Tag: Fiat Lux (Page 3 of 3)

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2018

2018 was a year of good songs rather than good albums, with many of long players not as consistent or as of high a standard as the bumper crop from the Class of ’17.

However, The Electricity Club had plenty of material to choose from for its 30 SONGS OF 2018 and while it can’t include everything, worthy mentions go to ANI GLASS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, BRÜCKEN FROESE, DANA JEAN PHOENIX, DISQO VOLANTE, DUBSTAR, EKKOES, FAKE TEAK, FRAGRANCE, THE FRIXION, GUNSHIP, HILTIPOP, IAMX, LIZETTE LIZETTE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and WITCH OF THE VALE who were in this year’s shortlist.

Interestingly, three graduates from the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ made it into the final list, thus highlighting the longevity of that particular vinyl showcase some 37 years on!

So with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2018 presented in alphabetical order…


AFTERHERE Breaking Rules

AFTERHERE is the brand new project of HEAVEN 17 singer Glenn Gregory and live keyboardist Berenice Scott, but with their roles reversed. Exploring their inner GOLDFRAPP but in a funkier vein, with groovy reminisces of ‘Twist’ and ‘Yes Sir’, the song seductively boasted a captivating sexually charged electronic energy. Berenice Scott said to The Electricity Club: “We always wanted to have a driving track on the album that you could hopefully move your feet to, party to… possibly get in a little trouble!”

Available on the AFTERHERE album ‘Addict’ via Manners McDade

https://afterhere.co.uk/wp/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Utopia

While the Clarke was strong with this one, the first impression that came across with ‘Utopia’ was that things became a slight bit darker in the world of JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM. Despite that, there was a rousing chorus and percolating sequences to savour as he pointed out the futility of seeking that perfect future, when life has so much more on offer. “I wouldn´t describe the album as dark though” the DAILY PLANET synthesist helpfully told The Electricity Club, “it´s absolutely a pop album.”

Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM album ‘Utopia’ via Progress Productions

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


BLANCMANGE Distant Storm

For BLANCMANGE, ‘Distant Storm’ was rather unusual with its dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic. With a rousing, almost spiritual quality and elements of JAMES’ ‘Come Home’ creeping in for good measure, it displayed Neil Arthur’s comfort in working with producer Benge on effectively their third album together. “I wanted to sing it as though it was really detached with my voice being synthesized” he told The Electricity Club.

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

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


B-MOVIE Stalingrad

Veteran Mansfield quartet B-MOVIE made their most electronic pop single to date with the chilling aesthetics of ‘Stalingrad’. Complete with an infectious synth melody, an eerie mezzo-soprano and using the crucial Second World War battle as a metaphor for a doomed relationship, it was possibly Steve Hovington, Paul Statham, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey’s  best song since their 21st Century reformation; appropriately, its B-side was called ‘Something Cold’…

Available on the B-MOVIE EP ‘Repetition’ via Loki Records

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


CHVRCHES Graffiti

‘Get Out’ may have acted as a superb launch single, but starting off their ‘Love Is Dead’ album was the wonderful ‘Graffiti’. This was a classic kaleidoscopic CHVRCHES tune that punched the sky with some rousing vocals. It was also a supreme singalong showcasing Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Docherty in full bouncy Taylor mode. Despite the downcast lyrical demeanour on lost youth and the passing of time, this was still a grand pop statement.

Available on the CHVRCHES album ‘Love Is Dead’ via Virgin Records

https://chvrch.es/


CONFIDENCE MAN Don’t You Know I’m In A Band

Australian duo CONFIDENCE MAN were a ray of sunshine in 2018 with their own brand of campy dork pop, being everything SCISSOR SISTERS should have been. ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’ was an amusing satire on ego and sense of entitlement in the music industry. With an electro take on the groovy swoop of WAR’s ‘Low Rider’, a pitch shifted Sugar Bones came over like an inebriate Teddy Pendergrass while Janet Planet delightfully counterpointed in her alluring girly manner.

Available on the CONFIDENCE MAN album ‘Confident Music For Confident People’ via Heavenly Records

https://www.confidenceman.com.au/


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound

CREEP SHOW is the meeting of minds between eclectic singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER whose members comprise Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter. On ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER hybrid to reveal gradually some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon. The project led to Benge also working on Grant’s ‘Love Is Magic’ album also released in 2018.

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

http://creepshowmusic.com


RODNEY CROMWELL Comrades

Driven by a meaty electronic bassline and metronomic backbone, the marvellous vocoder-laden ‘Comrades’ by RODNEY CROMWELL captured a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, bathed in an ensemble of sweeping synth oboes and cosmic string machines. “I ended up thumping at the MicroKorg and came up with the opening riff” he said. Rich with melody and a panoramic resonance, it surreally captured the sound of Moroder being played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system.

Available on the RODNEY CROMWELL EP ‘Rodney’s English Disco’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/rodney-cromwell


EMIKA Promises

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

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

http://emikarecords.com/


FARAO Marry Me

Taking in more synthetic ambitions, FARAO’s second album ‘Pure-O’ was a playful bleep forward. While ‘The Ghost Ship’ saw Kari Jahnsen focussed on her forlorn little girl lost lyrics, the wonderfully uptempo ‘Marry Me’ offered an accessible PET SHOP BOYS flavour and romantic layers of vocals masking a deep scepticism of the institution of marriage, while the lush backing and chugging electronic backbone carried the air of her compatriot SUSANNE SUNDFØR.

Available on the FARAO album ‘Pure-O’ via Western Vinyl

http://www.farao.info/


FIAT LUX It’s You

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

Available on the FIAT LUX single ‘It’s You’ via Splid Records

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


IONNALEE Fold

The ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ album was easily equal to Jonna Lee’s work with IAMAMIWHOAMI. Best of the set was possibly the marvellous closing number ‘Fold’. Featuring exotic cascading timbres and spacey pulsars, distorted string synths added tan appropriate chill as Lee’s passionate vocals completed the filmic vibe. Less mysterious, the IONNALEE transition was a triumph, especially with one of the best value-for-money live presentations of 2018.

Available on the IONNALEE album ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ via To Whom It May Concern

https://ionnalee.com


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday

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

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

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


LET’S EAT GRANDMA Donnie Darko

Despite their age, LET’S EAT GRANDMA have a feisty but mature musical ambition, as successfully realised on ‘Donnie Darko’, an 11 minute tribute to the troubled teenager haunted by a monstrous rabbit-like figure. Utilising a sedate start before morphing into a wonderful movement of cascading electronics set to a metronomic beat, there were passionate reflections on the subject of human suffering. It all went a bit “batsh*t crazy” into a glorious synthony before calming to its conclusion!

Available on the LET’S EAT GRANDMA album ‘I’m All Ears’ via Transgressive Records

http://letseatgrandma.co.uk


CHRIS LIEBING featuring POLLY SCATTERGOOD And All Went Dark

Noted techno exponent CHRIS LIEBING teamed up with Mute label mate POLLY SCATTERGOOD on a stark polyrhythmic number appropriately titled ‘And All Went Dark’. The brooding minimalist electronic piece with its eerily poetic spoken contribution from Miss Scattergood saw the Essex songstress haunted by a “dark shadow on my shoulder” and telling how “a sickness took hold early on”.

Available on the CHRIS LIEBING album ‘Burn Slow’ via Mute Artists

http://www.chrisliebing.com/


MECHA MAIKO False Memories

With the name transcending Toronto based Hayley Stewart’s fascination with Japanese culture, cyber space and a love of vintage synthesis, ‘Mad But Soft’ was her first album as MECHA MAIKO. The magically crystalline ‘False Memories’ could have been part of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. Uncomplicated on the surface yet multi-layered and airy, this day-glow pink neo-instrumental concoction was well-thought through and deliciously produced.

Available on the MECHA MAIKO album ‘Mad But Soft’ via New Retro Wave

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/


MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette

One-time RÖYSKSOPP collaborator Ryan A James continues to hone and develop his hybrid mix of luxuriant synthetics and subtle guitar textures as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY. He said about the gorgeous electronic bubblebath of ‘Lafayette’: “It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard.”

Available on the MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY album ‘Infinity Mirror’ via Killing Moon Records

https://manwithout.country/


NIGHT CLUB Scary World

“Beware! It’s a scary world” and with their BRITNEY SPEARS fronting NINE INCH NAILS template, NIGHT CLUB took their sweet but sinister synth rock sound to its zenith with the title track of their second album. And when the children’s choir joined in the chorus to sing of demons everywhere, this was a musical trick or treat that no parent would want their offspring to be part of, the message being “they only love you if you swallow”!

Available on the NIGHT CLUB album ‘Scary World’ via Gato Blanco

http://nightclubband.com/


NINA 80s Girl

A fabulously optimistic closer to NINA’s debut album, ‘80s Girl’ came beaming over like some missing song from the film ‘Mannequin’. With big Simmons drums, sampled orchestra stabs and driving synthbass triplets, it was however delivered with subtlety and restraint so that it wasn’t a HEART or STARSHIP pastiche. Dedicated to her mother, it had a telling message of “don’t let the past hold you back”.

Available on the NINA album ‘Sleepwalking’ via Aztec Records

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/


SARAH NIXEY Journey

Perhaps best known as the alluring if slightly blunt chanteuse of BLACK BOX RECORDER, SARAH NIXEY released her best solo album to date in ‘Night Walks’, a quality record with air and presence, collecting everything she has ever been musically, all rolled into one. One of its key tracks was the delightful ‘Journey’, a glorious number of the type that Marc Almond has often been so good at, laced with crystalline synths and gorgeously breathy vocal tones à la Jane Birkin.

Available on the SARAH NIXEY album ‘Night Walks’ via Black Lead Records

http://www.sarahnixey.com/


GARY NUMAN It Will End Here

The ‘Savage’ album turned out to be both an artistic and commercial vindication for GARY NUMAN. ‘It Will End Here’ from ‘The Fallen’ EP was a natural progression from that, exploring a heavy but melodic electronic sound without relying on the predictable backing of rock guitars. With and anthemic chorus and the apocalypse is looming over the aural desert, there was even a soaring vocal pitch shift up at the song’s conclusion which added an extra eerie vampiric quality.

Available on the GARY NUMAN EP ‘The Fallen’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


NYXX featuring AESTHETIC PERFECTION Voodoo

NYXX is very much her own woman, like the Greek goddess of night she is named after, a figure of power and beauty with a Britney-like vocal presence that sweetly offsets some of her darker overtones. A collaboration with Daniel Graves of AESTHETIC PERFECTION who contributed a glorious evangelical middle eight, she said “It would not be what it is without him. I came in with a sketch of a song, a melody and lyric of another song… Daniel heard nuances in it and we built what is now ‘Voodoo’.”

Available on the NYXX single ‘Voodoo’ via Close To Human Music

http://www.nyxxnyxxnyxx.com/


PAGE Nere För Räkning

Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko initially came together in PAGE releasing their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983. Since then, the pair have parted and reunited on a number of occasions but the mission for the ‘Start’ EP was to party like it’s 1979 when GARY NUMAN was No1. ‘Nere För Räkning’ was an urgent slice of pulsing synthrock with a piercing vibratoed lead line akin to the keyboard interventions heard on ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

Available on the PAGE EP ‘Start’ via Energy Rekords

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop/


PLASMIC Baby Machine

From Mission Viejo in California, PLASMIC describes herself as an “Orange County one-woman dervish” and in a vivid haze that’s pretty in pink, “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”. Combining J-Pop with CRYSTAL CASTLES and DEVO, the undoubted standout from her ‘Validation Nation’ EP was ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenged the expectations of women to bear children.

Available on the PLASMIC EP ‘Validation Nation’ via Devour Records

http://www.plasmic.rocks


REED & CAROLINE Entropy

Championed by none other than Vince Clarke, REED & CAROLINE successfully combine tunes with electronic experimentation. The haunting ‘Entropy’ was a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching GARY NUMAN homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie electric piano, courtesy of a Buchla modular synth, was complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.

Available on the REED & CAROLINE about ‘Hello Science’ via Very Records

https://www.reedandcaroline.com/


FIFI RONG Red Moon Voyage

Weird and wonderful, ‘Red Moon Voyage’ was a ghostly 10 minute epic comprising of glitchy voices and varying rhythm constructions recorded especially for Halloween. Free of album concepts and the pop song format, this was FIFI RONG at her most adventurous yet, delightfully adding her native Mandarin language towards the third part. She told The Electricity Club: “having a long journey means you can get very deep and lots of moods and transitions”.

Available on the FIFI RONG single ‘Red Moon Voyage’ via https://fifirong.bandcamp.com/track/red-moon-voyage-full

http://fifirong.com/


SOFT CELL Northern Lights

Marc Almond and Dave Ball were the boys who came back-back-BACK as SOFT CELL in 2018. ‘Northern Lights’ reminisced about their days at the Wigan Casino and recaptured the pop essence that led to the duo having five consecutive Top 10 hits! Despite the grittiness and energetics, the duo always had melody and that came back in abundance on their welcome recorded return. The darker B-Side ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ affirmed that as a creative force, SOFT CELL still had it.

Available on the SOFT CELL EP ‘Northern Lights’ via Universal Music

http://www.softcell.co.uk/


STOLEN Turn Black

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be possibly the most exciting band he has seen since NEW ORDER. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive and one of the best of 2018, with ‘Turn Black’ being one of the standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the STOLEN ‘Fragment’ via MFS

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


U96 + WOLFGANG FLÜR Zukunftsmusik

Ingo Hauss and Hayo Lewerentz handed back the BOYTRONIC brand to Holger Wobker and returned to being U96, teaming up with former KRAFTWERK percussionist Wolfgang Flür for the best track by either party in recent years. Stark and Teutonic with stark robotic vocoder aesthetics, the union of two German musical heavyweights from different generations was equal to Flür’s ‘Activity Of Sound’ collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.

Available on the U96 single ‘Zukunftsmusik’ via UNLTD Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


HILARY WOODS Jesus Said

Combining piano, synths, field recordings, drones, occasional beats, old string instruments and HILARY WOODS’ wonderfully forlorn voice in the vein of Julee Cruise, ‘Jesus Said’ questioned the existence of God. Described by the Irish songstress herself as “a song that seeks catharsis”, her child-like expression over the drifting synthesized tones and hypnotic drum machine to augment her beautiful piano playing gave ‘Jesus Said’ a gentle meditative quality.

Available on the HILARY WOODS album ‘Colt’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.hilarywoods.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd December 2018

A Short Conversation with FIAT LUX

Named after the Latin phrase for “let there be light”, FIAT LUX were among the most promising of the post-Synth Britannia wave of electronic pop acts.

Having relaunched in early 2017 with a re-recording of one of their best known songs ‘Secrets’, singer Steve Wright and multi-instrumentalist David P Crickmore are to release their first new material in over three decades with an excellent single ‘It’s You’.

Together with their late saxophonist and keyboard player Ian Nelson who sadly passed away in 2006, the trio’s emotive mix of dual vocals, synths and woodwinds on marvellous songs such as ‘Feels Like Winter Again’, ‘Photography’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ gained airplay on Radio 1, championed by the likes of Annie Nightingale, Peter Powell, Kid Jensen and Janice Long.

In 1984, FIAT LUX also appeared on an Old Grey Whistle Test synth special alongside KRAFTWERK, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and HOWARD JONES while Channel 4 aired a TV special which eventually came out as the ‘Commercial Breakdown’ video and laserdisc. However, record company politics at their label Polydor Records sadly meant that their debut full-length album was never released.

However, all that might be all about to change; FIAT LUX kindly took time out to talk to The Electricity Club about their upcoming plans and hopes.

So looking back, how do you think the soft relaunch of FIAT LUX with ‘Secrets 2017’ went?

Steve: I guess it was a good way of testing the water with a song that we knew had some resonance. It was also something that we could reproduce, bearing in mind that we no longer had Ian around. It exposed us to the ‘modern’ marketplace and gave us insight into the mechanism for releasing songs again.

David: It was good to find out that there was still some enthusiasm out there for FIAT LUX. Radio stations gave it some plays and that was encouraging. It was fairly “low risk” to us financially as a digital download only, because there aren’t too many production costs involved up front.

The downside is that digital downloads hardly make any money for the artist, but it gratifying that it has continued to sell steadily since the release and, according to the stats coming in, we are being listened to in surprising places right across the world.

Well, it’s gone well enough to record new material?

David: It has. Doing ‘Secrets 2017’ proved to us that we still had the wherewithal to pick up where we left off creatively and that we could still sound like we were supposed to both instrumentally and vocally.

Steve: Definitely! Although we would have done anyway, because I think we’ve both rediscovered our mutual affinity, which seems to be thriving in a more relaxed atmosphere than that which existed 30 odd years ago, when we were under a certain amount of pressure from the label…

How was it to get back into the FIAT LUX creative mindset, did you set yourselves any rules or methods?

Steve: It was really easy to get back into the FIAT LUX creative mindset. No rules or methods are set out, and David will hate me for saying it, but to some extent it’s become an organic process. Things evolve, sounds are rediscovered, and things that are coming out, such as ‘It’s You’, IS FIAT LUX – which goes to demonstrate that we are capable of a distinctive sound.

David: “Organic” Argghh! You’ll be saying “we’re on a journey” next – ha ha! But I agree with Steve – I think even back in the 80s we had a clear idea of what the FIAT LUX sound was and was not, guided by some great production people: Bill Nelson and Hugh Jones most notably.

‘It’s You’, the wonderful first new song to be unleashed is classic FIAT LUX, the lyrics are very touching…

Steve: I’m glad you think so! The song itself was perhaps the quickest of the new tracks to be completed – it literally came together in minutes! From the initial drum beat, to the lyrics – everything we tried just seemed to fit there and then, without too much tinkering. Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…

David: We didn’t set it up to be so, but on reflection I see it as a successor to ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ in spirit – it has an emotive vocal and lyric from Steve – it’s sort of dancey and of course it is a new beginning for us.

The sax style is a fitting tribute to Ian…

Steve: Absolutely! Ian is never far from our minds, and we consciously say to each other when we’re working on new ideas “What would Ian have done?”! I was really quite blown away by Will’s playing – he was instantly empathetic to what we wanted to achieve.

David: Yes – Steve’s talking about Will Howard, who did the sax session for this and some of the other new material we’re working up. I discovered Will quite by accident in Leeds when I was sound mixing a Christmas themed radio show for the BBC in a shopping precinct! He was part of an act taking part called BACKCHAT BRASS – you know one of those pop-up street brass ensembles.

I’ve seen a few in the city before and they are usually all right, but all the guys in this one were way ahead of the norm and really impressed me – Will particularly knocked me out on tenor sax – I instinctively knew he was what we were looking for and that he would be capable of doing justice to the Ian Nelson legacy.

So, is this leading towards the possibility of the debut full length album from FIAT LUX or is a mini-album like ‘Hired History’ more realistic? How’s it sounding?

Steve: It’s all sounding great! At the moment, we are planning to get a full album of completely new material out.

David: Yes, that’s the next step we’re aiming for – we’ve already got about 7 or 8 songs that we’re happy with at a fairly advanced stage of completion. At our current level of creativity we may even be looking at a release late this year!

Steve: …and there is a chance that the ‘Hired History’ era songs will eventually be released from the archives – that’s what we’re aiming for.

David: Yes, another consequence of the ‘Secrets 2017’ release was that a few doors opened to us with the old record company that had previously been closed.

Steve: We have quite a bit of material from the 80s which hasn’t been heard, and to make it available to fans now, in whatever format, would be fantastic. There’s nothing that exists of it really – the singles are confined to old vinyl pressings… there might be the odd bootleg of those floating about on the web, but a lot of people have expressed a desire for us to get it out officially. Watch this space!

Modern electronic acts like KITE have an EPs only policy… does the album format still have a place in today’s music consumption?

Steve: I personally think albums are better value for money than EPs, but in the digital age it’s all so easy and cost effective to do, I suppose – I’m aware of the fact that on digital platforms people are free to just buy certain tracks, or stream them but you still can’t beat having a proper hard copy, can you?

David: The other thing is that we have been deprived of the chance to release a proper album for all these years. Our album from the mid-80s, which we we’re really proud of, still remains unheard in a major label’s archive. We’ve always considered ourselves to be an album band and now we are in control of our own destiny, we’d like to prove ourselves with this new material by just doing it.

How are you finding dealing with social media at the moment in letting people know that FIAT LUX are back?

David: It’s been essential for gathering followers of the band old and new and, apart from the odd radio play and media coverage by the likes of yourselves, it has been our main vehicle to say “we’re back”.

Of course the other good thing is that when you do get radio coverage you can send people to “listen again” facilities to hear the programme after the event. In the 80s we got lots of plays, mainly on BBC Radio 1, but people had to be listening at the time of the broadcast to hear it. Now one play probably counts for over a dozen in the old days because of social media and iPlayer and the like. As I’m fond of saying: “modern technology – it’s not what it used to be”.

It’s a bit of a minefield isn’t it? There’s an American garage band called FIAT LUX too, is that causing any confusion?

Steve: I know that our PR girl, Helen, finds it frustrating!

David: I don’t get the impression that they are very high up the musical food chain and I doubt that any of our followers have mistakenly bought any of their songs, but it is causing us problems because while we have been dormant they have populated some of the digital channels with their material – which of course anybody can do – but the automatic search engines have in some cases attributed our biogs and Wikipedia details to their tracks which is very annoying and means we are not getting our links to our new tracks as a consequence. I believe the digital legal people at Proper Distribution are looking into this. I doubt it has been done maliciously by the other act, but it certainly is a nuisance of a kind that we didn’t have to deal with in the Polydor days!

A few years ago, artists were ditching their own websites to go solely onto Facebook… they now might be regretting that! Have you considered using additional platforms?

Steve: It would seem that there’s no set format, so we’ll just do what suits us – website, Facebook, Spotify… I should imagine that you can’t rely just on one platform – if there’s an exodus of people leaving Facebook, then to only have that as your main point of promotion, is surely very limiting?

David: I find the whole thing fascinating as a social study. When FIAT LUX was going first time around, there was a great celebration / marking of the world reaching the year 1984 – George Orwell’s year of Big Brother. Orwell got it right but what he didn’t envisage was that people would give over their privacy voluntarily – he thought some totalitarian state would have to impose these 24 hour observations upon us, but we’ve done it to ourselves! “Proceed with caution” is my moto on the subject.

Are the possibility of FIAT LUX live dates more likely now?

Steve: Ha ha! I think the release of the material needs to take priority, but I never say never…

David: In due course I would quite like to give it a go – it’s down to the singer really… Ha ha!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to FIAT LUX

Additional thanks also to Helen Robinson

‘It’s You’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 4th May 2018, available on the usual digital platforms

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.splidrecords.co.uk


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd May 2018

TEC’s 2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner MARK REEDER used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and GARY NUMAN refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just The Electricity Club 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and ALISON MOYET saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, BRIAN ENO presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; The Electricity Club wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer JORI HULKKONEN released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but MICHAEL OAKLEY and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the ex-pats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC, MATTHIAS, NTTX and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and HANNAH PEEL embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform  were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While The Electricity Club does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, The Electricity Club maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


KERSTIN KEY

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: GOLDFRAPP Systemagic
Best Gig: OMD at Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Halle
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: KATJA VON KASSEL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

FIAT LUX Interview

FIAT LUX celebrate the 35th anniversary of their formation with the release of ‘Secrets 2017’, a new recording of the single which came out in early 1984.

Dedicated to the memory of band member Ian Nelson who sadly passed away in 2006, ‘Secrets 2017’ is the first FIAT LUX release to be officially available to buy on digital platforms.

The new version respectfully recaptures the essence of their sound with its emotive mix of dual vocals, synths and woodwinds. Despite critical acclaim for their 1982 debut single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and a near miss with their biggest potential hit ‘Blue Emotion’ in Spring 1984, record company politics at Polydor Records sadly dictated that their debut full-length album was never to see the light of day.

Bizarrely, a VHS video and laserdisc release entitled ‘Commercial Breakdown’ comprising of their Mike Mansfield directed Channel 4 showcase did emerge; yet-to-be-released songs on it such as ‘The Moment’ confirmed that FIAT LUX could have crossed over into the same audiences that had embraced BLACK following the success of ‘Wonderful Life’.

Despite there being no FIAT LUX album, a collection entitled ‘Fac Ut Vivas’ comprising of songs from those recording sessions leaked over the internet. It gave followers of the band access to some previously unheard songs like ‘Breaking The Boundary’ and ‘Embers’.

There was obviously a demand but while other acts that met the same fate as FIAT LUX like THE MOOD have had their recordings released, the FIAT LUX material is still sadly under wraps in the Universal Music Group’s vaults.

The duo of vocalist Steve Wright and instrumentalist David P Crickmore kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about FIAT LUX and what could have been…

What has been the impetus for FIAT LUX to record again?

David: For me it is twofold:

1/ frustration at many failed attempts by a number of interested specialist labels to get our “lost” 1984 Polydor album licensed from Universal Music who hold the master tapes.

2/ During my work as a record producer on other artiste’s projects, I have increasingly been asked to produce sounds that are evocative of the FIAT LUX era.

I realised that I still had all the equipment and the knowledge of how to use it. This made the recreation of one of our legacy tracks possible, thus bypassing the impasse with Universal Music. We hold our own publishing rights now, so it is only the mechanical copyright for the actual 1980s recordings that Universal retains. Make new recordings and there isn’t an issue.

Steve: The opportunity to get together with David again, and have a bit of fun working in the studio. There were no preconceptions or demands, and that freedom was very attractive.

Has FIAT LUX ever felt like unfinished business?

David: Yes, in the sense that our major label career happened at just the point when the level of spending on recording projects was so high that an unwritten rule had developed at Polydor that if you didn’t get a Top 20 hit single, your album release would be delayed. So far, ours has been delayed by about 32 years!

There were a number of times when we were in the studio, crafting our LP “masterwork” with producer Hugh Jones, when the phone would ring and it would be someone from Polydor saying “you know that hit single we were working on? – well it’s dropped down the charts rather than up as we predicted – can you pack up on the album and write another potential hit instead please?”

This was soul destroying for us, especially as we always had such good radio play support from the likes of BBC Radio 1 and reasonable press backing too. If there was any one factor that killed the band off, this was it!

Steve: Yes. Because the potential was vast. We were inhibited by the commercial attitudes of the time. Given that Polydor spent a small fortune on the recording costs for our LP, it seems odd that they didn’t spend that little bit extra to actually put it out. It’s no coincidence that our long form video that was released in 1985 was called ‘Commercial Breakdown’.

Did you stumble into the synth based direction by accident for FIAT LUX?

David: Sort of, yes. We’d all been captivated by punk, especially as that developed into the New Wave and our own first bands tended to be guitar bass and drum affairs in the spirit of BUZZCOCKS, THE CLASH, THE RUTS and the like.

However I was also a fan of Bowie, Eno, KRAFTWERK and various 1970s synth based outfits and the interesting thing was that, (unlike all the other pop and prog stuff that came immediately before punk), you were not wrong if you still liked that sort of stuff in 1979.

Indeed, I remember that kind of music forming the bedrock for the alternative club scene in Wakefield and Leeds in the very early 80s before there were many new acts providing the soundtrack.

Gradually things like THE NORMAL, BILL NELSON, TUBEWAY ARMY, a revamped JAPAN, ULTRAVOX and early Dindisc released OMD material surfaced and added to the mix of influences and made us realise that the DIY approach facilitated by punk was now open to new possibilities.

Steve: I just sang the stuff, David and Ian played IT.

How significant was BILL NELSON in the realisation of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and giving you the profile to be signed by Polydor?

David: Very. We were poverty stricken ex-students with barely any equipment. We made a demo for Bill on a borrowed reel-to-reel machine using a Casio keyboard and a Electo-Harmonix organ style drum box fashioned into a guitar pedal. We attended the studio sessions on Steve’s motorbike. It was the only form of transport we had between us. Bill was shocked when we turned up with no gear.

Luckily he had turned up with loads of it – including a Minimoog and a TR808 drum machine. The sound of the prototype FIAT LUX was formed as a result of being exposed to this richness of equipment and Bill’s expert production and musical guidance.

By the time we got to the point of doing the recording for Bill, it had already been decided that the result would come out on Bill’s Cocteau Record label, so we had the backing we needed to get noticed and indeed we did with an NME Single of the Week and some early radio play which saw the song rise into the Top 5 of the Indie Chart, which was very influential at the time. It wasn’t long before most major labels were beating a path to our door.

Steve: Bill provided the vehicle for the release of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’, as well as his expert studio craft. He had the vision and faith that we could succeed. He was empathetic to our sound and sympathetically added his own unique marque to the songs. I was in awe of him in the studio, having been a massive fan of him and BE BOP DELUXE.

You met Ian separately and not via Bill? How did he come to join FIAT LUX?

David: When we were making an early start playing local gigs around Yorkshire with only our Casio keyboard and electric guitar and our rather primitive backing tapes, we were keen to encourage extra musicians to come and add weight to the sound.

The Wakefield alternative music scene was a fairly tight knit affair – we all knew each other and went to each other’s gigs and often played at each other’s gigs. Ian was one of a number of people who used to get up jam along with us from time to time. As FIAT LUX became a more definite proposition after we made the disc with Bill, he seemed like the obvious person to invite to join us permanently.

Steve: The first time we met Ian was when he came to an early gig David and I did in a Wakefield pub. He told me that he liked the sound of the music, but thought we were “very brave” to just stand there in front of a reel-to-reel tape recorder with such minimal equipment! He asked if he could work with us at some point. And that was it. And we loved him for it.

Although you were seen as an electronic pop band, you used a lot of organic instruments like sax, clarinet and marimba as well as guitars, bass and drums. How important was that to your ethos?

David: Very. I think that by the time we got properly going, the novelty of “synthesisers only” was beginning to wear off and we felt we needed a bigger palate to play with if our sound was to develop.

The atmosphere of the time was always to be forging ahead and looking for new sounds, you couldn’t stand still. I’m glad we went this way as, although the very early 80s synth only acts sounded pioneering at the time, in my opinion they haven’t dated as well as those who used a broader brush stroke.

You also can’t underestimate the childhood influence of the 1960s on 80s acts – the post ‘Sgt Pepper’ psychedelic era with all its timbres and the big voice sound of the likes of SCOTT WALKER provided a vital template.

Steve: I don’t think there was much “ethos” going on, it just sounded right. It took the recordings beyond the purely electronical. We never branded ourselves as “synthpop”; it was the media at the time that found it convenient to do that.

FIAT LUX had a distinctive Vox Matrimonium dual vocal style, what influenced that?

David: Again I think the 60s sound of THE WALKER BROTHERS and THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS had a lot to do with it. In the early days I remember we did a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of all that called ‘Hold Me’. We were still doing it on the BLANCMANGE tour I think.

Steve: I think it was a natural desire to make the tracks feel full. And with Hugh Jones mixing and producing, it worked a treat.

You had recorded ‘Photography’ with BILL NELSON producing as your first major label single. But Polydor weren’t happy with the results and made you re-record it with Hugh Jones. Why was that?

David: Simply, Polydor didn’t like it. To be fair to Bill, he followed their brief to “make it like ‘Feels Like Winter Again’” and we even used the same local Leeds studio, which probably wasn’t “state of the art” in Polydor terms.

The next thing we knew, they were saying “Here’s your new producer – Hugh Jones”.

Lucky for us, as things progressed, Hugh turned out to be our George Martin and on the rare occasions we attempted any future recording without him, the magic was missing. The hours and hours of detailed crafting he put into our album is one of the reasons I regret it is not out there in the public domain.

Steve: What David said. I have to say though; I was upset for us and Bill, who after all had put SO much effort in at the very beginning.

So out of all your songs, why record ‘Secrets 2017’? How did you approach it 35 years on?

David: We chose ‘Secrets’ because it seems to be the one that has captivated people the most in the intervening years. Annie Nightingale consistently named it as one of her favourite songs, even long after most of her tastes had changed to favour dance music. BBC 6 Music tend to favour the track on the occasions that they break out one of our oldies. Also it was an easier one to recreate without Ian, as there is no major saxophone break in it. We thought it was the best calling card to say “hello, we’re back”.

Steve: Honestly, we approached it pretty much as we did in 1983. For my own part, I guess I was pretty nervous. I didn’t want to be found out as a fraud!!! But the voice still works it seems, and with coaching from David and time, we ended up happy!

‘Blue Emotion’ is still a poignant song, especially in the current political climate. What inspired the song originally?

Steve: It was all inspired by the Falklands invasion. Basically people I knew, who I thought were fairly level headed, were expressing the view that they would “Deffo go and fight” if they had to. There was this potential queue for the blue Tory emotion of the time. Let me just say, that I have nothing but respect for the armed forces and those that serve, they are brilliant men and women. It wasn’t particularly a pacifist song, I was just amazed at the seeming blood lust amongst acquaintances.

David: Musically I think I had a sort of Motown–like figure going on with the bass line and on top of this, Ian put his lovely Holst inspired Moog line which really compliments the lyric and its melody and helps makes it distinctive.

‘Hired History’ is the document that represents FIAT LUX’s major label output, but how close did you get to actually releasing a full-length album?

David: We got very close every time one of our singles looked like it was going to get on Top Of The Pops. When it didn’t, we went back to being very far away again.

Steve: Well put David!

‘The Moment’ which appeared on the belated video and laserdisc collection ‘Commercial Breakdown’ is a lost jewel. It seems unbelievable with songs like that and ‘Breaking The Boundary’ that Polydor shelved the album?

David: It was a symptom of the times. If we’d been a band recording in the 1970s, we’d probably have put a number of albums out without need of a big hit.

Steve: ‘The Moment’ is indeed a lost jewel, as is ‘Hold Me While You Can’. Such a shame they never really got onto the airwaves.

When BLACK achieved mainstream success, did you ever think “that could have been us?”

David: No, other people tended to say it to me – I didn’t really cross my mind at the time. It’s easier to look back now with some perspective and catch nuances of our sound or our look in some of the mid-80s acts that followed us and wonder if it was a coincidence or not. More often, I reflect on what would have happened if we had chosen to take up with a different label other than Polydor. The very imprints that had the successes with the later names we are thinking about, were among those chasing us in 1982.

Steve: BLACK never appeared on my radar. I appreciate it NOW but back then, I hardly noticed it.

So how did an unreleased album called ‘Fac Ut Vivas’ end up on the internet?

David: What puzzles me more than the idea that some tapes were leaked is how this collection (which loosely resembles the “lost” Polydor album in a fairly lo-fi form) got its name. It is certainly not a title that was ever considered by us. In fact I don’t think we ever got to the point where a title for the proposed album was ever discussed. We certainly wouldn’t have gone for more Latin – “FIAT LUX” is quite enough of that!

Steve: I have no idea… really! Nothing to do with Universal that’s for sure.

The FIAT LUX back catalogue has not been reissued despite your efforts and interest from fans. Why do you think Universal have been so difficult? They won’t put it out, yet won’t let you, the band, do something with it…

David: I don’t know. The label I am involved with, Splid Records which is putting out the newly recorded ‘Secrets 2017’ has certainly tried, as have others. In the past, I began to believe that the master tapes must have been lost, but recently I have come by an inventory that shows that Universal have all our stuff properly catalogued and stored safely and securely, so that’s not it.

I am beginning to put it down to one person in their licensing office who never sits at his desk and doesn’t return any voicemail calls or emails!

Steve: Maybe it’s just down to one guy who hasn’t got the time to deal with minnows like us when they’re dealing with the likes of U2’s global licensing issues.

Looking back, which FIAT LUX songs were your favourites?

David: Because they are less in the public domain, I favour some of the lost album tracks – ‘The Moment’, ‘Hold Me While You Can’ and ‘Embers’ which Hugh Jones reckoned was the slowest song he’d ever recorded, are the ones I wish more people could experience. I’m very proud of the songs in general and, of the ones that are known, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ I think stand the test of time.

Steve: ‘The Moment’, no doubt. So proud of it. Fabulous arrangement.

David: The singing isn’t bad on that one either Steve!

Steve: Also ‘Embers’ for the atmosphere and memories.

If ‘Secrets 2017’ achieves its aims, what do you hope to do next as FIAT LUX?

David: Well we’re not exactly poised with a new album waiting in the wings just yet, but Steve and I have enjoyed recording together again and I hope we will continue to do so now we know it can still work. I imagine some more recording sessions with some new ideas could emerge in due course. It’s a matter of finding the time amongst our other ongoing commitments – musical and otherwise.

Steve: Continue the fun… and the sound. Always remembering Ian’s contribution, being mindful of what he might have done. That’s important!

So is there the possibility of live gigs in the future?

Steve: The suggestion kind of scares me. It’s been a LONG time. I don’t want to let David down, I don’t want to let myself down, but most of all I wouldn’t want to let an audience down. That old chestnut!

David: It’s not out of the question but what you have to remember is that, while I have been playing live music at a professional level consistently in the intervening years, Steve has not, so it’s a big ask for him to come back onto that platform after so long away. At least after the new ‘Secrets’ recording, we now know he’s still got THAT voice.

The other thing of course is that we’d need someone to fill Ian Nelson’s shoes in the live role – not an easy thing to contemplate.

It’s only after sifting through the old material that it has properly dawned on me how good his playing was. I have to admit I kind of took it for granted in my twenties. As Neil Ferguson, who mastered the new single said to me “You’d be hard pressed to find another Ian – there aren’t many sax and wind players that are not jazzers – and Ian never played in a jazz style”. I have also come to appreciate that his lovely clarinet tone was not run of the mill either!

FIAT LUX have recently created a Facebook page with information, photos and video clips old and new – please visit and like the page: www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial – also we acknowledge the work done to keep the band’s name alive by such as The Electricity Club and Hired History website.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to FIAT LUX

Special thanks also to Dave Sewell at Hired History

‘Secrets 2017’ is released as a download single by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 24th February 2017, available from iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.hiredhistory.co.uk/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd February 2017

Missing In Action: FIAT LUX

Named after the Latin phrase meaning “let there be light”, 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 in 1981.

Founded in 1982 by drama graduates Steve Wright (lead vocals) and David Crickmore (guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals), the pair had met at college in Wakefield.

They formed JUVENILES, a new wave band that had two songs on a 1980 independent compilation called ‘Household Shocks’; Crickmore was the more flamboyant of the pair, wearing make-up and dying his hair regularly although Wright was no less outrageous, with the visual persona of a more butch Marc Almond!

Still intent on pursuing an acting career after his studies, Wright joined the Yorkshire Actors theatre company where he met noted musician Bill Nelson who had been the leader of cult prog rock band BE BOP DELUXE and scored a UK Top 10 solo album called ‘Quit Dreaming & Get On The Beam’ in 1981.

Suitably impressed by a demo Wright had given to him, Nelson produced two tracks ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and ‘This Illness’ for release on his Cocteau Records label in November 1982. This was an important symbol of recognition as only the year before, Nelson had produced A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ and its release on Cocteau had brought the Liverpool quartet to the attention of Jive Records. The subsequent deal eventually led to them breaking America with hits such as ‘I Ran’, ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)’

As a calling card, ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ was musical triumph. Driven by Nelson’s resonant drum machine, the cutting mix of synth and treated guitar over an electronic pulse juxtaposed with real bass guitar made an emotive statement, even without Wright’s sombre tale of broken love affairs. The song didn’t just feel like winter, it sounded like winter… chilling and resigned but simultaneously pretty with a glint of light in the darkness. The B-side ‘This Illness’ was more moody and featured Bill Nelson’s distinctive E-bowed infinite guitar alongside some sparkling synth work.

Wright and Crickmore had been performing live as a duo under the name HE’S DEAD HERMAN but had wanted to expand their line-up as FIAT LUX. The musician they enlisted was Bill Nelson’s sax and keyboard playing brother Ian who they had met independently on the Wakefield gig circuit.

The bolstered line-up was timely as ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ had gained radio airplay from notable DJs on BBC Radio1 such as Peter Powell, Kid Jensen and Janice Long. This attention also got them a support tour with BLANCMANGE and led to them signing to Polydor Records in March 1983.

With a £60,000 advance for the first year, among the new equipment purchased were a Roland Jupiter 8 and a Roland TR808 drum machine while the next recording sessions were produced again by Bill Nelson. However, Polydor’s A&R were unhappy with his take on ‘Photography’ which had been agreed as the band’s first major label release. This was a particularly unfortunate period for Bill Nelson as later in the year, he had his cutting, trebly mixes rejected by GARY NUMAN for his ‘Warriors’ album. However, Numan later admitted in hindsight that Bill Nelson’s production vision may well have been “ahead of his time”.

A brand new version of ‘Photography’ produced by Hugh Jones, who had worked with SIMPLE MINDS, THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, was issued that summer. Less immediate than ‘Feels Like Winter Again’, ‘Photography’ took several listens to appreciate as its structure was unconventional.

But the interplay between Wright’s crooning lead vocal and Crickmore’s repeat staccato harmony was a total delight. The song’s climax was led by a bursting lift from Nelson’s sax but despite its steadfast power, ‘Photography’ lacked an obvious hook for it to be a hit and didn’t chart.

In a softening of the blow, FIAT LUX went on a well received tour opening for HOWARD JONES in December 1983. On a crest of momentum from that particular success, a new single ‘Secrets’ was readied for the start of 1984. This beautifully haunting ballad was bolstered by what appeared to be a violin solo; it was actually performed using a Yamaha CS80 by Mike Timoney, a musician who had played on ‘Are We A Worker?’ from CHINA CRISIS’ first album. ‘Secrets’ reached No.65 in the UK so progress was gradually being made.

In Spring 1984, the band issued their outstanding fourth single ‘Blue Emotion’. In an age of greed and “self help – help yourself”, the song was, like BUCKS FIZZ’s ‘Land Of Make Believe’, a veiled warning on the dangers of Thatcherism! Musically, this was their most accessible offering yet with a fabulous sweeping ‘2001’ theme from Ian Nelson via a MemoryMoog and the now trademark Wright/Crickmore Vox Matrimonium. Unfortunately, the rousing tune and the political sentiment went over the heads of most. It only reached the heady heights of No. 59 in the UK singles chart despite an appearance on an Old Grey Whistle Test synth special also featuring KRAFTWERK, JEAN MICHE JARRE and HOWARD JONES.

hired-historySensing stagnation and with the debut album still not ready, Polydor swiftly issued a six track EP ‘Hired History’ containing ‘Photography’, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ plus their corresponding B-Sides as a stop-gap.

All the singles were sequenced onto the first side thus exposing the trio’s penchant for less accessible theatrics on the second side. ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ in particular sounded like Bertolt Brecht gone electro although the funky ‘Aqua Vitae’ (which ironically sounded like something from GARY NUMAN’s ‘Warriors’) showed some promise for the upcoming album.

Autumn 1984 saw the release of the disappointing ‘House Of Thorns’ but this blip was nicely overcome by the brilliantly superior pop of ‘Solitary Lovers’ not long after. However, neither made an impact on the charts and the album shelved by Polydor. Disillusioned, Crickmore departed FIAT LUX shortly after. Wright and Nelson soldiered on briefly but without the chemistry of the founding Wright/Crickmore axis, FIAT LUX were not the same and they quietly disbanded.

But there was a belated 1986 release of a VHS video and Laser Disc ‘Commercial Breakdown’ which was actually a Channel 4 TV showcase broadcast in 1984 that contained specially filmed sequences and live versions of tracks that were to be included on their debut album. Interestingly, one of the unreleased numbers ‘The Moment’ possessed hints of Colin Verncombe’s BLACK who were soon to find fame and fortune with ‘Wonderful Life’ while the more percussive ‘No More Proud’ was reminiscent of FIAT LUX’s own B-sides like ‘Three’s Company’ and ‘Aqua Vitae’.

commercial1After FIAT LUX, Crickmore rediscovered his love of folk music and founded THE DURBERVILLES. The combo went on to present a folk show on BBC Radio Leeds and still tour regularly. Meanwhile, Steve Wright joined cult electronic act CAMERA OBSCURA (not the Glaswegian hipster faves) but eventually left music altogether to work in television. Ian Nelson continued to work with his brother Bill. However, he sadly died in April 2006 on his 50th birthday.

But with the accessibility of the internet, in around 2008 several music bloggers were offering a FIAT LUX compilation entitled ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ for free download… this turned out to be a high quality rip from master tapes of their shelved debut album, allegedly leaked by FIAT LUX themselves after their contract with Polydor ended.

From it, the brooding uptempo North European melancholy of ‘Breaking The Boundary’ was easily as good as BLACK’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ while ‘Embers’ came over like a distant cousin of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. FIAT LUX were always keen to combine electronics with real instruments such as sax, marimbas, drums, bass and guitars so here they were going virtually the whole acoustic hog. Featuring all the Polydor singles minus ‘House Of Thorns’, ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ would have made an impressive debut flaunting FIAT LUX’s instrumental versatility and diversity. Alas, this missing album is why FIAT LUX are still one of the forgotten acts of the Synth Britannia era.

Apparently, discussions between reissue label Cherry Red and Universal Music (who now own the FIAT LUX tapes) to release ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ began in 2009 but have so far come to nought. The band only officially released 13 songs in their recorded career and none are presently available even digitally! However, anything is still possible; but until a formal release is sanctioned, make Google your friend… there could a nice surprise 😉


Dedicated to the memory of Ian Nelson 1956-2006

The Electricity Club acknowledges the vast archive available on Dave Sewell’s FIAT LUX fan site www.hiredhistory.co.uk, without which, this article would not have been quite as detailed

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

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial/

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th September 2013, updated 16th December 2016

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