The Union Club in Soho was the location of ‘Question Mark’, a panel discussion hosted by Wall Of Sound and Back To the Phuture’s Mark Jones.
The four guests gathered for the fascinating and extremely good humoured chat about their experiences in the music business were OMD’s Paul Humphreys, HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory, Steve Norman from SPANDAU BALLET and T’PAU vocalist Carol Decker.
A series that has been going for several years, Mark Jones announced this was to be the last free session to which Carol Decker amusingly quipped “Will I have to pay to talk about myself?”
To begin proceedings, Jones asked the quartet about their first record purchases; Carol Decker remembered it was Michael Jackson’s first solo album while for Paul Humphreys, it was ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up & See Me)’ by Steve Harley and Glenn Gregory had ‘Can The Can’ by Suzi Quatro. However, both Humphreys and Gregory agreed that the turning point for them was hearing ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK in 1975.
When asked about their first instruments, Humphreys confessed that as an “electronics geek”, he built his own sound making device because he initially could not afford to buy a synth. Gregory had an acoustic guitar which he promptly broke while Decker admitted that although she knew her chords and notes, she couldn’t really play the piano very well.
But it was Norman that had the most impressive CV; starting as a drummer before moving to guitar having been influenced listening to Hank Marvin, he then recorded the sax solo on ‘True’ just six months after first taking lessons. All four guests and the host also discussed their adventures in the murky world of synthesizers. When Jones told of how his mother bought him a Yamaha CS01 from the Grattans catalogue, Norman recalled how SPANDAU BALLET used a Yamaha CS10 on ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ during the Islington quintet’s initial dalliances in synthpop.
Perhaps surprisingly, the more AOR inclined T’PAU did their demos using a synth and its built-in sequencer with Decker telling how she and writing partner Ron Rogers had written their breakthrough hit ‘Heart & Soul’ entirely around a bass synth sequence which ended up in the final mix.
Of course, Humphreys’ and Gregory’s histories with OMD and HEAVEN 17 respectively are well documented. But both found they had to constantly defend their art against those who didn’t consider the use of synthesizers as “real music”.
When questions were opened out to the audience, The Electricity Club took the opportunity to remind the pair that the Musicians Union tabled a motion in May 1982 to ban synthesizers from recording and live performance. Having already shared how in the pursuit of a more electronic dominated sound, his first serious band THE ID shrunk from eight members to two in order become OMD, Humphreys gleefully told the story of how the MU kept giving him and Andy McCluskey a hard time over using a tape recorder, so the Wirral duo mischievously “put ‘Keep Music Live’ stickers on the tape reels!”.
Meanwhile when HEAVEN 17 performed on ‘Top Of the Pops’ for the first time in 1981 with ‘Play To Win’, Gregory told of how the heavily unionised show, where MU membership was compulsory, refused to let Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh perform behind synths, insisting that they used a guitar and glockenspiel instead!!
But remembering how T’PAU had used a Fairlight for their orchestral arrangements, Decker expressed that “it did prick my conscience” that she might be putting musicians out of work, with the technology having advanced to such a degree that for the untrained ear, it was difficult to tell the difference. Steve Norman also had a vivid technology nightmare when while using Yamaha WX7 MIDI wind controller connected to a DX7 live, it suddenly changed settings in the middle of a moody solo under the heat of stage lights!
When asked about new music, Gregory admitted he listened to very little. However, recollecting his own experience of how GARY NUMAN looked after OMD when the young duo opened for the electronic pioneer in 1979, Humphreys said OMD tried to help young bands where possible with no buy-on fee for support slots, citing the much-missed pop noir combo MIRRORS as one of the best acts in recent years.
This drew the discussion onto how safe and unadventurous the major record labels had become in recent years with their lack of vision towards artist development, in their quest to protect their dwindling revenue streams.
On the subject of music formats, Humphreys said he still very much believed in the artistic statement of the album and how you could not skip tracks on vinyl, so the less immediate tracks had to be absorbed and accepted in order for the work to grow. Meanwhile, Norman felt the EP was the platform of the future, as a new artist could offer less but more frequently, in order to engage an audience.
While Humphreys still embraced vinyl and CD, he confirmed he was very much against using Spotify, not just due of the poor royalty rates paid to artists but as he also revealed, the major record companies hold shares in the Swedish based concern… so no conflicts of interest there!
Meanwhile Decker loved the convenience of listening to music digitally while expressing a slight, and not unshared, bemusement at the vinyl revival.
To end the evening, Mark Jones amusingly challenged his guests to sing a song without accompaniment. Carol Decker was first up, belting out ‘Little China Girl In Your Hand’, an improvised mash-up of her own hit tune and the Iggy / Bowie classic.
Not known as a vocalist, Steve Norman gamely launched into a rendition of ‘Gold’ to enthusiastic cheers while initially reluctant, Paul Humphreys sang ‘Enola Gay’ after being goaded by Jones, with some audience assistance. Finishing the impromptu sing-song, Glenn Gregory gave a timely and relevant acapella version of ‘(We Don’t Need) This Fascist Groove Thang’.
It was a fabulously entertaining two hours with Carol Decker perhaps stealing the show from the boys with a salt of the earth persona that was akin to your favourite auntie who enjoys a tipple or two at Christmas, like a cross between Julie Waters and Tracey Ullman.
Providing amusing and engaging group conversation that was also educational, the fact that all four guests continue to have successful careers today is testament to their longevity and cultural impact during a more open and therefore competitive musical era.
People are still interested in this music not because of “nostalgia” as one member of the audience suggested, but because of its quality, inventiveness and authenticity.
Now, that really doesn’t happen that much these days… and that’s why people go Back To The Phuture 😉
The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Mark Jones
With her distinctive ice maiden delivery, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.
She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’.
Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985.
But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.
Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.
There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998, but when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.
Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.
Although her catalogue is wide and varied, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release, The Electricity Club offers a twenty track Beginner’s Guide to her work…
TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)
Brücken and Freytag first met in Düsseldorf around Die Ratinger Straße; “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. Together they formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, electric organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ was a typical art school recording of the period and appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to the film ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.
Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records
PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)
At the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and their dynamic sound was marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! p: Machinery captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology such as the PPG Wave and Synclavier systems. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in…”
GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)
Written by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the film ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ directed by Nicolas Roeg. Brücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the Anton Corbijn directed video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ when Gregory’s then-wife Sarah was doing the make-up. The song was produced by Midge Ure, under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.
After PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness. Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, it failed to gain interest in a landscape dominated by the bland blue eyed soul.
While not a sales success, the acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained among fellow artists led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house directed fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.
Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records which eventually spawned her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. The first single ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But as the album was being recorded, all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.
The reaction to ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ was muted and Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a percussively frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes, it first surfaced on an independently released 12 inch on Mother Alpha Delta.
Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square
THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)
The project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period. Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs including ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ being demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant and Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”
Continuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica. Blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT, the original CD single release was limited to just 2000 copies however.
Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records
CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)
After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford intended for a film soundtrack. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although shelved, it finally saw the light of day on her ‘ComBined’ career retrospective.
Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square
APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)
Europe maintained a vibrant industrial music scene at the start of the new century and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones that had been evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.
Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA
ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)
Brücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’, but it would be a few years before their first album would be completed.
Brücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, the long player was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band, and provided the introduction. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.
Brücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Poppy to record a number of stripped back cover versions, with just piano or guitar as accompaniment for her first long form release since 1991. Among the reinterpretations were songs originally performed by RADIOHEAD, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, ASSOCIATES and KATE BUSH. One of the highlights was a suitably dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by GRACE JONES.
Humphreys and Brücken finally released a full length album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet fully rejoined McCluskey in his old band.
In between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN guested with the popular German dance duo on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in Brücken’s words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”. Despite the remote detachment of the recording, ‘Don’t Stop’ was still elegantly enticing.
CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & THE REAL TUESDAY WELD The Things I Love (2011)
Rockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences dubbed Antique Beat. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.
Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games
CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)
The B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s massive hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included material by DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR, JULEE CRUISE and THE LILAC TIME. Beginning with a vintage gramophoned segment, it built to a dreamy John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.
Although this Andy McCluskey / Karl Bartos co-write first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked ‘Kissing The Machine’ from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey, “but I suggested we start it with the ‘I want you to want me – I need you to need me…’ bit through a vocoder and went ‘y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?’!” The result was electronic magic.
The biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album ‘Where Else…’ was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams whose credits also included BLANCMANGE, the songs dealt with the subjects of “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Almost like ABBA meeting MORRISSEY in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.
Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records
For further information on the upcoming projects of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN, please visit her official website and Facebook page
‘Eddie The Eagle’ is a biopic by ‘X-Men: First Class’ director Matthew Vaughn about Eddie Edwards, who represented Team GB in ski-jumping at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
It was the same Olympics which inspired the Disney film ‘Cool Runnings’ about Jamaica’s first bobsleigh team entry!
Based on true events, the film stars Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards and Hugh Jackman as Edwards’ fictional trainer.
Whereas ‘Cool Runnings’ had artists performing cover versions for the soundtrack, ‘Fly – Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ differs in having a collection of original songs curated by Gary Barlow, each recorded by British artists who are now usually seen frequenting retrospective events such as Rewind, Here & Now and Let’s Rock.
So, a concept album based around the legend of a bespectacled plasterer, featuring contributions from members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD, in collaboration with a member of TAKE THAT? On paper, this is a terrible idea!
But Gary Barlow has long been an admirer of ULTRAVOX in particular; his 2010 interpolation of ‘Vienna’ for the track ‘Eight Letters’ on TAKE THAT’s Stuart Price produced album ‘Progress’ resulted in the rather unusual writing credit of Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie. The TAKE THAT track ‘Love Love’ for the film ‘X-Men: First Class’ also indicated Barlow’s interest in electro forms.
The era in which ‘Eddie The Eagle’ reigned has been symbolised by both aspiration and fighting against the odds, and that comes across in the song titles. As a side note, it is interesting how with the political climate that existed during this time, this project has gathered musicians whose politics cover the whole colour spectrum, from the Jeremy Corbyn supporting Martyn Ware to the self-confessed Tory boy Tony Hadley. While some say politics should be kept separate from music, many would argue music is an artistic reflection of the incumbent environment. So what of the music?
Holly Johnson’s ‘Ascension’ is typically epic, recalling a steadily building uptempo reboot of ‘The Power Of Love’, while ‘Out Of The Sky’ sees Marc Almond tackling his most overtly electro number for many years. Having previously shared a stage with Gary Barlow and earned some extra royalties too, Midge Ure’s ‘Touching Hearts & Skies’ stands quite ably within the concept as a tune reminiscent of ULTRAVOX’s classic synth rock.
Having found success outside of OMD with the first incarnation of ATOMIC KITTEN including a No1 in ‘Whole Again’, Andy McCluskey has a proven pedigree in mainstream pop spheres. He does a good job in co-writing with Barlow on ‘Thrill Me’, which is sung by the film’s two stars.
Taron Egerton won ‘The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year’ while at RADA and Hugh Jackman of course appeared in the musical epic ‘Les Misérables’; so their combined capabilities in the vocal department stop the song from becoming an ironic novelty. According to McCluskey, Egerton and Jackman’s vocals were recorded without his knowledge! Unsurprisingly ‘Thrill Me’ does sound like ‘Sugar Tax’ era OMD, crossed with imperial ‘Everything Changes’ phase TAKE THAT. Who’d have thunk it eh?
Nik Kershaw is another with a songwriting career outside of his own, penning ‘The One & Only’ for Chesney Hawkes back in 1991; ‘The Sky’s The Limit’ is an archetypical MTV friendly ballad that could have been made back then, with hints of A-HA and SAVAGE GARDEN.
One of the songs not part of the original ‘Fly’ concept is HEAVEN 17’s ‘Pray’; previously released by Messrs Ware and Gregory in 2014, it’s a terrific hybrid of the early avant phase of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Young Americans’ era Bowie. This slice of prime electronic soul is a stand-out on the collection and proof that the Sheffield masters still have it.
But members of the HEAVEN 17 crew do contribute to the energetically synthy engine room of Kim Wilde’s ‘Without Your Love’. It’s an enjoyable homage to her earlier sound, co-written by Glenn Gregory and live H17 keyboardist Berenice Scott in collaboration with Barlow.
Tony Hadley does his overblown Foghorn party piece on ‘Moment’ and Spandau fans will be more than happy with the end result, others perhaps not so.
The often under rated Howard Jones delivers the enjoyable modern schaffel stomp of ‘Eagle Will Fly Again’, while the blue-eyed soul offerings from ABC and GO WEST will satisfy their existing fans. However, Paul Young appears to have lost his voice on the vintage widescreen AOR of ‘People Like You’. Meanwhile on the autotuned ‘Fly’, Andy Bell actually starts to sound more like Tony Hadley than Alison Moyet!
Like with the music from back in the day, some of it is brilliant, some of it is likeable and some of it you’d rather not hear again.
But that in an essence, is why music derived from this period still resonates today… it was about songs and melodies, not tuneless dance excursions or ultra-fast talking supposedly passing for vocals. ‘Fly – Songs Inspired By The Film Eddie The Eagle’ is an interesting curio as a “Where Are They Now?” snapshot. Whatever your tastes, there is a good reason why all of the artists featured on this album still have a career performing.
Over the five years since its inception on 15th March 2010, The Electricity Club has aimed to highlight the best new music within the electronic pop world.
But with so much music and only a finite allocation of time, songs have slipped under the radar occasionally, or perhaps only received a glancing mention.
However, a bit of time and distance can reveal if these recordings really are actually lost gems and whether The Electricity Club missed the boat.
So here are 30 songs from the cover the period between March 2010 to December 2014 which The Electricity Club feels are worthy of rediscovery. They have been released as physical product or purchasable / free downloads and are listed in chronological and then alphabetical order.
YVY DEMINA Alley of Aces (2010)
Sounding like night meeting day with an omnipresent gothic allure, YVY DEMINA has been making music since 2007 but despite having songs on compilations, so far she has yet to have a release in her own right. A debut EP scheduled for July 2009 never materialised but the excellent ‘Alley Of Aces’ crept out on the ‘Zwischenfall – A New Decade Vol. 01’ compendium which also featured XENO & OAKLANDER. No more has been heard since…
Available on the compilation album ‘Zwischenfall – A New Decade Vol. 01’ via Real Voice Of Underground
Seductive, Weimer Cabaret styled electropop with a rich, layered atmosphere, ‘Sternentanz’ was a gloriously vibrant song from this promising German songstress. But aside from three mixes of ‘Sternentanz’ and another track titled ‘Kein Weg Zu Weit’ on the single release, that was it. LYLEE’s website has long since gone offline so despite Google, there appears to be no extra information on her whatsoever… so a song and artist truly lost.
Available as a download single via Batleth Records, extended version available on the compilation album ‘electropop.5’ via Conzoom Records
Sick of female fronted synthpop? Well, tough! We want “synths with balls” cry the electro fraternity still stuck in their shouty, chauvinistic cauldron! But as the feminist synth combo TIKKLE ME put it on their song ‘Remind The World’: “I’ve got no balls you see… I’ve already checked!”. This Swedish collective certainly made a positive impression with some thought provoking lyrics on their feisty self-titled debut album and have tunes too! Their second album ‘What Is Real’ is even better!
Available on the download album ‘Tikkle Me’ via Gaphals
047 Featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine (2011)
With some rich Scandipop in the vein of ROBYN courtesy of guest vocalist LISA PEDERSEN, ‘Everything’s Fine’ showed that Swedish electronic duo 047 could produce quality song based material. Sebastian Rutgersson and Peter Engström started out as a chiptune act before expanding their sonic template on their second album proper, ‘Elva’. It is territory they’re continuing in with the much anticipated follow-up, currently being recorded.
JOHAN AGEBJÖRN & LE PRIX featuring LAKE HEARTBEAT Watch The World Go By (2011)
JOHAN AGEBJÖRN is better known as cult Swedish songstress SALLY SHAPIRO’s right hand man, but for his debut solo album, he brought in a number of guest vocalists like QUEEN OF HEARTS for ‘Casablanca Nights’, a rather danceable electronic pop album. ‘Watch The World Go By’ was an uptempo highlight with a longing, melancholic vocal from Janne Kask of LAKE HEARTBEAT that was treated to the point of being almost feminine.
Available on the download album ‘Casablanca Nights’ via Paper Bag
Produced by FRANZ FERDINAND’s Alex Koupranos, CITIZENS! ‘True Romance’ had a hint of HOT CHIP collaborating with Vince Clarke about it. Catchy and quirky, it was released in late 2011 and even had a slight passing resemblance to the CCS remix of LYKKE LI’s ‘Little Bit’. From a so-called indie band, ‘True Romance’ had a fresh, synth assisted approach that didn’t involve too many guitar interventions.
HIGH PLACES are a duo based in Brooklyn. Dark but danceable, Mary Pearson’s half spoken / half wispy vocals on the haunting ‘Year Off’ are unearthly. As a percussive mantra takes hold, the cacophony of synthetic sound produced by musical partner Rob Barber only enhances the cerebral experience of this magnificent track, with an electronic bassline solid enough to knock your head on.
Available on the album ‘Original Colors’ via Thrill Jockey Records
While quite obviously derived from THE KNIFE and the hanutronica mood of the times, ‘Mother Protect’ was a great brooding tune from NIKI & THE DOVE. Malin Dahlstrom had a menacing growl that strangely sat between Karin Dreijer and Cyndi Lauper on this doom laden percussive rattle. The pair had potential and while THE KNIFE go to Eurovision of ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ was another good tune in their cannon, they lacked consistency and the debut album ‘Instinct’ was not quite as impressive.
Full of European melancholy, ‘Darkest Days’ did what it said on the tin and appeared on the ‘Electropop.6’ compilation alongside VILE ELECTRODES and OBLIQUE. The vehicle of French producer Peter Rainman whose remixed for artists on labels such as Dependent, A Different Drum and Out Of Line, to date this has been his last offering as SPLENDOR PROJEKT. It is often quite puzzling how some musical ventures never get beyond a few released songs, while other less satisfactory acts keep going on and on…
Available on the compilation album ‘electropop.6’ via Conzoom Records
PATRICK WOLF once claimed to have had his image and act nicked by LA ROUX, but he seemed to do alright for himself as a kind of 21st Century’s answer to MARC ALMOND. With the synthetically accessible Richard X remix of ‘This City’, he actually came over like the lost Glaswegian band H20 through a Eurodisco filter. If Wolf actually stopped worrying about having his thunder stolen and actually did more stuff like this, he might then be able to outstrip LA ROUX.
Available on the download single ‘In The City’ via Hideout Recordings
Hailing from Portland, CHROMATICS were one of the brace North American electronic acts who appeared on the ‘Drive – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ with their song ‘Tick Of The Clock’. ‘Kill For Love’ from their fourth album of the same name could have been THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN if they were a female fronted synth band. With a lo-fi, punkier edge to their sound, CHROMATICS straddle several camps and bring a unique template to the alternative music table.
Available on the album ‘Kill For Love’ via Italians Do It Better
Gothenburg’s Ulrika Mild is COMPUTE whose first two releases ‘This’ in 2009 and ‘The Distance’ in 2012 impressed with their wispy, emotive DIY synthpop. Since then, she also found time to record a fabulous cover of ‘Goodbye’, written by Paul McCartney and first recorded by Mary Hopkin, for a tribute CD that also featured Swedish synth veterans PAGE with a great electro version of SLADE’s ‘Coz I Luv You’. Known for taking her time over things, COMPUTE’s third release is still eagerly awaited.
Available on the download compilation album ‘The Seventies Revisited’ via Friends of Electronically Yours
Following the second disbandment of A-HA in 2010, MORTEN HARKET has sat again in that awkward artistic hinterland where he has the voice and the cheekbones, but is more challenged in the songwriting department. However, the spritely ‘Scared Of Heights’ written by Espen Lind, a mentor on the Norwegian version of ‘The Voice’, recalled the best of A-HA’s classic singles with Harket’s trademark falsetto allowed to let rip. However, Harket is unlikely to ever escape A-HA…
Available on the album ‘Out Of My Hands’ via Island / Universal Music
While bandmate Sean McBride was busy with his MARTIAL CANTEREL solo project, XENO & OAKLANDER’s Liz Wendelbo took a parallel busman’s holiday and contributed string synths and vocals to some tracks recorded by Xavier Paradis of AUTOMELODI fame. Perhaps lighter than XENO & OAKLANDER and more obviously in key, ‘Rien À Paris’ captured Wendelbo’s Gallic charms in a manner than was Francoise Hardy rather than her usual Jane Birkin.
The act that influenced CHVRCHES, Edmonton duo PURITY RING combined synths and glitch techniques with a clattering, off-kilter drum machine backbone. Megan James’ vocals aren’t that far off Lauren Mayberry’s sweet tones but while ‘Belispeak’ was a good tune full of invention and atmosphere, overall PURITY RING have perhaps lacked the pop oriented immediacy and focus of their Glaswegian contemporaries. Where they head next in the light of this will be interesting…
The enticing project of NEW PONY CLUB’s Lou Hayter and Jean-Benoît Dunckel from AIR, ‘So Long My Love’ was a wonderfully motorik number with hypnotic drum machine, brash synth effects and sexy nonchalance all thrown into the bargain. Such an interesting combination had so much potential, but the resultant self-titled album released in 2013 lacked the vibrancy of this calling card and was sadly a disappointment.
Available on the album ‘Tomorrow’s World’ via Homebase
Released on Sweden’s Labrador Records who launched THE SOUND OF ARROWS, ‘Stop Taking My Time’ was proof that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor or longer than five minutes. With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds that glorious, uplifting synthpop could still have an impact.
Available on the album ‘Above The City’ via Labrador Records
Like fellow Mancunians HURTS, DELPHIC were hailed as one of the great hopes for male fronted electronic pop with a sound not unlike A CERTAIN RATIO gone right! Their debut album ‘Acolyte’ showed what they could be capable of, if they could only turn their extended jams into songs. However, the follow-up album ‘Collections’ disappointed with a misguided excursion into rap. The launch single ‘Baiya’ though was a cracker, combining the anthemic vocal pomp of MUSE with the rhythmical overtures of PRINCE.
Available on the album ‘Collections’ via Polydor Records
Ghostly are the innovative label founded by American electronic musician MATTHEW DEAR and home to electro-punksters ADULT. Their roster also includes a number of interesting acts like London based FORT ROMEAU. The project of producer Michael Greene, ‘Stay True’ takes on a pulsating electro influence, but is allowed to breathe and progress with the space permitted by the length of the piece.
ISAAC JUNKIE featuring GLENN GREGORY Something About You (2013)
Having toured both ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ and ‘The Luxury Gap’, HEAVEN 17 really needed to record new material to maintain their credibility. It could be argued that this collaboration with Mexican producer ISAAC JUNKIE and GLENN GREGORY went part of the way in kick starting that. A marvellously trancey electronic dance tune, the only thing that stops ‘Something About You’ from being perfect is the way Mr Gregory’s vocals have been processed and distorted.
Available on the single ‘Something About You’ via Isaac Junkie Records
Like MARSHEAUX crossed with POLLY SCATTERGOOD, the dream laden chillwave of ‘Oostende’ showcased what COCTEAU TWINS might have sounded like had they been a synth duo. Comprising of the gorgeous afflicted voice of Sarah P,. and the mysterious RΠЯ, KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS actually hailed from the Greek capital, but sounded like they’d emerged from a frozen Fjord in Narvik. Sarah P. subsequently departed in 2014, but KEEP SHELLY ATHENS continue today with new singer Myrtha.
Despite having released their five EPs in five years, this Swedish duo have tended to be overlooked. There was a two year wait for KITE’s most recent EP ‘V’, but it was worth the wait when Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg offered some fine, if mournful electropop in the shape of ‘The Rhythm’. With layers of exuberant synth sounds and Stenemo’s almost chant like vocals full of brooding sadness but with a glimmer of hope, the next EP ‘VI’ is set for a Spring 2015 release.
NATTEFROST is Danish musician Bjørn Jeppesen whose tenth album ‘Futurized’ encompassed many of the spacey elements of yesterday’s tomorrow that fans of JEAN MICHEL JARRE and KRAFTWERK would enjoy. Featuring as a guest vocalist, Michel Moers of Belgian synth subversives TELEX, his Gallic nonchalance on ‘Will I Get to Your Heart?’ is particularly good with sequenced percussive effects and rich synth sweeps providing some old fashioned synthpop.
Available on the album ‘Futurized’ via Sireena Records
MULU featuring RUSSELL MAEL David – Frozen Smoke Remix (2013)
SPARKS have never just been an exclusively synthpop act but with the Mael Brothers more orchestrated in their instrumental template these days, it is rare to hear the magnificent nuances of Russell Mael on an electronic track in the 21st Century. This rather good collaboration with MULU remained strangely unreleased until dance act FROZEN SMOKE threw caution to the wind and let their synth dominated remix with its meaty snare sounds out. Singer Laura Campbell sounded totally glorious next to the younger Mael.
Originally available as a free download via Soundcloud, currently unavailable
Art rockers NIGHT ENGINE are possibly the most interesting guitar driven band to come out of the UK for some time. What separates them from the pack is their use of whirring synths for their solos. The rousing ‘Give Me A Chance’ fuses DAVID BOWIE and TALKING HEADS before digressing into a punchy end section which would conscript the quartet into TUBEWAY ARMY. And this is without mentioning that lanky vocalist / guitarist Phil McDonnell has that menacing air of Thin White Duke about him too.
Available on the download EP ‘Night Engine’ via Demand Vinyl / Something In Construction
Mining the heritage of Italo disco, enigmatic Greek singer / songwriter TAXX aka Taxiarchis Zolotas successfully combined atmospherics, propulsive bass sequences and a solid electro beat on the immensely catchy ‘Is It Love?’. With a moodiness reminiscent of PET SHOP BOYS, but with spacey buzzes and a harder kick, TAXX’s homage to the club based sub-genre was a worthy excursion into classic European pop.
Available on the download single ‘Is It Love?’ via Undo Records
TRENTMØLLER featuring SUNE ROSE WAGNER Deceive (2013)
Anders Trentemøller made a name for himself when he remixed DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Wrong’ in 2009. He succeeded not only in stamping his own vision with a far superior interpretation but highlighted shortcomings in DM’s production department. The muted synth trumpets and spacey swirls of ‘Deceive’ driven by an incessant drum machine made for a positively nocturnal atmosphere . And when crossed with an eerie vocal turn by Sune Rose Wagner, it all came over brilliantly like DM meeting DEATH IN VEGAS.
Hailing from Canada, ELECTRIC YOUTH’s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on ‘Drive – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. The bridge and chorus are particularly tremendous. Now if this electronic ditty had come out thirty years ago, there is no doubt it would have ended up in a Brat Pack movie.
Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian
Pitch shifted to an almost asexual resonance, EMIKA delivered a wonderfully unique cover of one of Bowie’s best known tunes. The stabbing synth melody only vaguely sounds like it may have been derived from the original ‘Let’s Dance’. Indeed, this is more of a tribute with EMIKA herself describing it as “A new time-travel, gender twisting experiment in honour of one of my favourite artists…” – indeed, DURAN DURAN’s ‘Union Of The Snake’ sounds more obviously like a cover of ‘Let’s Dance’ than this does 😉
Available on the CD ‘David Bowie – Recovered’ free with Rolling Stone Germany – May 2014
The now New York based pop princess moved away from her Nashville roots for her first overtly pop album ‘1989’. Whereas tracks like ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Out Of The Woods’ merely flirted with synthpop in the mould of CHVRCHES, the appropriately titled deluxe bonus track ‘New Romantics’ almost went the full hog! In fact, if Miss Swift’s inherent Americanisms were not so apparent, this enticing number could easily be mistaken for the dreamy allure of Scandipodean twins SAY LOU LOU.
Available on the album ‘1989 – Deluxe edition’ via Big Machine Records
With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,
This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.
While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012. But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.
Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.
Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’ to which The Electricity Club contributed liner notes. CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.
And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.
MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014. Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder. MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.
Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.
Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.
Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’. He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.
After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.
CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material. Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.
Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER. Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.
It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.
In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.
The delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.
TEC commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition. By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.
In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.
One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY.
Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.
Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.
The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity.
The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.
Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015. KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.
From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.
In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered one of the best debut albums of the year in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE.
Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska. And all this while TEC bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!!
‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.
Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.
TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…
They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety.
Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach.
Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.
From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.
Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.
Possibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’. Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.
Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.
Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.
However, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, TEC found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!
Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!
As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out:“Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.
However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.
But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out to TEC: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”
The Electricity Club is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.
TEC’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.
As Client A put it frankly to TEC in the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”
Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”
So TEC considers what music it features very, very carefully. TEC may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.
THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2014
Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES Empire Of Wolves
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Jazz Café
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Not In Love
Most Promising New Act: EURASIANEYES
Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND
Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER
MONIKA IZABELA GOSS
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS
Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA
CHI MING LAI
Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS