Tag: Hurts (Page 2 of 3)

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2010

The Electricity Club came into being on 15th March 2010 following the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party at Sheffield Magna.

The year also saw the release of a new album by OMD in ‘History Of Modern’, their first since 1996 while there was the emergence of new acts such as VILLA NAH, MIRRORS and HURTS.

At the end of 2009 when LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX heralded a renaissance in the sound of the synth, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter said to Mojo Magazine: “From all our work comes inspiration. We have been very lucky because the music we envisioned, the ideas we had of The Man-Machine and electro music, have become reality and technology has developed in our direction… and electro is everywhere!”

In a tremendous year for all things electro, here is The Electricity Club’s Top 30 songs of 2010 in alphabetical order by artist:


In 2008, there was much talk of CHRISTINA AGUILERA going electro and collaborating with LADYTRON. Fast forward to 2010 and the two finished tracks ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’ were relegated to bonus track status on her album Bionic, with the latter being available only on iTunes. ‘Birds Of Prey’ softens the percussive noise that dominated ‘Velocifero’ with Ms Aguilera showing some great vocal restraint herself, with an almost hypnotic Middle Eastern feel.

Available on the album ‘Bionic (Deluxe Edition)’



ARP High Life

ARP is New Yorker Alexis Georgopoulos who crafts gorgeous contemporary kosmische musik for the 21st century. Beautiful synth strings plus the spectre of KRAFTWERK and CLUSTER dominate this cute instrumental. Some minimal guitar adds texture to the pulsing accompaniment, recalling other German heroes such as MICHAEL ROTHER and MANUEL GOTTSCHING.

Available on the album ‘The Soft Wave’


AU REVOIR SIMONE Tell Me (Un Autre Monde Remix by MIRRORS)

Although AU REVOIR SIMONE have a wispy girls next door demeanour, this remix by MIRRORS recrafts the originally bare ‘Tell Me’ into a dense apocalyptic ditty which makes Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo sound almost suicidal! With its heavy synthetic percussive backbone, this is definitely dance music from another world! Like an alternative gothic disco soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’!

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Night Light’ from Juno:



Shimmering Emulator type strings, pulsing sequences and a rousing chorus make this a very immediate slice of synthesized pop. BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT mainman Rod Thomas reworks the template of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and gives it a bit of a sensitive new man outlook. ‘Love Part II’ is NEW ORDER’s disco music for lager louts taken back to its slightly camper Italo roots. Not one for those who wear football shirts to the pub!

Available on the single ‘Love Part II’



Assisted by I Monster’s Dean Honer who also co-produced THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Night People, THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW’s first single ‘Are You One?’ has Candie Payne’s very classic pop presence coupled with Adrian Flanagan’s eccentronic backing. It wonderfully sounds like SANDIE SHAW being backed by a BBC Radiophonic Workshop collaboration with LALO SCHIFRIN!

Available on the single ‘Are You One?’


CHEW LIPS Rising Tide

Usually dealing in a brand of “8-bit Casiotone drone-disco” sounding like YEAH YEAH YEAHS with synths, CHEW LIPS look like OMD being led by Debbie Harry! And they take the OMD thing further here with their best track ‘Rising Tide’. The haunting piano, precise drum machine and bass with sparkling synth-harp runs and a spirited vocal come together nicely to build up to a rousing crescendo.

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Unicorn’ from iTunes.



Here are the young men of DELPHIC, continuing the electronic dance / rock fusion pioneered by the legend of Factory Records. The backing is pure NEW ORDER and reinforced by a great klanky guitar solo which would do Bernard Sumner proud. Now, if DELPHIC could just develop things into great pop songs like ‘Halcyon’ rather than some of the prolonged jams and grooves that dominate their debut album ‘Acolyte’.

Available on the album ‘Acolyte’



‘Dark Pleasures’ fuses Simon Owen’s dense electronics and stark dance beats with Rebecca Morgan’s melodically rich vocal interfaces. This is synthpop with a dark, sexy edge with Rebecca sounding like a lost SUGABABE accidentally finding her way into a DEPECHE MODE recording session! Precise pulse driven electro, it provides a wonderfully euphoric topline and chorus with that guilty pleasure of a handbag rave styled vocal.

Available on the album ‘Dirty Little Secrets’



With their melodic and glacial electronic disco, you’d think they were Scandinavian, but THE GOLDEN FILTER consist of an Aussie in Penelope Trappes and a Yank in Stephen Hindman. Penelope’s vocals have an uplifting quality on the chorus while still retaining a distant chill but the counter melodies compliment the danceable twists. A little I Feel Love creeps in during the chorus to give a wonderful dancefloor adrenalin rush.

Available on the album ‘Voluspa’



As the title suggests, this is gorgeous and dreamy with a distinct European flavour from the enjoyable album ‘Head First’ which perhaps is more focused on mid-Atlantic AOR. Alison’s voice still resonates as one of the best in the business and back to being accompanied by primarily electronic instrumentation which is where it belongs. The pulsing sequences and string machine washes of ‘Dreaming’ make this perfect dancefloor material.

Available on the album ‘Head First’


HELL featuring BRYAN FERRY U Can Dance

Mr Ferry has certainly been astute in recognising how much of an influence he’s been on younger musicians and accepting collaborative opportunities with modern dance luminaries such as HELL and GROOVE ARMADA. DJ HELL provides U Can Dance’  with some hard electronic backing, complimenting Ferry’s trademark vocals. Ferry recorded his own Roxy styled version for his solo album ‘Olympia’.

Available on the single ‘U Can Dance’




Hypnotic in the spirit of Giorgio Moroder crossed with Arthur Baker and featuring the guest vocals of Jerry Valuri who first collaborated with Hulkkonen on 2005’s ‘Lo-Fiction’, this dark club track’s spacey rolling sequences make this almost like a dancefloor take on THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ before launching into a bit of New York electro disco!

Available on the album ‘Man From Earth’



After Philip Oakey’s collaborations in 2009 with LITTLE BOOTS and PET SHOP BOYS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE returned with the lead track from their forthcoming album ‘Credo’ sounding very electronic and very modern. Punchy with an elastic bassline and chanting chorus, the lyrical couplet “leave your cornflakes in your freezers, leave your chocolates and your cheeses…” shows Mr Oakey hasn’t lost his touch for off-the-wall symbolism. So “Join us now my friends we hail you!”

Available on the single ‘Night People’



HURTS have been certainly accused of style over substance. ‘Wonderful Life’ looked like being a one-off but luckily they have some other magnificent songs to back up their European art house film via the Weimar Republic persona. With ‘Stay’, the heartfelt intensity of the lush arrangement captures the understated but epic sophistication. With the symphonic grandeur of ULTRAVOX fronted by the melodic sensibilities of TAKE THAT, is this a ‘Vienna’ for the early 21st Century?

Available on the album ‘Happiness’


HYPERBUBBLE Candy Apple Daydreams

From the album of the same name, Texan duo HYPPERBUBBLE have an almost cartoon-like take on synthpop in the vein of that great lost combo VIC TWENTY who released only one single on Mute. ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ is fun and quirky with Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff as the obedient robotic version of John Steed.

Available on the album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’



Electro Weimar Cabaret is the easiest way to describe the music of KATJA VON KASSEL. Lies’ features strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano but also has hints of GRACE JONES ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’. Not entirely surprising as both songs are routed in the same dance… the tango. LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray’s intricate production alongside Katja’s magnificently deep vocal presence is like the “1930’s meets the future”.

Not yet released, view on Vimeo



From what appears to be the only electronic based act that the real music purists positively fawn over, this is a superbly guitar free number that sounds like ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN mashed up with GARY NUMAN and early DEPECHE MODE. The wonderfully wobbly synths and steady drum machine beat take the lead in the poptastic style of Vince Clarke while James Murphy’s vocal hits a soaring falsetto after initiating a ‘Mac The Mouth’ tribute.

Available on the album ‘This Is Happening’


LOLA DUTRONIC Best Years Of Our Lives

LOLA DUTRONIC are a duo who adapt classic Anglo-Gallic pop with modern electronic arrangements. ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ borrows from the more recent past with quite obvious references to OMD, ERASURE and even PULP. It’s cutesy pop, perhaps reminiscent of prime SAINT ETIENNE and Lola’s accent is just alluring!

Available on the EP ‘Musique’



Using a bit of Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis adds eccentricity to some catchy keyboard led pop helmed by the ubiquitous Greg Kurstin. “I have become my own self fulfilled prophecy” she proclaims before she screams up two operatic octaves taking a nod towards classic SPARKS while the coda turns into a Cossack dance! Frankly, this is brilliantly bonkers!

Available on the album ‘The Family Jewels’



Aided by Stuart Price at the mixing helm, Ms Minogue’s best single since the KRAFTWERK-tinged ‘Slow’ is euphoric Euro-disco with some wonderful synthetic tones, especially on the solo. There’s something for everybody here in this fabulous pop song. Shame about the ‘Aphrodite’ album though.

Available on the album ‘Aphrodite’


MIRRORS Ways To An End

MIRRORS hail from Brighton, the UK capital of hedonism but their intense and artful approach to dancing is very different to the ‘hands in the air’ culture of their home base. Synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominate this brilliantly uptempo electro number. Rhythmically this recalls TALKING HEADS ‘Crosseyed & Painless’ while the claustrophobic production is very post-punk, wonderfully dense but melodically dramatic. A brilliant introduction to The World of MIRRORS.

Available on the single ‘Ways To An End’


OMD New Holy Ground

In the true innovating spirit of their classic era, the sparse percussive framework of ‘New Holy Ground’ is merely the sound of footsteps. This is the nearest they have come to the lost B-side and fan favourite ‘The Avenue’. The wonderful piano line and virtual choirs contribute to the beautiful melancholy that characterised OMD’s best work where Paul Humphreys concentrated on the musical backbone while Andy McCluskey provided the narrative focus.

Available on the album ‘History Of Modern’




In period which has seen a flurry of solo activity and the reformation of DUBSTAR, the lovely SARAH BLACKWOOD took time out to work with on a track from his album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’. Although a version without her ended up on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download in 2010. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s recent offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem from our Sarah which lyrically was “full of pain”.

Originally available as a free download


PARRALOX Supermagic (O-Phase Edit)

Supermagic sees some DIVINE intervention in a throbbing Bobby Orlando influenced remix. The original meanwhile has a 6/8 glam beat and sounds like MADONNA impersonating GOLDFRAPP. Taking their electro into a pure pop direction, John and Amii certainly don’t let up on that glitterballed dancefloor.

Available on the album ‘Metropolis’


ROBYN Dancing On My Own (Radio version)

More bittersweet heartbreak from Ms Carlsson, this is driven by wonderful, edgy electronics while the simultaneous dancing and mourning reflects the vulnerability everyone experiences in the loss of love. Solemn synthetic disco at its best from the feisty, independently spirited Swede who is slowly turning into a modern day GINA X PERFORMANCE.

Available on the album ‘Body Talk’


SHH Wonderful Night

Euphoric sensualism captured in three and a half minutes, the chunky pulsing sequences to a solid dance beat and a rousing chorus add a blissful optimism full of Latin spirit. ‘Wonderful Night’ is bouncy danceable electropop that does what it says on the tin. As their own mission statement announces, it’s “Electronic pop, Buenos Aires style!”

Available on the album ‘Gaucho Boy’


TAKE THAT Flowerbed

No, this isn’t a misprint! The hidden track on the reunited Manchester boy band’s Stuart Price produced opus ‘Progress’ is an electronic gem. In a rare lead vocal for Jason Orange, he comes over all apologetic in the manner of AL STEWART over a dreamy backing track that possesses the glacial Scandinavian quality of ROYKSOPP with a sprinkling of ENO-esque textural ambience. Beginning with soothing vocoder before building to a percussive climax, this is simply quite beautiful!

Available on the album ‘Progress’


TENEK Blinded By You

TENEK have successfully smoothed off some of their more industrial edges to deliver their most immediate and accessible song yet. A rousing chorus and a structure not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, there are further synth anthems galore on their album On The Wire with nods to the MTV-era of TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS. “Heartbeat? Get down!” Synthetic dance rock at its best.

Available on the album ‘On The Wire’



VILE ELECTRODES are a colourful trio consisting of Anais Neon, Loz Tronic and Martin Swan who formed due to an unhealthy obsession with analogue synthesizers and fetish porn. ‘Deep Red’, a title inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’, is a gorgeous seven and a half minute synth ballad that comes over like CLIENT fronting classic ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK… tremendously dramatic stuff in the vein of Statues and Stanlow!

Not yet released, view on YouTube


VILLA NAH Remains Of Love

Have you ever heard GARY NUMAN almost jaunty? The fantastic ‘Remains Of Love’ is the poppiest thing that the former Gary Webb never recorded. Juho Paalosmaa is next to crying in the wonderful chorus but it’s almost sounds like GARY NUMAN on prozac over Tomi Hyyppä’s crystalline melodies. With that all important air synth factor, VILLA NAH took the important elements of classic electronic pop and connected it to sharp, complimentary dance rhythms.

Available on the album ‘Origin’


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2010, updated 14th March 2017

The Electricity Club’s 2010 End Of Year Review

The Year Of Transistors

“Synthesizers can be explored and explored, and the music that can be made with electronic instruments is infinite in its breadth. KRAFTWERK may have said ‘we are the robots’, but anyone need only listen to Trans-Europe Express and compare it to most of the turgid, boring guitar-based rock that has been produced over the last 30 years to realise that electronic music can be deeply emotional. And anyone who says electronic music is not real music is just too simple-minded for our patience I’m afraid!MIRRORS

2010 saw the return of the male synthpop act, smart boys with their toys and their nods towards the classic era of Synth Britannia.

Leading the way were VILLA NAH and MIRRORS who both fused quality songs with vintage sounds and crisp contemporary percussive frameworks. The two units were obviously pressing the right buttons as both opened as special guests to OMD. As a continued sign of their undoubted potential, both were also were invited to support THE HUMAN LEAGUE; an opportunity which unfortunately neither act was able to fulfil due to prior scheduling commitments.

VILLA NAH released one of the best long players of the year in ‘Origin’, while MIRRORS’ forthcoming album ‘Lights And Offerings’ is likely to be one of the musical highlights of 2011.

Meanwhile HURTS, the enigmatic Mancunian duo who many predicted for major success in 2010, rattled the cages of the style over substance brigade.

Whilst the cinematic grandeur displayed in their best songs like ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Sunday’ was simply outstanding, they did occasionally walk a fine line with their milder paced material, sounding occasionally like TAKE THAT backed by ULTRAVOX. Despite confusing some listeners, their album ‘Happiness’ was an enormous grower and their live shows won over many new fans, especially on the continent where artful intelligence is a highly regarded attribute.

Interestingly, TAKE THAT themselves released their album ‘Progress’ with Stuart Price aka LES RYTHMES DIGITALES at the producer’s helm.

Featuring a strong electronic flavour, there was also a song called ‘Eight Letters’ based on ‘Vienna’ which resulted in the rather unusual credit ‘written by Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie’!

Attracting cult followings in 2010 were DELPHIC and CHEW LIPS. DELPHIC captured the Factory Records aesthetic of the mutant disco pioneered by NEW ORDER and A CERTAIN RATIO, but were unable to attract mainstream recognition probably due to their reliance on grooves and jams rather than actual songs… they can only get better with time.

CHEW LIPS are YEAH YEAH YEAHS with synths and while they had several brilliant numbers in their cannon, not all were included on their rather short debut album ‘Unicorn’. This didn’t allow them to play to their strengths on record although this was fully exploited in their live show. Again, they will learn.

And not wishing to get wholly involved in the main skirmish, THE SOUND OF ARROWS maintained a low profile while recording their debut album in London but delivered some impressive concert showcases of their lush Nordic musicality. Their optimistic and aspirational ‘Disney meets Brokeback Mountain’ tone may be the fresh approach to electropop in 2011.

Kookiness was the order of the day with the raven haired beauties MARINA & THE DIAMONDS and EMILIE SIMON. Marina Lambrini Diamandis kept the spirit of SPARKS alive with some fe-Mael intuition on her superb debut ‘The Family Jewels’ while EMILIE SIMON crossed the channel for some ‘one girl and her synth’ shows to fill the gap left by the absence of LITTLE BOOTS in 2010.

As could have been expected after the promotional lash of last year, Victoria Hesketh took a break before starting work on her new album. Hertfordshire’s SUNDAY GIRL could be the next lady-in-waiting providing she can expand on the very promising material like All The Songs and Stop Hey! that was premiered in the latter part of the year.

Meanwhile LA ROUX toured the world and recorded a ‘Stones cover ‘Under Your Thumb’ for the ‘Sidetracked’ influences DJ mix compilation before giving old mate SKREAM the iTunes bonus track Saviour for a dubstep rework as Finally and guesting with CHROMEO. However, Elly Jackson appears to have forgotten that No.1 rule of not biting the hand that feeds you by exclaiming “… I don’t want to make synth music for the rest of my f*cking life!” and declaring the electropop genre “over”!

In the battle of Synth Britannia, OMD released their first collection of new material for 14 years while THE HUMAN LEAGUE delayed their full album return until 2011. THE HUMAN LEAGUE have the backing of electronic music guru Mark Jones’ Wall Of Sound label and thus far have played a ‘less is more’ approach.

Despite not having an official website until this year, some clever viral marketing sent interest in their single ‘Night People’ sky high and provided good business for their now almost traditional Christmas UK tour.

While OMD’s ‘History of Modern’ album had several outstanding tracks worthy of comparison with past glories, it was confusingly launched with an Aretha Franklin mash-up that wasn’t on the final tracklisting and a nauseating Britpop pastiche as lead single.

Ironically one of the statements made in its sleeve notes was “Modern is not… Oasis”!

It was as if audiences who had traditionally been sceptical of the whole synthesizer axis were now being targeted. However, electronic pop’s spiritual homeland of Germany welcomed OMD back like one of their own and respectable business for ‘History of Modern’ was generated.

A-HA though are proof that consistently high quality new material is still a possiblity 25 years after your commercial heyday with the focus of their final album ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ very much on their synthesizer roots. In late 2010, they bid farewell with a final tour and a superb double CD compilation called ’25’ which featured not only their hits but the best of their much under valued album tracks.

Among the acts celebrating their legacies, HEAVEN 17 enhanced their reputation no-end by participating in a brilliant BBC6 Music collaboration with “the falsetto from the ghetto” LA ROUX.

And if that wasn’t enough, they had not one but two BBC TV programmes featuring their highly regarded album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ including their triumphant Sheffield Magna gig.

HOWARD JONES didn’t look a day older, proving that a vegetarian diet and a clean living spirituality was the key to eternal youth! He played ‘Human’s Lib’ and ‘Dream Into Action’ in full for the first time at Indigo2.

Former sparring partners ULTRAVOX and JOHN FOXX played very different types of live shows in 2010. ULTRAVOX almost went back to basics with the retrospective ‘Return To Eden 2’ tour while JOHN FOXX curated an audio/visual extravaganza at the Short Circuit Festival featuring a deluge of analogue synths and some new material to a mixed reception.

DEPECHE MODE completed their ‘Tour Of The Universe’ and capped it all with a special show at the Royal Albert Hall for The Teenage Cancer Trust where Alan Wilder was reunited with the band for the first time in 16 years during the encore of ‘Somebody’.

It was an emotional night for many including the band. Does this lay out the foundations for, if not a reunion, at least some future work together?

GOLDFRAPP returned with ‘Head First’, a mid-Atlantic AOR styled electronic romp that had echoes of ABBA, LAURA BRANIGAN and OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN. Some found it uninspiring but what could not be denied was the catchiness of the tunes. Given time, it will become a future guilty pleasure.

Meanwhile LADYTRON prepared a career spanning compilation Ladytron ’00-10′ to reinforce their reputation as one of the key electronic based acts of the last decade but they began the year contributing a pair of excellent bonus tracks to CHRISTINA AGUILERA’s album ‘Bionic’ in ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’.

Swedish songstress ROBYN continued her feisty independent spirit by releasing her ‘Body Talk’ trilogy and the excellent single ‘Dancing On My Own’, while both LADY GAGA and KYLIE kept electronically produced pop in the mainstream consciousness.

Across the water, New York’s THE GOLDEN FILTER added a crisp vibe to the electronic dancefloor via some dreamy Scandinavian influences and frantic tribal percussion while their neighbours THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS brought a mechanised twist to new wave on their self-titled debut.

And for the perfect after party soundtrack in the Big Apple, ARP provided some gorgeous modern day ambience with the album ‘The Soft Wave’.

Meanwhile, another North American based duo LOLA DUTRONIC relaunched their brand of dreamy Gallic flavoured electro-lounge pop with the ‘Musique’ EP.

Elsewhere internationally, the vivacious SHH became the latest in a line of Argentine musicians basing themselves in London for an assault on the UK and European market while Texans HYPERBUBBLE brought their own ‘bionic bubblepunk’ with the impressive ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’. MARSHEAUX had a quiet year, only releasing a cover of BILLY IDOL’s Eyes Without a Face for an Amnesty International compilation while the ever prolific PARRALOX released their third album in as many years with ‘Metropolis’, refining their pure pop direction.

The British independent electro scene remained vibrant with North Wales’ FUTURE PERFECT releasing an immediately enjoyable debut in ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ and Brighton’s TENEK impressing on their second album ‘On The Wire’ with a more accessible anthemic synth sound.

VILE ELECTRODES steadily gained fans on the London club circuit with their mix of fetish porn and analogue synths while following some line-up changes, THE VANITY CLAUSE finally released their first album ‘Fractured’.

And the quirky Sheffield based duo THE CHANTEUSE & THE CLAW unleashed a superb debut single in ‘Are You One?’.

Overall in 2010, the spark generated by the new generation of synthesizer acts and the willingness of others to incorporate more electronic sounds into their work accounted for yet another productive year with the heritage acts also getting the cultural recognition they fully deserved. Ever supportive, The Guardian even featured a piece on the older incarnation entitled Forgive Us Our Synths which interestingly was almost two years after their prophetic Slaves To Synth article hit the public consciousness.

There were more quality albums and live shows of interest to the electro fan than in many years past with acts such as MIRRORS, VILLA NAH and HURTS fulfilling the role of worthy successors to the classic Synth Britanniageneration. Hopefully, other acts will be following in their footsteps. In fact, despite being ignored by the BBC Sound Of 2011 and New To Q listings which appear to have been locked into some evil parallel universe where good taste does not seem to reside, “… fey, gay, pseudo-intellectual synth b*llocks” still rules!



Best Album: TENEK On The Wire
Best Song: HURTS Unspoken
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at London Royal Albert Hall
Best Video: MIRRORS Ways To An End
Most Promising New Act: MIRRORS


Best Album: VILLA NAH Origin
Best Song: MIRRORS Ways To An End
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at Sheffield Magna
Best Video: HURTS Wonderful Life
Most Promising New Act: THE SOUND OF ARROWS


Best Album: HURTS Happiness
Best Song: OMD History Of Modern (Part I)
Best Gig: THE HUMAN LEAGUE + HEAVEN 17 at Galway Festival
Best Video: HURTS Stay
Most Promising New Act: MIRRORS


Best Album: PAGE Nu
Best Song: POLAROID MILITIA Astana My Hero
Best Gig: PAGE at Gothenburg Synthklubben
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red
Most Promising New Act: THE GIRL & THE ROBOT

Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2010


“From all over the world comes inspiration. We have been very lucky, because the music we envisioned, the ideas we had of The Man Machine and electro music, have become reality and technology has developed in our direction… and electro is everywhere” Ralf Hütter, KRAFTWERK

Despite the resurgence of sophisticated electronic pop in 2010 with its own new classic sounding acts such as HURTS and MIRRORS plus the long awaited return of OMD and THE HUMAN LEAGUE, it would appear that British ears are still largely oblivious to the distinct musical quality on offer.

However, across the Channel in mainland Europe, the artful sound of the synthesizer is being embraced again, especially in electronic music’s spiritual homeland of Germany. So why is this? Is it ‘Der Deutsche Faktor’?

Is Germany more likely to accept synthesized pop presented in a stylish, modernistic manner purely because of its own electronic tradition? And is it really all down to KRAFTWERK? But then if that is the case, why has the majority of the best electropop been produced in the UK where its cultural significance is still mostly ignored by critics and public alike?

The British have always had a strange attitude to its own cultural intelligencia, be they musicians, composers, film makers, artists or writers. The ordinary public somehow see having ideas, values and style as being pretentious or elitist while traits like ignorance and shallowness are somehow embraced. Britain has always looked towards its American cousins for trends in popular music and the street credibility of the scruffy drug fuelled rocker or the expletive laden misogynistic urban spokesman is always somehow seen as more preferable.

But with a heritage of classical and contemporary art all of its own, Europeans didn’t take so kindly to American influences such as rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues being brought over in the second half of the 20th Century. In Germany, this post-war reaction was even stronger. Despite the apparent freedoms compared with their compatriots in the East, Die Bundes Republik was effectively an occupied territory and this provoked a backlash within the student population.

At its extremes, this meant the brutal violence of the Baader-Meinhof gang and Red Army Faction. But on the other side of the coin, young Germans were inspired to be creative either in film as with Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Rainer Fassbinder, in art as with Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke, or in music. The Germans have always had a history of self-definition through art and music has often been the centrepiece.

So eschewing blues scales, acts such as CAN, TANGERINE DREAM, CLUSTER, NEU! and KRAFTWERK looked towards the avant-garde traditions of Karl-Heinz Stockhausen for their inspiration and used new instruments such as electronic keyboards, synthesizers and rhythm units to create a whole new German aesthetic. Although these all acts used electronics in some form, it was KRAFTWERK who in the mid-70s first fully embraced making music exclusively in this manner, eventually adopting a GILBERT & GEORGE demeanour of short hair, suits and ties. Their new pioneering musical form featuring a strict percussive base and an accessible melodicism in the European classical tradition was the antithesis of what had come previously via the North Atlantic.

However, despite KRAFTWERK’s influential success internationally, along with their fellow exponents of this experimental music, they were largely ignored in their homeland. The instrumentalist nature was simply too abstract for some and although innovative, very rarely did Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos write actual pop songs. That was the mantle that the UK was about to take up.

DAVID BOWIE and BRIAN ENO were among the first British artists to adopt these new Mitteleuropa colours with the albums ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ each featuring fine examples of their collaborative zenith during an inspired sojourn in West Berlin. As a result, one of the focal points of this expanded interest became The Blitz Club in London where their resident DJ Rusty Egan played this neu musik von Deutschland at its regular ‘Bowie Nights’. Similar scenes were developing throughout post-punk Britain.

Although artists such as ULTRAVOX, GARY NUMAN and THE HUMAN LEAGUE used KRAFTWERK as an important reference point and had synthesizers dominating their sound, the first British act to aspire to KRAFTWERK’s retro-futurist blueprint was ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK. Alongside their suitably clean and tidy presentation, OMD subconsciously put a pop element into the Kling Klang quartet’s electronic template. There was now an emotive lyrical focus incorporated into what had been perceived as the mechanical chill of Teutonic electronic music… the morality with the architecture if you will.

OMD’s music ultimately connected with Germanic ears who traditionally loved strong musical melodies and precise rhythmical frameworks. At its worse, this could mean embracing folk laden schlagermusik but as a positive, opening up to songs sung in a plethora of languages. The eventual result was ‘Maid Of Orleans’ reaching No1 in Germany and becoming the country’s biggest selling single in 1982; this at a time when the West German market was the largest in the world after America and Japan.

A precedent had already been set in 1981 when via The Blitz Club, VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ reached No1. Although ‘Maid Of Orleans’ and ‘Fade To Grey’ were both Top 10 hits in Britain, neither song has been held with the high regard and cultural gravitas that they both are in Germany.

‘Fade To Grey’ was recently voted ‘Song of the Decade’ on the prestigious German music show ‘Hit Giganten’ while it was an invitation to perform ‘Maid Of Orleans’ on a celebratory edition of RTL’s ‘Ultimative Chartshow’ in 2005 that was the beginning of the current OMD reunion. Often less judgemental and commercially orientated than the UK, the German market also later allowed other synthesizer acts such as DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS to achieve significant success. And more recently, British electro acts such as MESH and CLIENT have been more welcomed here than at home.

Fast forward to 2010 and with the release of their new album ‘History Of Modern’, OMD’s musical legacy in the spiritual homeland of electronic music led to an innovative record deal with Saturn, one of Germany’s leading technology superstores, and a promotional schedule predominantly concentrating on that territory. With the majority of the European tour focused on Germany too, OMD have managed to recapture the hearts of an audience that still recognises intelligent artistic integrity whatever the age of the performer and doesn’t get into debates about how real music doesn’t use synthesizers, or how thoughtful presentation is arty!

In 2010, Germany has again shown itself to be more discerning. The magnificent ‘Wonderful Life’ by Manchester duo HURTS stayed at No2 for several weeks while the song struggled to reach No24 in Britain where they were accused of style over substance. Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson’s ‘Bros Go To Bavaria’ imagery and cinematic grandeur have obviously struck a chord.

Attending HURTS’ show in Cologne, 7und70 said: “I was surprised that so many people went to see them. I came to the venue just a half hour before doors opened and I didn’t expect so many people to be outside waiting. So I was late and ended up standing behind a gang of very tall people. I couldn’t see that much, but the music was fantastic of course! I loved the charming nature of their performance and their way of communication with the audience. It’s beautiful pop music, I like it”

Following the success of HURTS, one UK act now set to crack the German market are MIRRORS who have strong KRAFTWERK and OMD based principals. The quartet comprises of James New, Ally Young, Josef Page and James Arguile. OMD’s Paul Humphreys had already witnessed their potential: “I went to see them in Camden at Proud. They’re lovely blokes and I was absolutely blown away by them. Their songs are brilliant.”

Playing as support to OMD on their European tour, MIRRORS have been able to showcase their majestic electronic pop-noir such as ‘Hide And Seek’, ‘Fear Of Drowning’ and ‘Into The Heart’ to a crowd that was almost tailor made for them.

However, when asked about this in the summer, their singer James wasn’t getting too presumptuous: “We’ll have to up our game won’t we? I don’t know. It’s going to be really interesting to see how Germany reacts to it. I have every hope that they’re going to really like it.”

And like it they did. 7und70 attended three shows including Cologne and Hamburg to report:”Support bands often have problems to get enough respect, especially if the crowd is waiting for the main act. But not MIRRORS… the Germans loved them! I’ve heard from a lot of people that they were absolutely delighted with them. It’s not only because of their influences like KRAFTWERK, OMD or any other band. I listened to some of their tracks before the tour thanks to The Electricity Club and their great taste in music. I expected a fantastic support act for OMD but I must admit MIRRORS were more than that. Their music is emotional, melodic, epic, intelligent and also powerful and fresh. Well, simply beautiful!”

“Of course the crowd loved MIRRORS!” added Nella Bella who saw the band’s appearance in Hannover, “Great mixture, they had a KRAFTWERK-feeling mixed with Andy-dancing, CHINA CRISIS-singing and HURTS-looking. They will surely be a successful band. They really did a good job… first time ever I thought at a concert: ‘oh, sad, the support act has finished? I want to hear and see more!’ They got lots of applause”. She wasn’t alone in that feeling: “I also heard some ‘Zugabe’ chants after MIRRORS left the stage” remembered 7und70.

In Stuttgart, Lars Diegmann was also impressed: “I think most of the audience really did like the MIRRORS. We stood in front of stage but we could see the concert hall was well filled as they started to play. Most reactions were very positive. It was a small but very effective stage show. Very charismatic guys, it was fun to watch them make music. Powerful and moving electro-pop with a small theatrical touch… stoic and minimalist. They sound like KRAFTWERK should sound in 2010”.

MIRRORS’ stage presence and presentation are key factors in their appeal: “I was so fascinated by the way Ally played his synthesizer and James’ passionate dancing… I was having flashbacks of Ian Curtis! Oh, and I forgot to mention his excellent voice. Very cool performance!” recalled 7und70, “I’m really looking forward to seeing them back in Germany as a main act.” Asked why she thought MIRRORS and also HURTS had got into the heart of the Germans, 7und70 smiled and gave a Teutonically direct answer: “It’s because Germans like good music!”

But they also connected with the audience: “I’m sure their tour EP sold very well, especially with the autographs they gave at the same time. So everybody had the chance to talk to them. Very nice! I also met them backstage after the Cologne concert. They are such nice and good-looking guys! Those guys are just amazing, adorable and very talented.”

So is the intelligent sartorial elegance of acts like MIRRORS and HURTS more likely to appeal to the Germans? “Possibly…” 7und70 replied, “but I myself must admit, I like their smart style”

Of their European jaunt, James from MIRRORS said: “This tour with OMD has been a complete revelation for us. For the most part, our journey in the UK has been fantastic but in Germany and Europe the reaction to our music has been genuinely overwhelming. People’s enthusiasm has only fed our own and I think we would all say that these past shows have been the best of our career so far.”

OMD’s Andy McCluskey himself remarked enthusiastically during the tour: “MIRRORS are doing brilliantly…good guys and really great music.” However, with the way MIRRORS have been impressing, there clearly appears to be a changing of the guard happening right before German eyes.

This was reflected by OMD’s drummer Mal Holmes who amusingly said: “MIRRORS do OMD better than OMD do OMD…they look and sound great!” 7und70 summed things up by saying: “I must admit, I will always love OMD’s music. But it seems that MIRRORS could be their worthy successors.”

Just as when THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Philip Oakey appeared on stage with LITTE BOOTS at Heaven in 2009 and HEAVEN 17 performed with LA ROUX on BBC 6Music, the electro torch is steadily being handed over. Synth Britannia’s elder statesmen are playing their part in helping the youngsters take electropop into the next generation.

In the meantime, HURTS have reached No2 with their ‘Happiness’ album and will reinforce their success by touring Germany again in 2011. The pair even commented: “we’ve been in and out of Germany like it’s our back garden”. And with a superb debut album ‘Lights & Offerings’ ready to be released by Skint Records early next year, MIRRORS look set to gain a foothold in mainland Europe. Whether the UK wakes up and decides to join in the party with its EU neighbours remains to be seen.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2010


HURTS StayFollowing their triumphant performance to a packed house at London’s Shepherd Bush Empire recently, HURTS release their new single ‘Stay’ on 15th November 2010 from their grower of an album ‘Happiness’.

Broken and affecting, ‘Stay’ exposes a feeling of melodramatic despair but the chanting chorus somehow lifts and soars. The understated, but epic sophistication that is apparent in their live show is captured in the superbly picturesque promo video directed by Mikey Finnigan.

Taking its nods primarily from David Lean’s cinematic classic ‘Ryan’s Daughter’, it would seem that Adam and Theo have been watching some ULTRAVOX videos too, ‘The Voice’ and ‘Lament’ in particular’.

The heartfelt intensity of the song interlocks perfectly with the beautifully stark Gaelic imagery, proving that less really can mean more. With repeated plays, ‘Stay’ sounds more and more like a No1 hit… in Germany!

HURTS tour the UK as support to SCISSOR SISTERS in December. Dates include:

Birmingham LG Arena (3rd December), Cardiff Arena (6th December), Glasgow SECC (8th December), Newcastle Arena (10th December), Manchester MEN Arena (11th December), Brighton Centre (12th December), Nottingham Trent FM Arena (14th December), London O2 Arena (15th December), Bournemouth BIC (16th December)

They also play headline dates throughout Europe in early 2011. Check the HURTS website www.informationhurts.com for details.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th October 2010

HURTS Happiness

“After buckets of blood, tears and gold and emptying the contents of our hearts, it is now over. We feel proud to announce that we will call our child ‘Happiness'” was how HURTS announced the arrival of their debut long player.

Consisting of singer Theo Hutchcraft and instrumentalist Adam Anderson, melancholic optimism and music of distinct quality remain their passion and goal. Following a period of relative inactivity using the less means more philosophy, HURTS have finally allowed the public hear what the fuss has been all about following the appearance of the monochromatic viral video of ‘Wonderful Life’ over a year ago. With approval from no-less than Claudia Brücken of PROPAGANDA whose ‘Dr. Mabuse’ was a big influence on the track, ‘Wonderful Life’ has no less impact now even in slightly remixed form and remains electrifyingly elegant.

Like most of the ‘Happiness’ album, it is also has a distinctly European sound. Produced by Jonas Quant and Joseph Cross along with HURTS, their overall sound is more of utilising gadgetry to avoid landfill indie and R’n’B cliques rather than being a distinct synthesizer duo.

So ‘Happiness’ features guitar, sax and piano alongside lush orchestrations and big drum sounds housed within a deep compression chamber. Cultivated mostly at a moody mid-tempo pace, this provides a misty film noir sophistication although with its lack of distinct dance beats, this soundtrack is not for shallow heads and hearts.

‘Better Than Love’ is one of the lost singles of 2010. Its euphoric nature almost sounds strangely out of place on ‘Happiness’ but some enhanced percussion adds extra bite compared with the single version. Uptempo and sparky, the only let down in an otherwise very good pop tune is the 90s boy band bridge after the chorus. It is the tendency to enter this territory, especially on the ballads that could be considered HURTS’ weakness. Most of the time, they get away with it but here, they don’t.

The slow ‘Blood, Tears & Gold’ was inconclusive on its initial appearance as HURTS’ second viral video but actually comes across very well on record thanks to the widescreen production – do not listen to this as a download or on YouTube, half the grandeur will be lost. Meanwhile on the superb ‘Sunday’, HURTS up the tempo with some pulsing octave shifts and become ULTRAVOX with a touch of A-HA. Sumptuous Eurocentric electronics add theatre to the punchy textural dynamics.

‘Stay’, a slightly more vibrant but intense cousin to ‘Blood, Tears & Gold’, is broken and affecting. Here, Theo exposes a feeling of melodramatic despair but the chanting chorus somehow lifts and soars. With backing of epic proportions, ‘Evelyn’ could lyrically even be a haunting male take on GOLDFRAPP’s ‘A&E’; “Stay with me Evelyn” cries Theo, “Don’t leave me with the medicine!”.

A burst of Gallic accordion introduces ‘Devotion’ and sees Theo duetting with KYLIE MINOGUE, HURTS having already brilliantly covered ‘Confide In Me’ on a Biz session recently. In a similar vein to ‘Confide In Me’ if a little darker, ‘Devotion’ is actually much more convincing than ‘In Denial’, Ms Minogue collaboration with PET SHOP BOYS. A brilliantly uplifting chorus makes this a beautiful album highlight. ‘Unspoken’ is already known by some in the form of a frantically rhythmical remix by Fred Falke. Now as a stark ballad, the orchestral arrangement is punctuated with heavy synth bass and piano which works well, especially as the song builds to a cohesive climax.

‘The Water’ provides an emotive finish to the collection, starting with just piano before becoming a full on classically laden movement… this could be the missing Part 4 of MUSE’s ‘Exogenesis: Symphony’! But there’s an extra treat in hidden track ‘Verona’ which starts with the ocean waves and some piano in waltz time. Eventually joined by a string quartet, it turns into a bit of a Mediterranean sea shanty!

However, the two songs in the HURTS catalogue which, judging by the demos and live renditions, had the greatest potential are sadly the album’s disappointments. ‘Silver Lining’ which opens ‘Happiness’ originally possessed the gothic percussive drama of ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ era DEPECHE MODE accompanied by the devil’s choir from ‘The Omen’. But this has been watered down and the final take severely lacks impact. As a development of the ‘Silver Lining’ template, ‘Illuminated’ also had its own pensive tension but the neo-operatic edge that was prominent in the earlier version has now been lost.

Both tracks should have turned out more like the magnificence of either ‘Devotion’ or ‘Stay’. In some respects, this album could be compared to TEARS FOR FEARS’ ‘The Hurting’; terrific in places but with missed opportunities on some truly great compositions.

Worthy of mention though not on the album is the missing title track ‘Happiness’ with its metallic percussion, histrionic synths and rousing chorus. Available as a download from Amazon, it is a glorious highlight in their live show and thoroughly deserved inclusion on the final tracklisting. The final solution may be then to see HURTS live!

HURTS were in danger of being considered style over substance. While not entirely meeting expectations, ‘Happiness’ has many outstanding moments. But there is still more promise to be unlocked. If the SCOTT WALKER of circa 1967-69 had the 21st Century instrumentation available to him then, he would sound like HURTS. Like Theo and Adam, when he was good, he was simply out of this world.

‘Happiness’ is released by Major Label/Sony Music on 6th September 2010



Text by Chi Ming Lai
31st August 2010, updated 20th October 2013

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