Tag: Fader (Page 1 of 3)

A Beginner’s Guide To BENGE

Developing on a childhood fascination with electronic sound, after finishing art school, Ben Edwards set up a music studio in London and began acquiring discarded vintage synthesizers to equip it.

Under his nickname of Benge, he released his debut album ‘Electro-Orgoustic Music’ in 1995 on his own Expanding Label.

But in 2011, he became best known for his role as Chief Mathematician and collaborative partner in JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS.

By this time, what had now become Benge’s MemeTune Studios was housing one of the largest collections of working vintage synthesizers in the world and was the location for several interviews filmed for the BBC documentary ‘Synth Britannia’.

Among the equipment were modular systems from Moog, Serge, E-Mu, Formant and Buchla, the ARP 2500 and 2600, digital systems like the Synclavier and Fairlight CMI, drum machines including the Linn LM1, Roland TR808 and CR78 as well as classic polyphonic keyboards such as the Yamaha CS80, Polymoog, Oberheim 4-Voice, ARP Omni and the less celebrated EMS Polysynthi.

As a collaborator, John Foxx said Benge was “Really good – Intelligent, knowledgeable, technically blinding. He does remind me of Conny Plank. Same generosity and ability, same civilized manner – even looks similar.”

Benge left London and relocated MemeTune Studios to Cornwall in 2015, but with artists savouring this more remote setting near some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in England, he is now busier than ever as his recent production portfolio has shown.

So by way of a Beginner’s Guide to Benge, here are eighteen examples of his work, subject to a limit of one track per artist moniker or combination, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. As his own blog says “It’s full of stars”!


TENNIS Weakness Together (2001)

Benge’s instrumental duo with Douglas Benford, TENNIS released their second album ‘Europe On Horseback’ just as dub electronica seemed to be all the rage. Scratchy and weirdly hypnotic with hidden hooks at over eight and a half minutes, the metallic percussive notions of ‘Weakness Together’ with its metronomic rhythms and solemn Cold War synths came together for a great highlight. A third long player ‘Furlines’ emerged in 2003 with ‘The Horseback Mixes’ as a bonus.

Available on the TENNIS album ‘Europe On Horseback’ via BiP_Hop Records

https://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/


BENGE 1969 EMS VCS3 (2008)

Noted for his experimental solo albums, Benge’s most acclaimed was 2008’s ‘Twenty Systems’. It was an insightful soundtrack exploring how electronic sound architecture has evolved from using transistors to integrated circuits and from ladder filters to Fourier approximation. With each track crafted from a singular instrument, Brian Eno described it as “A brilliant contribution to the archaeology of electronic music” while it was via this album that Benge came to the attention of John Foxx.

Available on the BENGE album ‘Twenty Systems’ via Expanding Records

https://twitter.com/zackdagoba


SERAFINA STEER How To Haunt A House Party (2010)

Legend has it that Serafina Steer’s union with Benge occurred when her harp was stolen and he made synths available to fill in for the intended harp parts. One of the more electronic tracks ‘How To Haunt A House Party’ added drum machine and the spacey accompaniment complimented the songstress’ quirky brand of kitchen sink introspection. ‘Change is Good, Change is Good’ got an endorsement from Jarvis Cocker, the PULP front man declaring it one of his favourite albums of the year.

Available on the SERAFINA STEER album ‘Change Is Good, Change Is Good’ via Static Caravan

http://www.serafinasteer.com/


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS Watching A Building On Fire (2011)

Joining forces with Benge, John Foxx found the perfect creative foil to further his earlier analogue ambitions, only this time combined with a warmth that had not been apparent on ‘Metamatic’ or his work with Louis Gordon. The best track on their debut album ‘Interplay’ was a co-written duet with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON entitled ‘Watching A Building On Fire’. With its chattering drum machine and accessible Trans- European melodies, it was an obvious spiritual successor to ‘Burning Car’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Interplay’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


OMD Dresden – JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix (2013)

The first band that the young Ben Edwards ever saw live was OMD, thanks to them opening for Gary Numan in 1979. He presented a suitably harsh remix to suit the harrowing lyrical tone of ‘Dresden’. But Andy McCluskey of OMD said: “‘Dresden’ is a whopping great, unsubtle metaphor… it’s not about the bombing of Dresden in the same way as ‘Enola Gay’ was about the aeroplane that dropped the atom bomb.”

Available on the OMD single ‘Dresden’ via BMG

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


GAZELLE TWIN Exorcise (2014)

The moniker of Elizabeth Bernholz, the secomd GAZELLE TWIN second album ‘Unflesh’ with additional production and mixing by Benge, allowed the Brighton-based songstress to extract her demons with some artistic violence. One of the highlights ‘Exorcise’ was an impressively aggressive cross between PINK FLOYD’s ‘One The Run’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’. Its uneasy resonance was aided by Bernholz’s harsh, deadpan commentary.

Available on the GAZELLE TWIN album ‘Unflesh’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray

https://www.gazelletwin.com/


HANNAH PEEL & BENGE Find Peace (2014)

Hannah Peel joined JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in 2011 and became one of the MemeTune family, eventually taking over the studio space when Benge relocated. At the time her most overtly electronic song yet, she teamed up with Benge for a haunting modern day seasonal hymn. With a suitably poignant message, ‘Find Peace’ was a Christmas song longing for the cold but merry winters of yesteryear under the modern day spectre of global warming, armed conflict and political tension.

Available on the HANNAH PEEL single ‘Find Peace’ via My Own Pleasure

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


WRANGLER Lava Land (2014)

A trio featuring Benge, Stephen Mallinder ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE and of TUNNG’s Phill Winter, the WRANGLER manifesto was to harness “lost technology to make new themes for the modern world”. ‘Lava Land’ saw Mallinder’s voice manipulations ranging from demonic gargoyle to stern drowning robot. The frantic pace was strangely danceable but the twisted mood was distinctly unsettling and dystopian, especially when the screeching steam powered Logan string machine kicked in.

Available on the WRANGLER album ‘LA Spark’ via by Memetune Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/


GHOST HARMONIC Codex (2015)

GHOST HARMONIC omprisedof John Foxx and Benge alongside violinist Diana Yukawa. ‘Codex’ evolved over the space of a couple of years. Foxx said: “the underlying intention was we all wanted to see what might happen when a classically trained musician engaged with some of the possibilities a modern recording studio can offer…” The result was a startling dynamic between Yukawa’s heavily treated violin and the looming electronics. Closing the album, the title track was a string and synth opus of soothing bliss.

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS featuring GARY NUMAN Talk (2016)

‘Talk’ has been used by John Foxx to explore different approaches from a singular idea with other kindred spirits such as Tara Busch and Matthew Dear. ‘Talk (Are You Listening To Me?)’ finally saw Gary Numan working on a track with his long-time hero who he had admired since the ULTRAVOX! days. His take naturally screamed alienation and fully exploited his haunting classic synth overtures, thanks to Benge’s use of a Polymoog and his effective application of its swooping ribbon controller.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ’21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City’ via Metamatic Records

http://garynuman.com/


FADER 3D Carpets (2017)

While BLANCMANGE’s ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ was the first time Benge and Neil Arthur worked together, their FADER duo project saw the former instigating the music as opposed to working on already written songs. Working on their parts separately, Neil Arthur said “In FADER, Benge will send me the embryonic musical idea and I’m reacting to what he’s given me” ;‘3D Carpets’ captured an independent post-punk intensity, like JOY DIVISION or THE CURE but realised with electronics rather than guitars.

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader/


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame (2017)

“Benge and I had always wanted to write together, so we took the opportunity to do so here, by expanding on the ‘Zombies 1985’ world.” said Tara Busch of how he became involved in the soundtrack of I SPEAK MACHINE’s short film about greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to a zombie apocalypse going on around him. The brilliant ‘Shame’ was a wonderful hybrid of THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

https://www.ispeakmachine.com/


LONE TAXIDERMIST Home (2017)

LONE TAXIDERMIST is the vehicle of Cumbrian lass Natalie Sharp, a performance artist who believes “Your body is a sensory device”. With Phill Winter of TUNNG and WRANGLER among the collaborators, Benge acted as co-producer and released the album himself. The debut album’s opening song ‘Home’ made Sharp’s avant pop intentions clear with a catchy throbbing outline and a wonderfully wayward vocal style crossing Grace Jones with Ari Up.

Available on the LONE TAXIDERMIST album ‘Trifle’ via MemeTune Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/lonetaxidermist/


BLANCMANGE In Your Room (2018)

Working with Benge again on what was effectively their third album together, Neil Arthur has undoubtedly found comfort in their partnership. ‘Wanderlust’ was possibly BLANCMANGE’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation and from it, ‘In Your Room’ was a great slice of vintage robopop, with a vocoder aesthetic and an assortment of manipulated sounds at a reasonably uptempo pace. “Lyrically it was about being content with something quite simple” added Arthur.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ via Blanc Check Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound (2018)

With eclectic US singer / songwriter John Grant joining forces with the WRANGLER boys Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phill Winter at MemeTune Studios, CREEP SHOW was something of an electronic meeting of minds. On the resultant album ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK vs Moroder hybrid using dark analogue electronics, gradually revealing some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Mr Dynamite’ via Bella Union

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/


JOHN GRANT He’s Got His Mother’s Hips (2018)

Following the artistic success of the CREEP SHOW collaboration, it was only natural that Benge would step up to produce John Grant’s number four solo album ‘Love Is Magic’ to more allow the Icelandic-domiciled American to fully embrace his love of electronic music. Making use of a vintage synth brass line, the mutant crooner disco of ‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’ was driven by a delicious synthetic groove while not forgetting to include an uplifting chorus.

Available on the JOHN GRANT album ‘Love Is Magic’ via Bella Union

https://johngrantmusic.com/


LUMP Hand Hold Hero (2018)

Lyrically inspired by the apparent emptiness of contemporary life, when British nu-folk queen Laura Marling teamed up with Mike Lindsay, co-founder of acid-folkies TUNNG and Benge’s one-time partner-in-crime, it called for something out-of-the-box and that came courtesy of Benge’s Moog Modulars. A hypnotic sequencer line provided the backbone to ‘Hand Hold Hero’ for a rather unusual slice of Sci-Fi Country ‘N’ Western that met ‘On the Run’ somewhere on the Virginia plains.

Available on the LUMP album ‘Lump’ via Dead Oceans

https://www.facebook.com/thisisLUMP/


OBLONG Echolocation (2019)

It only took 13 years to follow-up their debut record ‘Indicator’, but with the second OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio of Benge, Dave Nice and Sid Stronarch delivered a collection of rustic electro-acoustic organically farmed electronica! With mood and pace, ‘Echolocation’ was a classic synth instrumental with its crystalline textures and charming slightly off-key blips, aurally reflecting the remote moorland location in Cornwall where it was recorded.

Available on the OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’ via MemeTune Recordings

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th March 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

FADER In Shadow

Synth superduo FADER have followed up their 2017 debut album ‘First Light’ with a collection of slightly more minimal introspective songs appropriately entitled ‘In Shadow’.

Comprising of Neil Arthur from BLANCMANGE and Benge, best known for his work with WRANGLER and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, this is a less aurally harsh proposition than modern day BLANCMANGE.

Delicate in disposition, darker and moodier overtones exude with the spectre of insomnia a dominant factor.

Allowing more time for deeper thinking and worry, Neil Arthur’s lyrics play with the disturbed consciousness, while from his Memetune Studios in the Cornwall countryside, Benge concocts a minimal underground aesthetic to surround it.

With the frantic powertrain of ‘Always Suited Blue’ and its obvious state of the nation commentary, all appears business as usual for FADER but it’s something of a red herring. The phrase “the psycho in you, in me” is anger fuelled by a dislike of politicians, particularly the worldwide rise of the right wing.

Although upper mid-tempo, ‘Midnight Caller’ with its primitive drum machine is quite minimal, naturally nocturnal in air, sombre in its bass structure. Taking a steadier stuttering pace, ‘What Did It Say’ also follows the minimal path, with Arthur deep in thought, asking lots of questions and seeking lots of answers.

The solemn ‘Youth On A Wall’ with an electronic processed vocal template asking “why is everyone sick on TV?” features some fabulous buzzing reverberant synths which act as an appropriate backdrop to whatever is “fading from our view”. Taking to 6/8 time, ‘Whispering’ is stark and stripped with Arthur doing as it says on the tin, accompanied by haunting sweeps of synths.

With an ‘Aspirational’ lift, the second half screeches to life with wobbly squelches and dystopian counterpoints providing a Cold Wave air reminiscent of Eric Random and John Foxx. ‘Enemy Fighter’ diverts to a bit of drum n bass, even sounding hand played for a looser feel while swathed in mysterious electronic voice treatments. But the mood subsides on ‘Mindsweeper’ and the ‘In Shadow’ title track with sparing guitar appearing on the latter.

With a hypnotic arpeggio, ‘Every Page’ alters the palette and adopts some subtle metallic rattles next to sharp Klingklang percussion blips, but is very bare in its exquisite presentation, haunted by a recurring ghostly chant of “No1”. Closing with the pressure drop of ‘Reporting’, Arthur displays a total air of resignation like the aural equivalent of The Bends.

A by-product of the gloomy world that we currently live in, ‘In Shadow’ reflects an understated anger that will be seen by future generations as a time capsule capturing one of the most bizarre periods in modern British history, a time when the working classes backed disaster capitalists like turkeys voting for Christmas…


‘In Shadow’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th October 2019 as a CD and download, pre-order from https://fader.tmstor.es/

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader

https://twitter.com/WeAre_Fader


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th October 2019

A Short Conversation with FADER

Photo by Piers Allardyce

Together, Neil Arthur and Benge are FADER. While Arthur is front man of BLANCMANGE, Benge is best known for his work with WRANGLER, CREEP SHOW and JOHN FOXX &THE MATHS.

Following the critical acclaim for their 2017 debut long player ‘First Light’, a second FADER album entitled ‘In Shadow’ is about to be unleashed for public consumption at the end of October.

Perhaps musically more introspective than its predecessor, ‘In Shadow’ however finds Neil Arthur expressing an understated frustration and anger with the world at large.

Neil Arthur and Benge kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about their latest collaboration and its more minimal approach.

How do you look back on the making and reception of the debut FADER album ‘First Light’?

Neil: The making was more or less the same approach, in terms of how we work. That is, initially remotely, exchanging files and a number of conversations online and by phone.

The reception seemed to be favourable, although it would have been good to sell a few more I guess. Creating the first album was an exciting step into the unknown, as we’d not worked together before, but after a couple of FADER and a brace of BLANCMANGE recordings, I’m constantly surprised, in a positive way, at Benge’s approach and the results therein.

Benge: The first album was a bit of an anomaly for us both really. It came out of a very unusual situation, and the results took us both by surprise, which is always a good thing.

On that album, I had written 90% of the music beforehand, on a trip to LA a few years before I had met Neil. The tracks had been sitting on a hard drive waiting for someone to put vocals on them. I was lucky enough to meet Neil one day and the idea was suggested that we collaborate on an album project, and FADER was born.

The reception was really great to the debut – maybe because no one was expecting it, and maybe also because it had a fairly unique and original sound to it, which was the result of the unique process we had gone through to get it made.

The follow-up ‘In Shadow’ as the title suggests, appears to be darker and moodier in tone?

Neil: When Benge sent over his initial instrumental ideas, I thought the tracks were more melodic than those on ‘First Light’, which I thought would lead to a lighter tone and feel, but when it came to doing the lyrics, I just followed my noise and went down a moodier path!

Benge: The second album also came about in quite an odd way, because neither of us had sat down together and decided to write new material for it really. It was another case of me sending a whole bunch of tracks over to Neil, and him listening to them all and hearing a sonic theme and then working on the vocals and lyrics and responding to my tracks.

I have a way of working sometimes where I will set up a synth and a sequencer or drum machine in the corner of the studio and leave it there for a week or so, with a tape to record any little sketches I might come up with while I am exploring. After several months, I found I had a bunch of tracks that sounded like they might work as new FADER material, because they had a certain simple melodic structure to them that I thought Neil would get his head round and twist it all up with his vocals. So as I say, I sent them all over to him in a zip file and waited for a response. A few days later these amazing songs started popping up in my in box. It was really exciting for me.

Has insomnia been a factor and given more time for deeper thinking?

Neil: Well, for various reasons I don’t sleep to well or when I do get some rest, I don’t sleep for long. That does lead to some early morning mind wanderings.

Is the core of the creative dynamic to be in the same room for each song’s conception, or is remote working the fastest, most practical method?

Neil: The practicals dictate on the whole how we work. That said, I like this method, at first working remotely, exchanging ideas, as the project starts to take its shape. It’s like getting a musical present or surprise, each time I see a WeTransfer arrive from Benge. As I mentioned earlier, always a surprise!

But when you do get together at the MemeTune base in remote Cornwall, it must be a wonderful place to work with no city distractions?

Neil: It’s a brilliant studio to work in and when the perspective is needed, there’s always the dog to be walked up on Bodmin, the pub, the coast or a bike ride.

Benge: Yes, that’s my favourite bit of the process, when you get together in the studio and you can hear an album take shape. It’s a magical thing. The songs begin to make sense (if that’s possible with Neil’s lyrics!), and the things that need to be done on each song reveal themselves all of a sudden.

Sometimes it’s a case of maybe adding a synth line, tweaking an arrangement, or maybe taking things away and simplifying the track as much as possible.

Is ‘Always Suited Blue’ fuelled by a dislike of politicians maybe?

Neil: I have a dislike for some politicians, the careerist, self-serving, bullying type, who are no use, to man nor beast, but no, it’s not fuelled by that.

Some of the album’s vocals are deeper than say the more recent BLANCMANGE work, like on ‘What Did It Say’ and ‘Reporting’? The latter just captures a total air of resignation…

Neil: I think from memory, I did some of the vocals sitting down. That could have got me taking a more intimate and deeper tone. I’ve always had a pretty low voice, maybe it’s breaking!

The approaches to ‘Midnight Caller’, ‘What Did It Say?’ and ‘Whispering’ are quite minimal?

Neil: Benge and I spend a lot of time editing out during the mix stage, to see how little is needed to complete the track. Sometimes there’s a tendency to add layers, because you can and maybe there’s an idea that seems to work with the one that’s already there.

But if the original sound, or part is standing up for itself, why add to it? So we don’t, we save that idea for another song, another time.

‘Enemy Fighter’ pulls out a bit of drum n bass, but what might it be referring to, is it literal or metaphoric?

Neil: Lyrically, it centres on a characters moment of reflection, while in the heat of a battle and in a certain death situation. The tuned vocals seemed to fit.

What sort of instruments were you largely turning to for ‘In Shadow’, had there been any particular paint palette set behorehand?

Benge: The songs were each borne from a handful of monosynths and polysynths as I mentioned before, all of them being from the late 1970s or early 80s. If I remember correctly, the main ones were Korg DV800, Roland Jupiter 6, Oberheim Xpander, Roland SH101 and then some early digital drum machines, like the Casio RZ1, Korg DDD1 and Roland TR505.

So what was this Butler 100 synth Neil was referring to in his last BLANCMANGE interview that Benge later commented didn’t exist? *laughs*

Neil: Ha ha, I think when we did the interview you misheard. We had been using a Buchla synth.

It got Benge and I inventing imaginary synth names – the Jeeves 2000, Wooster V2. PG 808 etc.

Benge: My favourite synth of all time – the Lambert & Butler Sound Modulator 400

NEAR FUTURE have done and CREEP SHOW + KINCAID are going out live, would that be a possibility for FADER in the future?

Neil: We do talk about that. It would be great. How about the Minack theatre?

Benge: Or the Eden Project gift shop?


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to FADER

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘In Shadow’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th October 2019 in CD and download formats, pre-order from https://fader.tmstor.es/

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader

https://twitter.com/WeAre_Fader


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th September 2019

BLANCMANGE: The Wanderlust Interview

BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur is probably the most prolific man in electronic music at the moment.

Hot on the heels of 2017’s ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ comes ‘Wanderlust’, an album which sees a more expansive sonic palette after the minimalistic approach of its predecessor.

Co-produced again by Benge, the synth collector extraordinaire best known for his work in JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW, it sees the continuation of a productive relationship which has also led to artists such as John Grant and Hannah Peel contributing their talents to the BLANCMANGE cannon.

Although best known for hit singles like ‘Living On The Ceiling’, ‘Blind Vision’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’, since the return of BLANCMANGE in 2011, there have been no less than six full length albums released, twice as many as there were during the first phase… and all this without including Neil Arthur’s side projects FADER and NEAR FUTURE.

In a break from making preparations to head out on another concert tour this Autumn, Neil Arthur kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the making of BLANCMANGE’s latest opus.

‘Wanderlust’ comes over as possibly one of your best bodies of work during your 21st Century comeback? What are your thoughts?

I’m just digesting what you just said!! *laughs*

It’s difficult from my point of view to answer that question because obviously, I’m very close to it and it’s not long since I’ve finished it. I’m about to dissemble and deconstruct the whole thing to understand it in a different way to take it out on tour.

As far as writing and producing it, you’re always learning. I don’t want to repeat anything really. You’re always looking to surprise yourself and if it continues like that, I’m happy.

I don’t really have a formula, I’m just following my nose. I know it’s a bit dark and I’m not writing; even in the old stuff like ‘Blind Vision’, ok it was a pop song because it had dance grooves in it, but it’s not exactly a happy song. Neither is ‘God’s Kitchen’ or ‘Feel Me’ or ‘I’ve Seen The Word’.

The sound is sort of fuller, a bit more expansive maybe?

I don’t like putting too much in, like with ‘Unfurnished Room’s which was pretty minimal at times, there was a deliberate thing to really strip back. But with ‘Wanderlust’, I didn’t concern myself so much with that, although me and Benge didn’t put anything on it that wasn’t needed. If each individual part can’t stand up, you don’t put something over the top to cover it up!

What I did was write the songs and send them down to Benge… we started replacing some sounds but my guitar stayed. Although David Rhodes is playing on one track, he didn’t do the others because Benge felt the guitar was working and served the purpose. With each of the synths, quite often we would replace but not add, we were just looking for better sounds. Benge is an analogue synth master, he has access to all this equipment but we don’t use everything.

Were there any particular synths you’d not used before that you got to play with?

We used a Canadian synth called a Modcan and I’d never even seen one before, plus we used a Putney and I played it with the joystick on ‘Gravel Drive Syndrome’. There’s also a Butler 100 which I remember we used on the ‘Wanderlust’ track itself.

There are probably more verses and choruses on this album, it just came out that way although lyrically, I’m just carrying on my not-so-merry way. I’m trying to be as honest as I can, I feel so lucky to be able to do what I want to do, for better or for worse, exactly how I want it.

Putting it together is so exciting. Some of the synths we use never sound the same twice! *laughs*

Has some of the sonic progress come because you are now comfortable working with Benge as this is your third album together? Is he now someone you can trust to bounce off and realise your ideas in the way you did with Stephen Luscombe?

It’s a very different situation, I don’t think there’s any comparison actually. Studios were very expensive back then and we only got in there when got a big record deal. Today, technology and the digital process allows you to do a lot of stuff as prep to take into another environment like the fantastic space Benge has, and that frees you up because you’re not clock watching. But we don’t just spend endless weeks there, Benge has lots of projects on, so we do have to think quite carefully about how to get all this done.

You make decisions quickly and stick with it, which is not a bad thing. You have to let stuff go, you could fiddle around forever and maybe make it better, but how much better?

When I work on FADER with Benge, it’s completely different approach because whereas with BLANCMANGE, I write the embryonic songs and I take them to Benge so we develop them further. In FADER, Benge will send me the embryonic musical idea and I’m reacting to what he’s given me.

Aspects of that are how me and Stephen would work. But we’d rarely sit and write a song absolutely together ever. It could be Stephen would come up with an idea and I’d react to it, or I’d come up with an idea and he’d react to it. Sometimes, one of us would write most of it on our own and then offer it into the pot.

‘Distant Storm’ is unusual with its dance beats and arpeggios, it has an almost spiritual quality about it?

Sometimes you’re writing, you think “oh, I should do something with more dancey grooves” and quite a few songs start off like that; ‘Last Night (I Dreamt I Had A Job)’ from ‘Commuter 23’ started as a loop and developed from there but it doesn’t tend to extend through the album.

But this time, I wanted to do more dance grooves, ‘Insomniac Tonight’ which is not on the album was one and ‘Distant Storm’ was another; I wanted to sing it as though it was really detached with my voice being synthesized. So the song went down this route, we had a sequence going and Benge added another one to it and dropped it down so it went to nothing. KINCAID has done a remix which is sounding terrific.

‘In Your Room’ is a nice bit of robopop? Was it influenced by anyone in particular musically?

That started life a number of years ago and I kept it on the backburner, it felt right for this album. The intention was to leave it pretty minimal… lyrically it was about being content with something quite simple, to keep away from being out there, of being in your comfort zone. The idea came from when I used to visit my partner when she was a student, that to be together was enough.

With those two, you play with vocal treatments a lot, something which is quite prominent on the album overall including the closing title track?

On ‘Wanderlust’, we used a Roland vocoder to treat some of the vocal parts in the latter part of the song and we felt it worked better at that point. You sometimes have to back off a bit and give a bit more space by changing the sound of the vocal, to create a more interesting type of vista sonically.

‘Not A Priority’ is like gloomy KRAFTWERK, I first thought those female backing vocals were you pitch shifting yourself and then I found out it was Hannah Peel!!

Ha ha! Hannah’s going to be well pleased when I tell her that! *laughs*

The idea of this was to keep it really simple and I wanted the music to carry the voice and storyline, so it’s borderline minimal wave. I wanted the vocal to be a straight delivery and it was Benge who suggested Hannah to sing higher register backing vocals. When she sent it back, she’d added vocal treatments other than on the chorus, so we used some of those which was fantastic.

I’m happy for people to have their own interpretation and if I start saying “this is what the song is about”, it’s a bit like telling you the last page of a book before you’d read the first, I like people to make their own minds up.

It drives me nuts when I see people living their lives in certain ways on social media, you’re thinking “hold on a minute, what about the rest of the people? Ease up a minute!”

There’s this feeling of a lack of empathy in the world and sometimes, you get the impression that people don’t see each other as equals in so-called friendship situations. I think a lot of this is down to the things that can be said without feeling the ramifications of what’s been said, for example via social media or text message or email. They’re very impersonal but to the reader, they can carry a massive weight. It’s very easily misconstrued.

Beyond that, in friendships, there are feelings where it’s not reciprocal, there’s not a balance. We all deserve to be respected, it’s an extension of that but you get the impression some people value themselves higher than certain friends. It’s very easy to distance themselves from the reality of what’s going on.

People will say things in a text message what they wouldn’t be able to say looking you in the eye. How did you think I was going to feel? It’s going to be much better just to have a talk about this.

‘Talking To Machines’, continues your love / hate relationship with smart phones and what is now becoming anti-social media?

There’s the ambiguity there. Everybody’s had this experience to try and deal with anything from banks, government departments or whatever it might be, you’ve got to go through this Kafka-esque nightmare just to get to the person you want to talk to. So there’s that which is on a sort of superficial level.

But there’s other side of it when you could be having a conversation with somebody and you might as well be talking to a f***ing machine and they’re in the same room as you, it’s like talking to a brick wall! *laughs*

I like the idea of how we do talk to a lot of machines these days, but we interact with them. I mean, I’ve made a lot of music with them and I love it, I talk to them and they talk back to me. My reference for the music was actually PLASTIC ONO BAND and a bit of THE FLYING LIZARDS! There’s a good and a bad thing…

‘TV Debate’ covers politics and nobodies becoming celebs? There’s rather a lot of it at the moment!

I gave myself a bet that I could get Jacob Rees-Mogg, the b*stard, into a lyric! Smarmy b*stard! *LAUGHS LOUDLY*

I was listening to the radio one morning rather quietly and the bits I picked up, these words came out and I thought “I’m going to have them!”. I had been listening to some Northern Soul so when it got to the chorus, I thought I’d put that sort of rhythm on it and it went from there, this kind of poem that found itself in a song. It’s just disjointed fragments of observations.

I like what you’ve said, but the intention is to provoke some thoughts. I’m creating imagery and now I’ve got politicians doing a conga, it’s a mess! We’re a nation who watch cookery programmes but can barely cook!

You are extremely prolific and have now done twice as many BLANCMANGE albums as you did in your first phase, and this does not include NEAR FUTURE and FADER. How do you do it?

I am driven to write, it’s my art and I want to be creative. It’s one of the places I’m happiest and most comfortable. I’m bloody lucky to get to do it because I have a fantastic manager who helps create situations where I’m able to collaborate with new people, like Jez Bernholz and Benge.

I have no intentions of stopping and will do it as long as I am able to in the future. Within reason because I have my own label, we release when we want to. I’m not thinking about having to write singles and I’m not a young man anymore, I don’t do a lot of interviews or many photo sessions, all these things. But I’m happiest writing. although I love performing live… I don’t particularly enjoy touring, but enjoy the bit on stage.

Although I did a lot of stuff in the intervening years after BLANCMANGE first stopped, I’m catching up in what I think is unfinished business, I’m just in a position where I’m experimenting all the time. I do what I want and it’s a bonus that some people like it. I absolutely love collaborating, I’d advise anybody to do it.

With two albums released in two years, that must throw up some interesting conundrums with the setlist for the upcoming tour? How much flexibility can you give it in terms of pre-programming and learning new songs?

A good question! I don’t have a direct answer, obviously I’m promoting ‘Wanderlust’ so there will be a number of songs off there, and I haven’t decided which ones yet. We’re going to do a couple from the last album, but I’m thinking of a couple of surprises from several decades ago and giving them an airing. There will be the usual suspects because I know that the dedicated audience who come to see us, although they embrace the new material, they really enjoy hearing some of the old stuff.

It will be a balance, I’ve got quite a catalogue now as well as the stuff Stephen and I did all those years ago, so there’s a lot of songs to choose from. We normally do about 22 songs in rehearsal and a couple don’t make it but they’re there in case we decide to change it while were on tour.

But once we’re there, we tend to jiggle it round and then it’s bedded in and that’s how it’s going to be.


The Electricity Club gives it sincerest thanks to Neil Arthur

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Music Management

‘Wanderlust’ is released by Blanc Check on 19th October 2018 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-order from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

BLANCMANGE 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ tour includes:

Norwich Arts Centre (1st November), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (2nd November), Cardiff Acapela (3rd November), Bristol The Fleece (4th November), Darwen Library Theatre (7th November), 8 Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms (8th November), Glasgow Oran More (9th November), Newcastle The Cluny (10th November), Brighton The Old Market (15th November), Southampton Brook (16th November), Dover Booking Hall (17th November), Wolverhampton Robin 2 (22nd November), Gloucester Guild Hall (23rd November), Northampton Roadmender (24th November), Leeds The Wardrobe (29th November), Derby Flowerpot (30th November)

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Piers Allardyce
Studio Photos Courtesy of Neil Arthur
3rd September 2018

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