Any AIR-related side project can be guaranteed to not deviate too far from the band’s tried and tested template of downtempo atmospherics, retro synths, dry stripped-back PINK FLOYD style drumming and occasional vocoder flourishes.
Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Godin’s second solo album ‘Concrete & Glass’ features plenty of tracks which would seamlessly slot into an AIR album.
It is a concept-based work of sorts with each song being inspired by buildings and their architecture.
With there not seeming to be a hurry to release new material with long-term musical partner Jean-Benoît Dunckel, there is plenty here for long-term AIR fans to enjoy.
It is hard to downplay the significance of ‘Moon Safari’ when it arrived in 1998; a wonderfully retro-sounding but groundbreaking piece of work, it would go on to ultimately define AIR’s sound and influence many other acts including ZERO 7 along the way.
A couple of the high points of ‘Moon Safari’ were the vocal-based songs ‘All I Need’ and ‘You Make It Easy’ featuring Beth Hirsch, so Godin has followed a similar route with ‘Concrete & Glass’ which has contributions from HOT CHIP’s Alexis Taylor, Russian vocalist Kate NV, Kadhja Bonet, Cola Boyy and Kirin J Callinan.
Opener ‘Concrete & Glass’ is a blissful combination of rising and falling synths combined with Latin percussion and trademark vocoder work with Godin “…looking for a house, made of concrete and glass”.
Latterly Godin’s vocal has a call and response with his own live bass playing and the track instantly lowers the listener’s heart rate setting the scene for the rest of the album.
‘Back to Your Heart’ with Kate NV sets up the run of guest vocalist-featuring tracks and is beautifully produced with layers of CR78 percussion, synthetic brass and real strings. Unashamedly retro in sound and delivery, ‘Back to Your Heart’ evokes lounge icons THE CARPENTERS and leads into ‘We Forgot Love’ which features a cyclical descending synth figure throughout and yearning vocal by soul singer Kadhja Bonet. These two tracks are easily the strongest song-based works on ‘Concrete & Glass’…
‘The Foundation’ which features Californian Cola Boyy has more of a modular synth aesthetic and again would comfortably pass muster on an AIR album; conceptually based on Pierre Koenig’s groundbreaking ‘Case Study House #21’, the song features a neat sci-fi based promo video directed and shot on 16mm film by Greg Barnes. The highlight of the song is the outro which has some luxuriant vocoder and synth interplay which on the album version runs for an extra minute and could quite easily run for longer such is its beauty.
‘Time On My Hands’ which features Aussie vocalist Kiran J Callinan is a midpoint album lull, spending roughly 4 and a half minutes going nowhere whilst HOT CHIP’s Alexis Turner fares little better on the saccharine ‘Catch Yourself Falling’; arguably both of these tracks would have been more successful as instrumental workouts as their vocal contributors add little to the respective pieces.
The intro to ‘The Border’ evokes Clint Mansell’s wonderful theme to sci-fi doppelganger movie ‘Moon’ before taking more of a song-based direction with Godin’s vocodered vocals drifting through the remainder of the piece. Ambient pads and a sparse electric bass part underpin subtly building sequencer parts, the “take me to the border” line is possibly overused and makes the track feel unnecessarily repetitive, which is a shame as the song’s soundbed is wonderfully hypnotic and (again) beautifully produced.
‘Turn Right Turn Left’ is possibly one of the few songs primarily vocalled by a SatNav and features a soaring string arrangement whilst it’s left to album closer ‘Cité Radieuse’ to provide the only real radical departure in sound aesthetic on ‘Concrete & Glass’.
Initially sounding like a homage to Philip Glass, the first three minutes are comprised of concise Serial Music-style synth arpeggios with a melodic synth break thrown in.
The final minute and a half unexpectedly makes a U-turn into ambient jazz territory which recalls German act BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE, creators of funereal tempo music of this ilk with upright bass, sax and brushed drums.
‘Concrete & Glass’ certainly won’t disappoint fans of AIR, not all of it hits the heights of Godin’s main act, but there is more than enough substance here to make the album bear up to repeated listens.
The building-based concept is an intriguing one and something that KRAFTWERK could have kicked themselves for not pursuing at some point; however, Nicolas Godin has got there first and ‘Concrete & Glass’ neatly draws parallels between the worlds of music and architecture in one grand design…
FAKE TEAK were actually first name checked on The Electricity Club by VILE ELECTRODES back in 2011.
With diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica, the band has since evolved and it would be fair to say they have a unusual hybrid sound that falls neither into exclusively synth or alternative music circles.
After a long gestation period, the London-based quartet of Andrew Wyld (bass, synthesizer + vocals), Alastair Nicholls (guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals), Joanna Wyld (synthesizer, flute + vocals) and Andrea Adriano (drums, production + vocals) finally get to release their self-titled debut long player.
As an opening statement of intent with hand-driven organic synth sounds galore, the spectre of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM looms heavily on ‘Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ while on the frantic seize the day mantra of ‘Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount’, early TALKING HEADS enter the mix via a groovy rhythmic backbone. Meanwhile, ‘Post Office Tower’ is a quirky ode to that London monument with the revolving restaurant, traditional yet slightly off-the-wall.
The new wave flavour of ‘Solid-State’ makes good use of an ARP Odyssey Mk1 as FAKE TEAK sing of “going electronic again” while the unwavering art funk of ‘Recall A Thought’ explores an inner Byrne.
‘Whole Lot O’ Grief’ throws offbeats and flute into the equation alongside a bassy synth rumble, but ‘Lagos 82’ takes on a great energetic FRANZ FERDINAND feel and codas with a wonderfully glorious chant. Meanwhile, ‘101’ is not a tribute to DEPECHE MODE but actually comes over bizarrely like DR HOOK backed by AZTEC CAMERA and when the Roland Juno 60 strings kick in, it sounds even weirder!
But the best is saved until almost last; an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP’s ‘Ready For The Floor’, ‘No Shame’ is a delightfully odd but catchy disco tune about that strange moment when people with nothing in common come together on the dancefloor.
With plenty of synth action, there’s a rousing church-like middle section in which each band member contributes vocals to provide a rather fabulous harmonious effect, recalling the Alex Kapranos produced CITIZENS! Closing with the eerily filmic ‘Breathless’, the syncopated rhythmics are offset by layers of synths and eccentric vocals.
What stands out about FAKE TEAK is how they don’t stylistically pander to any musical fashions.
And despite their use of vintage synthesizers, the synths are not the excuse for the song, but neither are they for pose or just part of the background to fill out the odd chord here or there.
If you like the idea of a distinctly English take on LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and TALKING HEADS, topped with a dash of HOT CHIP and FRANZ FERDINAND too, FAKE TEAK may be right up your country lane.
‘Fake Teak’ is available on the usual digital platforms
FAKE TEAK was founded by singer, bass player and synthesist Andrew Wyld back in 2011.
First name checked on The Electricity Club by Martin Swan of VILE ELECTRODES, the band has since evolved into a group of musicians whose ideas draw on diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica for a distinctive sound to soundtrack a dystopian present.
Completing the line-up of the London-based quartet are Alastair Nicholls on guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals plus Joanna Wyld on synthesizer + vocals and Andrea Adriano on drums, production + vocals.
With a love of vintage hardware and a quirky new single ‘Post Office Tower’ b/w ‘Breathless’ just out, it was natural that FAKE TEAK would relish an opportunity for a round of Vintage Synth Trumps with The Electricity Club…
OK, first card, we have an Oberheim 8 Voice, does that spark any thoughts?
Joanna: There’s one in the Horniman Museum… I always ogle it even though it’s behind glass!
Alastair: They let you go into a side room where there are various instruments you can play, they have a thumb piano and some kind of tubes where you can whack them with flip-flops.
Andrea: My initial reaction was more notes, bigger chords!
Andrew: With the 8 Voice, it’s really hard to get it to do exactly what you want it to do because if you want to repatch, you have to do it eight times! It takes ages to do but it sounds amazing!
Andrea: Seven grand back in the day!!
Alastair: Isn’t there a HOT CHIP link here, because you played me ‘Flutes’ by them and you said it reminded you of the Oberheim?
Andrew: Yes, there’s a one line where an entire chord follows that line and it reminded me of what happened you play it set-up like a 16 oscillator synthesizer with 8 filters and 8 envelopes, or a chord using one note.
My first impression of FAKE TEAK as a band was that you were influenced by HOT CHIP?
Joanna: HOT CHIP is definitely one element, I actually prefer them live to their recordings.
Andrew: I think we have two strands, there’s the synthesizer sound from HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and CAN plus TALKING HEADS in the writing strand.
Alastair: I’d like to add THE CHEEKY GIRLS as well! *laughs*
Another card then, Gleemen Pentaphonic… even I don’t know what that is!
Alastair: My head is a blank!
Andrew: That sounds like something you would make up, if you were making up synthesizers!! *laughs*
OK, moving on… the next card is an ARP Axxe! *everyone cheers*
Alastair: We know a lot about ARP!
Andrew: This one is like the cut-down Odyssey… we have a full-sized Odyssey.
Joanna: Ours is the 1972 model…
Andrew: It’s the Mk1 before proportional pitch control came in and with the two pole filter. So seemingly it’s less desirable but I really like it.
KRAFTWERK used a Mk1 Odyssey, how did you acquire it?
Andrew: I’d been after one for a long time and a friend said there was one in Bedford, so I got the train up. There were keen on a quick sale and I mentioned that as it was a Mk1, could they sell it for a lower price and they gave me this figure… it was like the worst negotiation in the history of haggling! I took it home in a blanket that smelt of air freshener! *laughs*
Alastair: I don’t get to use it in the band but it can make some fantastic sounds, but it can sound horrendous too! And that’s the great thing about it, it can be beautiful and it can be horrific, you have to learn how to control it and I cannot!
Andrea: It’s like if someone took the autopilot out of a jumbo jet…
Andrew: I have a mathematical background so I got the hang of it after a while but there’s a lot of different things to it and quite complicated.
Joanna: It is key, especially with the Odyssey, that we have a good sound engineer because if the balance is wrong, it can sound really bad.
Alastair: We actually use a compressor live with the Odyssey to try and mitigate that problem so we try and make life easier for engineers.
Andrew: What I’ve found in the past is some engineers think the synths are used for decoration rather than a main part of the sound and that can be a problem. But music has changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, people are more used to the idea of synths as part of the backbone.
How did each of you first hear electronic sounds in music?
Andrew: When I was 6, a teacher of mine Miss Wickes played us ‘Autobahn’, this noise that I’d never heard before and I thought it was really cool. Then she played us ‘Numbers’!
Alastair: I don’t I’ve got anything as cool or fringe, but the first time I noticed electronics in music was ‘Bad’ by MICHAEL JACKSON, I was given a Walkman and a tape of the album.
Andrea: ‘Blade Runner’ and VANGELIS with the CS80, that was it for me. I’d always liked synths but Mellotrons were really cool for me and after my teens, I got heavily into APHEX TWIN and then later SQUAREPUSHER.
Joanna: It would be ‘Doctor Who’ and DELIA DERBYSHIRE, we went to see the talk and concert of THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at the Science Museum but also, my dad’s collection of the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, on the back of one of these albums was the letters M-O-O-G and I became fascinated with Moogs and thinking “what is that?”
Andrew: VANGELIS and ELO used the CS80, so we just ordered a Deckard’s Dream which is a CS80 replicant, but we’ve since discovered we got to buy £1100 of components to build the thing!
Next card, it’s Roland Juno 106…
Andrea: We have a Juno 60 and I’m about to buy a 106… the Juno 6 didn’t have a memory patch pack, so the 60 had presets and when the 106 came out, they changed the output stage.
Why do you think the Juno, out of all the vintage synths, is still so robust?
Andrew: Because of the way it’s laid out, if you have a basic knowledge of analogue synths, it’s straightforward to use compared to the Odyssey. A lot of people say the Juno is not an analogue machine because of its digital control, but the way that the voices work, the actual oscillators are very similar to those in a Moog. The 106 was one of the first synths to have MIDI, so you have can have those wonderful warm sounds but controllable and easy to use.
Joanna: For me, it is straightforward to use and versatile, the practicality of playing on stage, you want to make it easier, not more difficult. On a Juno, the same voice will work in different contexts really well, there’s a ‘Chariots Of Fire’ sound I use…
Alastair: Oh, Patch 42? Every time you play something on Patch 42, it makes you kind of weepy! It’s got that quality of the Meaning Of Life!
Andrea: It goes very well with the Scottish Highlands!
When’s the FAKE TEAK album out?
Andrew: It’s recorded and Andrea did a wonderful job…
Joanna: It’s gone to Abbey Road for mastering…
Alastair: The band has been going a good while and the line-up has changed over the years, sometimes it takes a while to bring things together. With the four of us, we have the focus and found a sound and recording style that works for us. We’re releasing a few singles first and then the album should be out in 2018.
Your first single is ‘Post Office Tower’, why is this structure still so iconic?
Andrew: The Post Office Tower is an iconic part of the North London skyline and was bombed by the IRA in 1972, they were trying to destroy a publically visible monument… so my inspiration was the thought of “what if they had succeeded?”, would that have changed society in the way 9/11 did? The Post Office Tower is a brutalist piece of architecture and very idealistic, coming at the time of new towns and new motorways… of course, that was a very flawed ideal. What I wanted to do with the song was express admiration for the ideal of society as something you can improve, whilst saying it’s possible to make a mistake about the specific direction you’re at, and come back from that to move into a better direction, which is something I think we’ve lost sight of.
Alastair: Yeah, I went to an exhibition about the utopian ambitions of the 60s and how great the world might be able to be, that’s fallen away slightly and now people are just trying to figure out good solutions to problems, rather than great ideas and big pictures.
Joanna: It also had a revolving restaurant which was just amazing, why has it not reopened? People would flock to it! *everyone laughs*
How did ‘Post Office Tower’ come together musically?
Andrew: I wrote it in Durham and started with a fairly specific skeleton but it’s evolved.
Joanna: Right at the beginning, I do some ‘sample and hold’ which creates the atmosphere and all the connections with the Post Office Tower.
How did you go about producing your drum sounds?
Andrea: When it came to the album, we wanted to record the drums live. I wanted to use a particular interface because it had better converters etc but just 8 inputs, so we were restricted to 4 tracks with 2 overhead mics for stereo drums which got the toms, plus a snare and a kick mic. I don’t think we’d have got away with it using more modern pre-amps, they don’t sound big. Everything sounds bigger on the old ones plus we had the luxury of recording onto tape.
Alastair: There are great drum samples these days but the important thing was to get the whole sound of the band breathing, not to be locked down to a metronome. To have that little bit of breathing just makes the whole track feel natural and exciting.
Andrea: In the original incarnation of the band, there was this view that everything should be to ‘click’, and I strongly disagreed with that! It was only when we started playing together and I recorded the rehearsals, I was like “can we concentrate a bit more?”
OK, another card, it’s a Roland SH3a…
Andrew: We were in a studio with one once…
Tell us about the track ‘No Shame’ which got a good response online in its demo form…
Joanna: It started as an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP; I came up with a few lines and Andrew said it was quite catchy and that I should try and do something with it. The start was quite sarcastic, but I built it from there with influences from ‘Ready For The Floor’ and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Us V Them’ and that disco feel. The lyrics evolved from that slightly odd beginning to about when people pretend to socialise together so that they don’t look like they’re on their own. But then, there’s that strange unity where you come together on the dancefloor.
Alastair: Yes, you’re having a good time whether you’re going to speak to them again, it’s that moment.
Joanna: People do seem to quite like ‘No Shame’ because it’s catchy, we did a wedding and they did a conga to it, which was a sort of peak for me.
That’s why I said on Twitter that it was “delightfully odd”, it was weird but it was nice and fun to listen to…
Joanna: …“weird but nice and fun”, I’m going to put that on a T-shirt! *laughs*
The next card is an Elka Synthex, much loved by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE…
Joanna: We listened to ‘Oxygene’ a lot at home, and along with our younger brother, we used to pretend we were space people!
Andrew: Didn’t we do a radio play? We had a reel-to-reel tape recorder that we speeded up and slowed down to use for sound effects! *laughs*
Joanna: I don’t know Elka stuff, I have to admit
Andrew: Elka did great strings machines and we have a Roland RS-202, that’s like the Rhapsody…
Alastair: …yes, it’s a string machine that inexplicably has a brass mode! That inspired ‘101’ on our album! *laughs*
Joanna: So was that inspired by the 202 divided by 2, because that would be amazing!
Alastair: I wish it was… you know in America, you do a class for the basics of something, like ‘English Language 101’? So the song ‘101’ is like learning the basics… of relationships!
Joanna: So deep! Why did I ever ask? *laughs*
One last card… yes, it’s a Roland Jupiter 8!
Andrew: Yes please, but I don’t have £8000 spare! *laughs*
Alastair: Originally, they were only £4000!
One of the members of the DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL has Alan Wilder’s old Jupiter 8…
Joanna: …I sometimes wonder about our Odyssey that because they’re so rare now, when I see things like a photo of Brian Wilson with one… could it be the same one? I get really excited at the idea! *laughs*
You’re a bit of a Brian Wilson fan aren’t you?
Joanna: Yes, I love Brian Wilson, I think he’s a genius… I under rated him at first like a lot of people, because the harmonies are apparently so simplistic and cheery and nice. But you go a bit deeper and realise that he’s touching on more emotion… in fact, there’s times when I have to take a break from listening to it because it’s so powerful. Also structurally, what he’s doing, his layers are so sophisticated yet it appears so effortless and not contrived in any way. There’s something so spontaneous and sincere in his character and that comes across in his music.
So what would you like to achieve as a band?
Joanna: Realistically, we understand it’s a very competitive field but we’d like to go as far as we can… we love to make it and tour, but it’s taking one step at a time and building on that. All joking aside, we really believe in the songs and the sound we create. I think the album sounds amazing so I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Andrew: It’s something we take very seriously, we think it’s really worth listening to… it’s been a complex road to get to that so we’re taking it one step at a time, we really do believe in it.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to FAKE TEAK