Tag: Emilie Simon

Five Years of TEC: 30 Favourite Gigs 2010 – 2014

In the five years since its formation, The Electricity Club has reviewed over a hundred gigs and witnessed some fabulous live performances as well as some not so great ones… one was so bad in fact, TEC declined to submit a review in the end!

There have been sell-out concerts and also ones where literally one man and their dog have been attendance, until the dog realised it was at the wrong gig and left!

Despite the downturn in music sales overall, the live scene has been vibrant with gigs and events sympathetic to electronic music springing up all over Europe. Again, the quality of these has been variable, but at least acts using synthesizers no longer have to necessarily perform on incongruous bills alongside indie bands, folkies and rapper MCs.

Listed in chronological order with a restriction of one headline gig per artist, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 favourite gigs from the period between 2010 to 2014… modesty prevents The Electricity Club from listing its own TEC001, TEC002 and TEC003 events 😉


LA ROUX + HEAVEN 17 at BBC Maida Vale (2010)

th17_larouxIn a performance for BBC6 Music, when Glenn Gregory took the lead on the verses of ‘In For The Kill’, any scepticism lingering about the connection between LA ROUX, HEAVEN 17 and early HUMAN LEAGUE was quashed. Before ‘Temptation’, Martyn Ware gleefully told everyone that Gregory only got 78% doing it on ‘SingStar’. While Elly Jackson might not have a natural soul voice, she certainly hit those high notes. An uptempo cover of TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY’s ‘Sign Your Name’ finished a unique evening.

http://laroux.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE at Royal Albert Hall (2010)

Part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of gigs, rumours that DEPECHE MODE had something special up their sleeves were spreading like wild fire among The Devoted as they gathered from all over the world in South Kensington. And it came in the shape of the much missed Alan Wilder appearing with DM for the first time since 1994 to accompany Martin Gore on a rendition of ‘Somebody’ during the encore. “A proud moment for me knowing that most people were so happy about it” Wilder said.

http://www.depechemode.com/


ULTRAVOX at Hammersmith Apollo (2010)

ultra3Following their triumphant reunion in 2009, ULTRAVOX returned for a second leg with an expanded setlist. The line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure were much more relaxed and with a stripped down lightshow, it was all about the music. Highlights included an even more Kraftwerkian rendition of ‘Mr X’, ‘I Remember (Death In the Afternoon)’ where Currie opted to do the closing piano motif one-handed and the effervescent quadruple drum action climax to ‘The Voice’.

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


EMILIE SIMON at The Jazz Café (2010)

EmilieSimon-JazzCafeFrench songstress EMILIE SIMON is an embodiment of the truly independent female artist. And as in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, she really did study at the Sorbonne. Her one woman performance at The Jazz Café showcased her range of musical devices such as a Yamaha Tenorion, an amazing ‘effects’ gauntlet and a futuristic Casio guitar synth alongside her faithful keyboards. The brilliant avant pop of ‘Dreamland’ wonderfully highlighted her inventive use of electronics.

http://www.emiliesimon.com/


MARINA & THE DIAMONDS at The Roundhouse (2010)

marina101112_1With some eccentric Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis was possibly the nearest thing to SPARKS meeting LENE LOVICH. She arrived on the stage  like Aphrodite, the Olympian Goddess of Love and Beauty, all dressed up to the nines in a most elegant full length black gown. Fabulously quirky songs like ‘I Am Not A Robot’, ‘Oh No!’ and her attack on WAG culture ‘Girls’ showed she was no poppet. ‘Shampain’ and the so far unreleased ‘Jealousy’ proved she could do classic synthpop too.

http://www.marinaandthediamonds.com/


GOLDFRAPP at Hammersmith Apollo (2010)

On a cold Autumn evening, something unusual was happening; Alison Goldfrapp was having fun! It was if the thigh booted ice queen of yore had melted and turned into Olivia Newton-John. The ‘Head First’ album dominated the middle part of this show and was tailor made for the dynamics of live performance. The bouncy FM synth rock numbers ‘Alive’, ‘Believer ‘and ‘Rocket’ had that punch the air feeling and sat well alongside the Schaffel stomps of ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Train’ and ‘Strict Machine’.

http://goldfrapp.com/


A-HA at Wembley Arena (2010)

It says something about a band’s standing when the song that gets the biggest applause is a new one, and the one that everyone thinks should have been played is also new… A-HA’s ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ was a true return to form for the Norwegian trio and its title track was the best received moment of the show at Wembley. Sadly, ‘Nothing Is Keeping You Here’ wasn’t played, but with so many great songs in their catalogue, that didn’t matter in a glorious live celebration of their career before disbanding.

http://a-ha.com/


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN at The Scala (2011)

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN gathered a number of friends to celebrate her career. As well as Paul Humphreys, Andy Bell, Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, there was the wonderful 3/4 reunion of PROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper on ‘Dr Mabuse’ and ‘P Machinery’. There was also a surprise performance of HEAVEN 17’s demo version of ‘Temptation’ where a suitably detached vocal from Ms Brücken enhanced the song’s more electronic origins, along with material from her projects ONETWO and ACT.

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN at Shepherds Bush Empire (2011)

duran2DURAN DURAN proved they could recapture the performing zest of their glory days, but now thanks to the ‘All You Need Is Now’ album, they had the new material to back it up too. Beginning in true DURAN DURAN style with a Bond Theme overture delivered by a string quartet of blonde, brunette, red and raven haired beauties, the band launched into a glorious set of hits and highlights from the new long player. And best of all, they didn’t bother with their horrendous cover of ‘White Lies (Don’t Do It)’ 😉

http://www.duranduran.com/


IAMX at Cologne Essigfabrik (2011)

IAMX have captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combines the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency which have appealed more in Europe than at home. So it was appropriate that the contradiction theme of ‘Think Of England’ was a live centrepiece that evening in Cologne. Delivering a mechanical cabaret with a deluge of haunting East European scales and neo-classical flourishes, the disturbingly militaristic cinematic waltz of ‘President’ was a great finish.

http://www.iamx.eu


MIRRORS at Cologne Gebäude 9 (2011)

trumps6Pop Noir quartet MIRRORS were an outstanding live act with their powerful synthetic sound resonating alongside their grainy impressionistic film projections and stark lighting. On their first headlining tour of Germany, the extra setlist time allowed for the premiere of the neo-electro disco of ‘Toe The Line’ and their 10 minute epic ‘Secrets’. New’s majestic vocal style took a backseat in the song’s third movement as he adopted a sub-Ian Curtis persona and screamed out during the screeching military tattoo of its climax.

http://mirrorsofficial.bandcamp.com/


Short Circuit Presents Mute at The Roundhouse (2011)

NITZEREBBMikeCooper (2)This two day celebration of Mute Records had everything except DEPECHE MODE themselves. Alan Wilder appeared as RECOIL with Doug McCarthy of NITZER EBB joining him for a performance of ‘Personal Jesus’, while Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore each did DJ sets. The live centrepiece was a special set featuring ERASURE, YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY, although one memorable moment of the day was non-musical with Flood’s lecture on the making of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and his goofy mimicking of Martin Gore!

http://mute.com/


LADYTRON at The Forum (2011)

HMV1SteveGrayKorg is a four letter word…but then so is love. LADYTRON pulled off that rare feat of being an electronic based act that appealed to rockers, emos, indie kids and synthpopsters alike. Their only UK gig of 2011 was drawn from all of their albums. Mira Aroyo’s distinctive Bulgarian over the mechanical buzz of ‘True Mathematics’, a fabulously frantic cover of DEATH IN JUNE’s ‘Little Black Angel’ and old favourite ‘Discotraxx’ with its repeated claptrap fill were key show highlights.

http://www.ladytron.com/


The Electronic Phuture Revue at Royal Festival Hall (2011)

vintage-TMDR2‘The Electronic Phuture Revue’ curated by Martyn Ware and Mark Jones featured a stupendous line-up of HEAVEN 17, ONE TWO, THOMAS DOLBY, MIRRORS, ONETWO, RECOIL and MOTOR. And although not there, the musical legacy of Martin Gore lingered in the sets of the latter three. But the event was clouded by a poor attendance, caused by the high ticket price from hosts The Vintage Festival charging gig goers a compulsory extra £50 to enter a clothing fayre that they were never going to attend…

http://www.backtothephuture.net/


BEF at The Roundhouse (2011)

BEF2-richardFeaturing Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Kim Wilde, Green Gartside, Polly Scattergood, Midge Ure and of course, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware’s ambitious BEF covers project became a live entity for the first time. As well as the great and varied music on offer, one of the highlights was Boy George’s unsurprisingly camp take of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. His onstage tale about going with Martyn Ware to see Gary Glitter in concert and getting the convicted felon’s autograph was priceless: “…I don’t think it’s worth much now” he quipped!

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS at XOYO (2011)

Foxx and Mathematical partner Benge took to the road on a national tour and in the backing band were the glamourous duo of Hannah Peel and Serafina Steer handling synths among several other conventional instruments. With ‘Interplay’ being Foxx’s most complete body of work since ‘Metamatic’, material from both albums sat comfortably side-by-side within the set. But it was Hannah Peel’s eerie violin contributions on the ‘Metamatic’ era songs like ‘Burning Car’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ that were probably the show’s biggest revelation.

http://www.metamatic.com/


Ja Ja Ja 3rd Birthday Party at The Lexington (2012)

Sin cos tan-duoLondon based Nordic music night ‘Ja Ja Ja’ celebrated its third birthday where the beautiful and the bearded mingled alongside musical figures from different generations such as KARIN PARK and RUSTY EGAN. It featured the first live performance outside Finland of SIN COS TAN. The highlight of SIN COS TAN’s set was marvellous extended workout of ‘Trust’. A cold dark evening and synthesizers… it was a concoction made in heaven. Concluding the evening, headliner MØ was impressive too, coming across like LANA DEL REY trapped in a frozen Fjord.

http://jajajamusic.com/


REPUBLICA, TENEK + KOVAK at The Garage (2013)

REPUBLICA’s gig at London’s Garage had a superb line-up of supporting players. There was the enjoyable disco pop of KOVAK fronted by the very sexy Annelies Van de Velde and the electro rock fusion of the almost equally sexy TENEK. Like two parts Toyah: one part Siouxsie at a warehouse party, Saffron provided the feisty focus while Tim Dorney and Jonny Glue acted as complimentary foil to recreate the punchy REPUBLICA sound. With luminaries like SAMANTHA FOX and RUSTY EGAN also in the audience, it was a fun filled occasion for all.

http://www.republicamusic.co.uk/

http://www.tenek.co.uk/

http://kovak.co.uk/


KARIN PARK at The Lexington (2013)

Karin-park-live4KARIN PARK’s fourth album ‘Highwire Poetry’ was a steady burner embraced through word of mouth, but its embracement couldn’t have prepared audiences for the spectacle of her live show. With an obviously towering presence, her animated stares and jerky movements had the crowd transfixed. In an unusual set-up featuring her heavy metal loving brother David primarily on drums, the siblings showed themselves to be impressive multitaskers with David even venturing onto keyboards while Karin dabbled with a Korg MS20 and keytar.

http://www.karinpark.com/


MESH, DE/VISION + TORUL at Islington O2 Academy (2013)

Bristolian electro-rock duo MESH ended their successful European tour in style with a rousing show at the O2 Academy in London’s Islington district. Supporting an excellent bill were TORUL, a promising trio hailing from Slovenia and German veterans DE/VISION. But MESH’s set sprang into technological life as screens and projections set the scene for a live presentation of their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. With songs such as ‘Born To Lie’, ‘Adjust Your Set’ and ‘Taken For Granted’, MESH were at the height of their powers.

http://www.mesh.co.uk/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/DEVISION/24741337633

http://www.torul-recordings.net/


CHVRCHES at Village Underground (2013)

Chvrches 2013 village undergndTickets for CHVRCHES gigs were exchanging hands at ridiculous prices but it was easy to see why as there was an endearing charm about them. Pulling out the stops with a huge laser display at Village Underground, singer Lauren Mayberry surreally remarked that it would have been cruel for anyone to have brought their cat to the show!! ‘Lies’, ‘Science & Vision’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ showcased what was to come with their debut LP while PRINCE’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ was a good choice in the “we haven’t got enough songs, let’s do a cover” conundrum that haunts new acts.

http://www.chvrch.es/


OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Cologne E-Werk (2013)

OMD-4-KarenBuxtonVILE ELECTRODES got to play their most OMD derived number ‘Deep Red’ on the final night of their German tour supporting their heroes. Meanwhile, new OMD material such as ‘Dresden’ and ‘Kissing The Machine’ satisfied the crowd alongside the usual OMD favourites. Live duds ‘So In Love’ and ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ were also dropped for the welcome, good natured surprise (due to audience demand) of ‘Secret’. The almost frightening Teutonic shout of “ZU-GA-BE” by the audience in time to the closing drum machine of ‘Enola Gay’ was another unforgettable moment.

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

http://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


HEAVEN 17 + SCRITTI POLITTI at Koko (2013)

H17-V40-06For Virgin Records 40th Anniversary, THE HUMAN LEAGUE were invited to play a special concert but declined. Instead, founder member Martyn Ware stepped into the breach. Loaded with surprises such as a ‘Marianne’, ‘Circus Of Death’ and ‘WXJL Tonight’, Glenn Gregory relished the vocal challenge while Ware took to the mic himself for a new rendition of IGGY POP’s ‘Nightclubbing’. HEAVEN 17’s hits satisfied members of the audience who still weren’t quite sure of the connection and with support provided by SCRITTI POLITTI, it was an unforgettable evening.

http://www.heaven17.com/

http://www.scritti.net/


GARY NUMAN at The Roundhouse (2013)

Numan2013-05Numan’s shows in last ten or so years have been frustrating, often with great highs but then spoiled by severe lows, thanks to the one dimension nature of numbers from the ‘Jagged’ album. But with the ‘Splinter’ album and tour, Numan got it right. Free of the ballast from ‘Jagged’ and incorporating the best elements of ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, ‘Telekon’, ‘Pure’ and ‘Dead Son Rising’, The Roundhouse show was back to Numan at his formidable best. The dynamic and tempo variation plus the return to more electronics appeared to have done the trick…

http://www.numan.co.uk/


KARL BARTOS at Cologne Palladium (2014)

Karl Bartos-Koeln2014-08KARL BARTOS’ ‘Off The Record’ show was a perfect multi-media history of electronic pop that celebrated the innovation of the past while moving forward musically. While the sounds are meatier, the technology more versatile and the tools much simpler to operate, what remains are the melodies, the traditions and the soul. It may be an unusual way to describe things related to Kling Klang, but with an evening of solo and KRAFTWERK material that coincided with Ralf Hütter receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of the Düsseldorf quartet, this couldn’t have been truer.

http://www.karlbartos.com/


HANNAH PEEL at MemeTune Studio (2014)

Hannah-01MemeTune2014A little basement studio in Hoxton houses one of biggest collections of vintage synths and within it, the delightful Miss Peel launched her marvellous ‘Fabricstate’ EP with an intimate performance using primarily just synths and samplers. On the title track, Peel launched into an amazing whirring synth solo on a DS Mopho x4 while with the haunting award winning ‘Chloe’, she showed her sensitivity. There was also a treat in a music box driven cover of PAUL BUCHANAN’s ‘Cars In The Garden’ with the said antique sequencer operated by a member of the audience.

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


An Evening With The Swedish Synth at 93 Feet East (2014)

Featuring synth veterans PAGE alongside comparative newcomers MACHINISTA and TRAIN TO SPAIN, Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life’s ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ proved what could be achieved when a genuine electronic music enthusiast curated an electronic event. A fair number of Swedes and Norwegians were in attendance so with the added cocktail of that Scandinavian sense of enjoyment and their insatiable appetite for liquid refreshment, it was a fun, good natured occasion that captured the spirit of how great music can unite people.

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/


DIE KRUPPS at The Garage (2014)

Die Krupps-LaLeLu03DIE KRUPPS are rightly cited as a huge influence on the likes of NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, DEPECHE MODE and most significantly RAMMSTEIN. Vocalist and founder member Jürgen Engler is still a great front man, playing up to Teutonic clichés and bashing metal with aplomb, particularly on a frenzied cover of VISAGE’s ‘The Anvil’ with special guest Sarah Blackwood. With big, sequenced basslines from Ralf Dörper, Marcel Zürcher’s crushing guitars and powerful drumming by Bradley Bills, it was a strangely joyful mechanised experience that was indeed, metal machine music.

http://www.diekrupps.de/


MUS_IIC Festival.01 at Shoreditch Red Gallery (2014)

MUS_IIC-wrangler-by-chiMemeTune, the acclaimed London studio and label curated its first festival featuring WRANGLER, GAZELLE TWIN and MINNY POPS. While MINNY POPS’ provocative art school antics divided opinion, the sheer anonymity of GAZELLE TWIN combined with some unsettling put powerful music made her voyeuristically enticing. But it was WRANGLER led by ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE man Stephen Mallinder who most had come to see. And he delighted his followers with reworked versions of ‘Sensoria’ and ‘Crackdown’ alongside great new dystopian material such as ‘Lava Land’.

http://memetune.net


ERASURE at The Forum (2014)

ERASURE2014-09‘The Violet Flame’ was ERASURE’s return to more uptempo material with a reinvigorated energetic zest within the duo. A number of hits were reprogrammed into a more disco format, but this was balanced with preserving the integrity of the original songs. It didn’t spoil the fun as a guessing game element was added to proceedings. In tour programme foreword, Mute supreme Daniel Miller quoted Seymour Stein of Sire Records who said “the reason ERASURE are so great is because they make people feel good about themselves”.

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th February 2015

THE BEAUTY OF THE SYNTHESIZER

Following the publication of a ‘25 Frontwomen That Defined Britpop Beauty’ list by fashion blog Never Under Dressed, The Electricity Club pondered as to what a synthpop list would look like…

The Electricity Club readily admits it features a significant number of new female fronted synth acts. In TEC’s opinion, many of these artists are pushing the genre forward in directions that have not been pursued previously.

In the Synth Britannia heyday, other than Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Gillian Gilbert, Claudia Brücken and Terri Nunn, there were very few women involved in electronic pop music as equals.

Of course, today it is very different. Portable music technology accessible via laptops and compact keyboards such as the MicroKorg has opened up endless possibilities for the independent female musician. So when a classic styled synthpop track has feminine voices and talent driving it, there is a freshness to the approach that manages to avoid sounding completely retro. With so much being hung on a so-called synth revival, there are a number of male dominated acts that are quite clearly pastiches of key bands from back in the day.

So in alphabetical order and confined to women who front primarily electronic acts and / or play synths in the new millennium, here are The Electricity Club’s choices to represent The Beauty Of The Synthesizer…


MIRA AROYO

While LADYTRON are very much a quartet musically, imagewise it has been the band’s female pair who have been the focal point. When Mira Aroyo first appeared on the scene, her icy East European demeanour suited the band’s dark terrorist chic meets the catwalk. With a look akin to the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang, Mira was armed with a Korg MS20 as her weapon of choice. As well as DJing, other projects have included her stark deadpan presence on the appropriately dystopian ‘Watching A Building On Fire’ with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in 2011.

http://www.ladytron.com/


AU REVOIR SIMONE

AuRevoirSimone2014It’s triple keyboard action with Brooklyn’s studious librarians whose shows are a bit like musical slumber parties. No-one in the band is called Simone; there’s Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo who each have their own sweet sense of style while handling an assorted array of synths including the Nord Electro2, Roland Juno 60, Casiotone MT70 and ubiquitous MicroKorg. With four albums to their name, AU REVOIR SIMONE are still very much considered hipster faves although they are a symbol of how the synthesizer can be universally integrated.

http://aurevoirsimone.com/


SARAH BLACKWOOD

sarah-blackwood_2010The charming, down-to-earth lass from Halifax has been a stylish presence since first hitting the mainstream with DUBSTAR in 1995, who managed to combine synth melodies with the more guitar laden manifesto of Britpop. Sarah Blackwood’s girl-next-door charm has always been her appeal but when she formed CLIENT with Kate Holmes to adopt a harsher electronic sound complimented by the duo’s uniformed Cold War chic, Sarah’s position as a modern day synth icon was assured.

http://www.eblackwood.com/


FEATHERS

Feathers-AnastasiaDimouThe all female Texas based quartet feature a flexible line-up, but the one constant in FEATHERS is singer / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou. As one can expect from a lady of Greek ancestry, Anastasia has an enigmatic Goddess-like quality about her that with her bandmates, results in a mysterious odyssey best exemplified by the video to debut single ‘Land Of The Innocent’. Musically, FEATHERS’ sound could be likened to THE BANGLES fronting DEPECHE MODE. They supported Basildon’s finest on the final European leg of the ‘Delta Machine’ tour.

http://www.feathers.fm/


ALISON GOLDFRAPP

goldfrappModern electropop’s most influential chameleon. From thigh booted dominatrix, to unicorn tailed X-rated Kylie and even sexy pink jump suited alien, costume has always been a way of overcoming Miss Goldfrapp’s awkwardness with being a pop star. Her presentation sensibilities have ensured that all the looks have been alluring; “She’s got great legs!” observed Sarah Blackwood. Meanwhile, her on-stage antics using a portable Theremin have been unforgettable; “Every girl should have one” she cackled when GOLDFRAPP supported DURAN DURAN in 2004.

http://goldfrapp.com/


GRIMES

GRIMES-2014Montreal’s GRIMES aka Claire Boucher and her faithful Roland Juno G have provided some interesting hybrid electro influenced by K-Pop, New Age and R ‘n’ B. Her kooky charm, leftfield aspirations and macabre artwork have impressed both hipsters and old fashioned synthheads alike. Her new song ‘Go’ features perhaps a more soulful, laid back groove whilst still playing around with technologically manipulated sound sources as she prepares to deliver even further after her acclaimed album ‘Visions’ in 2012.

http://www.grimesmusic.com


PATRICIA HALL

Soft-Metals-korgSOFT METALS lead vocalist Patricia Hall has that look which wouldn’t be out of place in the Shoreditch set, but her willingness to join in the synth battles with her partner Ian Hicks makes her all the more appealing. Although she has described her look as being influenced by the timeless style Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin, she has admitted that most of the SOFT METALS kitty ends up buying equipment rather than clothes. Her favourite synth happens to be the Roland Juno60, thanks to its patch memory and user friendly layout.

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals


IMOGEN HEAP

Imogen-HeapWith her eccentric professor persona, Ms Heap could be considered to be the female Thomas Dolby. As well as being a crowdfunding trailblazer, she has also been involved in the development of new musical interfaces like the MIDI Glove, which she describes as an extension of her “no smoke no mirrors” approach with her audience. And she’s not to be messed with either; when an advance promo copy of her 2009 album ‘Ellipse’ appeared on eBay, she rallied her loyal followers to sabotage the sale with bids of £10,000 and complaints to the online auctioneer.

http://www.imogenheap.co.uk/


I AM SNOW ANGEL

The location of the 1980 Winter Olympics, it is the apt that this village in the Adirondack Mountains should be at the heart of the beautifully gentle electronica of I AM SNOW ANGEL. The self-produced vehicle of the now Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn, as can be imagined from the artist moniker, the music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins. Proficient as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer, she adds some traditional Americana twang to the electronica aesthetic which in itself, is quietly subversive.

http://www.iamsnowangel.com


KID MOXIE

kid moxieBWThe stunning multi-talented Elena Charbila is a proficient bassist and programmer. Her abilities also extend into acting where she has appeared alongside Al Pacino and Malcolm McDowell. While her music has moved towards a cinematic electronic direction on her most recent offering ‘The Bailor’ the Greek born beauty has a love of pop music in all its forms which feeds her artistic mindset. One of her favourite all-time records is ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ by The Walker Brothers. Her second album ‘1888’ features contributions from Angelo Badalamenti.

https://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


LITTLE BOOTS

Boots newWith her Korg Polysix, MicroKorg and Yamaha Tenorion, LITTLE BOOTS aka Victoria Hesketh perhaps represented what Joanne and Susanne from THE HUMAN LEAGUE would have done had they been teenagers in the 21st Century, ie get a laptop and take up the synthesizer themselves, rather than join a band of blokeys! She remains first and foremost, a musician / songwriter and whether she will ever recover from 679 / Atlantic Records attempt to turn her into the new Kylie Minogue remains to be seen.

http://www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk/


MARNIE

Marnie_pool

Photo by Lisa Devine Photography

If Mira Aroyo is the Anni-Frid Lyngstad of LADYTRON, then Helen Marnie is Agnetha Fältskog. The sweeter, more pop inclined of the pair, Helen certainly appeared at home with a more glamorous image when LADYTRON relaxed their uniformed stance after their third album ‘Witching Hour’. It was probably Helen who persuaded Mira Aroyo to sport swimwear on their 2003 DJ mix compilation ‘Softcore Jukebox’. She is obviously comfortable with that look as she has continued with the swimwear and gone for some glossy imagery in support of her pristine first solo album ‘Crystal World’.

https://www.facebook.com/helen.marnie.official


MARSHEAUX

MARSHEAUX-queensThe Athens based synth maidens borrowed their uniformed look from CLIENT, but have carved out their own wispy form of synthpop while performing in unison on a pair of MicroKorgs. Marianthi Melitsi is the Helen Marnie of the pair with her sweet vocals and porcelain looks. Meanwhile, Sophie Sarigiannidou is more akin to Mira Aroyo with a more smouldering demeanour which is deadpan in comparison. Their understated glamour has attained MARSHEAUX a cult following in Europe and gained admirers as diverse as OMD and 30 SECONDS TO MARS.

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


LAUREN MAYBERRY

Photo copyright of Vikki McCraw

Photo copyright of Vikki McCraw

Miss Mayberry looks like she would be ID-ed at every licensed venue she is due to be playing at. But behind the sweet Humanities undergraduate look is a strong minded writer and campaigner for women’s rights. Despite the serious misogynistic abuse she has had to confront since the success of CHVRCHES, she retains a terrific sense of humour while performing… well, she would have to every time Blokey steps up to the microphone and tries to upstage her! What must she be thinking from behind that Roland A800?!

http://chvrch.es/home/


ANAIS NEON

VileNeon2Anais Neon from VILE ELECTRODES is a synth nerd’s dream, she played the part of Gillian Gilbert in the NEW ORDER tribute band RE: ORDER. She was once mistaken for Hannah Peel… this was not an entirely ridiculous observation as both have long red hair, but this incident took place at a JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS concert while Hannah was on stage with the electro pioneer! When VILE ELECTRODES supported OMD in Cologne, Anais endearingly said the only phrase she knew in Deutsch was “Mein Kannichen ist töt”… now what’s the German word for “batteries” again?

http://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


SARAH NIXEY

sarah_nixey“I was brought up to the sound of the synthesizer, I learnt to dance to the beat of electronic drums” proclaimed Miss Nixey on the song ‘Andrew Ridgley’ in 2003. With BLACK BOX RECORDER, her sophisticated allure has probably been exasperated by her ice cold lack of availability. The sexy school headmistress fantasy was fully exploited on songs such as ‘The Facts of Life’and ‘The School Song’. “You lot need toughening up” she deadpanned on the latter as the order to dive into an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of February was given!

http://www.sarahnixey.com/


KARIN PARK

Karin-Park1The statuesque Swede has a towering, entrancing presence on stage with her animated stares and jerky movements. Between songs and offstage though, Karin Park is gregarious; quite the opposite of the other Karin (Dreijer-Andersson). An impressive multi-tasker who dabbles with a Korg MS20 and keytar as part of her act, she even succeeded in penning a credible Eurovision entry with the DM influenced ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Norwegian popstress Margaret Berger. Following the critical success of ‘Highwire Poetry’, her new album is eagerly awaited.

http://www.karinpark.com/


PAWWS

PAWWS_press_shot_credit-SIMON_WISBEYKnown to her parents as Lucy Taylor, the earthy flute playing North Londoner has done stints touring with MGMT, but having acquired a Roland JX8P and borrowed a Jupiter 8, her own sugary pop sound has been bolstered by a use of classic electronics. The Sunday Times described the title song from PAWWS‘ EP ‘Sugar’ as sounding “As if Kylie had worked with OMD” and as she finds her feet, she could fill the void left open by LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX for a UK synth songstress.

https://www.pawwsmusic.co.uk


HANNAH PEEL

Hannah Peel 2014If Berenice Scott is the sexy but strict school teacher of the list, then Hannah Peel is her sweet, smiling student counterpart. Known as part of JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ live presentation, the former Dennis Leigh described her look as being straight out the Andy Warhol ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ scene. The multi-talented Hannah has the most captivating synth girl wiggle while playing along to tracks such as ‘Catwalk’. Her own burgeoning solo career has seen her experimenting more with synthesizers as heard on her ‘Fabricstate’ EP.

http://www.hannahpeel.com


QUEEN OF HEARTS

Queen-of-Hearts-1-431x655If Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES can sometimes sound like Taylor Swift gone electro, then our young royal looks like Taylor Swift gone electro via Queen Amidala. She once tweeted: “If it ain’t electro, I don’t wish to know x”. Her debut album ‘Cocoon’ has been a long time coming but she has been steadily carving out a elegant niche and even adding her own vocals to DAFT PUNK instrumentals from ‘Tron Legacy’. QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing allure has won over many fans including Berlin based producer Mark Reeder, who has now worked with her on several occasions.

http://www.iamqueenofhearts.com/


FIFI RONG

FifiRong-01Beijing born Fifi Rong has taken music and fashion into some intriguing fusions. She first came to prominence as a member of THE TENORIONS, but has since embarked on a journey which has involved collaborations with TRICKY and releasing her first album ‘Wrong’ in 2013. With influences such as COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR, the development of her own traditionally inspired brand of crisp electronica has resulted in ‘Next Pursuit’, possibly her best work to date.

http://fifirong.com/


MARINA SCHIPTJENKO

Marina_pageThe ever smiling Maria Schiptjenko, along with Gillian Gilbert, was one of the first female synth players following the post-punk revolution as a member of Swedish duo PAGE, although their first album did not appear until 1991. Also a member of BWO, VACUUM and more recently JULIAN & MARINA, she has always possessed a European elegance that has served her well in all her projects, be they in music or art. Another exponent of the MicroKorg, Marina’s sophisticated poise has complimented the more intense, animated stance of PAGE partner Eddie Bengtsson on their recent live dates.

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop


POLLY SCATTERGOOD

Polly-Scattergood-MuteWith key influences such as Bjork and Kate Bush, Polly Scattergood has combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. At times like GOLDFRAPP crossed with COCTEAU TWINS and rousing with an air of fragility, her kooky on-stage persona delightfully combines Sarah Brightman with Sally Thomsett. Meanwhile, her lyrical vulnerability, as best exemplified on her most recent album ‘Arrows,’ is perfect listening on those rainy winter nights. And she even has her own Polly Moog, a Little Phatty no less!

http://www.pollyscattergood.com/


BERENICE SCOTT

Photo by Richard Price

Photo by Richard Price

Berenice Scott is currently HEAVEN 17’s live keyboardist and a solo artist in her own right with a new album ‘Polarity’ having just been released. TEC once described Berenice as “possibly the sexiest lady ever to get behind a synthesizer”. With her synth of choice being the Roland Fantom G8, in her short skirt and high heels, her appeal is enhanced even further by the fact she reminds you of your favourite school teacher. This is especially evoked with her raised eyebrow and stern look of disapproval whenever Messrs Gregory and Ware are larking about in front of her ‘desk’! No, she doesn’t smile much on stage, but like any good teacher, she is fully focussed on her job.

http://www.berenice-scott.co.uk/


EMILIE SIMON

As referenced in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, Mademoiselle Simon studied electronic music at the Sorbonne and then later the IRCAM. There she found “Using the computer meant that I also felt very independent artistically”. With a Kate Bush influenced dynamic, she exudes Gallic beauty and charm in her one woman shows where the Yamaha Tenorion and Casio guitar synth feature in addition to her array of keyboards. She also has a device not unlike Imogen Heap’s MIDI Gloves, courtesy of a Steampunk styled arm controller developed by Cyrille Brissot.

http://www.emiliesimon.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th June 2014, updated 13th May 2017

EMILIE SIMON The Big Machine

EMILIE SIMON’s ‘The Big Machine’ has finally secured a UK release and a good thing too.

With the recent success of LITTLE BOOTS and the return of GOLDFRAPP, this electro princess has timed her entrance at just the right moment to join the party and unleash her Gallic style of avant-pop.

This chanteuse from Montpellier has been a leading exponent of electro-chanson in her home country for several years now, releasing her first self-titled album in 2003 and winning critical acclaim.

Her second album in 2006 ‘Végétal’ continued her success while her original score to the European version of the film ‘March of the Penguins’ helped maintain her profile.

Her covers ranging from DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Space Oddity’ and IGGY POP’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ to the more traditional ‘La Vie En Rose’ showed her diverse range of influences. But as with all music artists, the ambition for more people hear your work always prevails.

So looking forward internationally and with backing from the massive Universal Music corporation, her new album ‘The Big Machine’ becomes her first to be completely sung in English, although a few songs feature phrases in French. Emilie has produced the album and written the majority of the music herself, but some of the lyrics have been written by English novelist Graham Joyce. The album’s release in France last September attracted an initially mixed response. Predictably, there was criticism to her singing in English and some even accused her of trying to go mainstream.

While EMILIE SIMON’s use of the Yamaha Tenorion during her live shows may mark her out as the French LITTLE BOOTS, her artistic ambitions while using synthesizer technology put her more in same circles as GOLDFRAPP or BJORK. ‘Dreamland’ is a case in point. Weird and arty with toy pianos and Theremins but at the same time, accessible with a rousing chorus; it has an esoteric quality to takes female-fronted electro off the dancefloor and into the study.

Uptempo opener ‘Rainbow’ is driven by buzzing bass synths alongside brass stabs before heading into a piano driven chorus that inevitably recalls KATE BUSH. And it’s this trait that will repel or endear you. However, Emilie’s voice possesses a feline beauty and while firmly singing in a higher register, her gorgeous accented tones ooze sensuality. But as the real Kate hasn’t produced anything worthwhile for many years, why not let her musical descendents take up the mantel and try to add something new to the template?

On the brilliant ‘Chinatown’ in particular, Emilie shows her love of the pentatonic scales in her vocals and instrumentation which punctuate the entire album. Not since JAPAN’s ‘Tin Drum’ has there been a European act that has successfully utilised such an electronically derived ethnic feel to as much effect.

In common with that album, ‘The Big Machine’ is uncluttered, using space and silence as effectively as the noise which makes up the music. At times, the aural stylings also bring to mind David Sylvian’s underrated protogees SANDII & THE SUNSETZ who supported JAPAN on their final 1982 tour.

The Oriental flavour continues on one of the album’s best tracks ‘The Cycle’ and the amazingly eclectic ‘The Way I See You’ which somehow manages to mix in some Balearic beats and a children’s choir.

‘Nothing To Do With You’ and ‘Ballad Of The Machine’ are more in the traditional kooky girl on a piano vein but even on these types of songs, there is always a smattering of inventive electro madness to redress the balance. Mademoiselle Simon is nothing short of quirky as her electro jazz tap number ‘Rocket To The Moon’ proves.

But don’t let the concept deter you… it’s finger clickin’ good! Think ‘Satin Chic’ by GOLDFRAPP! Punchy brass, thumping timpani and detuned bursts of synth modulation only add to this impressive highlight.

This is such a diverse and interesting take on electronic music. It’s a rewarding left-field pop album. If you like a challenge, then ‘The Big Machine’ may be for you.

With the open minded musical landscape in the UK at the moment, Florence and Marina need to watch their backs as this raven haired beauty comes over to these shores!


‘The Big Machine’ is released by Universal Music

EMILIE SIMON plays at London’s Jazz Cafe on Tuesday 20th April 2010

https://www.facebook.com/emiliesimonofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th March 2010, updated 20th October 2013

EMILIE SIMON Live at the Jazz Café

In the intimate confines of London’s Jazz Café, electronic chanteuse EMILIE SIMON gave a rare UK performance showcasing her first British release ‘The Big Machine’.

Although firmly established as a star in France since 2004 with her self-titled debut and its follow up ‘Vegetal’, ‘The Big Machine’ is the Brooklyn-based Mademoiselle’s first album primarily sung in English. Writing, playing, programming and producing all her own work, EMILIE SIMON is an embodiment of the truly independent female artist such as a KATE BUSH or a BJORK. As in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, she studied at the Sorbonne and was later a student at the IRCAM (L’Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique / Musique) which is a leader in its research into sound and electronic music. Her intricate synthetic textures and KATE BUSH influenced dynamic have transcended cultural barriers and appealed to a worldwide audience fascinated by her Gallic charm and inventive intelligent songwriting.

As the lights went down, she arrived on stage to a rapturous welcome completely solo and wearing a glamourous gold shoulder pad outfit. Wonderfully kooky, she slightly lost her footing as she stepped towards her ‘Big Machine’ but then kicked off her heels and opened with a bleepy sound collage before launching into ‘The Devil At My Door’. As well as her keyboard, laptop and a variety of synths, Emilie is accompanied by her faithful Yamaha Tenorion and an amazing effects gauntlet on her arm to provide all manner of echoes, phasing and distortion.

As she quickly went into the brilliant ‘Dreamland’, the heavy bass synths resonated around the venue while tinkling melodies complemented the avant electro. The chilling pentatonics of ‘Chinatown’ wonderfully run free while the satisfyingly incongruous Gregorian / Balearic hybrid of ‘The Way I See You’ actually gets some of the crowd singing along. Suitably impressed, Emilie glanced over to the protagonists and remarked “next time, you come up here and sing it with me”

One of the things that stand out this evening about EMILIE SIMON apart from her mastery of all the incumbent electronics is her voice. Whether she’s whispering or raging, her voice maintains a frisky feline quality.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s dynamic and expressive. For her, the voice is another instrument and in that respect, it almost goes unnoticed whether she’s actually singing in French or English, such is the beauty of the tracks on offer.

A stripped down interlude with the gorgeous ‘Flowers’ from her first album takes things down for a moment before Emilie swaps her acoustic guitar for a Casio guitar synth to play a fully mechanised beat cover of THE STOOGES’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. The brilliantly feisty result sounds like KRAFTWERK being eaten by BJORK and gets one of the biggest cheers of the night.

The climax to the show focuses on several key tracks from the new album including ‘The Cycle’ and ‘Rainbow’ before closing with electro-jazz tap of ‘Rocket To The Moon’. Here, Emilie grins and sexily finger clicks as she delivers one of the highlights from ‘The Big Machine’ to get the crowd going all Balboa!

Returning for a well deserved encore, she rewarded all the appreciation with another acoustic guitar number in ‘Fleur De Saison’ before taking to the Jazz Café’s grand piano for ‘Desert’ and ‘Nothing To Do With You’. On the latter, EMILIE SIMON’s love of KATE BUSH fully lets rip with a few eccentric wails and some dramatic ivory runs!

The show is a brilliantly impressive performance from one of the most talented musicians on the scene at the moment.

Proficient on keyboards and guitar, a lover of modern technology and very strong in the vocal department, this little lady deserves to be heard. To use an old fashioned term, her music is a grower.

EMILIE SIMON’s recent ‘Bedford’ live sessions on YouTube have echoed LITTLE BOOTS’ early bedroom performance clips and tonight’s charming solo electro-girl theatrics may now have indicated that she’s asserted herself in the territory that Miss Hesketh has vacated to pursue a more conventional pop career.

EMILIE SIMON will appeal to those who loved the original ‘concept’ of LITTLE BOOTS but may have been disappointed by the final product. C’est magnifique!


‘The Big Machine’ is released by Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/emiliesimonofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
21st April 2010