Tag: Eric Random

FINLAY SHAKESPEARE Solemnities

For Bristol-based Finlay Shakespeare, his interest in synths came from his parents’ record collection, with music from the likes of JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, KRAFTWERK, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and JAPAN.

An independent musical device manufacturer, he founded Future Sound Systems, building modular synthesizer components, predominantly for the Eurorack format.

But with his own music, his complex modular construction and anxious theatrics were inspired by Warp Records stalwarts AUTECHRE.

With a crystal clear modular synth sound coupled to claustrophobic vocals like they were buried in a box in the manner of FAD GADGET, among those impressed was Neil Arthur who invited Shakespeare to tour with BLANCMANGE in 2019. Live, he possessed the persona of a restless IT technician, delivering a hybrid of THE FAINT, THE KILLERS and THE BRAVERY dreaming of wires rather than guitars.

The material on his debut album ‘Domestic Economy’ was initiated by improvisation whilst being recorded live, with one of its highlights ‘Amsterdam’ being an example in modern Motorik. But ‘Solemnities’ is a definite progression, offering more shape and structure than its predecessor, but maintaining a distinct post-punk anguish.

Finlay Shakespeare said on Twitter: “Many of these tracks are becoming weirdly prescient with the current situation. I hope it’ll bring some degree of comfort, but simultaneously bring about some kind of call to arms. Things have to change and soon.”

The opening track ‘Occupation’ is superb, a metronomic squelch fest about social injustice which sees an angry and impassioned Shakespeare conduct a raucous avant noise experiment in song with penetrating noise percussion and icy retro-futuristic string machines.

The following ‘Fortune’ sounds almost synthpop in comparison; rather like Daniel Miller, Eric Random, Chris Carter, Thomas Leer and Robert Rental morphed into one, it is cold enough to be credible but melodic enough to have been in the charts back in the day alongside John Foxx, Gary Numan and Dindisc-era OMD.

‘The Information’ recalls THE HUMAN LEAGUE when Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh were helming the instrumentation, particularly ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ although with more of a percussive groove. However, as the synths starting ringing, it steadily mutates into Da League MkII with echoes of ‘Love Action’.

Moving at a more energetic pace and with Shakespeare’s honest vocals complimenting the backdrop, ‘Second Try’ makes good use of a tight pulsating bassline and synth generated rhythms like THROBBING GRISTLE reworking KRAFTWERK’s ‘The Robots’.

The banging techno punk of ‘Crisis’ is hypnotic and poignant to the current world health emergency, embroiled in a wall of thrusting energy, electronic voice approximations and screeching synths for something oddly euphoric. Its urgent on-message vocal charge isn’t far off from being an electronic take on THE JAM; an odd comment maybe but what’s not widely known is that Paul Weller was a fan of the John Foxx-led ULTRAVOX!

‘Fantasy’ is less shouty and more haunted vocally for what could only be described as an industrial ballad. The eerie electronic texturing and a multi-tracked choir of himself then mutates into a crystalline passage driven by heavy militaristic drum samples and ending with the blast of a deep synthetic kazoo section!

The metallic shiver of the frantic ‘She Says / Nothing Ends’ closes with a sub-eight minute epic. At times, it does sound like a range of crockery is being bashed in the manner of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Shout’, but as the track builds with layers of sequenced electronics and Shakespeare’s snarling voices, it verges on being almost trippy like a banging trance version of THE FAINT.

Wrapped in a marvellous dynamic tension with a balance of melody and freaky angst, Finlay Shakespeare delivers a fresh take on the experimental side of Synth Britannia that is strangely pop, but will satisfy those seeking more of a colder mechanised edge.

‘Solemnities’ contains a captivating mixture of flavours that work well together, capturing the intense spirit of his live performances.

There are a number of acts being hailed as the new saviours of electronic pop, but Finlay Shakespeare is the real deal, a gloriously wayward soul who simultaneously is also intriguingly disciplined.


‘Solemnities’ is released by Editions Mego in vinyl LP and digital formats, available now from https://editionsmego.bandcamp.com/album/solemnities

http://finlayshakespeare.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FinlayShakespeareUK/

https://twitter.com/FinShakespeare

https://www.instagram.com/finlayshakespeare/

https://www.futuresoundsystems.co.uk/

https://open.spotify.com/album/6ULuwiMRH1q4lm5scs6KHb


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Rob Davison and Chi Ming Lai
24th April 2020

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

RELIEF Futureproof

RELIEF is the project by Swedish instrumentalist Staffan Ericson who has most recently been a member of the mysteriously named LANDMARK 4:11.

While that project features vocals, RELIEF is retro-futuristic instrumental synthpop that uses samples from 50s commercials and Sci-Fi movies.

Recorded in Gothenburg over a three year period, ‘Futureproof’ falls into the current vogue for instrumental electronica, thanks to the popularity of Synthwave. But this is no Synthwave album, as it is far too dynamic, catchy and melodic to fall into that category.

The brilliant opener ‘Trough The Wires’, which originally premiered on the ‘Romo Night Records Vol 1: A Collection Of The New Brat’ compilation, sums up the album’s intentions as a melodic instrumental work which even throws in an unexpected key change. The following track ‘Say My Name’ with its harder bass arpeggio is like Jean-Michel Jarre with nothing to fear, while ‘The Gathering’ keeps the synthpop alive with a squelching rumble and the reminiscent air of LADYTRON and ‘Turn It On’ in particular.

‘Modern Life’ seems moodier but doesn’t let up with percussive magnetic overtones before ‘Shades and Light’ literally provides sparkly relief alongside the atmospheric electro-disco bounce of ‘In the Air’. ‘The Mercury Effect’ has a spikier cinematic drama while also in the filmic vein is ‘The Polygon’.

But ‘!= TheEnd’ is slightly more doom laden as per the title but is constructed with a lattice of electronic hypnotism. The more frantic ‘Arise’ veers towards proggier textures as the throbbing legacy of Giorgio Moroder looms on ‘Seconds of Eternity’. Ending on a dystopian note with understated vocoder, ‘Einbrush Aus Mintropstrasse’ can be seen as something of a KRAFTWERK tribute, ending in a barrage of sirens.

‘Futureproof’ shows itself as a well-produced album that focusses on melody and hooks rather than mood. Very immediate, it acts as a fine Nordic companion to Eric Random and his ‘Wire Me Up’ long player with some of the best instrumental electronic music released this year.


‘Futureproof’ is released by Plastic Men Records, available now as a download from https://relief-gbg.bandcamp.com/

https://open.spotify.com/album/5CNlrkkY4tRi7ufgmT9a7f?si=XZVyYJsGQp-sbSx0t_niAA


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th September 2019

ERIC RANDOM Wire Me Up

Manchester electronic veteran Eric Random has a fascinating history as a Factory Club stalwart in THE TILLER BOYS and post-punk experimentalist.

As a member of BUZZCOCKS’ inner circle, his first album ‘That’s What I Like About Me’ came out in 1980 on New Hormones ‎who released the seminal ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP; it was co-produced by Stephen Mallinder and Random later worked with CABARET VOLTAIRE on their ‘2X45’ album.

But Random made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’ released by Austrian label Klanggalerie, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES. ‘Words Made Flesh’ then appeared in 2016 before being quickly followed by ‘Two Faced’ a year later.

With his new work ‘Wire Me Up’ released by analogue underground independent Sleepers Records, Random’s stark style of presentation remains, but his vocals in the vein of FAD GADGET take a breather on this primarily instrumental set. However, vocodered vocals do appear by ‘Stealth’ over a chromatic soundtrack of rhythmic passages not unlike DEPECHE MODE when they were good, while they are more robotically direct on the obviously KRAFTWERK-inspired ‘Systematic’.

But it all starts with the gentle pulsing of ‘Nothing Is True’, although that mood is immediately offset by the playful noise arrangements on ’Target’. ‘Monochrome’ offers something dark and bleepy as a slice of voice sample laden electro, with the occasional clatter of an 808 snare and some doomy synth vibrato providing a suitably anxious feel. Meanwhile ‘Commence Countdown’ is catchy techno-funk despite its fits of industrialised noise terror.

Held around a hypnotic bassline, the eerie sweeps of ‘Skid Row’ recall the arthouse cinematic work of John Foxx, while cut from a similar sheet of steel, the brilliant ‘You Seem The Same’ exploits a minimal use of vocoder while catching the ear with some wonderful bursts of cold vox humana strings over what can only be described as a bouncy backbone.

Chunkily uptempo, ’The Louder You Scream’ is accessible with a wide range of buzzy textures and chilling vibes. With lashings of synth arpeggios and simplistic claps, ‘Hypnophobia’ has menace in its claustrophobic air before it all ends with the comparatively ambient overtures of ‘The Outsider’.

‘Wire Me Up’ is an enjoyable collection of classic synth instrumentals with an edge. For those who prefer their electronica to be vocal-free but desiring a musical hook every now and then, Eric Random’s double length long player is an ideal listening experience.


‘Wire Me Up’ is released as double vinyl LP by Sleepers Records, audio preview and information on stockists at https://soundcloud.com/sleepersound-2/eric-random-wire-me-up

https://www.facebook.com/theericrandom/

https://twitter.com/theericrandom

https://www.ltmrecordings.com/eric_random.html

https://www.instagram.com/theericrandom/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th June 2019

ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2016

mark-reeder-and-john-foxxThe ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE held its second event at Düsseldorf’s CCD following the success of the inaugural gathering.

With impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music, former NEW ORDER bassist Peter Hook, OMD’s Andy McCluskey, HEAVEN 17, WRANGLER, MICHAEL ROTHER, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS were among those who took part in 2015.

For the 2016 event, JOHN FOXX, STEVE D’AGOSTINO, RUSTY EGAN, MARSHEAUX, CULT WITH NO NAME, JIMI TENOR, JORI HULKKONEN and ERIC RANDOM played live while among the speakers were DANIEL MILLER, CHRIS LIEBING, MARK REEDER and CHRIS PAYNE.

The conference coincided with co-organiser Rudi Esch publishing ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, an English language version of his acclaimed book documenting the development of the city’s innovative and inspiring music scene which spawned acts such as KRAFTWERK, DAF, RIECHMANN, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF. With Jochen Oberlack of Bellerophon Records acting as the weekend’s Master of Ceremonies, the first of the special international guests was MARK REEDER.

mark-reeder-in-dusseldorf2016Presenting his acclaimed documentary ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West-Berlin 1979-1989’, the film captured the music, art and chaos of West Berlin before the infamous wall came tumbling down.

But as Reeder explained in his charmingly fluent Mancunian lilted German to Tassilo Dicke in the Q&A afterwards, the enclosed conscription free environment allowed a creative melting pot to emerge where everything and anything seemed possible.

Next up was CHRIS PAYNE in an interview hosted by The Electricity Club. Best known as a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979-1990 and for co-writing VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ with Billy Currie and Midge Ure, the Cornishman began by demonstrating his bass Cornamuse, a double reed instrument from the 14th Century.

chris-payne-and-cornamuseRevealing that he studied Medieval music, he even treated the audience to a quick burst of ‘Cars’ before reflecting on its limitations and therefore highlighting the expansive possibilities of synthesizers.

Now domiciled in Normandy, he happily chatted about his period with Numan, recalling how he had 21 keyboards in his armoury and some of the practical jokes he played on the 1979 support act OMD.

At this time, OMD were a duo comprising of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys plus a third member Winston. Despite some electronic music publications stating Winston was a drum machine, Payne confirmed that Winston was most definitely a tape recorder. And on the final night of the UK leg of ‘The Touring Principle’ at Hammersmith Odeon, Payne thought it would be amusing to put on the lock of the TEAC A344 4-track reel-to-reel to stop it from playing.

chris-rusty-markThe genesis of ‘Fade To Grey’ occurred during soundchecks on ‘The Touring Principle’, but Payne recalled how the song’s cyclic structure had been composed during his time at music college. With regards the song’s female French voice, while the eventual German No1 featured RUSTY EGAN’s then-girlfriend Brigitte, the idea had come from Monsieur Payne and featured on the original recording made at Martin Rushent’s Genetic Studios with a different lyric.

Mute Records impresario DANIEL MILLER and techno guru CHRIS LIEBING followed and while Miller reflected on his love of German music which inspired his own recordings, he highlighted the musical kinship he had with Liebing and even joked that they would probably want to play exactly the same tracks during their DJ sets later that night at the Time Warp club night hosted by Salon des Amateurs.

eric-random-2016The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was about live music too and Manchester electronic veteran ERIC RANDOM had the honour of opening proceedings. Random recently released his new album ‘Words Made Flesh’ on Austrian record label Klanggalerie, but the one-time CABARET VOLTAIRE and NICO collaborator made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES.

Opening with his set with the groovy ‘Knock Yourself Out’, he captured the ethos of the weekend with his sinister but funky, voice sample laden electro. Occasionally adding vocoder and his own FAD GADGET inspired vocals as on the hard beat driven ‘Let It Go’, the Germanic environment more that suited his stark style of presentation.

marsheaux-live2016MARSHEAUX’s appearance prompted dancing in the aisles and despite monitor issues, the duo delivered a fine performance which can soon be witnessed in the UK at TEC004 in Norwich.

The brooding aggression of ‘Burning’ from the new album ‘Ath.Lon’ proved to be a highlight, while other newbies such as ‘Safe Tonight’ sat well next to slightly reworked fan favourites like ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Dream Of A Disco’ and ‘Come On Now’.

A beautiful rendition of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ won over anyone who wasn’t already convinced, with two new converts being Claudia Schneider-Esleben, sister of KRAFTWERK co-founder Florian and JOHN FOXX who sat absorbed throughout the entire set.

chris-payne-liveFinishing proceedings on day one was RUSTY EGAN with a part live-part DJ presentation of his upcoming record ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.

Augmented by NIKONN and CHRIS PAYNE, it began with a marvellous dual overture where the latter performed instrumental piano based renditions of ‘Down In The Park’ and ‘Fade To Grey’, while sneaking in snatches of Numan evergreens ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ as well.

Seguing into the ‘Nu Cinematic’ ambient version of VISAGE’s German No1 featuring Payne on violin, there was then the surprise inclusion of the beautiful VISAGE instrumental ‘Whispers’; this was not entirely successful as the monitor problems continued, but it was a brave choice and more than welcome for that very reason.

rusty-egan-live-2016Erik Stein from CULT WITH NO NAME joined the ensemble for ‘Ballet Dancer’ and ‘Love Is Coming My Way’, his voice more than complimenting the two synth heavy tunes before the video playback section. Featuring the lead vocals of Andy Huntley, Midge Ure, Emily Kavanaugh and Tony Hadley, such was his enthusiasm, Egan couldn’t resist joining in on the mic. But Egan got his turn on lead when he morphed into an MC for ‘Wonderwerke’, adding a “was ist das?” snarl shaped by his inimitable London swagger.

Closing the main set with ‘Thank You’, Egan’s vocodered list of musical heroes over layers of sweeping synths even prompted him to walk into the audience to encourage their additional robotised contributions.

The following day began with artists and journalists being given an informal tour of Düsseldorf by Rudi Esch. The landmarks included Düsseldorf HBF where KRAFTWERK had their iconic monochromatic photo on Gleis 17 taken and the entrance to the former Kling Klang studios.

john-foxx-talks-about-conny-plankAmong those present were JOHN FOXX and MARSHEAUX, with one particularly memorable moment taking place outside Der Ratinger Hof, when Foxx held court as he chatted about working with Conny Plank on ‘Systems Of Romance’. Appropriately, formal second day proceedings began with the showing of ‘Keine Atempause – Düsseldorf, Der Ratinger Hof und Die Neue Musik’, a film about the city’s music scene followed by a panel Q&A.

But afterwards, a familiar character from Berlin reappeared. The scheduled speaker MARTYN WARE had unfortunately been taken ill, so MARK REEDER kindly stepped in with an interview in English conducted by The Electricity Club. This chat differed slightly from the day before, focussing on Reeder’s own music career and his long association with NEW ORDER.

Interviewed by German journalist Ecki Stieg, JOHN FOXX gave a marvellously eloquent talk covering his entire career. Working with Brian Eno on the first ULTRAVOX! album, the one-time ROXY MUSIC synthesist told Foxx it was important to keep a space at the end of an album to make a new song out of nothing; that nothing of course became ‘My Sex’. Reflecting on the recording of ‘Systems Of Romance’ to applause from the attentive audience, Foxx also declared Conny Plank as the most important record producer since George Martin.

john-foxx-at-electri_city_conferenceDespite the innovation of his debut solo album ‘Metamatic’, Foxx moved away from pure electronics due to criticism that his music was cold. At the time he thought “Maybe I’ve done the wrong thing… it made me afraid of my own music in a way… I’ve never been any good at judging the quality of what I do, I like it but don’t know if it’s any good or not!” – this led to the more band oriented sound of the follow-up ‘The Garden’ which included the actual ‘Systems Of Romance’ song.

Talking about his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, Foxx said “I wanted to combine electronics with psychedelia… I think I failed because I tried to fit too many favourite things together. It’s always a mistake, it’s like having a meal with all your favourite food, you have fish and pudding and cake and soup and it’s not good! You might love them all, but if you put them on the same plate… but it was out of enthusiasm so I can forgive my younger self for making mistakes like that!”

cult-with-no-name-dusseldorf-2106Post-punk balladeers CULT WITH NO NAME and their inherent laid-back atmospheres provided the perfect transition into the evening’s programme of live music.

While many of CULT WITH NO NAME’s songs are piano based, it’s when they mix in some uptempo electronic tension that things get really interesting. This was exemplified by ‘Rosabelle Believe’, a new song featuring Steven Brown of cult art rockers TUXEDOMOON.

Also including the best known number ‘Breathing’, those still recovering from the techno and deep house barrage at Time Warp on the night before would have found this set most welcoming.

Premiered in 2014 at London’s South Bank, JOHN FOXX and STEVE D’AGOSTINO supported by visual artist KARBORN gave an assured performance of ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’, “a unique investigation of the terrors and pleasures of temporal displacement. A sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”.

evidence-of-time-travel-02KARBORN’s cut-up images and filmed segments complimented the stark and stoic soundtrack.

A continually evolving audio / visual experience, the finale of ‘Empty Clothing Blows Across A Beach’ saw Katia Isakoff join the trio on a Moog Theremin as they locked into a wonderfully trippy improvisation with disturbing schizophrenic voices also reverberating around the enclosure.

The second day concluded with a unique presentation of the silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Featuring a live improvised soundtrack from Finnish musicians JIMI TENOR and JORI HULKKONEN, the film stars MR NORMALL as its central, alien character. Seemingly manufactured in outer space, MR NORMALL explores the woods, stares intensely and even rides a motorcycle sidecar combination through a tunnel in Helsinki with a Shetland sheepdog named Louis.

nuntius-film-02The film’s accompanying music ranged from blippy ambient to frantic motorik, with Tenor occasionally taking to a flute while Hulkkonen brought out his portable Trautonium, an electronic instrument with a pressure sensitive glided board and whose conceptual origins date back to 1929. The whole experience was totally mindbending and when MR NORMALL appeared on stage with Tenor and Hulkkonen, things became even more surreal.

It was fabulous weekend that was a reminder of Düsseldorf’s importance as a centre for art, culture and fashion. With the rising profile of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE, the 2017 event will be a must-attend date in next year’s diary.


rudi-at-der-ratinger-hofThe Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Live performances can be viewed at
http://concert.arte.tv/de/electricity-conference

www.electricity-conference.com/

www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference

www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/

daniel-miller-und-chris-liebingwww.jorihulkkonen.com/

www.facebook.com/jimitenor/

www.mrnormall.net/

www.metamatic.com/

www.altersonicsound.com/

www.karborn.com/

women-produce-and-love-electronic-musicwww.cultwithnoname.com/

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.electronicmusiclibrary.com/

www.facebook.com/undonikonn/

http://marsheaux.com/

https://twitter.com/theericrandom

john-foxx-marsheauxhttp://mute.com/

www.clr.net/

www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/

www.electroniccircus.co.uk/

https://bellerophon-records.com/

www.groenland.com/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Markus Luigs, Roger Kamp, Lola Li and Chi Ming Lai
23rd October 2016