Tag: Gazelle Twin (Page 1 of 9)

TEC’s 2020 End Of Year Review

“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.

The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.

To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.

Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.

Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.

Demonstrating a possible new model for the future, Midge Ure launched his subscription based ‘Backstage Lockdown Club’ which included intimate live performances and specials guests like Glenn Gregory and Howard Jones.

Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michael Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.

Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.

There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!

But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”

There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.

There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and  the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .

The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.

Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.

SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.

But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.

‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.

Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.

Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.

It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.

2020 saw a lot of 40th anniversaries for a number of key albums including ‘Vienna’ by ULTRAVOX, ‘Travelogue’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Closer’ by JOY DIVISION.

Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.

It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.

PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.

Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.

ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.

It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN and COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.

In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.

Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.

Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.

Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.

An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.

The Electricity Club celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which The Electricity Club had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.

At that event, The Electricity Club took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set.

This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉

The final live event that The Electricity Club attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.

Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned The Electricity Club over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, The Electricity Club remains proud that it is still extremely selective.

In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?

The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.

From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.

It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.


THE ELECTRICTY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2020

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: LOGIC SYSTEM Technasma
Best Song: NEW ORDER Be A Rebel
Best Gig / Live Stream: NICOLAS GODIN at London Rough Trade
Best Video: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Snowburden
Most Promising New Act: RUE OBERKAMPF


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn
Best Song: DUBSTAR I Can See You Outside
Best Gig / Live Stream: WITCH OF THE VALE online Unplugged Live for SAY Women
Best Video: STEVEN WILSON Personal Shopper
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: PAGE Blutest Du?
Best Gig / Live Stream: LAU NAU + VILE ELECTRODES at Cecil Sharp House
Best Video: STRIKKLAND Dance Like A God
Most Promising New Act: INDEPENDENT STATE


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Heavy Rainfall
Best Gig / Live Stream: LUSTANS LAKEJER online at Malmö KB
Best Video: ULTRAFLEX Olympic Sweat
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ERASURE The Neon
Best Song: DUBSTAR Hygiene Strip
Best Gig / Live Stream: IŻOL Koncert online at Ziemi Rybnickiej
Best Video: PET SHOP BOYS Monkey Business
Most Promising New Act: MENTRIX


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2020

A Beginner’s Guide To BENGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TENNIS Weakness Together (2001)

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

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

https://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/


BENGE 1969 EMS VCS3 (2008)

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

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

https://twitter.com/zackdagoba


SERAFINA STEER How To Haunt A House Party (2010)

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

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

http://www.serafinasteer.com/


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

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

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

http://www.metamatic.com/


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

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

Available on the OMD single ‘Dresden’ via BMG

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


GAZELLE TWIN Exorcise (2014)

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

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

https://www.gazelletwin.com/


HANNAH PEEL & BENGE Find Peace (2014)

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

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

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


WRANGLER Lava Land (2014)

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

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

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


GHOST HARMONIC Codex (2015)

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

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

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


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

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

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

http://garynuman.com/


FADER 3D Carpets (2017)

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

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

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


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame (2017)

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

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

https://www.ispeakmachine.com/


LONE TAXIDERMIST Home (2017)

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

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

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


BLANCMANGE In Your Room (2018)

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

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

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


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound (2018)

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

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

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


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

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

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

https://johngrantmusic.com/


LUMP Hand Hold Hero (2018)

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

Available on the LUMP album ‘Lump’ via Dead Oceans

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


OBLONG Echolocation (2019)

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

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

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th March 2020

FRAGILE SELF Fragile Self

“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness”: Sigmund Freud

Exploring states of mind from madness to creativity, FRAGILE SELF are a minimal electronic duo aiming to create dark pop music to communicate the detachment often felt within the human condition.

Anil Aykan and Jonathan Barnbrook are FRAGILE SELF, thoughtful visual artists with a strong sense of partnership in music through their previous work with personalities as diverse as David Bowie, John Foxx, Hannah Peel and Rihanna.

Like a musical thesis on psychotherapy, the self-titled album is released on the 120th anniversary of the first publication of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud.

Aykan had an early flirtation with Black Metal with her handling the poetry, she comes over like an existentialist cross between MISS KITTIN and Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON which suits the brooding and ritualistic exploration that is FRAGILE SELF.

Mixed by Erland Cooper and shaped by modular synthesis, Jonathan Barnbrook said ”The thing that interests me most about it is the changing of electronic voltage that affects pitch, timbre and time. It is like you are playing with the building blocks of the universe. The same thing that makes the sound of drum, drives the human heart to beat or fires neutrons in the brain that define consciousness.”

With an incessant mechanical rhythm and stark vocal phrasing, the opener ‘I Loved Alone’ takes on the fierce aura of GAZELLE TWIN and a detached expression of feeling within the language.

Beginning with a recorded quote from Fritz Perls who coined the term ‘Gestalt therapy’, ‘This Is My Existence’ is brutal with Aykan exclaiming “memory is cancer”, Barnbrook’s doomily emulates his hero John Foxx with an eerie synth theme over a minimal structure.

The art funk of ‘Bertha’ is mutantly danceable, the deadpan vocalisation does recall MISS KITTIN but compliments the stark electronic backing, especially when Aykan percussively slips into German to recall the attitude of Berlin punks MALARIA!

The eponymous title track squelches with bass rumbles and electronic chainsaws while ‘Patients’ does possess some unsettling rhythmic fervour in a white noise barrage and talk of “broken histories” before going aggressively militaristic.

The noise attack on ‘Deperson’ is the darkest track on ‘Fragile Self’, swoops and gongs do battle over an industrial backbone in eine eintürzende Wand aus Tönen. The reverberant cerebral concept piece ‘Surrogate’ hints at Wendy Carlos and dark Jean-Michel Jarre; aesthetically schizophrenic, it is also something which also shapes the sinister arpeggio and chant laden ‘Leon’.

A syncussive pulse soundtracks the horror mood of ‘Need For Sanctuary’ with creepy Theremin-like qualities for a slice of vibrato laden avant-wave. ’Journey Taken’ though is a battle of machines in alternate quartet bursts in all frequencies before unsettlingly ending on the doom of church bells affirming Sartre’s view that “Hell is other people”.

The debut offering from FRAGILE SELF is an intense uneasy listen, but it is a well-crafted and yes, impeccably designed art statement. There’s aggression and agitation but it is aurally cathartic and rewarding.

So if the idea of MISS KITTIN collaborating with GAZELLE TWIN in an experimental electronic backdrop appeals, then this record will help highlight how “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength”.


‘Fragile Self’ is released by Sugarcane Recordings / Daperson Society as a vinyl LP, CD and 480 page book with download code, available now direct from http://www.fragileself.com/vinylcdbookdownload

Download also available from https://fragileself.bandcamp.com/

http://www.fragileself.com

https://www.facebook.com/fragileself/

https://twitter.com/fragile_self

https://www.instagram.com/fragile_self/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Teri Varhol
11th November 2019

WITCH OF THE VALE Interview

From the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles, WITCH OF THE VALE have made a fine impression in their comparatively short period of being.

The couple’s musical potential has been rewarded with support slots for CLAN OF XYMOX, ASSEMBLAGE 23, SOLAR FAKE, LEÆTHER STRIP and DRAB MAJESTY while their biggest symbol of recognition in a prestigious slot at Infest awaits them at the end of August.

Possessing some Pagan fervour like GAZELLE TWIN meeting ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Twin Peaks’, the folk inspired stylings of Erin and Ryan Hawthorne have chillingly stood out through the release of two EPs ‘The Way This Will End’ and ‘Trust The Pain’.

From the latter, WITCH OF THE VALE’s hauntingly bleak cover of the already explicit and sinister ‘Gods & Monsters’ by Lana Del Rey has become their best known recording to date. Meanwhile, an EP of remixes entitled ‘Changeling’ has just been released featuring a rework of the ‘Trust The Pain’ song itself by LEÆTHER STRIP.

WITCH OF THE VALE kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about their musical philosophy and existential ideals…

Give us a quick recap on the history of the band so far…

Erin: It started out with Ryan twisting my arm into doing one song, and at the time he promised it would just be this one song. I hadn’t done anything musical in a long time and had zero confidence. We really didn’t have any particular ambitions or strategy when we started doing it, and really never intended to play live shows. A drunken conversation with a local promoter resulted in our first show – a support slot for CLAN OF XYMOX. Things changed gears a bit after that.

Ryan: Our first release was only last October, so there’s been a lot of firsts since then. The first time someone asked us to sign something, the first fan page, the first fan tattoo, the first time one of our musical heroes shared our music, and soon at Infest, our first festival slot.

How much has your geographical background shaped the sound of the band?

Ryan: It underpins our entire sound. We use a lot of early Scottish folk inspired drones with open fifths, evolving reed based synths, strings and brassy textured sounds. The start of ‘Deathwish’ is inspired by the sounds of a Celtic carnyx.

Musically we draw inspiration from Gaelic folk songs. It’s particularly prominent in two of our Waltz songs ‘Your Voice’ and ‘The Way This Will End’.

There’s a dreamlike quality to the music which is counter to the quite biting lyrics. How deliberate is this or does it just flow naturally?

Erin: I wouldn’t say this is intentional. I think the music is pretty dark and melancholy by itself, anyway. Maybe I just can’t write gentle lyrics. I do take a lot of time writing though, it matters very much to me that the words are right.

What is your approach to writing?

Ryan: We have three phases to writing a song…

Write the song
The sound comes later. It may seem obvious, but if we can’t pick up some unplugged musical instruments and have it sound good, then we don’t have a song. Try again.

Destroy it
Once we have something beautiful and then we ruin it. Sterilize any lingering feelings of hope in the song. We use a little distortion on everything.

Abandonment
Buried in the dirt. Left to fester on an external drive. For months a song will stay in this phase, lingering at the back of our minds like mild toothache. Eventually it’s back to phase 1. Repeat the whole thing until we have something we both love enough to release.

How important has playing live been to building your audience? And Ryan, do you have your own drum roadie yet?

Erin: We had shared some music online before our first shows but I don’t think anyone really took note until our first gig.

Ryan: We definitely streamlined what we take with us since that ASSEMBLAGE 23 support slot in London, where you laughed yourself sick seeing us struggling with oversized, non-portable gear. As we write this, we are carrying our gear on the train to play at ‘Beat: Cancer’ in Manchester and Erin has a broken arm. The drum remains a necessity.

Erin, you have a very striking stage presence. How did this develop?

Erin: I’m surprised to hear that anyone thinks that, to be honest. I have horrendous stage fright, and most of what I do on stage is likely a coping mechanism for that.

Ryan: That’s just what Erin looks like.

A lot of folk are quite ‘anti’ streaming platforms like Spotify. How do you view them?

Ryan: we both extensively use Spotify to listen to music and discover new artists. It would be hypocritical for us to criticise it. Unfortunately, you need to be an established artist to be discoverable. Without followers and appearances on prominent playlists, you won’t appear on the algorithms. That’s why it makes such a huge difference if you follow indie artists, share their music, and add them to playlists. Do it!

There is also a fair amount of competition between bands for support slots, coverage etc. How do you feel about this?

Erin: We’ve been pretty lucky in securing good support slots, actually, especially considering we really are still just getting on our feet. I don’t think I’ve felt much in the way of competition between other smaller acts, really. We’re actually a bit concerned about over-playing. You see some small artists who take every other gig they’re offered, which I think isn’t necessarily the best way to gain interest and a following. If you play the same clubs to the same audiences every other month… people stop coming out to see.

I go for dinner ‘Chez Hawthorne’ What’s on the playlist whilst we eat?

Erin: FEVER RAY; their two albums on loop.

Ryan: I hope you don’t mind vegetarian food by the way, accompanied by an Entrée of artists like ALICE GLASS, KANGA, THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE, CRANES and THE CURE.

You are the latest in a long line of breakthrough bands to play Infest. Do you prepare for a show like this differently to a usual performance?

Erin: We’re both quite anxious people, so preparation will likely involve drinking more than usual… so it’s probably a good thing our set is quite early. We’re hoping to include some new material.

After Infest, what’s next?

Ryan: Tricky question, we would love to do some shows and festivals further afield, but that would require having the time and the confidence to reach out and cold contact festival organisers and promoters. We could really use some suggestions or representation in this regard. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us on social media if you know someone who might want WITCH OF THE VALE on their next line-up.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to WITCH OF THE VALE

‘The Way This Will End’, ‘Trust The Pain’ and ‘Changeling’ are available direct from https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/releases

WITCH OF THE VALE play Infest at University of Bradford Student Union on Saturday 24th August 2019 shortly after doors open at 15:00

http://www.witchofthevale.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/

https://twitter.com/WitchOfTheVale

https://www.instagram.com/witch_of_the_vale/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7axp614rqaTEKnaeQJ8F3V


Interview by Ian Ferguson
Additional Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th  August 2019

ZAMILSKA Uncovered

The concept of “Teraz Polska” (Poland Now) has been popularised in the Slavic land on both sides of the Vistula River for years.

But could it be that it truly is the time for the Poles to conquer the world of electronica?

Polska has found her own GAZELLE TWIN: enter Natalia Zamilska from the famously darkest part of the country, Silesia. Covered in carbon soot, raising deep from the centre of the Earth, she hits hard with her third album ‘Uncovered’.

The first parts of the undertaking, ‘Untune’ and ‘Undone’ were the formation of the now established artist and ‘Uncovered’ ushers in the new concepts of unearthing deeply hidden sounds, raising rather than falling and defying gravity. Zamilska draws parallels between life in the mining capital of Poland, with the constant noise, trembles and shakes, the true “attacks against the Earth” and creating meaningful music to excavate the electronic beauty for surface delivery.

Katowice may not be the most romantic place on the planet, but it’s certainly a superb backdrop against the industrial sounds which the producer, radio DJ and now vocalist likes to explore.

Zamilska is doing well in Poland with her own radio show, regular gigs and her work has been used by Dior for the catwalk in Japan. She has also remixed GAZELLE TWIN, collaborated with Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra and received a nomination for a Fryderyk, the Polish equivalent of a Grammy (named after Chopin of course).

‘Uncovered’ can be best described as artful and thought through. Nothing is random here, from the opening ‘Message’ with whipped cymbals, distorted radio and heavy bells to the closing ‘Done’, the shape bending scenarios are being played over and over again.

‘Hospital’ is a mirror image of GAZELLE TWIN’s works on ‘Unflesh’ with words thrown in for good measure, while ‘Hollow’, featuring the voice of Polish actress Justyna Wasilewska, repeats its rhythm as if through smoke. The mantric sound asks “what should I tell you” in various voices and time shifts.

There’s a feeling of dread and images of levitation come to mind. The idea of floating and bending into shapes that are unnatural prevails on this record, being visually presented on the artwork where Zamilska is seen in unworldly positions, as if undergoing an exorcism.

‘Still’ meanders between the two with the sinister voice of a fever induced coma, gathering the strength to enter into ‘Gape’. ‘Alive’ is a synth play, strangely musical and super enticing with unusual punctuations; is Zamilska giving her fellow Polish megastar Nosowska a run for her money here? Run Kaśka, run…

Perhaps it’s just a ‘Delusion’, or maybe a mere religious ritual as empty as the Church’s promises. “Wonderful ‘Prisoner’, wonderful” brings the notion of Earth trembling, being forced to part with its precious resources she had been guarding for centuries. Or are we all ‘Blind’ to the obvious?

‘Back’ and ‘Front’ are both cinematic and epiphany bringing, and in Zamilska’s case it’s simple: “I think I only have one dream, to continue to do what I do, to make music. I finished one stage and have started the next – it’s a strange time full of thinking. There is something around the corner, and I just need to be calm. I’m always saying that to myself: calm down Zamilska, calm down.”

Feeling that the instrumentation wasn’t quite enough to convey all she wanted, the Silesian magician introduced vocals to level “the play between the rising up, letting go and being vulnerable, while still being deeply anchored”.

If this is the level of Polish alternative electronica, then the rest of Europe should be afraid, or perhaps Zamilska is merely proving that the Polish are “narodem wybranym…”


‘Uncovered’ is available now as a download direct from https://zamilskaofficial.bandcamp.com/ – vinyl LP and CD released on 19th July 2019

http://zamilska.com/

https://www.facebook.com/zamilska/

https://twitter.com/zamilska

https://www.instagram.com/zamilska/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
16th May 2019

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