Tag: I Speak Machine (Page 1 of 3)

A Beginner’s Guide To BENGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TENNIS Weakness Together (2001)

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

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

https://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/


BENGE 1969 EMS VCS3 (2008)

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

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

https://twitter.com/zackdagoba


SERAFINA STEER How To Haunt A House Party (2010)

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

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

http://www.serafinasteer.com/


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

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

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

http://www.metamatic.com/


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

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

Available on the OMD single ‘Dresden’ via BMG

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


GAZELLE TWIN Exorcise (2014)

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

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

https://www.gazelletwin.com/


HANNAH PEEL & BENGE Find Peace (2014)

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

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

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


WRANGLER Lava Land (2014)

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

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

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


GHOST HARMONIC Codex (2015)

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

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

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


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

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

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

http://garynuman.com/


FADER 3D Carpets (2017)

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

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

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


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame (2017)

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

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

https://www.ispeakmachine.com/


LONE TAXIDERMIST Home (2017)

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

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

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


BLANCMANGE In Your Room (2018)

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

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

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


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound (2018)

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

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

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


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

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

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

https://johngrantmusic.com/


LUMP Hand Hold Hero (2018)

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

Available on the LUMP album ‘Lump’ via Dead Oceans

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


OBLONG Echolocation (2019)

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

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

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th March 2020

IMI Interview

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI has made a fine impression in 2019 as one of the most promising new synth acts of the year.

Blessed with a glorious soprano in the vein of Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch, what has also stood out is the widescreen aesthetic of her music with sharp electronic melodies and inventive arrangements.

Of her single ‘Margins’ from the ‘Lines’ EP, one-time Numan sideman and co-writer of VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ Chris Payne said: “Very impressive. She has an amazing voice and very nice synths to surround it.”

Encapsulating the filmic ambition of GOLDFRAPP circa ‘Felt Mountain’ and its delightful oddness, IMI is undoubtedly one of the keys to a sustainable synthy future. She will be playing TEC006 at Electrowerkz in London on Saturday 30th November 2019 alongside REIN and KOMPUTER.

IMI kindly talked to The Electricity Club about her past, present and future…

Your sound has an interesting mix of electronic, trip-hop and classical, what is your own musical background?

I was classically trained from the age of 8, but I only started embracing that side of my voice over the past few years when I realised I could re-contextualise it within a more electronic setting. I didn’t really start listening to electronic music until I moved up to Leeds in 2012 for University where I was exposed to the likes of PORTISHEAD and JAMES BLAKE. In 2014 I formed the dream pop band LENIN which gave me my first taste of performing live and ultimately inspired a continued fascination with writing and performing music.

Your voice is incredible, what’s its range? Do you see yourself as a singer, or a songwriter first?

Thank you, my range is about E2 – C5 give or take. Singing was ultimately what led me down the path of music when I was younger, but I often shun my responsibility as a singer as I’m more fascinated by sound design and songwriting.

How did the melodic synth element enter the fray?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened, as I had been noodling with software synths in GarageBand from when I first got my MacBook Pro in 2011 when my friends and family all chipped in to help me buy it for my birthday. Since then I have been led by my same naive curiosity to create something I haven’t heard before, whether it’s some weird wonky synth or an amalgamation of seemingly polar opposite sounds.

Your father was a New Romantic?

My Dad was away in the Navy a lot when I was young, so years later when I was studying at college, he would help me catch up and teach me all about music history and the bands he listened to growing up.

He loved an eclectic mix of THE STRANGLERS, ROXY MUSIC and DAVID BOWIE; him and my Mum shared a few common interests in bands like VISAGE and I seem to remember hearing ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’ on full blast which my sisters and I would sing along to triumphantly!

To the casual listener, GOLDFRAPP springs to mind with your work, have they been a favourite act of yours over the past few years?

I hadn’t actively listened to GOLDFRAPP until 2016 when I remember getting really into the ‘Felt Mountain’ album. I had just graduated and left education for the first time in my life and was honestly struggling with the realities of the real world. This album came to me like a shining beacon of light, reminding me of the potential for music to transport you to another place, which is the encouragement I needed to continue writing. The result of which was ‘Margins’, or at least an early version of it.

Your first single ‘Born For What?’ was an eclectic mix of styles and it’s a good song, although in hindsight it sounds as though you were undecided on your sound?

‘Born For What?’ was the beginning of a more industrial sound, which was exciting for me at the time as I had felt relatively trapped within quite a melancholic musical space. It was a stepping stone in allowing me to get where I am now, safe in the knowledge that I am not confined by style or genre.

Then came ‘Margins’ which was something of an epic, how did that come together?

‘Margins’ was written almost a year before the other tracks, and it was one of those strange songs that just materialises in front of you. It went through several transmutations after its initial inception, originally written for piano and vibraphone. Before I brought it to the studio, I re-harmonised several elements of it and reimagined it with a synth backdrop. The same theatrical drama shone through, but the industrial electronic aesthetic balanced out its ethereal nature.

What was it like to make your first promotional video for ‘Margins’?

Being a solo artist makes it difficult to create a visually appealing music video on a budget, especially for someone who hates being in front of a camera.

Luckily filming in a garage in the freezing winter of Leeds took my mind off of my anxieties, and director Joey Haskey’s experimentation with colour and lighting offers a visual feast that I think translates the vibrancy of the track.

Was ‘I Feel Alright’ written from your own first-hand experience? Also, it features a quite pronounced anthemic lead synth theme too…

This song was written after a few years of struggling with some personal issues and it was a celebration of finally feeling ok and feeling hopeful about the future. It will always hold special value to me for that reason, and when times are difficult, I’ll often look back and acknowledge that I’ve conquered that feeling before and I can do it again.

‘The Fence’ starts minimally with a lone synthbass note and then gradually builds, you do have a sense of drama?

‘The Fence’ was one of the few tracks to unravel in front of me lyrically. It originally started as a location recording I took when I was at home in Cornwall. The recording was of an electric fence, and the very idea of a fence conjured up that old saying “the grass is always greener”. It’s quite easy to look at other people’s lives and think they have it all sorted, only to make yourself feel worse about your own situation.

This song was my oath to try to view my own life through a different perspective so that I wasn’t always longing for the other side of the fence. The original location recording didn’t make it to the final recording, but the instrumentation was designed to reflect the growing solidarity of my statement.

With the video for ‘The Fence’, you opted to give a director freedom to do a visual interpretation rather than appear in it yourself? Were there any particular reasons?

I was initially going to have more of a live video setup for this track, but when a mutual friend showed me Deni Pesto’s work, I completely U-turned on the idea as his work resonated with me in a way I can’t really describe. When we were exchanging ideas and he sent over some mood boards, it was as if he had literally leapt into my mind. That sort of cohesion of understanding in collaboration is quite rare so I was happy for him to take the lead and create what he thought was right. I think it is a beautiful video in itself, and like my own music, it is fairly ambiguous and the viewer/listener can draw what they need from it.

Photo by Simon Helm

Presenting electronic music live has its own challenges as you found for a moment at The Finsbury gig recently… how does it feel to perform alone, compared with a band, orchestra or choir?

It can be quite stressful when technology fails you and there’s nothing else to pick up the slack, but when things go right it can be extremely cathartic and it’s one of the few times I feel completely present in the moment. I’ve had the vision from the beginning to get involved with a visual artist to add another dimension to the live show.

I played a show at my college a few years ago and had three large white balloons suspended from the ceiling with lights illuminating them and offering an immersive space to absorb my music in. While balloons might not be the most feasible thing to replicate, one of my next challenges is to see how I can create a little of that magic on stage.

Your keyboard of choice is a Moog Sub Phatty, with so many instruments on the market, what made you decide on that particular one?

I bought my Moog Sub Phatty for my old band LENIN, so I was looking for something that could produce some big bass and lead lines while I was singing.

At the time I didn’t know much about synthesizers, but it is really tactile and it’s not too complicated to understand so it was the perfect starting synth for me.

How are you finding exploring different hardware and software in the studio, what tools have you particularly taken to in your recording process?

When I’m writing, I only have access to predominately software (with the exception of my Moog Sub Phatty and some Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators), so I’ll often map out different ideas with the Arturia V Collection which has an expansive array of sounds. For the past four tracks I’ve recorded, I’ve worked with Matt Peel who has a growing collection of synths and other wonderful things in his studio The Nave in Leeds.

Each time I go there I discover something new, the last time we were recording, Jacob Marston of DEAD NAKED HIPPIES was playing on some old Simmons drum pads to create the thunderous toms in ‘The Fence’. I’m currently looking for my next investment for my home set-up, some of the Roland Boutique range are looking like appealing options but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Photo by Simon Helm

You will be opening TEC006 in London, what can the audience expect if they arrive at Electrowerkz early?

I’m working on some new material at the moment that I might share in London. But as it stands, this will probably be my last performance with my current setup. It’s been a challenging but equally wonderful few years since my first single release and I’m hoping to celebrate this and to share this with others in November.

What are you own hopes and fears for your future in music?

When I was writing this music, my visions were far grander than were feasibly possible and it’s quite easy to feel deflated when things don’t meet certain expectations, especially when there’s no-one else to share and balance the burden. Something that I think is important for me moving forward is to work with others and I’m really excited at that prospect as I am keen to learn from others and expand my understanding of music.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to IMI

The ‘Lines’ EP is released by Bibliotek, available as a CD or download direct from https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/album/lines

IMI plays TEC006 with REIN + KOMPUTER at Electrowerkz in London on SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER 2019 – tickets available now direct from https://billetto.co.uk/e/tec-006-with-rein-se-komputer-imi-tickets-381506

Please note that Electrowerkz requires mandatory photo ID for its events so NO ID, NO ENTRY – the organisers cannot take responsibility if entry is refused

TEC006 Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/360347931569962/

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/

https://www.instagram.com/imimusicuk/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0GKGK6KIlrmJM4C4UJGMJI


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Portia Hunt except where credited
16th October 2019

IMI Live at The Finsbury

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI has made a fine impression in 2019 as one of the most promising new synth acts of the year.

Blessed with a glorious soprano in the vein of Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch, what has also stood out is the widescreen aesthetic of her music with sharp electronic melodies and inventive arrangements.

Having previously been a member of a Goth band, classically trained IMI’s ears were drawn to her parents’ record collection; her father, a veteran of the New Romantic campaign had naturally been a fan of VISAGE so it was fitting when Rusty Egan started playing her music on his radio show.

IMI made a rare live appearance in London at The Finsbury to showcase her intelligent avant pop. Opening with ‘The Fence’ from her recent ‘Lines’ EP, a programmed warbling drop of vintage bass synth and a metronomic rhythm construction was the backdrop for an almost folky vocal before a percussive build to usher in the clouds and the darkness with a beautiful crescendo.

Two still-to-be-released songs ‘Monolith’ and ‘Pin Me Down’ demonstrated IMI’s previous flirtation with the gothique while encapsulating the filmic ambition of GOLDFRAPP circa ‘Felt Mountain’ and its delightful oddness. On stage, IMI took up different personas in the live presentation of her songs, from serious synth girl to serene pop princess, but the rousing melodic call of ‘I Feel Alright’ saw her enter I SPEAK MACHINE mode.

With the dramatic combination of her magnificent live vocals and sampled ethereal voices while sternly facing her Moog Sub Phatty, proceedings became more sinister but strangely captivating as her delivery emotively conveyed the parradox of the song’s title in a barrage of squelch and rigid beats.

Closing the short set with the mighty triplet infused operatic statement of ‘Margins’, IMI’s musicality allowed her to cross trip hop and Synth Britannia without anyone noticing the join, before a piercing cry on the caesura.

A largely mesmerising solo performance, IMI did well to get round some minor technical difficulties. As she increases in confidence and maturity, she will only get better. For the moment, she is a highly promising songstress with lashes of talent and a focussed esoteric mindset that will hopefully lead to more artful adventures for all to savour. IMI is undoubtedly one of the keys to a sustainable synthy future.


The ‘Lines’ EP is released by Bibliotek, available as a CD or download direct from https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/album/lines

IMI plays TEC006 opening for REIN at Electrowerkz in London on SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER 2019 – tickets available now direct from https://billetto.co.uk/e/tec-006-with-rein-se-komputer-imi-tickets-381506

Please note that Electrowerkz requires mandatory photo ID for its events so NO ID, NO ENTRY – the organisers cannot take responsibility if entry is refused

TEC006 Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/360347931569962/

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/

https://www.instagram.com/imimusicuk/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0GKGK6KIlrmJM4C4UJGMJI


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
18th September 2019

Introducing IMI

Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch need to watch out, there’s a new synth girl in town, she’s got a Moog Sub Phatty and she’s going to use it…

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI is gifted with a most glorious soprano but not only that, she applies that and her love of analogue synths to an intelligent avant pop aesthetic.

Having opened for LET’S EAT GRANDMA, she has certainly made it clear which playground she prefers to be in. IMI’s recently released EP ‘Lines’ contains three dramatically layered electronic mood pieces that encapsulate the early cinematic ambition of GOLDFRAPP and the more recent esoteric adventures of I SPEAK MACHINE. But crucially like both of them, she does this within a song-based format.

Originally released as a single in 2018, ‘Margins’ synthetically rumbles while side-chained to a cascading train ride, cerebrally meshing brooding atmospherics with IMI’s hauntingly assured smoky high vocal, like an oddball amalgam of opera, trip hop and Synth Britannia.

‘Lines’ opener ‘The Fence’ drops incessant warbling vintage synth textures over a steadfast metronomic back beat as IMI offers a traditional folk laden topline not far off Susanne Sundfør. Building to a ritualistic percussive fervour that chillingly darkens the Northern sky, there however remains a stark beauty, marking a clear demarcation line in keeping with the EP’s theme.

Meanwhile, ‘I Feel Alright’ with its sharp melodic call and ethereal voices heads into something more threatening, with pulsing rumbles and squelches facing off against swirls and sweeps, although in this song about acceptance, it all rewardingly comes over with a strong sense of musicality.

IMI’s artistic promise was there from the off with her debut single ‘Born For What?’ in 2017, but what the ‘Lines’ EP showcases is an increased confidence and maturity.

With her Instagram indicating further experimentation with the Korg Mono/Poly, EDP Wasp and Moog Modular, there are certainly more artful adventures to come.


The ‘Lines’ EP is released by Bibliotek, available as a CD or download direct from https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/album/lines

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/

https://www.instagram.com/imimusicuk/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0GKGK6KIlrmJM4C4UJGMJI


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Portia Hunt
8th April 2019, updated 16th June 2019

TEC’s 25 21ST CENTURY SYNTH COVERS

“The medium of reinterpretation” as HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware once put it, is still very much present in the 21st Century.

There have been albums of cover versions from the likes of SIMPLE MINDS, ERASURE, MIDGE URE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN celebrating their influences, as well as numerous various artists collections paying tribute to particular acts.

However, a newish phenomenon of covering an entire album has appeared in more recent years, something which MARSHEAUX, BECKY BECKY and CIRCUIT 3 have attempted on works by DEPECHE MODE, THE KNIFE and YAZOO respectively.

On the other side of the coin in recognition of the cultural impact of the classic synth era, the Anti-Christ Superstar MARILYN MANSON covered SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ but added more shouting, while DAVID GRAY took their own ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and turned it into a lengthy Dylan-esque ballad.

There has also been a trend for girl groups to cover songs from the period with GIRLS ALOUD, THE SATURDAYS and RED BLOODED WOMEN being among those introducing these numbers to a new younger audience.

So as a follow-up to TEC’s 25 Classic Synth Covers listing, here is a selection taken from reinterpretations recorded from 2000 to the present day, restricted to one song per artist moniker and presented in chronological order.


SCHNEIDER TM va KPTMICHIGAN The Light 3000 (2000)

Morrissey was once quoted as saying there was “nothing more repellent than the synthesizer”, but if THE SMITHS had gone electro, would they have sounded like this and Stephen Patrick thrown himself in front of that ten ton truck? Germany’s SCHNEIDER TM aka Dirk Dresselhaus reconstructed ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ to a series of minimal blips, blops and robotics to configure ‘The Light 3000’ with British producer KPTMICHIGAN.

Available on the album ‘Binokular’ via https://mirrorworldmusic.bandcamp.com/

http://www.cityslang.com/schneider-tm/biography


GOLDFRAPP Yes Sir (2003)

A breathy Euro disco classic made famous by sultry Spanish vocal duo BACCARA, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory’s take on this cheesy but enjoyable disco standard came over like The Cheeky Girls at The Nuremburg rally! Now that’s a horrifying vision! All traces of ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ apart from the original lyrics were rendered missing in action as the stern Ms Goldfrapp played the role of the thigh booted dominatrix on this highly original cover.

Available on the single ‘Twist’ via Mute Records

http://goldfrapp.com/


INFANTJOY featuring SARAH NIXEY Ghosts (2005)

When BLACK BOX RECORDER went on hiatus, Sarah Nixey recorded a beautifully spacey cover of JAPAN’s Ghosts with INFANTJOY whose James Banbury became her main collaborator on her 2007 debut solo album ‘Sing Memory’. Meanwhile the duo’s other member was none other than ZTT conceptualist Paul Morley.  A POPULUS remix appeared on the ‘With’ revisions album while MIDI-ed up and into the groove, Nixey later also recorded THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Black Hit Of Space’.

Available on the album ‘With’ via serviceAV

http://infantjoy.com


DIE KRUPPS featuring CLIENT Der Amboss (2005)

Of this mighty industrialised cover, Ralf Dörper said to The Electricity Club: “When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought: “what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS” – it just needed more sweat, more steel. And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’… and as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department”.

Available on a self-released CD single for the band’s 25th anniversary tour, currently unavailable

http://www.diekrupps.de/


FROST Messages (2007)

Comprising of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST have described their music as “upbeat space-pop”. Much of their own material like ‘Klong’, ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Sleepwalker’ exuded a perfect soundtrack for those long Nordic nights. Meanwhile their ultra-cool cover of OMD’s ‘Messages’ embraced that wintery atmosphere, while providing a pulsing backbone of icy synths to accompany Peterson’s alluringly nonchalant vocal.

Available on the album ‘Love! Revolution!’ via Frost World Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/frostnorway/


ONETWO Have A Cigar (2007)

Onetwo_InsteadIn this “Pink Floyd Goes To Hollywood” styled rework, Claudia Brücken revisited her ZTT roots with this powerful and danceable version of Roger Waters’ commentary on music business hypocrisy. ‘Have A Cigar’ showed a turn of feistiness and aggression not normally associated with the usually more serene timbres of Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys’ ONETWO project. But by welcoming pleasure into the dome, they did a fine cover version.

Available on the album ‘Instead’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead

http://www.theremusic.com/onetwo/onetwo


BLACK NAIL CABARET Umbrella (2008)

Budapest’s BLACK NAIL CABARET began life as an all-female duo of Emese Illes-Arvai on vocals and Sophie Tarr on keyboards, with their first online offering being a darkwave cover of RIHANNA’s ‘Umbrella’. Already very synthy in the Barbadian starlet’s own version, it showcased their brooding form of electro which subsequently impressed enough to earn support slots with COVENANT, DE/VISION and CAMOUFLAGE while producing three albums of self-penned material so far.

Available on the album ‘The Covers’ via https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/the-covers

http://www.blacknailcabaret.com


CHINA CRISIS Starry Eyed (2008)

Liverpudlian easy listening crooner Michael Holliday was the second person to have a UK No1 written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the first being Perry Como with ‘Magic Moments’. His second UK No1 penned by Earl Shuman and Mort Garson was a romantic guilty pleasure. CHINA CRISIS pledged their Scouse Honour with this jaunty synth / drum machine driven rendition of ‘Starry Eyed’ layered with reverbed synthbass warbles and harmonious vocals from Messrs Daly and Lundon.

Available on the album ‘Liverpool – The Number Ones Album’ (V/A) via EMI Records

www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


LITTLE BOOTS Love Kills (2009)

LittleBootsEPLITTLE BOOTS gave a dynamically poptastic rendition of Giorgio Moroder and Freddie Mercury’s only collaboration from 1984, retaining its poignant melancholic quality while adding a vibrant and danceable electronic slant. The recreation of Richie Zito’s guitar solo on synths was wondrous as was the looser swirly groove. While Victoria Hesketh didn’t have the voice of Mercury, her wispy innocence added its own touching qualities to ‘Love Kills’.

Available on the EP ‘Illuminations’ via Elektra Records

www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk


PET SHOP BOYS Viva La Vida (2009)

Yuck, it’s Chris Martin and Co but didn’t Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe do well? Merging possibly COLDPLAY’s best song with the synth riff from their own Latino disco romp ‘Domino Dancing’, ‘Viva La Vida’ was turned into a stomping but still anthemic number which perhaps had more touches of affection than PET SHOP BOYS‘ marvellous but allegedly two fingers Hi-NRG rendition of U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. So altogether now: “Woah-oh, ooh-ooah!”

Available on the album ‘Yes: Further Listening 2008-2010’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk


DURAN DURAN Boys Keep Swinging (2010)

WeWereSoTurnedOnNo strangers to raiding the Bowie songbook having previously tackled ‘Fame’ in 1981, DURAN DURAN however blotted their copy book with their 1995 covers LP ‘Thank You’. They refound their stride with the return-to-form album ‘All You Need Is Now’ but just before that, this superb reinterpretation of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ reconnected them to their New Romantic roots with washes of Nick Rhodes’ swimmy Crumar string machine, held down by a danceable beatbox and John Taylor’s syncopated bass runs.

Available on the album ‘We Were So Turned On: A Tribute To David Bowie’ via Manimal Vinyl

http://www.duranduran.com


LADYTRON Little Black Angel (2010)

LADYTRONThis frantically paced cover of controversial neofolk band DEATH IN JUNE was recorded for the LADYTRON ‘Best Of 00-10’ collection and purposely uncredited. The antithesis of the midtempo atmospherics of ‘Gravity The Seducer’, this cutting four-to-the-floor romp was the last of the quartet’s in-yer-face tracks in a wind down of the harder ‘Velocifero’ era. With the multi-ethnic combo subverting the meaning of ‘Little Black Angel’, it deliberately bore no resemblance to the acoustic laden original.

Available on the album ‘Best of 00-10’ via Nettwerk Records

http://www.ladytron.com


GAZELLE TWIN The Eternal (2011)

‘The Eternal’ from ‘Closer’, the final album by JOY DIVISION, was one of the most fragile, funereal collages of beauty ever committed to vinyl. But in 2011, Brighton based songstress GAZELLE TWIN reworked this cult classic and made it even more haunting! Replacing the piano motif with eerily chilling synth and holding it together within an echoing sonic cathedral, she paid due respect to the song while adding her own understated operatic stylings.

Available on the EP ‘I Am Shell I Am Bone’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records

http://www.gazelletwin.com


MIRRORS Something On Your Mind (2011)

lightsOn their only album ‘Lights & Offerings’, MIRRORS revealed an interesting musical diversion with this haunting take of a rootsy country number originally recorded by Karen Dalton. Written by the late Dino Valenti of psychedelic rockers QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, ‘Something On Your Mind’ was a touching ballad with its tortured yearning suiting the quartet’s pop noir aspirations. Ally Young told The Electricity Club: “It was very nice for us to be able to apply our aesthetic to someone else’s song.”

Available on the album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Skint Records

http://mirrorsofficial.bandcamp.com/


OMD VCR (2011)

OMD vcrIndie stoners THE XX had a minimalist approach to their sound which Andy McCluskey told TEC was “really quite impressive”. This bareness made their material quite well suited for reworking in the style of classic OMD. ‘VCR’ had Paul Humphreys taking charge of the synths while McCluskey dusted off his bass guitar and concentrated on vocals. McCluskey added: “People go ‘how did OMD influence THE XX?’… but have you listened to ‘4-Neu’? Have you listened to some of the really simple, stripped down B-sides?”

Available on the EP ‘History Of Modern (Part I)’ via Blue Noise

http://www.omd.uk.com


I SPEAK MACHINE My Sex (2013)

As I SPEAK MACHINE, Tara Busch has been known for her haunting and occasionally downright bizarre live covers of songs as diverse as ‘Cars’, ‘Our House’, ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’. For a JOHN FOXX tribute EP which also featured GAZELLE TWIN, she turned ‘My Sex’, the closing number from the debut ULTRAVOX! long player, into a cacophony of wailing soprano and dystopian synths that was more than suitable for a horror flick.

Available on the EP ‘Exponentialism’ (V/A) via Metamatic Records

http://www.ispeakmachine.com


NOBLESSE OBLIGE Hotel California (2013)

French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp are NOBLESSE OBLIGE. Together, they specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. Their lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlighted the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer substitution of the original’s iconic twin guitar solo could be seen as total genius or sacrilege!

Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records

http://www.noblesseoblige.co.uk/


I AM SNOW ANGEL I’m On Fire (2014)

I AM SNOW ANGEL is the project of Brooklyn based producer Julie Kathryn; her debut album ‘Crocodile’ was a lush sounding affair and could easily be mistaken as a product of Scandinavia were it not for her distinctly Trans-Atlantic drawl. Already full of surprises, to close the long player, out popped a countrified drum ‘n’ bass take of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’! Quite what The Boss would have made of it, no-one is sure but it was quietly subversive and it certainly delivered the unexpected.

Available on the album ‘Crocodile’ via I Am Snow Angel

http://iamsnowangel.com/


MACHINISTA Heroes (2014)

Reinterpreting any Bowie number is fraught with the possibility of negative feedback and MACHINISTA’s take on ‘Heroes’ set tongues wagging. Recorded as the duo’s calling card when experienced Swedish musicians John Lindqwister and Richard Flow first came together, electronic pulses combined with assorted synthetic textures which when amalgamated with Lindqwister’s spirited vocal, produced a respectful and yes, good version of an iconic song.

Available on the album ‘Xenoglossy’ via Analogue Trash

http://www.machinistamusic.com


NIGHT CLUB Need You Tonight (2014)

Comprising of frisky vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and moody producer Mark Brooks, NIGHT CLUB simply cut to the chase with their enjoyable electronic cover of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’. Here, the familiar guitar riff was amusingly transposed into a series of synth stabs before mutating into a mutant Morse code. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll but we liked it! Purists were horrified, but history has proved the best cover versions always do a spot of genre and instrumentation hopping.

Available on the EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ via http://nightclubband.com/album/black-leather-heart

http://www.nightclubband.com


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

The MARSHEAUX reworking of DEPECHE MODE’s second album ‘A Broken Frame’ shed new light on Martin Gore’s first long form adventure as songwriter and affirmed that numbers such as ‘My Secret Garden’ and ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ were just great songs. But ‘Monument’ was an example of a cover outstripping the original and given additional political resonance with the economic situation close to home that the Greek synth maidens found themselves living in at the time of its recording.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records

http://www.marsheaux.com/


METROLAND Close To Me (2015)

Needing to be heard to be believed, this rather inventive and charming cover of THE CURE’s ‘Close To Me’ by Belgium’s favourite passengers METROLAND utilised a selection of male and female computer voice generators to provide the lead vocal, in a move likely to upset the majority of real music purists. Meanwhile, the hidden melodies shone much more brightly than in the goth-laden original, thanks to its wonderful and clever electronic arrangement.

Available on the album ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To The Cure’ (V/A) via https://alfamatrix.bandcamp.com/album/a-strange-play-an-alfa-matrix-tribute-to-the-cure

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Jerusalem (2016)

One of DAILY PLANET’s main inspirations was cult UK synth trio WHITE DOOR, who released just one album ‘Windows’ in 1983. So when their chief synthesist Johan Baeckström was needing tracks to include on his ‘Like Before’ EP, the almost choir boy overtures of ‘Jerusalem’ was a natural choice for a cover version. Of course, this was not the first time Baeckström had mined the WHITE DOOR back catalogue as the more halcyon ‘School Days’ adorned the flip of his debut solo single ‘Come With Me’.

Available on the EP ‘Like Before EP’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


THE FRIXION Under A Cherry Moon (2017)

Forming in 2016, seasoned vocalist Gene Serene and producer Lloyd Price’s combined sound delightfully borrowed from both classic synthpop and Weimar Cabaret on THE FRIXION’s self-titled EP debut. From it, a tribute to The Purple One came with this touching take of his ‘Under The Cherry Moon’, highlighting PRINCE’s often hidden spiritual connection to European pop forms and recalling ‘The Rhythm Divine’, YELLO’s epic collaboration with Shirley Bassey.

Available on the EP ‘The Frixion’ via https://thefrixion.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFrixion/


KALEIDA 99 Luftballons (2017)

Moody electronic duo KALEIDA first came to wider attention opening for RÓISÍN MURPHY in 2015. Covers have always been part of Christina Wood and Cicely Goulder’s repertoire with ‘A Forest’ and ‘Take Me To The River’ being among them. KALEIDA’s sparse rendition of NENA’s ‘99 Luftballons’ earned kudos for being very different and was included in the soundtrack of the Cold War spy drama ‘Atomic Blonde’, hauntingly highlighting the currently relevant nuclear apocalypse warning in the lyric.

Available on the album ‘Tear The Roots’ via https://kaleida.bandcamp.com

http://kaleidamusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st January 2018, updated 3rd June 2019

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