Tag: Fiat Lux (Page 2 of 3)

ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84

From Cherry Red Records, the makers of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy showcasing formative and experimental electronic music from the UK, Europe and North America, comes their most accessible electronic collection yet.

Subtitled ‘Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’, ‘Electrical Language’ is a lavish 4CD 80 track boxed set covering the post-punk period when all that synthesizer experimentation and noise terrorism morphed into pop.

Largely eschewing the guitar and the drum kit, this was a fresh movement which sprung from a generation haunted by the spectre of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction and closer to home, the Winter of Discontent.

As exemplified by known names like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, FAD GADGET, SECTION 25 and BLUE ZOO included in the set to draw in the more cautious consumer, this was pop in a very loose manner with melodies, riffs and danceable rhythms but hardly the stuff of ABBA or THE BEE GEES!

‘Red Frame/White Light’ by OMD was a chirpy ditty about the 632 3003 phone box which the band used as their office, while THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘Windpower’ was a rallying call for renewable energy sources. Then there was the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL based around two noisy notes and lyrically based on JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia.

While those acts’ stories have been rightly celebrated for putting the electronic avant pop art form into the mainstream, with any truly great compilation or collection, the joy is in finding the lesser known jewels.

Made primarily by the idealistic outsiders and independent experimenters from the lesser known side of Synth Britannia, ‘Electrical Language’ has plenty of synthetic material to rediscover or hear for the first time. Indeed, the more appealing tracks appear to fall into three categories; forgotten songs that should have been hits, oddball cover versions and largely unknown archive wonders.

Those forgotten gems include the exotic ‘Electrical Language’ title track by BE BOP DELUXE, documenting the moment Bill Nelson went electro. His production on the gloriously emotive ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by FIAT LUX is another welcome inclusion to the set.

But the two best tracks on ‘Electrical Language’ are coincidentally spoken word; ‘Touch’ by LORI & THE CHAMELEONS about a girl’s Japanese holiday romance is as enchanting and delightful as ever, while there is also THROBBING GRISTLE refugees CHRIS & COSEY’s wispy celebration of Autumnal neu romance ‘October (Love Song)’, later covered in the 21st Century in pure Hellectro style by MARSHEAUX.

Merseyside has always been a centre for creativity and this included synthpop back in the day. ‘I’m Thinking Of You Now’ from BOX OF TOYS was a superb angsty reflection of young manhood that included an oboe inflected twist which was released on the Inevitable label in 1983. From that same stable, FREEZE FRAME are represented by the atmospheric pop of ‘Your Voice’

Jayne Casey was considered the face of Liverpool post-punk fronting BIG IN JAPAN and PINK MILITARY; the lo-fi electronic offshoot PINK INDUSTRY released three albums but the superb ‘Taddy Up’ with its machine backbone to contrast the ethereal combination of voice and synths lay in the vaults until 2008 and is a welcome inclusion. The ‘other’ Wirral synth duo of note were DALEK I LOVE YOU whose ‘The World’ from 1980 remains eccentric and retro-futuristic.

Scotland was in on the action too despite many local musicians preferring THE BYRDS and STEELY DAN; although both ‘Mr Nobody’ from THOMAS LEER and ‘Time’ by PAUL HAIG were detached and electronic, they vocally expressed minor levels of Trans-Atlantic soul lilt compared with the more deadpan styles of the majority gathered on ‘Electrical Language’.

Under rated acts form a core of ‘Electrical Language’ and while THE MOBILES’ ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across like a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in 3/4 time!

NEW MUSIK’s ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ probably would have gone Top 20 if had been done by HOWARD JONES, although band leader Tony Mansfield had the last laugh when he later became a producer working with the likes of A-HA and NAKED EYES. The brassy arty synthpop of ‘XOYO’ from Dick Witts’ THE PASSAGE was immensely catchy with riffs galore, while POEME ELECTRONIQUE’s ‘She’s An Image’ offered stark European electro-cabaret.

Cut from a similar cloth, one-time ULTRAVOX support act EDDIE & SUNSHINE inventively (and some would say pretentiously) presented a Living TV art concept but they also possessed a few good songs. The quirkily charming ‘There’s Someone Following Me’ deserved greater recognition back in the day and its later single version was remixed by one Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, the 4AD label could always be counted on more esoteric output and COLOURBOX’s ‘Tarantula’ was from that lineage, but then a few years later perhaps unexpectedly, they became the instigators of M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

These days, modern synth artists think it is something an achievement to cover a synthpop classic, although it is rather pointless. But back in the day, as there were not really that many synthpop numbers to cover, the rock ‘n’ roll songbook was mined as a kind of post-modern statement. The synth was seen as the ultimate anti-institution instrument and the cover versions included on ‘Electrical Language’ are out-of-the-box and original, if not entirely successful.

Take TECHNO POP’s reinterpretation of ‘Paint It Black’ which comes over like Sci-Fi Arthur Brown while the brilliant ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES (which features half of HARD CORPS) is like PJ Proby with his characteristic pub singer warble fronting SILICON TEENS with a proto-GOLDFRAPP stomp.

Having contributed a T-REX cover for the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, THE FAST SET recorded another. Whereas ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ on the former was frantic electro-punk, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is far more sombre and almost funereal. Least desirable of the covers though is ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by HYBRID KIDS.

Of the obscurities worth checking out, the rousing standout is ‘Lying Next To You’ by Liverpool’s PASSION POLKA. A brilliant track akin to CHINA CRISIS ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ but with more synths and drum machine, it was recorded in 1983 but never actually saw the light of day until 2011 via a belated release on Anna Logue Records.

Delightfully odd, the VL Tone and organ infused ‘Bandwagon Tango’ from TESTCARD F is swathed with metallic rattles and possesses a suitably mechanical detachment. But with piercing pipey sounds and a hypnotic sequence, the metronomic ‘Destitution’ by cult minimal wavers CAMERA OBSCURA with its off key voice is one of the better productions of that type. Cut from a similar cloth, the perky ‘Videomatic’ by FINAL PROGRAM throws in some lovely string synths to close.

Swirlingly driven by Linn and her sisters, ‘Baby Won’t Phone’ by QUADRASCOPE comes from the Vince Clarke school of song with not only a great vocal, but also the surprise of a guitar solo in the vein of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!

‘The Secret Affair’ from JUPITER RED is a great ethereal midtempo synthpop song also using a Linn, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing club friendly instrumental that was largely the work of the late Martin Lloyd who later was part of OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

Produced by Daniel Miller, ALAN BURNHAM’s ‘Science Fiction’ from 1981 takes a leaf out of DALEK I LOVE YOU, while tightly sequenced and bursting with white noise in the intro, ‘Feel So Young’ by LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH has bubbling potential but is spoiled by some terribly flat vocals.

One of the weirder tracks is ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE’s filmic ‘It Happened Then’ which recalls Parisian art rockers ROCKETS; backed by a brilliant ensemble of synths, it sees the return of the cosmic voice from Sparky’s Magic Piano and remember in that story, it could play all by itself!

Of course, other tracks are available and may suit more leftfield tastes… packaged as a lavish hardback book, there are extensive sleeve notes including artist commentaries, archive photos and an introductory essay by journalist Dave Henderson who cut his teeth with ‘Noise’, a short-lived ‘Smash Hits’ rival that featured a regular ‘Electrobop’ column covering the latest developments in synth.

While worthy, the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy could at times be very challenging, but ‘Electrical Language’ provides some accessible balance, allowing tunes and beats in. It captures an important developmental phase in music, when technology got more sophisticated, cheaper and user friendly, that can be directly connected to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Yes, this story is the unlikely seed of the later dance revolution, like it or not! And at just less than twenty five quid, this really is an essential purchase.


‘Electrical Language’ is released as 4CD boxed set on 31st May 2019 and can be pre-ordered from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019

Lost Albums: FIAT LUX Hired History + Ark Of Embers

FIAT LUX only officially released thirteen songs in their original recorded career and none were ever released in CD format, save two of their early tracks for the 1989 ‘Cocteau Signature Tunes’ compilation issued in North America.

But after many years, that has now been put to rights with the Cherry Red collection ‘Hired History Plus’ which brings together the criminally underrated trio’s entire recorded output for Polydor Records and their unreleased debut album ‘Ark Of Embers’ which had been slated for public consumption in 1985.

FIAT LUX were one of the most promising of the new synthesizer based acts that emerged following the success of DEPECHE MODE and SOFT CELL. Hailing from Wakefield, founder members Steve Wright and David Crickmore were later joined by Ian Nelson, brother of Bill who had independently produced FIAT LUX’s early works for his Cocteau Records.

Signing to Polydor Records, in 1984 the label issued a six track EP ‘Hired History’ containing their three singles to date plus their corresponding B-sides. Produced by Hugh Jones, who had worked with SIMPLE MINDS, THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, ’Hired History’ was intended as a stop-gap before FIAT LUX’s debut album was completed, but it turned out to be the only thing close to a long form release by the band until 2019. But thirty five years after the event, the tracks which comprised ‘Hired History’ still stand up.

Beginning with the singles, ‘Secrets’ was a beautifully haunting ballad was bolstered by what appeared to be a violin solo but was actually a Yamaha CS80 played by Mike Timoney. Initially released earlier, ‘Photography’ was less immediate, but the vocal interplay between Wright’s croon and Crickmore’s repeat staccato harmony was a dreamboat delight while the climax was aided by a bursting lift from Nelson’s sax.

The magnificent ‘Blue Emotion’ was an observation on the disturbing militarism that had risen in the wake of the Falklands war and the embracement of Thatcherism. Shaped by fabulous sweeping ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ derived MemoryMoog theme from Ian Nelson along with a wonderful Vox Matrimonium by Wright and Crickmore, the political sentiment however limited radio play and the song failed to be a Top40 hit.

The B-sides reflected FIAT LUX’s more theatrical side; ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ in particular sounded like Bertolt Brecht gone electro. Meanwhile the funky ‘Aqua Vitae’ sounded like something from GARY NUMAN’s ‘Warriors’ album.

Of course, ‘Hired History’ only had six tracks so its release has been bolstered by a selection of bonus tracks, most notably ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and ‘This Illness’ which were produced by Bill Nelson.

‘Feels Like Winter Again’ was and still is a musical triumph, driven by a resonant drum machine, with a chilling mix of synth and treated guitar over an electronic pulse, Wright’s sombre and ambiguous tale of broken love affairs made a resigned emotive statement. ‘This Illness’ was more moody and featured Bill Nelson’s distinctive E-bowed infinite guitar alongside some sparkling synth work.

Also included on ‘Hired History Plus’ is the disappointing ‘House Of Thorns’ originally released in 1984 which saw FIAT LUX losing momentum. But with still no hit singles, the debut album that was being worked on was shelved by Polydor. Disillusioned, Crickmore departed FIAT LUX before Wright and Nelson quietly disbanded altogether.

Ian Nelson sadly passed away in 2006 but a few years later with the accessibility of the internet, a number of music bloggers were offering a FIAT LUX compilation entitled ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ for free download… this turned out to largely be what had been intended to be the trio’s debut album for Polydor.

Now titled ‘Ark Of Embers’ thanks to the remaining duo of Wright and Crickmore uncovering paperwork confirming this had been the long player’s intended title, the fully restored and properly mastered collection is impressive, even without including the three Polydor singles ‘Photography’, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’.

Quite what Polydor was thinking in not even taking a chance with the release of a FIAT LUX album when Colin Verncombe’s BLACK were making waves with the original independently released version of ‘Wonderful Life’ is something of a mystery.

Interestingly, the opening song on ‘Ark Of Embers’, ‘The Moment’ possesses the atmospheric air of BLACK. It is then followed by the brooding uptempo North European melancholy of ‘Breaking The Boundary’, a song easily as good as BLACK’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’. Always keen to combine electronics with real instruments such as sax, marimbas, drums, bass and guitars, ‘Embers’ is something of a distant cousin of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Wish You Were Here’.

But ‘Ark Of Embers’ isn’t just about moods, as the groovy Roxy flavoured artrock of ‘No More Proud’ showed, while ‘Splurge’ offered a bizarre textural mix of chattering tablas over screeching guitar and a gothic disco backbone. Led by dreamy sax, ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ is a marvellous slice of emotive pop reminiscent of CHINA CRISIS, with additional clarinet providing atmospheric resonance to the sonic balance.

Closing with the brilliantly filmic synthpop of ‘Solitary Lovers’, ‘Ark Of Embers’ would have been an impressive debut long player demonstrating FIAT LUX’s instrumental versatility and diversity. Although also reprising the imperial Polydor singles trilogy in its tracklist, this is a new album to most, and damn fine it is too.

Among the other extras on the ‘Hired History Plus’ package are various 12 inch extended mixes, the original Bill Nelson version of ‘Photography’ which had been rejected by Polydor and a cover of the traditional South West English folk standard ‘Sally Free & Easy’ written by Cyril Tawney.

Arranged with a cacophony of voice samples like Philip Glass, it was a track which had only previously been available in Germany that Wright usually sang in the studio for Jones to set up levels and EQ.

‘Hired History Plus’ with its accompanying bonus of ‘Ark Of Embers’ is a belated but very welcome vindication of the talents of Steve Wright, David P Crickmore and Ian Nelson. A definitive collection with expansive booklet notes featuring commentary by Wright and Crickmore, the package represents exactly what was and is still brilliant about FIAT LUX.


Dedicated to the memory of Ian Nelson 1956-2006

‘Hired History Plus’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 19th April 2019 as a double CD featuring ‘Ark Of Embers’, available from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/fiat-lux-hired-history-plus-2cd-expanded-edition/

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

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th April 2019

FIAT LUX: The Hired History Plus Interview

It’s rather a nice time to be a FIAT LUX fan right now.

At the start of 2017, not a single FIAT LUX track was available digitally and only two songs ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and ‘This Illness’ had ever been available on CD via the long deleted 1989 compilation ‘Cocteau Signature Tunes’ issued in North America.

Following the reunion of founder members Steve Wright and David P Crickmore, 2019 has seen the release of ‘Saved Symmetry’, the long awaited debut album containing ten thoughtful and reflective songs capturing the classic Northern spirit of FIAT LUX within a 21st Century environment.

Between 1982 to 1985, Wright, Crickmore and the late Ian Nelson issued a series of acclaimed singles including ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ which garnered the support of BBC Radio 1 DJs such as Janice Long and Peter Powell. Despite this, FIAT LUX were unable to secure a Top 40 UK single and led to the album that the trio were recording for Polydor Records to be shelved.

But now, that lost album now entitled ‘Ark Of Embers’ and all the material recorded during that period plus those first recordings for Cocteau Records will be released by Cherry Red Records as a 2CD set entitled ‘Hired History Plus’, named after the 1984 singles compilation EP which was FIAT LUX’s only longer form release.

Steve Wright and David P Crickmore chatted to The Electricity Club about what has been a very busy and fruitful period for FIAT LUX.

Like buses, you wait 35 years for a FIAT LUX album and get two?

David: Yes – it’s strange how it’s turned out – more by accident than design…

Steve: …although a happy one.

What’s the reception for ‘Saved Symmetry’ been like?

Steve: It’s been gratifying that there have been so many good comments about it and many of the reviewers have gone into great detail about what they like about each track.

It’s clear that they got what we we’re trying to achieve (a whole listening experience, rather than a bunch of random songs). We didn’t presume that that would be the case so it’s a real “nice to have”.

David: Music industry people who were around during our Polydor years and championed us back then have had encouraging things to say about the new album. That reassures us that it measures up to our old stuff. Plus we’ve also had support from people and places that weren’t around in the ‘80s. So we’re delighted with the reception for it so far!

The call to action of ‘We Can Change The World’ from ‘Saved Symmetry’ appears to have become a key track, any particular favourites for you?

Steve: We’ve nurtured them all, so it’s hard to pull out a favourite.

David: The whole project was a real mixed bag of absolutely brand new writing, (which we did while we were in the studio), plus some “unfinished business” from the 1980s – a few scraps of song ideas that had perhaps previously not got past the demo stage. ‘We Can Change The World’ from ‘Saved Symmetry’ had its roots in a tune I wrote just after leaving FIAT LUX the first time round, but most of the words are very recent and in part reflect on the loss of Ian Nelson and our getting back together without him.

So since you last spoke to The Electricity Club, ‘Hired History Plus’ has become reality…was there a particular moment that sparked this into actually happening and having a budget to see through its release?

David: It’s difficult to say what the actual catalyst was for a FIAT LUX retrospective collection finally springing to life. I have a few theories.

A meeting I had in London with a well-known producer who happened to be good mates with the MD of Universal (the rights holders of our 80s works) may have had something to do with them suddenly starting to talk to us.

However, I can tell you the chain of events that led to ‘Hired History Plus’ being the outcome: We had already got some way to agreeing with Universal on a release of our lost Polydor album ‘Ark Of Embers’ which was going to come out on Splid Records. Just as we were about to sign this off, the person we were dealing with at Universal said “Oh by the way, I think Cherry Red are planning to do some sort of full retrospective set”.

We immediately realised that we would be treading on each other’s toes if both came out at once, so I got to know who they were negotiating with at Cherry Red and proposed that if we dropped the rival release, we would agree to curate ‘Hired History Plus’ for them on condition that Disc Two could be the lost album ‘Ark Of Embers’. They were happy with that proposition, and delighted to have our help and support, so that’s what happened.

How were the old Polydor tapes eventually found and what condition were they in? Did you get involved in the digital transfer process?

Steve: Originally when we were trying for a release ourselves, and getting nowhere, we thought perhaps the tapes had been lost. However, it turned out to be quite the opposite!

David: Yes, Polydor had kept everything we had done right down to the accompanying paperwork and had it stored in good order in the massive Decca archive, which is in a vault in a mountainside somewhere in Wales. I spent quite a bit of time looking through spreadsheets and PDF files provided by the helpful staff there to establish the whereabouts of the right master tapes for the job. Eventually we found them all and they were taken to EMI Studios in Abbey Road where they were digitally transferred at very high spec.

Steve: They then gave them to us to work on at Splid studios. We checked that everything was the right version, decided on the running order and got the recordings tidy and ready for mastering. That was then done at 360 Mastering which is Cherry Red’s preferred company and, when it came back from there, we gave the final ok before it went to manufacture.

So the ‘lost’ unreleased album forms the bonus disc of ‘Hired History Plus’ has emerged with the title ‘Ark Of Embers’, was that its working title?

Steve: That was a working title during the latter part of us recording it, yes.

David: But in the intervening years we had completely forgotten this and simply began to refer to it as “The Lost Album”. It was only when the accompanying paperwork that went with all the tapes turned up that we rediscovered the title idea scribbled down on one of the sheets. “That’s it” we remembered.

Steve: Of course over the years it took on a bit of a mythical status with some FIAT LUX followers. They began speculating on what tracks would be on it and giving it the name ‘Fact Ut Vivas’, but that was never a title that came from within the band.

Going through the tapes to compile ‘Hired History Plus’ must have jogged all sorts of memories? Any ones in particular?

David: It certainly did. Even seeing the old tape boxes again – all those brilliant old studios we visited: Amazon, Eden, RG Jones, Strawberry, Rockfield.

Steve: I remember us using Midge Ure’s studio in his back garden in Chiswick. I recall he was about to go on an ULTRAVOX tour when we visited to work on our ‘House Of Thorns’ single and he had all his guitars sprayed completely grey for the shows for some reason. We thought it was sacrilege to do that to such a nice guitar collection.

David: Looking again at all the worksheets from the tapes, it’s interesting to see how much we used a Minimoog synthesizer as a preferred choice for lead lines and bass pulses – what a great piece of kit. This happened even though, after signing to Polydor, we had purchased state of the art polyphonic keyboards like the Jupiter 8 and a Memory Moog, both from Rod Argents shop in Demark Street – still there today I think.

Steve: There are also lots of big heavy things that we continually hired in at Polydor’s expense: Mellotrons and Marimbas which came in flight cases the size of dining tables.

David: We made good use of them though – they’re all over many of the tracks and help make them distinctive I think.

The words “It’s just a piece of my life” from ‘Photography’ have never rung truer?

Steve: You’re right. It’s been like unearthing a time capsule of our past. Not only listening back to the tapes, but also finding all the memorabilia and, yes, photographs to go in the accompanying artwork and booklet.

There’s the bonus of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and ‘This Illness’ being included, both classic Bill Nelson productions with their drum machine backbones and textural guitar treatments?

David: Yes. Where it all began. At that stage we had no gear, so Bill made a big contribution in helping us conceive the prototype Fiat Lux sound, allowing us use of his vast array of instruments to go with the songs we had.

Steve: Definitely. Bill was the person who kickstarted FIAT LUX. Without him and his production guidance and record label we probably wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground.

You’ve unearthed the ultimate Bill Nelson rarity in the master tape of the 12” mix of his production of ‘Comfortable Life’?

David: Yes. We’d only had it as a working copy on a rather ropey cassette, made in the studio at the time. It was a delightful surprise to find the proper master tape in the Decca archive – it was more we stumbled on it really while looking for the A-Side, the Bill produced (but never used) ‘Photography’ which took some detective work to track down. Great that we got both on ‘Hired History Plus’.

Steve: On ‘Comfortable Life’, you can clearly hear Bill joining in the backing vocals too. Great fun.

You got back in contact with your producer Hugh Jones, that must have been quite interesting for him to listen to the tapes again, did he hear ‘Saved Symmetry’ too?

Steve: He did. Well before he got involved in, or had listened to ‘Hired History Plus’.

David: Personally I was a bit nervous about what Hugh’s reaction to ‘Saved Symmetry’ would be as I had stepped into his shoes as producer (very much with a thought process of “what would Hugh do here?”). We needn’t have worried. His email to us on hearing the tracks was “they’re absolutely bloody lovely!!”

Steve: If you want Hugh’s reappraisal of the ‘Hired History Plus’ material, you can read all about that in the accompanying CD booklet. He kindly provided us with a “foreword from the producer”.

It would be fair to say ‘House Of Thorns’ was not FIAT LUX’s finest moment, how was it to listen back to the master tape of that?

David: Hmm. Obviously it was one of those things that we had to include to satisfy the completist and to fulfil the album’s brief that it was to be all the finished master takes that were either released or intended to be released at the time. In our write-up in the booklet, we cover the difficulty of Polydor insisting that we come up with a follow up to ‘Blue Emotion’ without waiting for Hugh Jones to become available to produce it.

Steve: Listening back after such a long time away from it, it stands up better than I thought – there’s great drumming from Dave Ruffy (ex-RUTS, whom I loved as a band. He was about join AZTEC CAMERA around that time I think). It definitely pulled us away from our normal sound, but there are record collectors you can find online who reckon on it being their favourite track of ours, so there you go.

Do you think ‘House Of Thorns’ might have undone the positive momentum you achieved with ‘Hired History’ that even the release of the far superior ‘Solitary Lovers’ could not claw back?

Steve: I don’t know really – it did get some radio coverage at the time, so it wasn’t a complete failure but it certainly didn’t build on the momentum of ‘Blue Emotion’.

David: As Steve said, it was a diversion from our normal sound for an A side which must have confused people.

Hugh Jones did manage to pull that back once he got his hands on ‘Solitary Lovers’. The problem then was that, by then, we’d pretty much had enough of the label bungling all our chances. With the amount of airplay our singles enjoyed and the coverage in the music papers, it’s arguable that would could have got a lot further if the records were actually in the shops when people were trying to buy them. This was a complaint we heard a lot from people who came to see us live.

On ‘Ark Of Embers’, ‘Splurge’ has the most bizarre but wonderful textural mix, chattering tablas over gothic disco overtones and screeching guitar…

David: …and of course the Mellotron choir – so scary manipulating those real voices – almost like ghosts coming out of the keyboard.

Steve: We were lucky to get Pandit Dinesh to play tabla. I’m not sure, but I think we must have come across him through our BLANCMANGE associations. We had no idea how well respected he was in his field at the time – a sort of Buddy Rich of Indian percussion.

Sadly Ian Nelson is not here to witness this belated vindication, his contribution really was vital in FIAT LUX, like on ‘Embers’ and ‘Blue Emotion’?

Steve: Absolutely. Would not have been the same without him. Now we are writing and recording again, we always pause and ask – what would Ian have done here?

David: I am so pleased we were able to include his brother’s production of ‘Photography’ Mk1 in the collection as it shows how that great soaring sax line half way through was part of Ian’s design for it right from the beginning and Hugh Jones saw no reason to change that part when we remade it later. The wonderful Holtz style Moog line in ‘Blue Emotion’ really makes it and is all Ian’s, as was the looping clarinets of ‘Embers’. Lovely touches like that were his speciality.

It had been intended for ‘Ark Of Embers’ to come out in 1985, how do you think it stands up in 2019?

David: I think it offers the best tracks we had in our repertoire during the Polydor years. It’s what we were always striving to produce when we weren’t being diverted away from it by other music business issues.

Steve: I think it holds together as an album should and doesn’t have such an overwhelming sense of period that it is too dated to appreciate now. I’d be proud to stand by it in any era.

FIAT LUX fans are literally being spoilt in 2019, are you tempted to spoil them further with the possibility of live shows?

Steve: Let’s just say that we are exploring possibilities on that one at the moment.

David: Nothing concreate as yet, but it might be nice to do a few boutique shows if things do come together to our satisfaction.

After a tentative return, how does it feel to have FIAT LUX active again?

David: It’s great actually. It’s a shame circumstances didn’t conspire for us to do it sooner, but that’s life.

Steve: We’ve certainly enjoyed getting it all together over the last couple of years and it’s been good to feel the support of followers (and websites like yours!) cheering us on as we have.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to FIAT LUX

Special thanks to Matt Ingham at Cherry Red Records

‘Hired History Plus’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 19th April 2019 as a double CD featuring ‘Ark Of Embers’, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/fiat-lux-hired-history-plus-2cd-expanded-edition/

‘Saved Symmetry’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution, available in CD and digital formats from https://www.propermusic.com/splidcd21-saved-symmetry.html

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

https://open.spotify.com/album/2wZhBOPKx854RkKIvsZ5ta


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st March 2019

FIAT LUX Saved Symmetry

37 years is a long time to wait for a debut album, but with Wakefield’s FIAT LUX, it has been worth it.

Singer Steve Wright and multi-instrumentalist David P Crickmore released their magnificent first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ in 1982.

Produced by Bill Nelson and released on his Cocteau Records, his brother Ian joined FIAT LUX and the trio became one of the most promising of the post-Synth Britannia wave of electronic pop acts.

Despite brilliant singles like ‘Photography’, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ with their distinctive vocal counterpoints and melancholic melodies, FIAT LUX were unable to secure a significant UK chart hit and despite having recorded a full-length album, Polydor Records dropped FIAT LUX and the debut long player shelved.

Ian Nelson sadly passed away in 2006, but with acts such as OMD, BLANCMANGE and ULTRAVOX returning and recording new material, there was renewed interest some of the lesser known acts of the same era like CHINA CRISIS, B-MOVIE and FIAT LUX.

In total control of their destiny, Wright and Crickmore relaunched FIAT LUX in 2017 with a re-recording of ‘Secrets’, before setting about producing an album of all-new material, now unveiled with the wonderfully alliterate title of ‘Saved Symmetry’.

Recorded at Crickmore’s Splid Studios and produced by the multi-instrumentalist with vintage synths like a Minimoog and Roland Jupiter 8, along with modern hardware like a Novation MiniNova and Roland Jupiter 50 to hand, the pair have been joined by Will Howard on sax and clarinet plus live drummer Andy Peacock.

For ‘Saved Symmetry’, Crickmore even tracked down a relative of an old accomplice to help make the overall FIAT LUX sound as authentic as possible in the 21st Century; “The bass guitar is the same model Yamaha BB1000S that I used on the Polydor sessions” he said, “but I had to track another early 80s edition down as my original bass went astray in the mid-80s.”

Beginning perhaps unexpectedly with acoustic guitar and some scratchy background interference, the desolate filmic drama of ‘Tuesday’ sees Wright’s vocal holding off until two and a half minutes in. Countered by a haunting synth lead, the combination provides tension and anticipation of what is ahead.

The steadfast ‘Hold Me While You Can’ builds from piano and woodwinds before taking an enjoyably odd turn when a Numan-esque synth riff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘We Have A Technical’ kicks in alongside a burst of sax.

Then with hints of the song side of ‘Low’ era Bowie, ‘Everyday In Heaven’ offers a fine avant pop tune with rousing up-for-life lyrics about embracing second chances and encouragement to “go where your garden grows”.

Utilising offbeats and marimbas, ‘Grey Unpainted Rooms’ takes things in amore solemn direction… well, real life isn’t always cheery is it?

Expanding the mood, ‘We Can Change The World’ provides a call to action in these turbulent times. With a great bit of sax and an uptempo setting dressed with bubbling synths and rousing vocals, it recalls ‘Everything Is Coming Up Roses’ by BLACK, the vehicle of the late Colin Verncombe who ultimately proved that despite the short-sightedness of Polydor Records back in the day, the FIAT LUX template was indeed a viable commodity.

The semi-acoustic ballad ‘Wasted (On Baby Tears)’ acts as a pleasant musical interlude before another burst of sax and marimba for ‘Long Lost Love’, a lively slice of classic orchestrated pop with a great chorus and a dash of CHINA CRISIS.

‘It’s You’, the magnificent single which relaunched FIAT LUX as a modern creative force in 2018 continues to delight by its very existence, the classic emotive mix of dual vocals, synths and sax brimming with positivity and in the reflective couplet “I’m living in a room at a stranger’s house, I never thought I’d be here again”, touchingly conveying the joys of finding love again in midlife.

Heading towards the home straight, the elegiac ‘Calling On Angels’ is based around piano and a striking synthetic orchestra arrangement with some more superb sax work.

The ‘Saved Symmetry’ title track with its drum machine pulse and stark backing is reminiscent of THE BLUE NILE, an instrumental with gentle ivories and bass to allow the album’s organic flow to proceed to its conclusion.

2019 is turning out to be a great year for FIAT LUX fans as not only do they finally have an album, but those lovely people at Cherry Red Records will be issuing ‘Hired History Plus’, an expanded CD of their 1984 six song compilation EP as well.

Very much a grower with a mix of emotions in many colours, ‘Saved Symmetry’ is a worthy belated long playing debut with depth and musicality. FIAT LUX have always deserved recognition and now might well be their time in the sun… so let there be light.


‘Saved Symmetry’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 8th March 2019 in CD and digital formats, pre-order from https://www.propermusic.com/splidcd21-saved-symmetry.html

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.splidrecords.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th February 2019

TEC’s 2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame. Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour. Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit.

There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, NEW ARCADES, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption. However, the side was let down by the conveyor belt of lame profanity laden offerings from a number of British acts afflicted with deluded normality.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year. The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, The Electricity Club’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that The Electricity Club has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band. Out of all the synth based pop acts of the Synth Britannia era, The Electricity Club had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, The Electricity Club bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

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