Tag: Holger Czukay

JAH WOBBLE Interview

JAH WOBBLE was just 18 years old when he co-founded PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED with John Lydon, Keith Levene and Jim Walker. Real name John Wardle, he was given his nickname and first bass guitar by a drunken Sid Vicious. After two albums ‘First Issue’ and ‘Metal Box’, he left the band in 1980.

Despite this, his creative mind and distinctive hypnotic bass style was now freed to work with a diverse range of artists and producers over the next four decades.

These included François Kevorkian, The Edge, Brian Eno, Winston Tong, Alan Rankine, Brett Wickens, Bill Sharpe, Baaba Maal, Chaka Demus, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor, Andrew Weatherall and Bill Laswell, as well as groups like ONE DOVE and THE ORB.

Forming THE HUMAN CONDITION who released two live cassettes before disbanding, he headed to Cologne to collaborate with CAN members Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, the material eventually coming out as the ‘Full Circle’ album in late 1982 which included the minor European hit ‘How Much Are They?’. ‘The ‘Snake Charmer’ EP also featuring the trio followed in 1983.

Using his German experience, he showcased his eclectic tastes on the single ‘Invaders Of The Heart’, with Wardle reworking his bassline for PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED’s ‘Death Disco’ into a mutant post-punk dub excursion also featuring electronics and ethnic tape samples.

His album ‘Rising Above Bedlam’ was nominated for the 1992 Mercury Music Prize and although he didn’t win, he had played on one track from the eventual winner ‘Screamadelica’ by PRIMAL SCREAM. Outside of music, he obtained a BA in Music and Philosophy, while also acting as a book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday and The Times.

A strong advocate of World Music, he has a brand new album entitled ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ out this Spring with THE INVADERS OF THE HEART. The Electricity Club had the pleasure of chatting to Big John about his ethos and his career as one of the UK’s most influential and distinctive bass players.

Your new album ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ has a very cosmic vibe about it, what inspired its concept?

There wasn’t really a concept… sometimes with some records, there’s a bit of a backstory but in this case, it was “let’s go in the studio” and play naturally. The only number that had been pre-written was ‘Take My Hand’ which is a bit of a rock anthem.

Do you compose by manner of band jamming?

It’s our natural style, I would give them say a descending change and suggest a few things, but it would be the band doing their thing. My drummer Marc Layton-Bennet came a decade ago via my old percussionist Neville Murray who’s retired now, he was the guy who would always suggest musicians for me.

I met George King, my keyboard player through an engineer I worked with and my guitarist Martin Chung was a good mate of Marc’s, although I actually saw him on a video for a singer who he was playing with about six years ago. I tend to stick with the same musicians, like Neville was on the firm with me for like 30 years!

On ‘Ocean Blue Waves’, there’s a mix of instrumentals and songs like ‘Take My Hand’, ‘A fly Away’ and ‘Minds Float Free’, how do you decide when a track needs vocals?

You think “what does this track need?” and sometimes it sounds like a backing track and you can hear a saxophone on it or a topline of a vocal. I remember I had these dubby psychedelic tracks that weren’t really songs or an instrumentals, I was like “what is it?” but I then got thinking about William Blake, so it became this spoken word album.

Do lyrics come naturally to you?

Yeah, I’ve written a lot over the years, maybe a quarter of the live set has me singing and now I have to be careful and look after my voice properly which at 61 is a new one on me! I rented a room at an art studio in Manchester just to write some poetry ‘Odds & Sods Of Epilogues’ and an autobiography ‘Memoirs Of A Geezer’.

One highlight is the title ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ track which has a most amazing synth solo…

I came up with this b-line in Tokyo and it was driving me mad, we played it at a gig there and it was quite modal, not really much like the track as you hear it now.

I really wanted to use that b-line for something and the boys come up with something very different. It’s better live now and it’s very dreamy, we generally start the set with it.

But it’s so nice, you don’t really want to go into the first change or end the number, because it’s so nice and hypnotic!

We’re always pushed for time at the end of the night as we do quite a long set, so you have to do the change, you want that synth solo to go on and on and on! It’s got a lovely sound, it’s a bit softer and less minor key.

It all seems a far cry from PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, how do you look back on that time?

I loved it because I was just starting out, that youthful enthusiasm of an amateur, I’d like to think it’s something I’ve still got. I always like to quote a Suzuki line: “In the beginner’s mind, there’s many possibilities, in the experts there’s few…”, so I try to keep a naïve approach and play without thinking.

There’s certain basslines like PiL’s ‘Poptones’ that are so perfect and circular somehow… actually I went back to playing Fender Precision bass after using Magnum for years after we played in America and did an album with Bill Laswell. Fender Precision makes me play a little bit more chromatically, these chromatic runs somehow sound cleaner. It works well with the old stuff even though it’s evolving and the new stuff as well.

What influenced your playing style?

Dub reggae as a big thing, I loved soul, funk and disco. I liked the idea of patterns so very early on. I got my own modal sound going, because I would make patterns based around the dots of the fret. I couldn’t count, I took a little while to learn the notes so I went by the dots on the fretboard…. I made shapes and patterns so that naturally led to a certain kind of block unit. A lot of the stuff I do is A minor, B minor, they’re quite modal and fixed. When I play with a Fender, you get a flowing quality, it’s quite musical in its own way I think.

Did you eventually venture down the path of learning more formal musical theory?

No, not at all and it was probably just as well. I didn’t get conditioned and you become educated because I worked with some really great musicians over the years like Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay, and I hung on their every word.

I thought very hard about music and how the bass should work and sound like in conjunction with the drums or keyboards. I think I ended up thinking in quite an abstract way. I didn’t have any knowledge of Bach or tonality so you had your own kind of approach.

The sonic thing was a big part of it because my generation were in the studio playing electric instruments, so the actual sound was as important as the phrasing or the playing.

After PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, you were suddenly off to Germany to record the ‘How Much Are They?’ EP with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, how did that come about?

This was through a mate of mine, Angus MacKinnon who interviewed me in regard to ‘Metal Box’. We became friends and he knew I wasn’t happy in PiL, so he suggested I play with CAN. Holger happened to be in London with his manager Hildegard and we got introduced. I got on with him and we went to a studio to have a little try out. I wrote the basic parts for ‘How Much Are They?’, the b-line, the drum beat, the simple string parts and the triad chords over the bass so I was developing this style that was quite catchy.

What happened next?

Holger took it back to Cologne to edit it quite radically and it was mixed by Mark Lusardi, a very good engineer. It became the first track of an EP we did called ‘How Much Are They?’; it went so well that they flew me over to Germany and we recorded stuff like ‘Trench Warfare’ and other stuff. That’s when I met Jaki for the first time, he’s probably the most special person I’ve ever met… as a musician he’s a master player.

Had you been a CAN fan?

Yeah, a bit! I liked the groove stuff, I wasn’t mad on everything but it was stuff the stuff where Jaki got his thing going on those earlier albums that I liked.

How did you find playing along to drum machines?

I like drum machines, they’re in time and it meant you could play over and over and over. I’d been in squats and when PiL started, it was terrible the way the money was sorted out, but I was able to get a Wasp synthesizer, a little analogue Roland rhythm box, a Godwin String Concert keyboard, a WEM Copicat and then later a TASCAM multi-track cassette portastudio. So I was very idiosyncratic and quite obsessive. so I would sit there for hours with a drum machine going. It was fantastic because that really helps your timing, you become machine-like yourself really.

Holger Czukay was quite unique in that he was a bass player who was not really interested in playing bass anymore, but was becoming more of a sound painter, is that how you saw it?

Yes, I did. He was a producer… there had been clashes in CAN over the direction of the band but Holger was the guy who would be the architect and would get busy with the razor blade, editing after they’d recorded. So that’s how it was, he really liked my playing and thought it was fantastic, saying “I couldn’t do what you do!” and I was like “REALLY?”

Jaki really liked it too and I was really surprised but delighted. Holger said “It’s like Miles Davis, you play one note and everyone knows it’s you”. It strange, I still don’t know why or how or what, but I do have my own sound, I know I have my own sound. Jaki had his own unique sound too…

Jaki was quite fascinating in that he could play fast, but it would be quite ambient…

He was so simpatico over the space he was playing in, and he could play fast but there was a totality to the sound. Some of that was down to the fact that they only used a pair of overhead mics, it sounded so good in the studio. They didn’t have a dividing wall between the control room and the recording room at Inner Space Studio in Cologne.

It was one space, an old cinema so everything sounded great there. I learnt a lot and developed that over the years, not trying too hard with mics so that you get a total sound with a certain spacious quality within the music, even when it’s uptempo.

The ‘How Much Are They?’ EP was dedicated to Ian Curtis?

That’s right, his death was a shocker, he was a special person and it seemed like a nice thing to do, it was such a shame for him to die so young…

On the ‘Snake Charmer’ EP, you worked with the-then emerging François Kervorkian who brought a Linn Drum Computer to the studio, that must have been a revelation?

Yeah, but I wasn’t mad on the Linn Drum sound with its big toms and rock kick thing. I always preferred those Roland drum machines, but the Linn was still really good, it was a revelation. François was good to work with because he was from a dance background so he was really into making records dancey and tuned into the dancefloor.

François brought it in and there’s the famous story where Jaki became very cross with the Linn Drum and accused it of being slightly out of time! We thought that was impossible as it was a machine, but Jaki insisted it was out of time. So when we timed it back, it was! It was so incredible, like 4 BPM out, losing 3 BPM over the course of a minute but he was correct! He got really angry and played this cross-rhythm, then suddenly, there was this puff of smoke come out the back and the Linn fused! We couldn’t get it working again! So Jaki had out-synched this Linn Drum, that was the power of his mind!

‘Snake Charmer’ also featured The Edge from U2, how was it to work with him?

It was very easy, he was a very nice guy… when he arrived in the studio, I was having this massive row with François, I saw him and quickly said “Hallo, I know who you are, I can’t wait to talk to you but I’ve got to finish this f*cking argument! Nice to meet you!” *laughs*

The Edge was a nice bloke, François knew him because he’d remixed a couple of U2 tracks. He made a lovely sound on ‘Hold On To Your Dreams’, just beautiful.

You took a break from music but came back?

Sometimes I got lazy but I stopped drinking in 1986 and I was halfway through an album called ‘Psalms’, so the final half was done very newly sober. Then I started working as a courier and applied to work for the Post Office and London Underground. By 1987, I started working for the Underground, I chose them over the Post Office. I still miss for the Underground, I loved it.

I was listening to a lot of music, then Neville Murray knocked on my door and asked when we were going back on the road? So we put THE INVADERS OF THE HEART Mk2 together and we started again. We were working with a guy called David Harrow and I started being active in music again. If there was a break, it was only for about two months!

You worked with the late Andrew Weatherall on several occasions including on ‘There Goes The Cure’ from ‘Morning Dove White’ by ONE DOVE, what was it like to work with him?

I was living in South London and that rave scene was going when I walked to Embankment. I would see all these clubbers in Villiers Street, queuing to get into this after-hours club and thought “this is interesting”, this would have been around the beginnings of acid jazz. I started getting some work in that scene with those kind of DJs, Andy gave me a kick start coming back into the business.

You were working with Brian Eno for 1995’s ‘Spinner’, can you remember what the creative dynamic was like between you?

Brian Eno was a bit half and half… for one track, he said something like “Oh, I want you to treat it like a moreish maiden” and I was like “Stop being funny, stop playing games! DO YOU LIKE IT?” *laughs*

I do like Brian, you might get the impression I don’t, but I do! It was a good thing for me to do and he’s a kind man.

I’m touring with his brother Roger as part of THE ORB live band. He’s into all those minimalist Harold Budd and Debussy piano pieces and I think he’s been an influence on Brian. It all came about via Derek Jarman, he approached me and because he’d done ‘Jubilee’, he knew Brian.

I’d done these little piano pieces like Shostakovich, clusters of notes which we turned into tracks. There wasn’t a lot of money so we couldn’t use lots of players or have a big studio, we did it in my little home studio in Bethnal Green using our imagination. Some records don’t last as well as others but I think ‘Spinner’ has lasted really well, it’s really got something special about it and stood the test of time.

If you listen to ‘Spinner’ now, it’s like the precursor to some of the dance music productions over the next two years with the effects on the drums and stuff, because up until then, having effects on drums was seen as quite bad taste, it didn’t work.

You’d put phasing on guitar but you’d have to be careful about drums. But somehow, it kind of worked with that phasing.

I used to do a lot of walking along the Lea Valley in London, and you’d be walking past old soap factories up the River Lea and see semi-rural marshlands, so it would get very trippy.

So that would influence the music, doing things in 7/4 time with a real haunting vibe. It was like walking music because each time we’d finish a track, we’d use it to walk to. There was something about the whole do-it-yourself concept, the way it was recorded on computer and how we used our expertise to record loops of Jaki and stuff.

What would you say have been your career highlights?

There’s magical moments in my life and not just with music. One of my highlights was walking across the grounds of Birkbeck College, London University on the first day of term when I went there, that was wow! And there was driving the tube train, westbound from Stratford to Mile End for the first time on this really fast section of line… I was just thinking “I AM DRIVING A F*CKING TUBE TRAIN, HOW D’YA LIKE THAT!” *laughs*

It’s that sense that you have sometimes of observing yourself, it’s quite detached… like a big mind thing looking at you, you get that in life and you get it on stage often. It’s like when people talk about an out-of-body experience, but you’re in control, you’re the observed and the observer at the same time.

I’ve had so many moments like that, like the first gig in sobriety with Neville in Switzerland, I woke up in a pension hotel overlooking the square with the smell of croissants and coffee wafting up in the morning in spring… I was like “I’m sober and I’m back on the road”, it was magical!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to JAH WOBBLE

Special thanks to Sulley Archer at Hush PR

‘Ocean Blue Waves’ is released on 27th March 2020, available as a CD or download now direct from https://jahwobble.bandcamp.com/album/ocean-blue-waves

https://jahwobble.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Jah.Wobble.Music/

https://twitter.com/realjahwobble

https://www.instagram.com/real_jah_wobble/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5jhqwsWfRaETrWPWI0Rc7u


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd March 2020

CONNY PLANK The Potential Of Noise

“With this noise, I can try to find if it is possible to make music out of it…”

‘The Potential Of Noise’ is a touching insight into the late Conny Plank, undoubtedly one of the most innovative and important studio exponents in popular music.

Directed by his son Stephan with Reto Caduff, the film sees him embarking on a journey to rediscover his father’s impact and his importance in music history. As the studio in the converted farmhouse in Wolperath, half an hour’s drive from Cologne, was also the family home, Stephan grew up around the artists who his father worked with.

John Foxx is one artist who considers Conny Plank to be the most important record producer since George Martin, having recorded ULTRAVOX’s ‘Systems Of Romance’ album with him in 1978. The Electricity Club also has spoken to a number of the musicians who Conny Plank worked with and all had nothing but affectionate memories of him.

Eberhard Kranemann, a one-time member of KRAFTWERK who later recorded an album ‘Fritz Müller Rock’ with Plank said: “He was a very important man, for me in the last century he was the most important producer, engineer and mixer in the whole world, THE BEST! He was so great that he even turned down David Bowie and U2. He was very honest, he didn’t want to work with them.”

DAF drummer and instrumentalist Robert Görl went further, saying “He was almost like a father to me, we lived at the studio so it was all very familiar. We had a room and slept there, we would go down in the morning and he would be making breakfast while his girlfriend Christa Fast would make cakes. It was a very homely feeling that we remember most. And this made it easier for us to feel good and create without having a heavy head.”

“To work with him was always a pleasure” said Bodo Staiger of RHEINGOLD to The Electricity Club, “he was relaxed, very competent and had the talent to listen what the artist wants. And he also brought some good ideas and inspiration. For example, the percussive synth sound on ‘Dreiklangsdimensionen’ was his idea.”

Michael Rother remembered “he was so valuable… we wouldn’t have been able to record NEU! or the second HARMONIA album or my solo albums without Conny, so he’s all over the place in my music… thank you Conny.”

With such compliments, any film featuring prominent figures such as Midge Ure, Daniel Miller and David A Stewart recounting their memories of working with Conny Plank was likely to be fascinating.

But for his son Stephan who was only 13 years old when Plank passed away in December 1987, this bittersweet film has been a journey to understand more about his father while confronting his demons of being neglected.

The key to Plank’s success was undoubtedly his personality rather than his actual technique and his ability to get the best out of the people, something he felt he wouldn’t be able to do working with David Bowie or U2. Today, Plank’s custom hand-built 56 channel mixing desk is owned by David M Allen, another producer known for his warm outlook and gift for providing an environment for artists to excel.

For those who perhaps only know Plank’s work through KRAFTWERK and ULTRAVOX, the soundtrack that accompanies ‘The Potential Of Noise’ is an education, with the instrumental music of NEU! and CLUSTER & ENO being particularly effective. Among the interviewees are the late Holger Czukay, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Michael Rother, Robert Görl, Karl Hyde, Jaz Coleman, Annette Humpe, Gianna Nannini and many more.

Daniel Miller describes Plank’s work as experimental but still musical, while Robert Görl and Annette Humpe recall how Plank was particularly good at capturing the right mood for recording with “no rules”. And while Plank only produced the debut EURYTHMICS album ‘In The Garden’, David A Stewart applied that hippy with technology philosophy to their breakthrough second album ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, mixing electronics with brass in a converted church studio.

Although recorded at RAK Studios in London, Midge Ure remembers after playing the demo of ‘Vienna’, ULTRAVOX talked musically about the plans for recording while Plank thought in terms of sound; he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years. And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered for the now iconic track.

For Plank, money and tapes were things that passed through his life, but his generosity is apparent throughout this documentary, both financially and in spirit. Michael Rother talks of how Plank helped to fund the recording of the first NEU! album to ensure that the duo had as much independence as possible to create, while it is also known he had offered to finance the recording of the first Midge Ure fronted ULTRAVOX album before the band signed to Chrysalis Records.

The most emotional recollections of Conny Plank come from hip-hop duo WHODINI who consider Conny’s Studio to be the best facility that they have ever recorded in, while also glowing about the effort which Plank made towards providing a recording environment that was as comfortable as possible, something the pair never experienced again after that visit to Germany.

But despite the generosity to his artists, the film tells of how Plank was not exactly the perfect father to Stephan, with Holger Czukay remembering that Plank treated Stephan as Christa Fast’s son, rather than his own. It’s a point also highlighted by Annette Humpe who tellingly, actually asks Stephan on camera whether his father ever took him out into the countryside; it turned out he did… but for just one afternoon.

Resigned to the fact that few photos exist of them together, Stephan reflects that the best memento of his father now is his vast catalogue of work. Plank’s own end is sad, with him becoming too ill to mix EURYTHMICS ‘Revenge’ album following returning from a concert tour in South America with Dieter Moebius.

Despite Christa nursing him back to near health with a new diet regime, Plank’s need to work ultimately consumed him and worsened his condition, eventually leading to the cancer to which he succumbed to.

The film concludes with Stephan taking his own young family to Wolperath to see his former home, reminiscing about the bathroom where the gold and platinum discs used to hang, as well as the dining area where the family and the visiting artists used to sit. With the final words of the documentary, Midge Ure summarises that the music Plank made was timeless and ultimately outlived him.

Described by KILLING JOKE’s Jaz Coleman as “a revolutionary”, when the end credits roll of ‘The Potential Of Noise’, it’s rather appropriately to the proto-punk of ‘Hero’ by NEU!


‘The Potential Of Noise’ is released on DVD by Cleopatra Entertainment

The 4CD box set ‘Who’s That Man: A Tribute To Conny Plank’ is available via Grönland Records ‎

https://www.facebook.com/Conny-Plank-21971244034/

http://cleopatra-entertainment.com/conny-plank-the-potential-of-noise/

http://groenland.com/en/artist/conny-plank-2/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th January 2019

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about JEAN-MICHEL JARRE or VANGELIS who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with BRIAN ENO. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections.

Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as DAVID BOWIE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electricity Club’s Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

A one-time member of TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, ‘Timewind’ was Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using equipment such as the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ was the breakthrough record for TANGERINE DREAM which saw them using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism to produce a fine meditative electronic soundtrack.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Having released their first long player together in 1969, their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

ASH RA TEMPLE’s Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and what was to become his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style of PINK FLOYD’s David Gilmour, this template was particularly evident on New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

One-time member of GONG, solo artist and an in-house producer at Virgin Records, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived in a sound-world that Eno had created via his various instrument treatments. With Budd improvising live, Eno would occasionally add something but his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions to the moon, one of the inspirations was to react against the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes and news reels of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

By 1986, the former JAPAN front man wanted to get away from singing as reflected by the ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals. Sylvian found a willing conspirator in CAN’s Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly, it was partly inspired by his admiration of COCTEAU TWINS whom he collaborated with on the 1986 4AD album ‘The Moon & The Melodies’.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric collection of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. Alongside the three new pieces, there was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger and its various missions.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing techniques, the sleeve notes recommended it was best heard using headphones while stating “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In that respect, a collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not really miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originally released as part of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the ambient companion progressively got quieter and quieter. The emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. ‘After the Night Falls’ and ‘Before the Day Breaks’ were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie ‘s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s self-explanatory titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s most recent collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape with its Edward Hopper inspired title. Meanwhile, the earlier ‘Translucence’ from 2003 was a close relative and classic Budd, partnered with the more subdued overtures of ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

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


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen to The Electricity Club. Not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree in South London’s Asylum Chapel. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound worthy of the ambient pioneers Statham was influenced by, especially on the gorgeous closer ‘Ascend’.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era

Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.

So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time. These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK, but which all deserve critical reappraisal.

Please note that acts who nearly made it but have since been featured on The Electricity Club like B-MOVIE, BLUE ZOO, DRAMATIS, THE FALLOUT CLUB, FATAL CHARM, FIAT LUX, PAUL HAIG, HARD CORPS, ROBERT MARLOW, THE MOOD, OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDINGVICE VERSAVIENNA and WHITE DOOR have not been included on this list. The songs are listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)

Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.

Available on the album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Horvergnugen Records

http://www.plasticbertrand.com


DALEK I Destiny (1980)

DALEK I LOVE YOU DestinyPre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined the fully named DALEK I LOVE YOU!

Available on the album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


DIE DORAUS & DIE MARINAS Fred Vom Jupiter (1981)

The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year-old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of teen and pre-teen school girls during a far more innocent time in history!

Available on the album ‘Hauptsache Ich – Retrospektive 1981-2014’ via Bureau B

https://www.facebook.com/andreasdorau/


FOX Electro People (1981)

FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Susan Traynor aka Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!

Available on the album ‘Images ’74-’84’ via Cherry Red

https://www.discogs.com/artist/356308-Fox-3


IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1981)

The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.

Available on the album ‘Essence: The Best of’ via Sony Music Japan

http://lifeintokyo.net/familytree_tsuchiya.html


MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNES Disco Rough (1981)

Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synthseizers and almost spoken staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual  stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

Available on the album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ via Celluloid Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45920-Mathématiques-Modernes


JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT & HOLGER CZUKAY How Much Are They? (1981)

JAH WOBBLE, HOLGER CZUKAY & JAKI LIEBEZEIT How Much Are TheyAlthough dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura, as well as the sadly recently departed Liebezeit and Czukay.

Available on the album ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMC

http://jahwobble.com/

http://www.czukay.com/


E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)

E.M.A.K. FilmmuzikE.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic on their artwork to NEU!  Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.

Available on the album ‘A Synthetic History Of’ via Soul Jazz Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/EMAK


PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)

PETER GODWIN Images Of HeavenA member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.

Available on the album ‘Images of Heaven’ via Phoenix Recordings

http://www.facebook.com/PeterGodwinFans


IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)

IGNATIUS JONES Like A GhostDespite Australian Top 5 success as lead singer of JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback,  the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack.  He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Ignatius+Jones


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

LEISURE PROCESS Love CascadeFeaturing Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.  The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


POEME ELECTRONIQUE The Echoes Fade (1982)

The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson  plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing GRACE JONES and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA who released an album ‘The Destiny Room’ in 2014.

Available on the album ‘The Echoes Fade’ via Hwesonics

http://www.poeme-electronique.com/


SANDII &THE SUNSETZ  Living On The Front Line (1982)

SANDII & THE SUNSETZ Living On The Front LineAnother Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!

Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan

http://www.sandii.info


BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)

Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!

Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2008/01/box-of-toys-3d-light-1982-1986.html


CARE My Boyish Days (1983)

CARE My Boyish DaysWhenTHE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)

ENDGAMES Love CaresThe success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS in their time. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!

Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)

MATT FRETTON It’s So HighFans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.

Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/86051-Matt-Fretton


INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)

INDIANS IN MOSCOW MirandaLed by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Indians in Moscow’ via Planet Of Sound

http://www.indiansinmoscow.com


THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)

‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.

Available on the album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records

http://thelotuseaters.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

MARTHA Light Years From Love2 7 inchThe stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running. By 1985’s ‘Heredity’ though, RATIONAL YOUTH was effectively a Howe solo project.

Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

SEONA DANCING More To LosePre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite on US college radio! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”

Extended Mix available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada

http://seonadancing.com/


S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)

S.P.K. Metal Dance‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!

Available on the album ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’ (V/A) via Strut Records

https://www.facebook.com/SPKindustrial/


EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)

EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts InNuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.

Available on the album ‘The Cherry Red Vintage Collection’ on Cherry Red Records

http://www.eyelessingaza.com


THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix  (1984)

THOMAS LEER InternationalLeer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”.  He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken.

Available on the album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records

http://www.thomasleer.co.uk/


BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)

BILL NELSON AccelerationThe former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with BLANCMANGE.

Available on the album ‘Chimera’ via UMC

http://www.billnelson.com


VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)

VITAMIN Z Circus RingTEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!

Available on the album ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA

http://pages.interlog.com/%7Edolphind/vitz.html


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who  were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)

TWO PEOPLE HeavenAn earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Two+People


WHEN IN ROME The Promise (1988)

WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s nearbrush with fame came with ‘The Promise’, a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the closing scene and end credits of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…

Available on the album ‘When In Rome’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/FarringtonMannUK/

http://wheninrome2.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To CONNY PLANK

It was at Conny’s Studio just outside of Cologne that a number of landmark recordings were completed, notably KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’.

The studio was the operational centre of engineer and producer Konrad Plank whose innovative portfolio covered a wide spectrum of music.

An advocate in the possibilities of electronics, he said: “I like synthesizers when they sound like synthesizers and not like instruments. Using a drum machine for electronic music is okay, but not if you try to make it sound like a real drummer”

CONNY PLANK’s work with pioneering German experimental acts such as KRAFTWERK, CLUSTER and NEU! had a strong influence on David Bowie and Brian Eno, and thus ultimately every act that emerged from Synth Britannia.

Using a customised mixing desk, Plank favoured a dynamic production ethos that went against the grain of the compressed rock recording of the times. His influence was quite evident when ULTRAVOX worked with George Martin on the ‘Quartet’ album in 1982; compared to their Plank produced Cologne Trilogy of ‘Systems Of Romance’, ‘Vienna’ and ‘Rage In Eden’, ‘Quartet’ sounded thin and lacked density. But as history has shown, a producer can only achieve so much when the artists themselves are not delivering and even Plank’s involvement in ULTRAVOX’s lamentable ‘U-Vox’ album could not save it.

Plank’s key to getting the best out of his work was to enjoy the company of the acts he worked with. This was a particularly important requisite when trapped inside a countryside complex away from the social distractions of a city.

When Plank was booked by Daniel Miller for a four day session to record DAF’s first full-length album ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’, only the final day involved any actual recording as he had spent the first three days getting to know them; the relationship with DAF continued for a further three albums. However, legend has it that after being introduced to U2 by Brian Eno with the view to producing ‘The Joshua Tree’, Plank turned down the job declaring: “I cannot work with this singer!”

Conny-Plank-1975As well as studio work, Plank was also an active musician. It was while touring South America with CLUSTER’s Dieter Moebius that Plank fell ill; he sadly passed away in December 1987 at the age of 46.

CONNY PLANK leaves an important musical legacy. The Electricity Club looks back at twenty of his works, with a restriction of one track per album project…


ASH RA TEMPEL Traummaschine (1971)

ash ra tempelASH RA TEMPEL were a highly important Kosmiche band; it was the platform from which future electronic exponents Manuel Göttsching and Klaus Schulze emerged; they later found acclaim with their respective progressive opuses ‘E2-E4’ and ‘Mirage’. Plank engineered their very different debut album, seeded from sessions of free-form improvising. With just one track per side of vinyl, the building eerie atmospheres of ‘Traummaschine’ contrasted with the noisier rock of ‘Amboss’.

Available on the ASH RA TEMPEL album ‘Ash Ra Tempel’ via SMGO Art

http://www.ashra.com/


KRAFTWERK Tanzmusik (1973)

Ralf & FlorianHaving engineered KRAFTWERK’s first two albums and the earlier ORGANISATION ‘Tone Float’ long player, Conny Plank helped Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider’s shift towards synthesizers on their third long player. A Minimoog and an EMS AKS appeared, but a Farfisa electric piano and a preset rhythm unit were the dominant textures of ‘Tanzmusik’. Things were becoming more structured and with the abstract use of vocals, ‘Ralf & Florian’ were heading closer to the sound that would change popular music.

Originally on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Ralf & Florian’ via Philips Records, currently unavailable

http://www.electriccafe.info/


NEU! Für Immer (1973)

Neu!2Plank acted as mediator between the NEU! nucleus of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger who each had quite different personalities and aspirations. Over a classic Motorik beat, ‘Für Immer’ featured carefully layered mini-cacophonies of sound. Indeed, so much studio time was spent on the track, the duo ran out of budget. In a fit of madness or genius, Dinger came up with the idea to fill the second half of the album with speeded up and slowed down versions of their previously released single ‘Super’!

Available on the NEU! album ‘Neu! 2’ via Grönland Records

http://www.neu2010.com/


KRAFTWERK Autobahn (1974)

Kraftwerk+Autobahn_Blue_UKUnder Plank’s stewardship, ‘Autobahn’ was KRAFTWERK’s breakthrough release as their transition into electronic pop. Ralf Hütter’s octave shifting Minimoog formed the rhythm backbone alongside a futuristic electronic snap, while Florian Schneider’s ARP Odyssey took the melodic lead over a 22 minute car journey. But with Hütter and Schneider growing increasingly confident, the parent album was to be their last recording with Plank. The rest is history…

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Autobahn’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


HARMONIA Deluxe (1975)

Harmonia-DeluxeUnable to recreate NEU! live as a duo, Rother headed to Forst to meet with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER to discuss the possibility of collaborating to augment their sound. While their debut ‘Musik Von Harmonia’ was recorded as a trio, for the follow-up ‘Deluxe’, they added vocals, a drummer in Mani Neumeier of GURU GURU and Plank to assist with production. The wonderful synth work on the title track signalled a melodic sensibility that was equal to that of KRAFTWERK.

Available on the album ‘Deluxe’ via Grönland Records

http://www.harmonia1973.com/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

CLUSTER SowiesosoPlank’s long association with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius began in 1969 when he engineered their debut album ‘Klopfzeichen’ as KLUSTER. Their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the long player’s remaining aural delights.

Available on the CLUSTER album ‘Sowiesoso’ via Bureau B

http://www.bureau-b.com/cluster.php


LA DÜSSELDORF Time (1976)

La DusseldorfThe third NEU! album saw a two styled approach with the second side featuring a frustrated Klaus Dinger looking to seek the limelight. He finally got what he wanted in LA DÜSSELDORF. With his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe as percussionists, he headed down a more aggressive direction on their debut self-titled LP produced by Plank. There was a lot of Düsseldorf as the frantic tracks ‘Düsseldorf ’and ‘La Düsseldorf’ proved, but ‘Time’ was the epic lengthy album closer that built to a brooding climax.

Available LA DÜSSELDORF album ‘La Düsseldorf’ via WEA

http://www.la-duesseldorf.de


MICHAEL ROTHER Flammende Herzen (1977)

Michael Rother ‎– Flammende HerzenRother’s first three solo albums ‘Flammende Herzen’, ‘Sterntaler’ and ‘Katzenmusik’, were produced by Plank and featured CAN’s Jaki Liebezeit on drums. “It would be unfair really to have a favourite album” said Rother when TEC asked if he had a preference, “Of course, I try to highlight Conny Plank’s contribution, he was so valuable… we wouldn’t have been able to record NEU! or the second HARMONIA album or my solo albums without Conny, so he’s all over the place in my music… thank you Conny”.

Available on the MICHAEL ROTHER album ‘Flammende Herzen’ via Random Records

http://www.michaelrother.de/en/


BRIAN ENO By This River (1977)

ENO Before & After ScienceOriginating from his sessions with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in Forst for HARMONIA 76, Eno produced this beautiful piano and synth ballad at Conny’s Studio with Plank at the engineering controls for inclusion on his fourth pop solo album ‘Before & After Science’. The warmth extracted from the Yamaha CS80 used was one of the key stand-out elements of ‘By This River’, which was later covered by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore for his ‘Counterfeit 2’ solo album.

Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Before & After Science’ via Virgin Records

http://brian-eno.net/


ENO MOEBIUS ROEDELIUS Broken Head (1978)

With the success of their earlier ‘Eno & Cluster’ ambient opus, the artful threesome gathered together again, but added voices and more experimentation for its follow-up ‘After The Heat’. With Plank again behind the desk, the textures on the unorthodox ‘Broken Head’ recalled some of Eno’s work with Bowie on ‘Heroes’ in particular, while the deep monotone vocals were a offset by some oddly noted piano accompaniment and an unorthodox rhythmic template.

Available on the ENO MOEBIUS ROEDELIUS album ‘After The Heat’ via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ULTRAVOX! Slow Motion (1978)

ULTRAVOX slow motionThe first phase of ULTRAVOX! was dominated by the songwriting of John Foxx, but ‘Slow Motion’ was a group effort. Decamping to Conny’s Studio, the intro and theme were composed by bassist Chris Cross on his newly acquired EMS AKS. The quintet locked together as never before, with Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey playing off Robin Simon’s treated guitars almost as one behind Warren Cann’s powerful, syncopating drums. Sadly, this breakthrough was not to last…

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Systems Of Romance’ via Island Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


MOEBIUS & PLANK Tollkühn (1981)

MOEBIUS & PLANK MaterialDieter Moebius and Conny Plank released their first collaborative effort, the reggae influenced ‘Rastakraut Pasta’ in 1979. For the second album ‘Material’, a more rigid beat was applied, as well as driving synthesizer rhythms. ‘Tollkühn’ was a mightily pulsing electronic workout that more than suited the title’s English translation of ‘Daredevil’. Full of phasing effects with the odd cymbal interjection, it now stands out as ahead of its time in the context of 1981. Moebius sadly passed away in 2015.

Available on the MOEBIUS & PLANK album ‘Material’ via Bureau B

http://www.bureau-b.com/moebius.php


HOLGER CZUKAY Witches’ Multiplication Table (1981)

HOLGER CZUKAY On The Way To The Peak Of NormalBy 1981, Holger Czukay was at the zenith of his Dali-inspired surrealist sound painting, having released ‘Movies’ in 1979. Following their LES VAMPYRETTES collaboration in 1980, Plank contributed ‘Witches’ Multiplication Table’ to ‘On the Way To The Peak of Normal’, the second solo album by the CAN bassist. With Czukay providing an oddball monologue over a dub backbone, Plank added cemetry synthesizer violin alongside bursts of French horn; “Craziness is something holy” he later said.

Available on the album ‘On The Way To The Peak of Normal’ via Grönland Records ‎

http://www.czukay.com/


PHEW! Signal (1981)

PHEW!PHEW! was formally a member of psychedelic rock combo AUNT SALLY and her first solo single ‘Shukyoku’ was produced Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1980. Produced by Plank, Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, ‘Signal’ was the experimental Japanese singer’s take on Neue Deutsche Welle with distant echoes of Berlin noise merchants MALARIA! looming. Driven by hypnotic bass synths and punky guitar, it was unsurprisingly tense and darkly rhythmic.

Available on the PHEW! album ‘Phew!’ via Pass Records

http://www.japanimprov.com/phew/


EURYTHMICS Never Gonna Cry Again (1981)

EURYTHMICS Never Gonna Cry AgainWith blue eyed soul hits like ‘Would I Lie To You?’, ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’ and ‘Thorn In My Side’, it’s unusual in hindsight to understand that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were actually interested in rhythmic electronic music from Europe, hence their name. When the pair left THE TOURISTS, one of the first to lend support for their new aspirations was Conny Plank. ‘Never Gonna Cry Again’ with its doubled synth and flute solo was the first song released from their production partnership.

Available on the EURYTHMICS album ‘In The Garden’ via Sony BMG

http://eurythmics.com/


ULTRAVOX The Thin Wall (1981)

ULTRAVOX The Thin WallSo happy was Plank with working with Warren Cann, Chris Cross and Billy Currie on ‘Systems On Romance’ that when Midge Ure joined following the departure of John Foxx, he offered to finance the recording of a new ULTRAVOX album. The reconfigured quartet signed to Chrysalis and delivered the hit album ‘Vienna’. Produced in Conny’s Studio for the follow-up ‘Rage In Eden’, ‘The Thin Wall’ densely merged synthesizers, guitar, piano, violin and Linn Drum for a formidable yet under rated hit single.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Rage In Eden’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


DAF Kebab Träume (1982)

DAF Fur ImmerGabi Delgado-López and Robert Görl had worked with Plank since 1979 and with his assistance, DAF had reduced to a minimal electro body core of Görl’s tight drumming and synth programming driven by a Korg SQ-10 analogue sequencer to accompany Delgado-López’s shouty, aggressive vocals. As with a previous Plank production ‘Der Mussolini’, DAF again courted controversy on ‘Kebab Träume’ with the provocative line “Deutschland! Deutschland! Alles ist vorbei!”

Available on the DAF album ‘Für Immer’ via Mute Records

http://www.robert-goerl.de


MOEBIUS PLANK NEUMEIER Speed Display (1983)

MOEBIUS PLANK NEUMEIER Zero SetMani Neumeier was best known as the percussionist and singer of GURU GURU, the psychedelic jazz combo from Heidelberg who recorded three albums with Plank. Joining him and Moebius for a one-off long player ‘Zero Set’, Neumeier’s presence was felt heavily on ‘Speed Display’, a mad hyperactive collage of drums, bubbling electronics and treated robotic vocals that did exactly what it said on the tin! The drumming was so tight that some have highlighted it as an example of proto-techno!

Available on the MOEBIUS PLANK NEUMEIER album ‘Zero Set’ via Bureau B

http://mani-neumeier.de/guruguru/index.htm


LES RITA MITSOUKO Marcia Baïla (1985)

LES RITA MITSOUKO Marcia Baïla‘Marcia Baïla’ was LES RITA MITSOUKO’s tribute to their late friend, Argentinian dancer Marcia Moretto. With Plank at the production helm, a squelchy backing track with enough space for Catherine Ringer’s strident theatrics was honed for a wonderful celebration of life. It was subsequently covered by Ricky Martin in 1998. LES RITA MITSOUKO went on to become very popular in France, collaborating with SPARKS in 1990. Fred Chichin, the other half of the duo, sadly passed away in 2007.

Available on the LES RITA MITSOUKO album ‘Rita Mitsouko’ via Sony Music

http://www.ritamitsouko.org/


GIANNA NANNINI Bello E Impossibile (1986)

gianna_nannini-profumoThe Italian singer / songwriter unusually had something in common with NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy in that she too had a relative who was a F1 driver; in her case it was her brother, one-time Grand Prix winner Alessandro. Plank started working with Nannini in 1982 at a time when he was still regarded as a more artistically minded producer, rather than one who delivered pop hits. ‘Bello E Impossibile’ was a huge hit in her homeland, but also in Switzerland, Austria and West Germany.

Available on the GIANNA NANNINI album ‘Profumo’ via Dischi Ricordi

http://www.giannanannini.com/en/


'Who's That Man- A Tribute To Conny Plank'Dedicated to the memory of CONNY PLANK 1940 –1987

The 4CD box set ‘Who’s That Man: A Tribute To Conny Plank’ is available via Grönland Records ‎

http://connyplank.com/

http://groenland.com/en/artist/conny-plank-2/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th August 2016