ‘Black Heart’ were good examples of what was on offer from the Emerald Isle.

Over in the UK, VILE ELECTRODES, SPRAY and ANALOG ANGEL all released new albums. There were long awaited long players too from SHELTER and SINESTAR, but these suffered when compared to respective acts from Sweden, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM and PRESENCE OF MIND.

So again, Sweden still proved it was special with SILENT WAVE and MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY exhibiting varying degrees of potential. But it was REIN in particular who was causing a stir within the ranks of EBM, while the country’s best kept secret KITE toured North America and Asia. However, neither of these two latter artists figured in the line-up of Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2016 festival.

VILLA NAH2016-01The Nordic region saw the welcome return of VILLA NAH with the album ‘Ultima’ after a five year absence, while TRENTEMØLLER made the case again as to why he is still the perfect producer for DEPECHE MODE with his new long player ‘Fixion’.

However, Norwegian acts APOPTYGMA BERZERK and ELECTRO SPECTRE ensured the Swedes, Finns and Danes did not have it all their own way.

Greece was still the word with LIEBE, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX all presenting brand new releases, while SARAH P. maintained her profile with a series of inventive promo videos highlighting the ongoing issues of equality for women within the music industry. Embracing the same issue on the other side of the Atlantic, I AM SNOW ANGEL immersed herself in setting up the FEMALE FREQUENCY collective while also releasing her own music.

2016 was a good year for female acts with EMIKA, KALEIDA, ANI GLASS, THE HEARING, KITE BASE, KATJA VON KASSEL, HOLOGRAM TEEN and VOI VANG among those making a positive impression. There was also ‘SVIIB’, the final album from SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS and the emergence of CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS, while LADYHAWKE remembered what a good album sounded like with ‘Wild Things’.

night-club-requiem-for-romance-2016Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB developed on the promise of their EP trilogy and got a bit heavier on their debut long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, ending up sounding not unlike Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS in the process!

After gestation periods of nearly six years, both EKKOES and THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND finally released their debut albums.

Meanwhile the instrumental front, Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE provided some ‘Music To Color By’, Brussels duo METROLAND touchingly paid tribute to their late friend Louis Zachert with ‘Things Will Never Sound The Same Again’ and ULRICH SCHNAUSS went ‘No Further Ahead Than Today’. And MOBY offered a gift to profound relaxation with his free ‘Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.’ download package.

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo David FittPERTURBATOR’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’ became a flag bearer for the synth wave movement, along with the acclaimed soundtrack by SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for the absorbing Netflix drama ‘Stranger Things’.

Less well-received though was ‘2Square’ by VINCE CLARKE & PAUL HARTNOLL with its banal experiments in electro swing.

This was a supposed new dance sub-genre that in reality was just computerised jazz… nice! But one artist who did manage to pull off fusing synthpop and jazz successfully was DISQO VOLANTE.

New material from veterans MESH, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, ASSEMBLAGE 23, DE/VISION, IAMX, COVENANT and ROTERSAND kept the black clad European audiences happy, while MARI KATTMAN and BLACK NEEDLE NOISE added some trip-hop and rock edges respectively to their already dark templates. Expressing slightly less intensity were two surprise packages in Germany’s DAS BLAUE PALAIS with ‘Welt Am Draht’ and Canada’s DELERIUM with ‘Mythologie’.

marc-almond-blueBut totally unexpected was ‘Silver City Ride’, a full length electro album from MARC ALMOND in collaboration with STARCLUSTER featuring his most synth laden body of work since SOFT CELL.

The biggest surprise of 2016 was ‘Fly’ the soundtrack souvenir to ‘Eddie The Eagle’, the light hearted biopic of the bespectacled Olympic ski jumper; featuring new material by members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD in collaboration with TAKE THAT’s Gary Barlow, this looked like a terrible idea on paper.

But it was brilliantly executed and the resultant album was a largely enjoyable collection of retro flavoured pop.

Electronic acts actually got to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2016, albeit on The Other Stage as opposed the main event; NEW ORDER and CHVRCHES wowed the crowds when they shared the bill on the Saturday night. There were rumours that KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE might feature in 2017 but this was not to be, although both acts sent social media into overdrive when they announced major tours.

Among those accorded career spanning multi-disc boxed sets were ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, DEAD OR ALIVE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Somehow though, SIMPLE MINDS managed to milk a six disc variant of ‘New Gold Dream’ in the third of their classic album deluxe box editions; it was an amazing feat seeing as only ten songs were completed during the original sessions! The collection boasted no less than twelve takes of the aptly titled ‘Promised You A Miracle’; but the latest incarnation of the Glaswegians combo’ first big hit with KT TUNSTALL for their ‘Acoustic’ album proved to be one version too many.

Associates-dempsey-mackenzie-rankine-getty2Much better value for the money for the discerning music fan were the four ASSOCIATES double CD reissues, supervised by Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey. Based around their first three albums and a ‘Very Best Of’ compilation, each additionally featured a plethora of rare and previously unreleased songs; they were a fitting tribute to the late Billy MacKenzie.

Nostalgia was very much a part of 2016, with HEAVEN 17, OMD and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT all touring popular albums. And following the success in recent years of retro festivals such as ‘Rewind’ and the strangely named ‘Let’s Rock’, classic synthpop finally found itself part of the holiday camp circuit.

Part of the Butlins Music Weekender series, ‘Electric Dreams’ featuring OMD, MARC ALMOND, HEAVEN 17, BLANCMANGE and HOLLY JOHNSON almost went badly off-piste with the addition of GO WEST and THE ZOMBIES (!?!) to the programme. But the organisers pulled an unexpected surprise and booked modern synth acts like MARSHEAUX and AVEC SANS to support the bill.

avec-sansHardened retro festival goers are notorious for not embracing new music, but this ethos has to be welcomed and could provide an interesting new model for the future of event based entertainment. However, based on photographic evidence, the presence of inflatable pink flamingos and coloured wigs indicated the crowd atmosphere might have been no different to any of the usual nostalgia outings, but with a roof and central heating added!

Elsewhere, the second ELECTRI-CITY CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf boasted yet another impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music with JOHN FOXX, DANIEL MILLER and MARK REEDER among those taking part in talks. One of the highlights of the weekend came with Mr Foxx chatting about working with the legendary Conny Plank.

And while TEC004 featuring MARSHEAUX, KID KASIO and RODNEY CROMWELL was not in the same league, it was a fine showcase for the best in independent synthpop.

john-foxx-marsheauxBoth events proved again that the best electronic music events are those actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, something that is not the case with several other events.

In all, 2016 was not a vintage year for electronic pop. If there was a lesson this year, it’s been to cherish and appreciate great life’s moments where possible, especially with the number of music figures that have been lost in the last 12 months.

Things cannot go on forever sadly…


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley
Best Song: SOULWAX Transient Program for Drums & Machinery
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES featuring PARTY NAILS Solid Gold
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES In The Shadows Of Monuments
Best Song: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Barren
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at Denver Oriental Theatre
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


SIMON HELM

Best Album: ERIC RANDOM Words Made Flesh
Best Song: RATIONAL YOUTH This Side Of The Border
Best Gig: Troika! featuring KITE BASE, HANNAH PEEL + I SPEAK MACHINE at Shacklewell Arms
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: ZANIAS


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: VILLA NAH Ultima
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE Diagram Girl
Most Promising New Act: ANI GLASS


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Norwich UEA
Best Video: MARSHEAUX Like A Movie
Most Promising New Act: DISQO VOLANTE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: APOPTYGMA BERZERK Exit Popularity Contest
Best Song: KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Islington Academy
Best Video: BLACK NEEDLE NOISE featuring JENNIE VEE Heaven
Most Promising New Act: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2016

ARCTIC SUNRISE When Traces End

arctic-sunrise-when-traces-endCiting influences from DEPECHE MODE, ULTRAVOX, HEAVEN 17, VISAGE, BLANCMANGE and other gems of the electronica era, Germany’s ARCTIC SUNRISE are Torsten Verlinden on vocals and Steve Baltes in charge of production.

Having accomplished one album ‘A Smarter Enemy’ already plus a few EPs, the duo have already established themselves within the followers of synthpop beats, especially within the devoted fans of DE/VISION, due to the obvious sound similarities between the bands.

Indeed, taking the contemporary approach to otherwise classic elements of synth play, Baltes is capable of creating a decent collection of tunes. ‘When Traces End’ follows its predecessor with a bunch of elaborate sound manipulations, and the inclusion of few dance numbers further enriches the outing.

Although the unavoidable DE/VISION comparison cannot be ignored, specifically on ‘Tell The Truth’ or ‘Forever Yours’; the former reminiscent of Keth/Adam’s works on ‘Two’, it has to be said that both songs carry a powerful concoction of atmosphere and clever treatment of sound.

‘Let It Rain’ provides further connection to the D/V boys, with the exception of enhanced vocal techniques, while ‘Changing’ is deliciously synth laden with a perfect bass line. The title track evokes positive emotions thanks to ERASURE-esque background noises, wrapped around irresistible sound treatments and fresh vocals by Verlinden.

arctic-sunrise‘Silent Tears’ is a mix of vintage SIMPLE MINDS and THE CURE, with a pinch of grunge-laced tonality on the lead vocal. The foundation for the track is built on Roland System 100M arpeggios with bass guitar played by Verlinden himself. The slower paced ‘Mine Forever’ shines with simplicity of the production and ‘Over Me’, sounding like the works of AND ONE, only a bit dirtier, is wholesome and polished.

The closing ‘Your Eyes’ wraps up the release with classic HUMAN LEAGUE sound effects combined with those modern noises made by APOPTYGMA BERZERK on their latest long player. All that, plus poignant lyrics and a complex musicality, add up to the most notable track on the opus.

Even with the very obvious influences from their countrymen DE/VISION, ARCTIC SUNRISE definitely have a lot of potential to shine in their own light. The second album syndrome doesn’t apply here and the duo certainly did their homework.

It is clear that the LP was recorded with the help of many a vintage synthesiser and drum machine, and Baltes isn’t a stranger to capable productions.

‘When Traces End’ is an accomplished body of work, worth a repeat listen.


‘When Traces End’ is released by Echozone in CD and digital formats

https://www.facebook.com/wearearcticsunrise/

http://www.echozone.de


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell with thanks to Simon Worboys
30th October 2016

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