Tag: John Carpenter (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction

Deeply ominous and alluringly transfixing, Los Angeles-based synthrock duo NIGHT CLUB, who The Electricity Club once affectionately described as sounding like “Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS”, will be embarking on their first headlining tour of North America this Autumn.

Visiting over twenty cities, the extensive tour is apt reward for Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks who impressed audiences while opening for noted aggrotech exponents COMBICHRIST and alternative rock supercombo A PERFECT CIRCLE in 2018.

Having released a trilogy of EPs and two albums ‘Requiem for Romance’ and ‘Requiem’, as well as producing the soundtrack to the animated Comedy Central cop show ‘Moonbeam City’, the couple have just unleashed a sinister self-directed visual presentation for ‘Your Addiction’, one of the highlights from ‘Scary World’.

With a majestic synth boom that is both heavy and funky, ‘Your Addiction’ exploits Kavanaugh’s disturbed feline presence to the max with a cry of “these are your sins”. The video sees her preaching at The Church of the Anti-Heart where the gathered congregation comprises of those who have lost their hearts through their addictions. With them finding solace in this dark mutant cult, the imagery wouldn’t look out of place in John Carpenter horror flick, although some may consider the conclusion a gothic twist on a controversial scene from ‘Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom’!

NIGHT CLUB told The Electricity Club in 2018: “‘Your Addiction’ is sort of like ‘Dear Enemy pt. 2’. That one fell together quickly and has a very personal vendetta behind it. In fact it’s about the same person as ‘Dear Enemy’”. Keeping their friends close and their enemies in their songs, they added “There’s nothing more impactful than having a friend turn into an enemy.”

Strung out by some unsettling deep vocal pitch shifting, the couple said: “We got tired of the vocals being one dimensional. So we started layering the vocals and fucking them up to create something new and original… we just like to tweak them to expand the sonic palette.”

With NIGHT CLUB’s live show centred around the intense moods and feisty motions of Kavanaugh, the tour appropriately begins at a place called Bar Sinister… “tell me you like the way it hurts!”


‘Your Addiction’ is from the album ‘Scary World’ released by Gato Blanco, available as a CD or download from http://nightclubband.com/

NIGHT CLUB 2019 North American live dates include:

San Francisco Bottom of The Hill (2nd October), Vancouver Astoria Pub (4th October), Seattle Chop Suey (5th October), Portland Star Theater (6th October), Salt Lake City Urban Lounge (8th October), Denver Streets (9th October), Chicago Cobra Lounge (11th October), Detroit The Sanctuary (12th October), Kent The Outpost (13th October), Brooklyn Sunnyvale (15th October), Philadelphia Voltage Lounge (16th October), Washington DC9 (17th October), Louisville The Tiger Room (18th October), Merriam Aftershock (19th October), Dallas Lizard Lounge (20th October), Austin Elysium (21st October), Albuquerque Moonlight Lounge (23rd October), Mesa Club Red (24th October), Las Vegas Backstage Bar and Billiards (25th October), Costa Mesa The Wayfarer (26th October), San Diego Brick By Brick (27th October) – tickets available from http://nightclub.soundrink.com

https://www.facebook.com/nightclubband

https://twitter.com/nightclubband

https://www.instagram.com/nightclubband/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Marv Watson
22nd June 2019

TEC’s 2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame. Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour. Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit.

There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, NEW ARCADES, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption. However, the side was let down by the conveyor belt of lame profanity laden offerings from a number of British acts afflicted with deluded normality.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year. The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, The Electricity Club’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that The Electricity Club has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band. Out of all the synth based pop acts of the Synth Britannia era, The Electricity Club had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, The Electricity Club bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

JOHN CARPENTER Live at Glasgow Barrowlands

JOHN CARPENTER’s career as a film maker has run parallel to that as a musician allowing him to have control over not only the visual in his movies but also the audible too.

In fact, a look at his IMDB listing shows his credits under “Soundtrack” are almost double the number of credits for “Director”. But this really shouldn’t come as a big surprise at all.

Carpenter’s father Ralph was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University where he himself studied before going on to film school in Los Angeles. From the earliest days as a director with the Oscar winning short film ‘The Resurrection of Broncho Billy’, he has provided the musical accompaniment to his films, writing some of the most memorable scores along the way.

In recent years, his influence can be heard across both film and television soundtrack and also in the new influx of bands releasing under the Synthwave genre. This in turn has not only lead to a reappraisal of Carpenter’s musical output but also the surprise release in 2015 of ‘Lost Theme’s, an album of soundtrack styled music produced with his son Cody and godson Daniel Davies, son of THE KINKS’ Dave.

That release in turn brought Carpenter’s soundtrack work together on ‘Anthology’, and an extensive tour to support. And so to legendary Glasgow Barrowlands and the show under scrutiny here…

It was always going to be a strange offering, given the sort of music being performed and the potential audience this would attract. And looking at the queue outside the famous Glasgow venue, the mix was indeed eclectic to say the least. Film geeks rubbed shoulders with Synthwave guys in trucker caps and rockers.

Inside, the near capacity crowd waited patiently whilst the merch stall did a roaring trade in shirts and tour edition vinyls. The stage was sparse apart from a large screen behind the band which added to the anticipation amongst many of the folk around where we stood.

The man himself wandered cooly onstage about 10 minutes later than scheduled with his younger 5 piece band and with a quick “Good evening Glasg-Gow”, launched into the set. Opening with ‘Escape From New York’, the video screen came to life and we were treated to a greatest hits from the movie. This approach accompanied the film pieces throughout and led to a few strange moments when the crowd cheered what was on screen louder than the music that was playing alongside.

The iconic ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ followed with its relentless synth bass and large string motifs. Probably the most influential of JC’s works, it has been referenced by many electronic and hip-hop acts. There was even a vocal version released in 1975 by Trinidadian singer Jimmy Chambers with lyrics by Kenny Lynch and titled ‘You Can’t Fight It’. It’s now, thankfully, a rarity! For a more listenable take look for ‘Assassin’ by Mark Shreeve which takes the piece and adds to it in a very acceptable way.

“We now visit a place none of you have ever been to…” says Carpenter of ‘The Village of the Dammed’ which led one wag in the crowd to reply “You’ve obviously no’ been to Cumbernauld big man!”

Following this, ‘The Fog’ slowed things down before we had the first of 3 tracks from the aforementioned ‘Lost Themes’. This brought an interesting observation from Glasgow promoter Barry Douglas who was with me at the gig: “All the Synthwave bands are influenced by Carpenter but the ‘Lost Themes’ stuff sounds like any other Synthwave act”; this has some credence but why that should be is harder to fathom. Carpenter himself said the ‘…Themes’ albums were fun as he had no pressure to score over images. Perhaps the combination of working in both media however is what makes Carpenter Carpenter…

Normal service was quickly resumed with the band all donning sunglasses for an excellent ‘They Live’ which had some people bizarrely dancing along. Then came 2 pieces from the soundtracks Carpenter didn’t write. ‘Starman’ was dedicated to the beautiful women of “Glas-Gow” and the Ennio Morricone penned main theme from ‘The Thing’ were followed by ‘Distant Dream’ from ‘Lost Themes’.

From here, it was all Carpenter however. “Have you paid your dues Jack? Yes Sir, the cheques in the mail” heralded ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ and brought the 2nd biggest cheer of the night, before the moment most had been waiting for.

The 19th of October saw the release of the latest ‘Halloween’ movie and the theme from this segued effortlessly into the classic piano motif of the 1978 original. From here, the pacing of the show dropped off a little underlining that this wasn’t a rock show despite the venue and the staging.

An encore consisting of some of his later work was rounded off with the message to drive home safe and the theme from the Stephen King adaptation ‘Christine’.

Heading out into the developing chill of a Glasgow (Glas-Gow?) October evening, I was left to ponder on what the legacy of JOHN CARPENTER will be. As a film maker, the extracts that formed a visual greatest hits to accompany the music certainly left me wanting to revisit some of those films.

As a musician he should be recognised as one that brought the synthesizer into the soundtrack mainstream and in doing so, probably exposed as many people to electronic music for the first time as JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and VANGELIS. For that we should be thankful.

We may even in the long run be able to forgive him for being one of the fathers of Synthwave.


‘Halloween – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ is released by Sacred Bones Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com

https://www.facebook.com/directorjohncarpenter/

https://twitter.com/TheHorrorMaster

https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/john-carpenter


Text and Photos by Ian Ferguson
23rd October 2018

GUNSHIP Dark All Day

A trio consisting of Dan Haigh, Alex Westaway and Alex Gingell, GUNSHIP found their niche audience with the lovers of vintage gaming, flicks and sounds of the golden synth era and all things neon.

Their first ‘Gunship’ album, alongside the now famous animated quasi films made by the trio, created a stir enough for the band to collaborate with none other than JOHN CARPENTER.

‘Dark All Day’ is their second offering to wow audiences who favour the rockier take on synth, and the eponymous single certainly hits the spot.

With the punchy rhythm, sexy sax, courtesy of the one and only Tim Capello and enticing Dolores O’Riordan-esque vocal of the super sassy Lauren Henson aka Indiana, this truly ecstatic combination raises the bar and then some, accompanied by a clever video that mixes anime with real life red rain dancing.

‘Woken Furies’ introduces the electrifying atmosphere like an arcade gaming parlour meeting vintage SOUNDGARDEN… no wonder it feels like ‘Black Hole Sun’ when it’s dark all day!

The teenage dream fades as ‘When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies’; a perfectly candied MECHA MAIKO style number. The sounds of DANA JEAN PHOENIX reverberate all over this one, making it a very retro track, leading into the heavier synth of ‘The Drone Racing League’, complete with stunning arpeggios that make it ‘Stranger Things’ worthy. ‘Rise The Midnight Girl’ brings an alternative feel with a more grungy sounding vocal, the sublime use of percussion and clever sequences. Feeling edgy, introverted and unguarded, preparing for ‘Trasher’ with its droning, mantric, truly trashy sound, incorporating a true likeness to AZZIDO DA BASS’ ‘Doom’s Night’.

From one explicit track to another, this time joined by the fabulous Kat Von D, who took her singing career to another level featuring on IAMX’s last opus and dropping by to grace his live performances during the ever successful ‘Alive In New Light’ 2018 tour. This time Kat with her ‘Black Blood Red Kiss’ serenades in a GARY NUMAN stylee, over a super cool dark romance, which could be the best track on ‘Dark All Day’. Wanting another twisted love story? She gives it here in bunches.

‘Time After Time’ brings back the memories of teenage nostalgia in a more than capable cover of Cindy Lauper’s classic. Not a fan of covers? This may as well change your mind; the version is superb and quite ERASURE-esque at times too!

With DURAN DURAN amalgamated with TEARS FOR FEARS on ‘Honour Among Thieves’, this reverberates with the classic feel of the leg warmers era, and ‘Symmetrical’ freshens up the senses with a crisp vocal and some youthful musical delivery.

Stella Le Page, also known by the name of Beau Corbeau, features on the perfect synth ballad ‘Art3mis & Perzival, while the kingdom of ‘Cyber City’ is reined with sheer power before ‘The Gates Of Disorder’ close.

What a follow-up to GUNSHIP’s debut long player! These guys certainly know how to spice things up with the choice of vocalists and artists who have been invited to collaborate on this production. It’s a grown-up, eclectic mix of good old synth and hard graft. Not as rocky as expected by the first single, and even more demure in places, it’s simply stunning.

There’s enough material here for two albums, and it can feel a little bit too long, with the listeners having the tendency to switch off at track 11, but there’s never enough of a good thing, right?


‘Dark All Day’ is released by Horsie In The Hedge in CD and digital formats

https://www.gunshipmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/GUNSHIPMusic/

https://twitter.com/GUNSHIPMUSIC

https://www.instagram.com/gunshipmusic/

https://gunshipmusic.bandcamp.com


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
5th October 2018

« Older posts