Tag: East India Youth (Page 1 of 2)

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019

To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task, but The Electricity Club has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.

As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.

But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.

As per usual, The Electricity Club’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION featuring NYXX Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix (2017)

With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”

Available as a download single via https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/album/rhythm-control-out-of-control-mixes

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

‘Synth Is Not Dead’ is a song close to the heart of The Electricity Club with its solidarity to the synth. A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the EP ‘Come With Me’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion (2013)

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones.  “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.

Available on the single ‘Diagram Girl’ via Phantasy Sound

https://www.facebook.com/beyondthewizardssleeve/


CHROMATICS Shadow (2015)

Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.

Available on the album ‘Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)’ (V/A) via Rhino Records

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue (2015)

CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog (2015)

RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Being Followed (2011)

The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…

Available on the album ‘All You Need Is Now’ via Tape Modern

http://www.duranduran.com/


EAST INDIA YOUTH Carousel (2015)

Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings

http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/


RUSTY EGAN featuring MIDGE URE Glorious (2016)

‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


EMIKA Promises (2018)

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


FIAT LUX It’s You (2018)

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming (2010)

As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.

Available on the album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


IAMX Ghosts Of Utopia (2011)

The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!

Available on the album ‘Volatile Times’ via Orphic

http://iamxmusic.com/


IAMAMIWHOAMI Hunting For Pearls (2014)

As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern

http://www.towhomitmayconcern.cc/


KITE Up For Life (2015)

Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday (2018)

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LADYTRON Ambulances (2011)

The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.

Available on the album ‘Gravity The Seducer’  via Nettwerk Productions,

http://www.ladytron.com/


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


MIRRORS Ways To An End (2010)

With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.

Available on the album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Skint Entertainment

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


ALISON MOYET Alive (2017)

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN And It All Began With You (2017)

With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

http://www.garynuman.co.uk/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

http://www.omd.uk.com/


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist Juho Paalosmaa. “A synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”, they have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…

Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records

http://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan


STOLEN Turn Black (2018)

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the album ‘Fragment’ via https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


SUSANNE SUNDFØR Fade Away (2014)

The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound / Kobalt

http://susannesundfor.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red (2013)

First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who was perusing The Electricity Club and later invited VILE ELECTRODES to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2019

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Interview

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY is the musical moniker of Welsh musician, vocalist and producer Ryan A James.

Initially a duo, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY emerged in 2007 and produced two-acclaimed studio albums; ‘Foe’ and ‘Maximum Entropy’, which mixed wall of sound synths, live drum breakbeats and textural guitars.

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY will release a new Pledge Music-funded album entitled ‘Infinity Mirror’ on 26th October following the release of earlier singles ‘Remember The Bad Things’, ‘Lafayette’ and current release ‘Achilles’ Heel’.

James describes the new work as “an anxiety-fuelled indulgence in retrospection” and kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about its gestation, collaborating with RÖYKSOPP and the importance of crowdfunding.

Your stage moniker was inspired by not fitting in anywhere musically. Do you still feel the same in 2018?

Not so much. In hindsight it seems a little arrogant to believe that your music is so unique that it doesn’t fit into any categories! Though, there was a prominent rock and metal scene happening in South Wales during the birth of MWC, which certainly played a part in choosing the name. I’ve always felt a distance between myself and where I’m from and I don’t think that’ll ever completely go away, but I now see it as more of a positive thing.

You are a multi-instrumentalist, adept at keyboards, synths, guitar and drums. So what do you regard as your first instrument?

Well that’s kind of you, but I don’t really see myself as a technically good musician, nor a multi-instrumentalist. One thing I will say is that I think I’m pretty good at figuring out how to get the most out of my limitations.

I have no idea why but I started playing the cornet when I was around eight years old, before switching to keyboards and piano soon after.

I was probably too young to have a genuine passion for either, and puberty would later derail my musical pursuits. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-to-late teens that I discovered guitars, but having music embedded in me from an early age definitely made it easier to pick up new instruments fairly quickly.

When MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY essentially became a solo project, did technology make it far easier to accept the situation, both for studio and live work?

Definitely, but I think MWC has always been heavily reliant on technology. I also experimented as a solo artist under the name SECULAR GHOST a couple of years ago, which gave me the vision and confidence to try something new with MWC.

Do you feel any kinship with other ‘solo’ acts like MAPS and EAST INDIA YOUTH?

I’m not as familiar with MAPS’ work, but I’m very much a fan of EAST INDIA YOUTH. We’ve shared a couple of festival stages, which is where I first discovered his music, and we’ve since chatted online a couple of times. I really love his first two albums.

You’re probably best known to the wider public for your RÖYKSOPP collaboration on ‘Sordid Affair’; how did this come about and how did the track develop as you were working on it?

They were looking for vocalists, and I guess I was in the right place at the right time! I honestly didn’t think it would happen at first, as they asked to hear my isolated and dry vocal before they’d confirm a recording session. Like myself, they are perfectionists, which basically just means that you struggle to settle on or even finish things. I’d be recording vocal takes with Tørbjorn in one room, whilst Svein was still working on lyrics in another. But having that last-minute pressure really helped us gel together.

‘Puppets’ from the ‘Foe’ album appears to be one of your tracks that has remained a favourite of both yourself and fans?

I would have to agree. It’s aged pretty well in my eyes, and is probably the one that still gets mentioned most often.

There was an amusing Tweet recently where someone expressed their love for your music but disliked your look. What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of social media with regards to the promotion of your music? Can image be separated from music?

To be fair he had a point. I was in the studio six to seven days a week and my physical appearance had begun to take its toll. Thankfully, the album is now finished and I have around eighty percent less facial hair. It’s a fairly new approach for me, having my face plastered over things. I suppose I’m just trying to be more authentic these days, rather than a silhouette.

You often get tagged within the ‘Shoegaze’ genre, how do you feel about that and are there any particular artists from that original scene who’ve inspired you?

It’s become somewhat redundant, I must admit.

I’m happy with the categorisation, though, and I’m still a big fan of artists such as SLOWDIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, COCTEAU TWINS etc.

Do you have a “go to” synth or piece of equipment when you are producing your music?

It often begins with my Prophet ’08, or most recently the Juno 60 that I’ve had on long-term loan. I also picked up a DX7 right as I was finishing the album, and in general I’ve started using FM synths a lot more. I have a feeling that the DX7 may be the new “go to”, which could end up changing my sound quite drastically. But I think it’s time for a change.

How important has the PledgeMusic model been for the upcoming album?

Massively important. Given my situation I’m not sure how I could have done it otherwise. It gave me the push I needed to finish the album within a timeframe, though I did go over it ever so slightly, but I decided not to give myself too much of a hard time about that. It’s also taken away the strain of financing everything, such as manufacturing physical items, and it even managed to help pay for a music video. It’s also been a great way to connect with fans.

On your PledgeMusic page there were some pretty interesting options for new album ‘Infinity Mirror’; the most intriguing one being your offer of covering a song. You say that you’ll cover any song “within reason”, The Electricity Club are curious as to where you would draw the line with this offer!

I probably would have vetoed anything that’s popular at the minute, ie DRAKE, POST MALONE etc. It all just sounds like half-arsed, uninspired nonsense to me!

You appear to have really embraced the return of vinyl. As an artist, how do you feel about its return?

It’s not like I have a vast collection of my own or anything, nor do I really listen to vinyl personally other than for the purpose of sampling. I guess I have always found it important to have something physical to represent a body of work.

I have considered a vinyl mid-life crisis, when the time comes. As much as I think Spotify is great, I do also think it’s a shame that music is mostly consumed via smartphones.

You have referred to your MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY project as a “phantom limb”, what did you mean by that?

I meant that I’ve always felt its presence, even when I thought it was gone for good.

Please describe the genesis and realisation of your recent single ‘Lafayette’…

It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder L Ron Hubbard, aka Lafayette Ron Hubbard.

Apart from the new album, what else is coming up for MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY?

I’ll be doing a handful of shows, including some dates with IONNALEE in Prague and Berlin in October, as well as a special album release show in London on November 26th. I hope to tour some more in 2019, but other than that it’s all about the new album! I have some ideas about what I want to do next, but right now I want to allow some time to take stock.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Ryan A James

‘Infinity Mirror’ will be released by Killing Moon Records on 26th October 2018

There will be an album launch party featuring MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY live on 26th November 2018 at The Old Blue Last in London – entry is free but tickets must be obtained from https://dice.fm/event/99l79-man-without-country-26th-nov-the-old-blue-last-london-tickets

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY will also open for IONNALEE at Prague MeetFactory on 13th October and Berlin Berghain Panorama Bar on 17th October 2018

https://manwithout.country/

https://www.facebook.com/manwithoutcountry/

https://twitter.com/mwc_music

https://www.instagram.com/mwc_music/

http://killing-moon.com/


Text by Paul Boddy
Interview by Paul Boddy and Chi Ming Lai
10th October 2018

SYNTH.NU Interviews THE ELECTRICITY CLUB

synth.nu cover 2016Synth.nu is a Swedish language web publication that covers a broad spectrum of electronic music.

Founded in March 2004, synth.nu follows an ethos that covers both new and established acts.

With a team of contributors, their mission statement is “We make reviews, interviews and live reviews in synth / electronic music from all over the world” be it “synth, electronica, EBM, industrial, wave, darkwave and stuff that applies”.

With Sweden being the epicentre of modern electronic music, synth.nu are suitably positioned to report on what is an highly vibrant and creative scene. As kindred spirits following their passion for electronic music, it was only natural that The Electricity Club and synth.nu would eventually get together and have rather a lot to talk about.

TEC meet synth.nuFollowing a first meeting at the Electronic Summer 2015 Festival in Gothenburg, synth.nu’s Martin Brandhill chatted to The Electricity Club’s co-founder Chi Ming Lai for an interview feature that was originally published at synth.nu on 16th March 2016…

When did you start to like electronic music and become fascinated by this music genre?

My very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to us all in class and the sound of both was unusual, yet captivating. It wasn’t until later that I got into synthesizer music properly first through GARY NUMAN, then JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and OMD before moving onto ULTRAVOX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE, HEAVEN 17, JOHN FOXX and SIMPLE MINDS. As I got older, I caught up with the influential acts of the past like BRIAN ENO, ROXY MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE, TANGERINE DREAM, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF.

How and why did you start the electronic music website The Electricity Club back in 2010? Were there not any electronic music websites prior to that, who supported the electronic music scene in UK?

The main motivation to do The Electricity Club came from my disgust at classic synthpop being lumped in with the so-called 80s revival.

I hated how OMD and DEPECHE MODE were being associated with T’PAU, SWING OUT SISTER and LIVING IN A BOX! Everyone wanted to remember the 80s whereas I didn’t, so there was a definite reaction to the nostalgia industry that was starting to build. “Synthpop NOT 80s!” was my mantra! There are still people who should know better that don’t understand the difference! Incidentally, The Electricity Club’s writers are banned from using the term “80s” to describe the music in their articles 😉

Memetune-polymoogI’d been writing music reviews since college, progressing from student newspapers to fanzines and then online media. There were a number of websites featuring acts I liked, but many focussed on just the 80s or particular bands. And then there were others that were only about dance music or new artists exclusively… I wanted to somehow combine coverage of new and classic synth based pop, but away from dance music which to be honest, is something I generally loathe.

When The Electricity Club launched in March 2010, LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and LADY GAGA had been hailed as the next big things. And with their synth dressed credentials, I embraced them… but it turned out to be a false dawn. Luckily though, just as The L-Word Foursome started disassociating themselves from the whole synthpop thing, MIRRORS, HURTS, VILLA NAH and VILE ELECTRODES emerged and sat nicely with classic acts such as VISAGE, OMD, HEAVEN 17, ULTRAVOX, THE ART OF NOISE and PROPAGANDA who TEC featured in that first year.

What is the main goal that you want to achieve with the website?

You could nickname it ‘Now That’s What Chi & Friends Call Music’ 😉

The Electricity Club is about electronic pop music with roots to Synth Britannia; that was a great BBC documentary about the post-punk UK synth movement. It featured GARY NUMAN, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JOHN FOXX, NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, SOFT CELL, ULTRAVOX, YAZOO and CABARET VOLTAIRE.

However, the site was never just going to be about established acts, it was always the intention to feature newer ones. But the site launch didn’t take place until our interview with Paul Humphreys of OMD was completed, because having that was the best way to get people to look at the site. And it worked, because parts of the interview were later quoted in The Guardian newspaper in their article about OMD’s then new album ‘History Of Modern’.

So by attracting people who want to read about the acts they know and love, they might then stick around and have a look at the new artists featured who have been seeded from those same electronic pioneers.

The act I have been most proud of featuring in the last five years has been VILE ELECTRODES.

Andy McCluskey read about them on TEC and as a result, they ended up supporting OMD on their 2013 German tour and winning awards too. And they recently did a live session for BBC Introducing. It’s a great upward trajectory they are on right now. They’re a fine example as to what can be achieved by an independent synthesizer act in this day and age.

Which philosophy does the website follow with writing new reviews, interviews or articles in general?

The heart of The Electricity Club is properly written features, not buzz blogging. I don’t like the whole “this is a song, now here’s another…” approach that other websites indulge in. People of a certain adult demographic just haven’t got the time or inclination to go through 10-15 new acts each week; they want to know which band you think is the best and why they should spend money or invest an hour of their time for them.

That is why TEC’s articles have easy-to-understand musical references, trivia and critique. It’s my style and always has been since I started writing about music as a student; I think you can tell if I am really into something when you read my text. It’s storytelling, rather than lecturing or trying to be cool. I’ve been told by friends in Europe that my style is easy to understand for people whose first language is not English.

If people connect with your ethos and enjoy what you write, then they will trust your opinion and return for more. But you need to maintain quality control.

So TEC has to be about what’s good, not what’s going on in The Scene. This is why TEC doesn’t have many news bulletins.

If people don’t like what TEC features or its style of referencing, then that’s ok. They can always do their own blog as some have done. That’s great because then there’s another music platform. We have our choices.

What do I look for in a new act submission? A good song accompanied by a reasonable video with hopefully two or three other numbers of comparable quality. The video is important because it tests the commitment of the artist with regards their visual presentation, as well as their songwriting and production. I come from a generation where videos and sleeve artwork were important; so it’s not just about the music and bands need to be aware that.

I probably give a track about twenty seconds! I’m not after a song that I necessarily love on first hearing, it’s more about it being interesting enough to play on to the end and then, listen to again. People have sent me demos that go on for over eight minutes… that’s not a good idea even if it is your art! The most clueless submission was a five song live gig video recorded at a kid’s birthday party and nothing happened for the first minute!

I literally get hundreds of emails each month. There are complaints that we don’t reply or give feedback. But if we replied to each one, we would never get any articles done.

thekillers2006A fair few get deleted straight away, especially if the accompanying press release mentions “deep house”, “bangin’ techno”, “DJ”, “80s” or “shoegaze”, or the band photo has more than two members with a beard! I remember Neil Tennant once saying he knew THE KILLERS’ second album was never going to be as good as the first, because Brandon Flowers had grown a beard! *laughs*

Just because an act hasn’t been featured on TEC before, it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. The best example of that is Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who TEC passed on in 2011. They were quite industrial back then, but changed direction and became more synthpop. So when they released ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ in 2013, I asked them for a video to feature on TEC which they duly presented.

By the same token, just because an act has had TEC coverage before doesn’t mean that their future releases will be featured. One artist demanded we remove a second video that we had on an article about them, so that it could be used for a future TEC review… hang on! There is a strange sense of entitlement from some artists which I find baffling. The Electricity Club is not a crowdfunded promotional service. *laughs*

statler & WaldorfSome people do take things rather personally if they’re not featured; one individual shouted abuse at me in a pub before a gig and stormed off, but he then proceeded to lie and tell everyone I was rude to THEM! It’s just not normal! It wasn’t as if TEC had written a negative review… would they rather have that? Because TEC has done a few of those when appropriate as well!

But slagging TEC off on social media and to their friends is not the best way to gain favourable attention from us. The thing is, TEC is not the only platform covering electronic music… other blogs ARE available.

TEC has existed now for over five years. Has it been lots of fun and an exciting journey when you are looking back at the development of the website and meeting lots of famous people in the electronic scene, since you started the website back in 2010?

It’s definitely been fun, it’s the reason why I am still doing it and would like to do it for a few more years yet 😉

New-Order-2015-MusicComplete-01Two interviews spring to mind as favourites and good examples of TEC’s development. In 2011, I interviewed Stephen Morris from NEW ORDER.

I was surprised TEC’s request was accepted, but we had a brilliant 70 minute chat. He said something about “Never say never” when it came to the future of NEW ORDER.

Then a few months later, NEW ORDER announced they were returning, but without Hooky. So TEC was inadvertently part of a subtle promotional campaign to rebuild the band’s profile before the news broke!

Our 2013 interview with GARY NUMAN was a significant one. In the past, we would lobby for a major interview, but probably end up NOT getting it, like DURAN DURAN or GRIMES. In 2011, we were only granted a short email Q&A with GARY NUMAN. But in 2013, TEC had built up such a good reputation that Numan’s representatives got in touch and literally said “you’re interviewing GARY NUMAN at 6.00pm on Thursday!” – Numan was great and he wouldn’t stop talking, which was great for the eventual article!

TEC mit Karl und WolfgangHaving been invited to meet both KARL BARTOS and WOLFGANG FLÜR, I’ve sort of got nowhere else to go now! It’s not every day you get to be photographed together with two KRAFTWERK legends.

Is there anyone else I’d like to meet and interview? I guess JEAN-MICHEL JARRE would be one. And I’ve never met or interviewed VINCE CLARKE either.

Has 2015 been a good or disappointing music year? Will we remember this year when we look back in a couple of years with a lots of joy or with big sadness over it?

I think 2015 has been good, especially for veteran acts proving they can still do excellent music, be it JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, A-HA, JOHN FOXX or NEW ORDER. Age is not a barrier to creativity, although lack of motivation to challenge oneself artistically in later years might be… 2015 was certainly better than 2012, which I felt was a lacklustre year for electronic pop.

Chi+MLGThe Electricity Club appears to be very critical at times against synthpop legends DEPECHE MODE, why is that?

DEPECHE MODE can still do brilliant stuff, my favourite 21st Century songs are ‘Oh Well’, ‘I Feel Loved’, and the TRENTEMØLLER club mix of ‘Wrong’; I think from those three, you can work out how I prefer DM to sound.

But personally, I am not keen on DEPECHE MODE’s modern day concert format which is more rock based and dominated by live drums; however, I need to clarify about why I’m so critical of them and in particular, Christian Eigner aka ‘The Drumhead’ 😉

Yes, Alan Wilder was a sticksman on the ‘Devotional’ tour but he wasn’t a drummer in a John Bonham sense, so he only played what was needed. Herr Eigner on the other hand is a traditional rock drummer, a role that has a very egocentric and bombastic mindset. So he fills every nook and cranny with drums, whether they really ought to be there or not, that’s the difference!

Now, did you know that THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ has no crash cymbals on it? That’s because the Linn LM1 Drum Computer used did not have enough chip memory to store such a sound. So the restrictions meant they had to be artistically inventive and think out of the box to nurture the dynamics of each song. The most recent example of a no crash cymbal policy has been CHVRCHES ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

The first five OMD albums have no crash cymbals either and I think you’ll find the majority of DEPECHE MODE recordings up to 1990 are the same. Do you see a pattern here? What I’m trying to say is, live drums and crash cymbals can be a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll cliché… the point about most good electronic pop music is that it is anti-rock ‘n’ roll *laughs*

DM-2013-02-Keith TrigwellThe word is that it’s Dave Gahan who wants it everything to be overtly rockist, but I can’t think of anything more boring! He apparently refuses to sing over exclusively programmed rhythm tracks now.

Ironically though, it’s that rigid electronic percussion which helps give those truly great DEPECHE MODE songs that tension and soul.

It’s why the tribute band SPEAK & SPELL have their place on the live circuit as a recreation of that three synths and a tape machine era.

The strange thing is that I’ve been accused of featuring and referencing DEPECHE MODE too often on TEC. But on the opposite side of the coin, there are people who think I am very negative about DM… neither are true. But do I really enjoy DM gigs in the 21st Century? They have their moments on stage, but the last show I saw at Birmingham NEC in 2014 was terrible!

Are you not grateful for all the great music and achievements DEPECHE MODE has done for electronic music in the UK and for the genre in general?

33verstappenTo use an F1 analogy, DEPECHE MODE are Michael Schumacher from an achievement point of view. But personally, I find the gifted but flawed drivers like the late Ronnie Peterson who never became World Champion, or lively new talent such as Max Verstappen much more interesting. Well, that’s what I think, for what it’s worth 😉

I’m an armchair DEPECHE MODE fan from ‘Speak & Spell’ up to ‘Ultra’, as opposed to being a Devotee. My favourite album is ‘Violator’, while I have a lot of affection for ‘A Broken Frame’. I was in my early teens at the height of Synth Britannia, so when SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and DURAN DURAN emerged, it was all very exciting.

But what you have to understand is that at the time, SOFT CELL were generally seen by people, including myself, as the better prospect. By the time DEPECHE MODE got darker on ‘Black Celebration’, I was at college and had started DJ-ing so was naturally inclined towards more danceable electronic acts like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and ERASURE… in hindsight, you can see PSB are actually a smoothed out SOFT CELL! I was still keeping an eye on DM in 1987-1988, but effectively lost touch as I was doing my final examinations. So like many in the UK, when ‘101’ came out in 1989, I was like “what on earth has happened here?” *laughs*

I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed Alan Wilder three times now and was honoured that the only interview he granted for the 25th anniversary of ‘101’ was with The Electricity Club. He’s always been very honest and forthright.

I remember at the RECOIL film Q&A in London, one girl took exception to his answer to her question about BECK. “YOU ASKED ME FOR MY OPINION!” he retorted. Brilliant!

Like many, I still feel the missing artistic ingredient in today’s DEPECHE MODE is Mr Wilder. Yet, DM have got bigger in terms of their live audiences! So go figure *laughs*

In Sweden, there was a big discussion in many local synth/electronic music communities about the genre’s status. It started because of my discussion event ‘Är Synthen Död?’ (In English: Is The Synth Dead?) which I held in Gothenburg last December. The panel discussed if the genre was still vital and interesting to the youth of today and to old electronic music lovers here in Sweden; or more plainly dead, has no future and will become like Rockabilly music. What are your personal points of view on this subject, when you look at the UK scene?

There was a period in the UK when the dance scene and Britpop effectively killed off synthpop; this would have been 1994-1999. I never really liked acid house or club oriented music. Acts like LEFTFIELD, UNDERWORLD, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and ORBITAL did great singles, but they weren’t very song based and their albums left me underwhelmed, especially as the tracks often went on for far too long! And I wasn’t into the Industrial duff-duff shouting-in-German thing that was going on in Europe either!

ladytron2But for me, there was a turning point for the synth in an avant pop context, and that came in 2000-2001 with LADYTRON, GOLDFRAPP and CLIENTBecause they had female vocalists, they also gave a fresh slant to the old Synth Britannia template. KYLIE MINOGUE’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ and SUGABABES ‘Freak Like Me’ were also significant; it’s fair to say quite a few people got into GARY NUMAN because of the latter! 

So synthpop effectively returned, if in a slightly different but still recognisable form. The period helped to shape the sort of music I enjoy listening to now, like MARSHEAUX, KID MOXIE, HANNAH PEEL and GWENNOUnfortunately, although a lot of music is electronically based now, as PAGE’s Eddie Bengtsson said to me, classic synthpop appears to be a dying art.

A friend of mine, who is a video director, received a brief for a “contemporary electropop band”… but they were so contemporary, there was hardly any electropop in their music! The lines are getting too blurred and that’s not a good thing. Like this trio YEARS & YEARS that have been labelled a synthpop act by the mainstream press! Err, no! They are basically BROS with a housey beat!

CHVRCHES-2015-02Luckily, the success of CHVRCHES has confirmed there is still an international market for synthpop. They have a broad appeal which connects with people who don’t necessarily know, or want to know, what a Minimoog Voyager is. Their songs could be covered by TAYLOR SWIFT and become massive hits. Acts like CHVRCHES are the key to younger musicians being influenced to make electronic pop music in the future.

Is the genre dead or alive in UK? Has it a bright future or will genre just have a few followers?

Things are quite strange in the UK… synth music is alive but slightly wounded in my opinion. There is also the weird phenomenon of promoters who don’t even really like electronic music, putting on electronic music events.

In my opinion, there’s big fish in a small pond syndrome going on, in that there’s a sub-culture of acts who just prop each other up and think just because they get a few plays on an internet radio station, they’re heading for the big time. But they are not as good as they like to think they are. Ok, everyone has to start somewhere and grow, but they need to show some humility and give themselves time to learn their craft.

It is important to support bands that are good, not just any band because they are electronic. The trouble is, the entry point to electronic music, podcasting and blogging is very low so if everything is of a mediocre standard, it misrepresents the genre and no-one actually has a quality bar they can work towards. Healthy competition is a good motivator. But when an act appears out of nowhere and has the potential to break into the mainstream like LA ROUX, MIRRORS or CHVRCHES, The Scene doesn’t like it and turns on them.

mirrorsThe lack of recognition for MIRRORS still bothers me, I really miss them and it’s a shame that they didn’t stick together having delivered one brilliant album and a bunch of fabulous B-sides.

People have caught onto them since retrospectively, but it’s a bit too late and now we’re stuck with average bands that go on and on and on!

As far as the UK is concerned, the most promising beacon of light for electronic pop is EAST INDIA YOUTH; he’s a bit like a one-man MIRRORS and it will be interesting to see how he progresses. There’s also RODNEY CROMWELL who is a bit more unorthodox and whose music I like very much. As they’re both solo acts, they can’t split up!

Will we see more unusual electronic music countries or trends that will rise and get more attention, instead of the traditional electronic music countries like the UK and Germany? I was thinking about the rising profile over the past few years for electronic music coming from, for example Canada, Australia, South Africa and even from my native country Sweden?

Photo by Madeleine Berg

My favourite new act at the moment is KITE from Sweden. They have a melancholic, majestic sound that I love. To me, Sweden is the modern hub of electronic pop and has been for several years. When I visited Gothenburg for the 2015 Electronic Summer Festival, I was very impressed by the Swedish passion for electronic music; it appeared a lot more honest than in the UK and I really felt at home.

It’s not just Sweden though, the Nordic region has been producing electronic acts of a very high standard, particularly Norway and Finland. VILLA NAH came from Helsinki and although they appear to be no more, they have at least morphed into SIN COS TAN who are really good.

North America is proving to be one area of growth for electronic music, with Canada being the most creative with acts like TR/ST, AUSTRA, GRIMES, PURITY RING and ELECTRIC YOUTH; but don’t forget the country has a cult tradition dating back to RATIONAL YOUTH and PSYCHE. The USA has some great acts too like SOFT METALS, NIGHT CLUB, FEATHERS and HYPERBUBBLE.

Germany is making a return, although to my ears, much of the new music coming from there is derivative, although of a good standard. But the emergent nation in electronic music appears to be China with FIFI RONG and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS being two of its most notable acts. I am pleased that TEC features acts from all around the world, and does not base itself around a single scene, city or country.

TEC discussionWhat are your expectations and hopes for 2016?

I have learnt over the years to be quietly optimistic and not to have too many expectations… I always think it’s quite funny when bloggers announce that an album is “going to be brilliant” when they haven’t actually heard it yet, and then after its release, go “oh, actually, it’s not very good…” *laughs*

Obviously, I hope there is going to be lots of new high quality synthpop in 2016… if there isn’t, then TEC will focus on being more retrospective, like with those career spanning Beginner’s Guides listings which we do and have become quite popular with readers. It’s a way of showcasing how good things have been in the past, so that new acts know what to aspire to.

TEC will not just feature sub-standard output just because it’s electronic. There’s a lot of new music out there, but it needs to stand the test of repeated listening; only time can tell if you were right or wrong… and TEC got it wrong with a few acts that were featured in 2012 😉

People say to me TEC should cover other forms of electronic music like dubstep and more leftfield sub-genres but frankly, I’m not interested… I know what I like and I’m happy to stand by it. When I was in Gothenburg, Alexander Hofman from S.P.O.C.K complimented me on the fact that TEC focusses on pop. As OMD once sang “It’s my direction, it’s my proposal…”

Speaking of whom, OMD have a new album pencilled in. I remember there was great anticipation about the comeback album ‘History Of Modern’ back in 2010, yet it turned out to be a major disappointment.

So when it came to ‘English Electric’ in 2013, I expected nothing, but it was their best album for 30 years!

I would like there to be another great OMD album, but I will not be too upset if it doesn’t happen. I got the album I’d been waiting for since 1984 with ‘English Electric’, so as far as I am concerned now, OMD have nothing left to prove.

On the other hand, DEPECHE MODE have plenty to prove again; they really need to take a leaf out of OMD’s book and regain some of that artistic high ground. But the thing is, OMD brought back their Alan Wilder ie Paul Humphreys and let him take control of the production reins; the end result of ‘English Electric’ speaks for itself 😉


This interview was originally published in Swedish at http://synth.nu/

https://www.facebook.com/synthnu/

https://twitter.com/synthnu

https://twitter.com/synthfilosofen


Interview by Martin Brandhill with thanks to synth.nu
23rd March 2016

TEC’s 2015 End Of Year Review

There are no illegal connections…

System100 CakeThe user manual for the Roland System 100 semi-modular synthesizer profoundly stated “there are no illegal connections…”

And in modern electronic music, that is still the case with the accomplished artists of today very much connected to the synth pioneers of yesteryear like KRAFTWERK, OMD, DEPECHE MODE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Belgian duo METROLAND would not exist without the tradition established at Klingklang, while EAST INDIA YOUTH’s interest in BRIAN ENO and Motorik beats curated a sound that has enabled parallels to be drawn with the artful template of the similarly influenced Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey.

GWENNO by Jacek Davis PhotographyAnd although SUSANNE SUNDFØR was already an established singer / songwriter in her homeland of Norway, attention was not fully drawn on her new synth based direction until she performed a sympathetic cover of ‘Ice Machine’ with RÖYKSOPP in late 2012. Even the exquisite lo-fi Welsh language electronica of GWENNO can be traced to Sheffield, thanks to the songstress’ previous pop excursions which involved working on an album with the late Martin Rushent.

As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE said: “Electronic music has a family, a legacy and a future…” so to deny the glorious heritage of electronic music when assessing new acts would be futile. Indeed, acknowledging history is very much part of The Electricity Club’s style and it appears to have been appreciated, especially in regard to the feature ‘Five Years of TEC: 30 Favourite Albums 2010 – 2014’, one of a quintet of special articles to celebrate the site’s fifth birthday in March…

“Huge thanks to The Electricity Club” said avid reader Hugh David, “A victory for well-written, artfully conveyed content curation once again… you knew exactly what to say to sell me on one artist or another. That rare ability of a reviewer to pinpoint the precise comparisons that enable me to decide to seek something out based on my own tastes is something lacking in so many other outlets; love that you’ve got that in spades”

Another reader David Sims added: “TEC is a great way of discovering artists you might not otherwise be aware of. A bit like when a friend used to come round your house clutching an LP or C90 saying ‘I really love this, have a listen’, introducing you to new music that makes your neck hairs stand up in ovation”

NEW ORDER2015-Roger Kamp-072014 was a comparatively lean 12 months, but this year found many veterans returning to the fold. NEW ORDER released ‘Music Complete’, a much discussed comeback that was not only the Mancunians’ first album for Mute, but also without estranged bassist Peter HookMARC ALMOND released ‘The Velvet Trail’, his first pop album for many years while ANDY BELL embarked on further solo adventures in support of ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’.

SPARKS joined forces with FRANZ FERDINAND as FFS while telling everyone to ‘P*ss Off’ and proved that collaborations do work. Electronic music legend JEAN-MICHEL JARRE also went the collaborative root. His first album for several years ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ featured the likes of LITTLE BOOTS, JOHN CARPENTER, TANGERINE DREAM, AIR, ARMIN VAN BUUREN, GESAFFELSTEIN, MOBY, MASSIVE ATTACK and VINCE CLARKE.

Wolfgang Flur 2015Another legend GIORGIO MORODER made his statement of intent with ‘74 Is The New 24’ and released ‘Déjà Vu’, a disco pop record featuring the likes of SIA, BRITNEY SPEARS, FOXES and KYLIE MINOGUE.

Meanwhile, his artier counterpart ZEUS B HELD gave us some ‘Logic of Coincidence’ and WOLFGANG FLÜR made his solo debut with ‘Eloquence’, his first length album project since 1997.

Liverpool duo CHINA CRISIS delivered ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’, their first original material since 1994’s ‘Warped By Success’ while HOWARD JONES showed he could still innovate at 60 years of age when he launched ‘Engage’, “a highly interactive live experience designed to immerse audiences in an audio / visual feast”. A-HA came back after disbanding in 2010 with ‘Cast In Steel’ and DURAN DURAN recruited an all-star cast that included Nile Rodgers, John Frusciante, Kiesza and Lindsay Lohan for the rather disappointing EDM blow-out ‘Paper Gods’.

MG-PRBLANCMANGE’s ‘Semi Detached’ was Neil Arthur’s first without long-time partner Stephen Luscombe and he even found time to release a wonderful instrumental collection entitled ‘Nil By Mouth’. Indeed, there were quite a few instrumental opuses in 2015, with GHOST HARMONIC’s wonderful ‘Codex’ featuring JOHN FOXX and the electronic pioneer’s own glorious ‘London Overgrown’. TUXEDOMOON joined forces with CULT WITH NO NAME for ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ while not wishing to be left out, DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore released the tutorial for his new Eurorack modular system as the simply titled ‘MG’.

2015 saw the 25th anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’ and to ignore its significance, as some DM fan related platforms did, would have been incredibly short sighted. However, there was none of that from premier DM tribute band SPEAK & SPELL who played their biggest UK gig yet with a splendid boutique showcase of that landmark album at London’s Islington Academy.

camouflage1__12314_(Credit_Klaus_Mellenthin)CAMOUFLAGE, a band who started off very much under the influence of the Basildon boys, issued the mature statement of ‘Greyscale’ while continuing the DEPECHE MODE album theme, Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX gave a worthy of re-assessment of ‘A Broken Frame’ and procured a number of interesting arrangements for some under rated songs.

DIE KRUPPS got more metal than machine on their fifth opus ‘V – Metal Machine Music’. Fellow Germans BEBORN BETON made up for a ten year absence with ‘A Worthy Compensation’ while SOLAR FAKE and SYNTHDECADE also got in on the action too.

CHVRCHES-2015-02CHVRCHES continued their quest for world domination with something that LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and HURTS never managed… a decent second album. But PURITY RING, the Canadian act whose template CHVRCHES borrowed, must have looked over with a touch of envy at the Glaswegian’s success so responded with ‘Another Eternity’.

HANNAH PEEL released an interim mini-album ‘Rebox 2’ which blended centuries of music technology while VILE ELECTRODES came up with the gorgeous ‘Captive In Symmetry’, possibly one of the songs of 2015. EURASIANEYES heeded all the guidance available to them to produce their most accomplished song yet in ‘Call Your God’ and ANALOG ANGEL went on a well-received tour supporting Swedish veterans COVENANT with a message to listeners of ‘Don’t Forget To Love’.

RODNEY CROMWELL -NASAElsewhere in the British Isles, CIRCUIT3RODNEY CROMWELL and SUDDEN CREATION made their first excursions into the long player format just as KID KASIO and KOVAK each delivered album number two while Berlin based Brit EMIKA helpfully titled her third opus ‘Drei’.

“So, what’s so special about Sweden then?” someone once rather cluelessly asked TEC. Well, it is the modern hub of inventive, electronic pop. KARIN PARK offered her profanity laden fifth album ‘Apocalypse Pop’ while SAY LOU LOU finally gave the world their ‘Lucid Dreaming’. SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN offered to ‘Translate’ while TRAIN TO SPAIN told the world ‘What It’s All About’. And this was without feisty youngsters like ME THE TIGER and comparatively experienced hands such as PRESENCE OF MIND, DESTIN FRAGILE, CLUB 8, 047 and HILTIPOP all entering the equation too.

Photo by Madeleine Berg

Still in Sweden, DAYBEHAVIOR went all female PET SHOP BOYS with the Italo flavoured ‘Cambiare’ and MACHINISTA followed up their debut ‘Xenoglossy’ with ‘Garmonbozia’. while there was also the unexpected return of alternative synthpopsters ASHBURY HEIGHTS. But best of all were the mighty KITE; their ‘VI’ EP was a masterclass in epic, majestic electronic pop.

In the rest of Europe, there was an influx of darker female fronted acts such as Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET, Italy’s ELECTROGENIC, Greece’s SARAH P. and Germany’s NINA; the latter’s ‘My Mistake’ even ended up on a Mercedes TV advert. The male contingent did their bit too with Slovenia’s TORUL unleashing their second offering ‘The Measure’ while the prolific Finnish duo SIN COS TAN took things a little bit easier in their fourth year with just an EP ‘Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse’, having already released three albums since 2012.

SILVER GHOST SHIMMEROslo based studio legend John Fryer returned with two new projects, SILVER GHOST SHIMMER and MURICIDAE featuring vocalists Pinky Turzo and Louise Fraser respectively. Both reminded listeners of his work with COCTEAU TWINS and THIS MORTAL COIL, but with an Americanised twist. The Icelandic domiciled Denver singer / songwriter JOHN GRANT added some funkier vibes to his continuing electronic direction while IAMX moved from Berlin to Los Angeles, and did no harm to his art with the brooding ‘Metanoia’ album.

On the brighter side of North America, PRIEST’s self-titled debut long player became reality following their dreamy ‘Samurai’ EP, while HYPERBUBBLE made available their wacky award winning soundtrack to the short film ‘Dee Dee Rocks The Galaxy’ and joyous 2014 London show. And GRIMES caught the music biz on the hop when she released a new album ‘Art Angels’, having scrapped an album’s worth of material in 2014.

NIGHT CLUB Nov2015But despite North America itself being one of the territories flying the flag for the synth with acts like NIGHT CLUB, BATTLE TAPESAESTHETIC PERFECTION and RARE FACTURE all figuring, the worst single of 2015 actually came from the USA; decades of synth heritage were eminently obliterated in five soul destroying minutes… was this really what the Electronic Revolution was fought for? This is cultural history and it needs to be protected.

Although the year had flashes of brilliance, it was generally less impressive overall for fledgling electronic artists, with a number forgetting that all important factor of a good tune! Eddie Bengtsson of SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN remarked last year that synthpop was becoming a dying art.

And in 2015, synthpop’s credibility was further tarnished with lazy use of the term by the mainstream press for acts like YEARS & YEARS; one could argue that TAYLOR SWIFT and her ‘1989’ opus is possibly more synthpop than YEARS & YEARS have ever been! In a market where EDM appears to be king and clubbers are happy to witness DJs miming their two hour sets, there is clearly something wrong. Things were not helped by certain media outlets insisting that dance music was the only way; it was as if electronic music had somehow managed to jump from KRAFTWERK to Detroit techno with nothing happening in between.

jarre clarkeAnd then, there were those who had never particularly enjoyed music from that key Synth Britannia period, who were trying to dictate how modern electronic music was being presented and pretending it had popped out of thin air! Some bands were not doing themselves any favours either, showing little empathetic connection to the history of electronic music in their deluded optimism that they were crafting something completely new! As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE amusingly quipped to Sound-On-Sound magazine: “Lots of people in America think that electronic music started with AVICII and it’s not exactly the truth…”

The lack of accuracy in a number of publications over the last 18 months was also shocking, particularly within magazines and online media that continued to employ writers with a history of not knowing their tape recorders from their drum machines. This simply proved the old adage that just because someone is employed as a professional writer, it doesn’t actually mean they are a good writer!

MYSADCAT2015

Photo @MYSADCAT

The domestic live scene had its challenges too with slow ticket sales and a number of events cancelled. But even when some true legends in electronic music were booked, ticket sales could not be guaranteed and efficient promotion was needed to maximise potential.

Some observers were bemoaning a lack of support for the scene, but if line-ups are not particularly appealing, then audiences cannot be expected to invest time and money to attend.

A number of organisational infrastructures also lacked credibility; if a promoter doesn’t have at least some idea if they’re going to sell fifty tickets or five thousand, then they really shouldn’t be in the business! The question that has to be asked then is, has anybody actually learnt from the Alt-Fest debacle of 2014?

ES2015-Marsheaux+TrainToSpainWhile ‘A Secret Wish’ and SOS#2 were a couple of the year’s better UK events, Europe showed once again how things should be done. Electronic Summer in Gothenburg and the Electri_City_Conference in Düsseldorf were two of the most notable electronic music events of 2015; the inherent knowledge and sense of understanding in both differed immensely to some British promoters. This perhaps could explain why electronic pop has generally flourished more in territories across the North Sea.

Electronic pop needs to continue to develop, but quality control must be maintained to ensure the genre is not publically misrepresented. SOFT CELL once sang about ‘Monoculture’ while KID MOXIE declared how everyone was just content with ‘Medium Pleasure’. If all that’s heard is the best of a bad bunch, then younger listeners (and therefore potential future synth oriented musicians) will not be inspired. That is why it is important that CHVRCHES and EAST INDIA YOUTH consolidate their positions as modern electronic pop’s representatives in the mainstream.

Rusty vs Andy - Chi Ming LaiIt is not good practice to support mediocre music just because it happens to be electronic. The finest examples need to be set so as to show what can be achieved; now if that means possibly referencing back to the golden age of synthpop, then so be it. Only then will the synth baton be able to taken up by a new generation who can then truly reinvigorate it.


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Restless
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES Valkyrie
Most Promising New Act: BATTLE TAPES


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: IAMX Metanoia
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: NODE at The Royal College of Music
Best Video: IAMX Oh Cruel Darkness Embrace Me
Most Promising New Act: KITE


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: KITE Count The Days
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at SOS#2 Festival
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: SILVER GHOST SHIMMER Soft Landing
Best Song: IAMX Happiness
Best Gig: IAMX at London Koko
Best Video: TORUL The Balance
Most Promising New Act: SYNTHDECADE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LAU NAU Hem Någonstans
Best Song: ME THE TIGER As We Really Are
Best Gig: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN at A Secret Wish
Best Video: JUNO Same To Me
Most Promising New Act: REIN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: SUSANNE SUNDFØR Ten Love Songs
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: FFS at The Troxy
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Plastic
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: KITE


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2015

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2015

Loudness Contour Modifiers

In a far more productive year than 2014, many electronic music veterans returned to the fold in 2015 with their first new albums for many years.

There were plenty of releases from independent acts too, with Nordic Europe being a particularly strong territory once again. 45 quality songs made the shortlist and were eventually whittled down to 30.

So mention must be made of ALICE IN VIDEOLAND, ANALOG ANGEL, BEBORN BETON, BECKY BECKY, CAMOUFLAGE, CLUB 8, ELECTROGENIC, EURASIANEYES, MACHINISTA, ME THE TIGER, HANNAH PEEL and SIN COS TAN who all released recordings in 2015 that would have easily made the listing in less competitive years such as 2012 and 2014. Even DURAN DURAN’s disappointing ‘Paper Gods’ yielded one decent track in ‘Face For Today’, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

So the decision has been made; with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, this alphabetical list comprises tracks released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year. Here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2015…


A-HA She’s Humming A Tune

A-HA Cast In SteelHaving played what appeared to be their farewell concert at the Oslo Spektrum in December 2010, A-HA reunited in a relaxed manner that recalled their days as a fledgling band. On ‘She’s Humming A Tune’, there were hints of 1986’s ‘Scoundrel Days’ in a lower key with sweeping synths, bottle neck six string and live drums moulding the chilling soundscape with that exquisite Nordic allure. ‘Cast In Steel’ was the antithesis of the misguided EDM blow-out that DURAN DURAN attempted on ‘Paper Gods’

Available on the album ‘Cast In Steel’ via Universal Music

http://a-ha.com/


BLACK NAIL CABARET Satisfaction

blacknailcabaret_harry_meFeeling gloomy? Then take heed of the advice from BLACK NAIL CABARET and “Don’t be sad! Don’t be whiney!” – this brooding slice of Gothtronica was the lead single from the Hungarian duo’s second album ‘Harry Me, Marry Me, Bury Me’. Laden with a delicious synth bassline like DEPECHE MODE reimagined for a Weimar Cabaret set piece and topped with eerie string machine, ‘Satisfaction’ was the duo’s best individual offering to date. The pair also made a worthy impression opening for CAMOUFLAGE.

Available on the album ‘Harry Me, Marry Me, Bury Me’ via Basic Unit Productions

http://www.blacknailcabaret.net/


BLANCMANGE Useless

BLANCMANGE UselessFrom Neil Arthur’s first BLANCMANGE album without long time bandmate Stephen Luscombe, ‘Useless’ was a brilliant hybrid of BRIAN ENO circa ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ with LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. “It’s about anyone who thinks they might be useless” said Arthur, “This song is about that whole idea that we’re all flawed and you’re ‘useless as you are’… there are just times when you think ‘f*cking hell, I couldn’t organise a p*ss up in a brewery’ or that whole thing about confidence”.

Available on the album ‘Semi Detached’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.blancmange.co.uk


CAMOUFLAGE Count On Me

Although launch single ‘Shine’ indicated it was business as usual, as hinted at with the title, CAMOUFLAGE’s long awaited long player ‘Greyscale’ was their most mature artistic statement yet. The mellow and warm ‘Count On Me’ saw Marcus Meyn duet with Peter Heppner of WOLFSHEIM fame. The lush blend of vocals and atmospherics showcased two of Germany’s most highly regarded electronic acts at their best.

Available on the album ‘Greyscale’ via Bureau B

http://www.camouflage-music.com/


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue

chvrches-every-open-eyeCHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their debut and delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ shows how far CHVRCHES developed. Although not unlike an amalgam of ‘Gun’ and ‘Science / Visions’, ‘Clearest Blue’ is even more accomplished, wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there’s a dynamic surprise that recalls the classic overtures of Vince Clarke.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog

BlackDogcover170x170RODNEY CROMWELL is Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished some Hooky styled bass. Cresswell told TEC: “It’s all broadly linked to experiences in my life over the last ten years; themes of love, loss, depression, redemption”. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via Happy Robots

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DAYBEHAVIOR Cambiare

daybehavior-change-front-small-2000Utilising her Italian heritage, DAYBEHAVIOR’s lead singer Paulinda Crescentini gave a suitably alluring performance on ‘Cambiare’, the B-side of the Swedish trio’s single ‘Change’. Remixed to poptastic effect, the joyous yet melancholic tune took the best elements of Italo disco with an expression of sorrow and happiness that recalled imperial phase PET SHOP BOYS. With a catchy chorus and seductive topline, Linguaphone language lessons were never this much fun…

Available on the single ‘Change’ via Graplur

http://www.daybehavior.com


DESTIN FRAGILE Run Away

DESTIN FRAGILE Halfway To NowhereAn offshoot of Swedish EBM veterans SPETSNAZ, DESTIN FRAGILE are a very different animal with hints of CAMOUFLAGE and DEPECHE MODE in their sound. ‘Run Away’ opened their ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ opus, an album which some observers have hailed as one of the best of 2015. Featuring a fine vocal from Pontus Stålberg resembling MESH’s Mark Hockings, this is what modern synthpop should be like; pop music with synths and melody as well as dynamic synth solos.

Available on the album ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ via Dark Dimensions

https://www.facebook.com/destin.fragile.pop


EAST INDIA YOUTH Carousel

EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture of YouthEAST INDIA YOUTH’s debut ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, this was more than realised. But the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. Imagine the start of OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during BRIAN ENO’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings

http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/


EMIKA My Heart Bleeds Melody

EMIKA DreiBerlin-based EMIKA is one of the dark horses of the UK electronic scene. A combination of her classical training, Czech heritage and use of modern technology has made for a provoking, brooding sound that has attained critical acclaim over the last few years. From her third album, helpfully named ‘Drei’, ‘My Heart Bleeds Melody’ was its highlight, a concoction of intricate pulsing layers and solemn detachment that provided a captivating listening experience.

Available on the album ‘Drei’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com/


FFS P*ss Off

FFS_cover_artFFS proved collaborations do work. A total triumph, ‘P*ss Off’ was possibly the album’s most outstanding number. With the vibrancy of ‘Kimono My House’ and ‘Propaganda’ era SPARKS, there were plenty of jaunty ivories and camp vocal theatrics in the vein of classics like ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’ and ‘BC’. “It’s inexplicable” they all growled as the multi-track phrase of “HARMONISE” kicked in! A total joy, ‘P*ss Off’ was the ultimate two fingered art school pop anthem.

Available on the album ‘FFS’ via Domino Records

http://www.ffsmusic.com/


WOLFGANG FLÜR Cover Girl – The Ninjaneer Mix

Eloquence CoverOne of the highlights in Herr Flür’s DJ sets has been The Ninjaneer Mix of ‘Cover Girl’, a swirling synthpop track that the former KRAFTWERK percussionist has described as ‘The Model MkII’. He told TEC: “Her story goes on and unfortunately shows her going downhill. She had bad experiences with drugs, alcohol and other things so had to dance in night clubs for earning money at least. A true story, a bad life… that’s sometimes the way how super models are knitting their career”

Available on the album ‘Eloquence’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.musiksoldat.de


JOHN GRANT featuring TRACEY THORN Disappointing

JOHN GRANT Grey Tickles, Black PressureJOHN GRANT’s adventure into a solemn electronic template on ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ not only won him a BRIT Award nomination too. Meanwhile his collaboration with HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR showed he understood the disco as well. ‘Disappointing’ combined the two approaches and added some funk for an enjoyable Bowie meets YAZOO styled workout. In a song full of surprises, not only was there the presence of slap bass, but there was the dulcet tones of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL’s Tracey Thorn too.

Available on the album ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ via Bella Union

http://johngrantmusic.com


GWENNO Calon Peiriant

Gwenno_Y_DYDD_OLAFGWENNO’s Welsh and Cornish heritage has allowed her to develop a unique brand of lo-fi electronica. Her full-length Welsh language debut ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ came out on Peski Records in October 2014. Now reissued in 2015 by Heavenly Recordings, GWENNO has deservedly gained an increased profile for her music. With beautiful, traditionally derived melodies placed in a spacey yesterday’s tomorrow setting, the spacey ‘Calon Peiriant’ was one of the more immediate delights on offer from a wonderful album.

Available on the album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ via Heavenly Recordings

http://www.gwenno.info/


IAMX Happiness

IAMX HappinessDepression despite apparent material success has been an ongoing lyrical theme for Chris Corner as IAMX. And with ‘Happiness’, his craving for a mind to be free of bad news, negative influences and jealousy was countered with his line of “Everywhere hypocrisy!” as pulsing arpeggios kicked in for the final third’s gentle but drama laden climax. Highly poignant in the current economic and political climate, Corner’s move from Berlin to Los Angeles certainly did his music no harm.

Available on the album ‘Metanoia’ via Caroline International

http://iamxmusic.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE & VINCE CLARKE Automatic Parts 1 + 2

Jarre-electronica-coverThe French synth maestro’s first album for since ‘Teo & Tea’ in 2007 was an opus entitled ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ featuring collaborations with TANGERINE DREAM, JOHN CARPENTER, LITTLE BOOTS, MASSIVE ATTACK among many. But the two part ‘Automatic’ with VINCE CLARKE was the highlight, taking in the best of the tune based elements of both artists while not letting one party dominate. VCJMJ was certainly a more artistically realised proposition than the polarising techno of VCMG!

Available on the album ‘Electronica 1: The Time Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


KID KASIO Full Moon Blue

KID KASIO Sit and Wait“Whether I release it in 2013 or 2016, it’s still going to sound like 1985!” said KID KASIO main man Nathan Cooper. A man whose is plainly honest about where his influences lie, his love of classic synthpop permeates throughout his work. Now imagine if DEPECHE MODE was fronted by Nik Kershaw instead of Dave Gahan? With ‘Full Moon Blue’, that musical fantasy became fully realised with a clever interpolation of ‘Two Minute Warning’, one of Alan Wilder’s songwriting contributions from ‘Construction Time Again’.

Available on the album ‘Sit & Wait’ via Kid Kasio

http://www.kidkasio.com


KITE Up For Life

Kite-VI-2015-EPDespite having been around since 2008, Swedish synth duo KITE have tended to be overlooked internationally. But Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged, majestic vocals deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, KITE’s most recent release ‘VI’ opened with the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’. The passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for the second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


MARSHEAUX Monument

marsheaux_a_broken_frame_LPA worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ has been long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly given a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with some wispily resigned vocals, it provided a tense soundtrack that could be seen as metaphoric commentary on the economic situation in Greece. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this is one of them.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records

http://marsheaux.com/


METROLAND (We Need) Machines Without Romance

METROLAND Zeppelin blueMETROLAND’s second album ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a triumphant electronic celebration of the Bauhaus, art movement led by Walter Gropius. Gropius theorized about uniting art and technology and on the B-side of its launch single ‘Zeppelin’, METROLAND worked towards the 21st Century interpretation of that goal. Now imagine if GARY NUMAN had actually joined KRAFTWERK in 1979? Then the brilliantly uptempo ‘(We Need) Machines Without Romance’ would have surely been the result.

Available on the EP ‘Zeppelin’ via Alfa Matrix

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


MURICIDAE Away

muricidae-Songs From A Silent OceanStudio legend John Fryer has been busy and the project that perhaps harks closest to THIS MORTAL COIL is MURICIDAE. Featuring the exquisite vocals of Louise Fraser, she and Fryer apparently “met on the beach searching for mermaids”… the sea is very much the visual theme for their music, with Fryer cultivating “sonic sculptures to musically embody the exquisite Muricidae Shell itself”. The tranquil beauty of ‘Away’ captures a shimmering soundscape that compliments Fraser’s plaintive lament.

Available on the EP ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’ via Muricidae Music

https://www.facebook.com/muricidaemusic


NEW ORDER Plastic

NEW ORDER PlasticAfter the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declares “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… yes, beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/


KARIN PARK Stick To The Lie

KARIN PARK Stick_To_The_LieIn 2015, the Norge domiciled Swedish songstress’ KARIN PARK finally released her fifth album, the profanity laden fifth ‘Apocalypse Pop’. While less harsh in sound to some of the other tracks on the long player, ‘Stick To The Lie’ was no less angry. The most overtly synthpop track on the collection, this accessible yet emotive song was one of the highlights on a collection that affirmed KARIN PARK’s place in modern electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Apocalypse Pop’ via State Of The Eye

http://www.karinpark.com/


PURITY RING Begin Again

With CHVRCHES having borrowed PURITY RING’s electro template and pushed it into the mainstream, the direction taken on the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was going to be watched with interest. Certainly it was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, the album’s best song ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice.

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

http://purityringthing.com/


SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN All The City Lights

SMPJ TranslateSweden’s SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN (translated as “The Last Man on Earth”) are led by Eddie Bengtsson, best known for his work with S.P.O.C.K and PAGE. The themes of space travel and Sci-Fi are regular lyrical gists and while all of SMPJ’s songs are voiced i Svenska, Bengtsson opened up his Vince Clarke influenced synthpop to the English language in 2015 with the ‘Translate’ EP. Brilliantly produced, ‘All The City Lights’ (a version of his 2014 single ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’) was its highly enjoyable opening gambit.

Available on the CD EP ‘Translate’ via SMPJ

http://www.moonbasealpha.space/


SUSANNE SUNDFØR Delirious

Susanne_Sundfor_tenlovesongsSUSANNE SUNDFØR and her acclaimed ‘Ten Love Songs’ album developed on the electronic focus of its predecessor ‘The Silicone Veil’. With an eerie, droning intro with echoes of THE WALKERS BROTHERS’ ‘The Electrician’, ‘Delirious’ thundered with some fierce electronics bolstered by dynamic orchestrations like THE KNIFE meeting DEPECHE MODE. It captured love as a reluctant battle of the emotions while our heroine announced with emotive resignation “I’m not the one holding the gun”.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound

http://susannesundfor.com/


TRAIN TO SPAIN Passion – Machinista Club mix

TRAIN TO SPAIN Keep On RunningTRAIN TO SPAIN’s developing brand of uptempo, energetic pop utilises classic synthesizer sounds in the vein of Vince Clarke coupled to a metronomic rhythm structure akin to the 1985 ‘Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ album. Coming over like LANA DEL REY fronting YAZOO, Wigeborg’s cooingly vulnerable vocals on ‘Passion’ let rip over a suitably complimentary electronic backbone from Rasmusson, while a superb remix by MACHINISTA added some beefy gothic disco goodness.

Available on the download single ‘Keep On Running’ via Sub Culture Records

http://www.traintospain.se/


TREGENZA The Partisan

TREGENZA Into The VoidManchester based Ross Tregenza is an experienced hand having co-written ‘Diaries Of A Madman’ with Dave Formula and Steve Strange when he was a member of VISAGE II in 2007. He surprised electronic music audiences with a Spartan cover of ‘The Partisan’, a song made famous by LEONARD COHEN. While many may despair at the very mention of the droll Canadian, his work has strong parallels with many Gothic veined musical forms, especially with this harrowing tale of fighting for La Résistance.

Originally from the EP ‘Stolen Thunder’, alternate version available on the album ‘Into The Void’ via Tregenza Music

https://www.facebook.com/tregenzamusic


VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry

VILE ELECTRODES Captive In SymmetryOn VILE ELECTRODES’ mesmerising ‘Captive in Symmetry’, “Filmic” is indeed a very apt description with the booming synth bass motif possessing echoes of the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme tune ‘Falling’. As beautiful sequences, eerie strings and Anais Neon’s hauntingly alluring vocals take hold, it all comes over like a dreamboat collaboration between JULEE CRUISE and OMD that could easily be considered for use in the proposed revamp of the surreal North American drama.

Available on the EP ‘Captive In Symmetry’ via Vile Electrodes

http://www.vileelectrodesco.uk/


VIVIEN GLASS Black Magic

VIVIEN GLASS Jura Final Cover - Josh BrandaoVIVIEN GLASS took a major bleep forward in 2015 with a well-produced album ‘Jura’. ‘Black Magic’ was a good example of their dark but melodic synthpop. With a catchy riff, syncopated percussive bass grunt and piercing synth pads like LITTLE BOOTS meeting GARY NUMAN at The Batcave, Melissa Glass’ gothic laden vocal provided an additional enticing allure. The bonus of an engaging co-ordinated live presentation also put the trio ahead of the domestic competition.

Available on the album ‘Jura’ via Vivien Glass

http://www.vivienglass.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2015

« Older posts