Tag: Jori Hulkkonen (Page 1 of 5)

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019

To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task, but The Electricity Club has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.

As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.

But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.

As per usual, The Electricity Club’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION featuring NYXX Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix (2017)

With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”

Available as a download single via https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/album/rhythm-control-out-of-control-mixes

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

‘Synth Is Not Dead’ is a song close to the heart of The Electricity Club with its solidarity to the synth. A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the EP ‘Come With Me’ via Progress Productions

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


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion (2013)

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones.  “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.

Available on the single ‘Diagram Girl’ via Phantasy Sound

https://www.facebook.com/beyondthewizardssleeve/


CHROMATICS Shadow (2015)

Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.

Available on the album ‘Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)’ (V/A) via Rhino Records

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue (2015)

CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog (2015)

RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Being Followed (2011)

The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…

Available on the album ‘All You Need Is Now’ via Tape Modern

http://www.duranduran.com/


EAST INDIA YOUTH Carousel (2015)

Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings

http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/


RUSTY EGAN featuring MIDGE URE Glorious (2016)

‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


EMIKA Promises (2018)

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


FIAT LUX It’s You (2018)

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming (2010)

As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.

Available on the album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


IAMX Ghosts Of Utopia (2011)

The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!

Available on the album ‘Volatile Times’ via Orphic

http://iamxmusic.com/


IAMAMIWHOAMI Hunting For Pearls (2014)

As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern

http://www.towhomitmayconcern.cc/


KITE Up For Life (2015)

Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday (2018)

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LADYTRON Ambulances (2011)

The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.

Available on the album ‘Gravity The Seducer’  via Nettwerk Productions,

http://www.ladytron.com/


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.

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

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


MIRRORS Ways To An End (2010)

With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.

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

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


ALISON MOYET Alive (2017)

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN And It All Began With You (2017)

With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

http://www.garynuman.co.uk/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

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


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist Juho Paalosmaa. “A synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”, they have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…

Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records

http://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan


STOLEN Turn Black (2018)

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the album ‘Fragment’ via https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


SUSANNE SUNDFØR Fade Away (2014)

The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound / Kobalt

http://susannesundfor.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red (2013)

First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who was perusing The Electricity Club and later invited VILE ELECTRODES to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2019

A Beginner’s Guide to PET SHOP BOYS Collaborations + Remixes

Bridging the gap between Synth Britannia and Acid House, PET SHOP BOYS first found international success with ‘West End Girls’ in 1986.

Photo by Cindy Palmano

With their Gilbert & George inspired persona, they cleverly satirised Thatcherism on ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’ and used board game symbolism in their observation of the AIDS crisis on ‘Domino Dancing’.

They also combined cool aloofness with pop stardom and achieved 4 UK No1 singles; they were only denied a fifth with their 1993 cover of Village People’s ‘Go West’ by Will Smith as ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’ and his pal DJ Jazzy Jeff!

Preferring to “dance to disco” because they “don’t like rock”, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe managed to change the whole concept of concert presentation in 1991 by removing from the stage, that one consistent element in the history of rock ‘n’ roll… the live musician!

The success in 1987 of ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’, a duet with iconic starlet DUSTY SPRINGFIELD showed PET SHOP BOYS’ willingness to collaborate, while Tennant’s involvement in ELECTRONIC with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr illustrated that work away from the nest was not out of bounds either.

Since their imperial phase, they have shown their versatility in projects ranging from producing or remixing other artists and running their own Spaghetti Records label to assorted theatre, film and ballet commissions. As well as DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, LIZA MINNELLI and DAVID BOWIE, the PET SHOP BOYS portfolio has also included TINA TURNER, MADONNA, KYLIE MINOGUE and GIRLS ALOUD.

Becoming the esteemed funny uncles of the British music scene, they have managed to acquire the sort of public recognition that has been denied to DEPECHE MODE. Although both can count a Brit Award for Best Single on their mantelpieces, it would appear publicly in the UK at least that PET SHOP BOYS are held in greater affection.

With an Outstanding Contribution to Music BRIT Award in 2009 and an appearance in the 2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony alongside Ray Davies, PET SHOP BOYS can now be regarded as quintessentially English as much as THE KINKS.

So presented in chronological order with a limit of one track per artist project, here are 20 tracks by PET SHOP BOYS… collaboratively!


EIGHTH WONDER I’m Not Scared (1988)

‘I’m Not Scared’ for Patsy Kensit’s EIGHTH WONDER was the duo’s first production outside of their own work; dubbed a “Princess Stephanie record” by Tennant, influenced by the likes of moody Gallic disco tunes like ‘Voyage Voyage’, Kensit’s gorgeous purr en Français of “Débarrasse-moi de ces chiens – Avant qu’ils mordent…” was the icing on the cake. PET SHOP BOYS released their own recording of the song for ‘Introspective’, but it lacked the panache of Kensit’s version.

Available on the album ‘Fearless’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/PatsyKensitOfficial/


LIZA MINNELLI Twist In My Sobriety (1989)

The combination of “Liza with a Z” and her strident theatrics with PET SHOP BOYS’ orchestrated electronic pop was somewhere over the rainbow and the ‘Results’ project was a combination of Tennant / Lowe originals and cover versions; one of those covers was an outlandish hip-hop inspired take on Tanita Tikaram’s ‘Twist in My Sobriety’, featuring a rap by A CERTAIN RATIO’s Donald Johnson. Whereas the original was organic and droll, this was a welcome stab in the face!

Available on the LIZA MINNELLI album ‘Results’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.instagram.com/officiallizaminnelli/


DUSTY SPRINGFIELD In Private (1990)

The snappy electropop of ‘In Private’ was Springfield’s third hit single in a row helmed by PET SHOP BOYS and had originally been written for the film ‘Scandal’; considered too contemporary by the film’s producers, the song was temporarily shelved and the moodier ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’ was used instead. As with ‘I’m Not Scared’, when PET SHOP BOYS recorded their own version as a duet with Elton John for the B-side to ‘Minimal’ in 2006, it was less accomplished.

Available on the DUSTY SPRINGFIELD album ‘Reputation’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.dustyspringfieldofficial.com


CICERO Love Is Everywhere (1992)

David Cicero was a Scottish musician who after attending a PET SHOP BOYS concert in Glasgow, passed a demo tape to the duo’s personal assistant Peter Andreas. Impressed, they signed him to Spaghetti Records and co-produced his second single ‘Love is Everywhere’. Like NEW ORDER crossed with OMD and RUNRIG, complete with bagpipes, it actually reached No19 in the UK singles chart. Despite a tour supporting TAKE THAT, Cicero’s career was unable to gain further mainstream momentum.

Available on the CICERO album ‘Future Boy’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.davecicero.com


ELECTRONIC Disappointed (1992)

Having appeared on ‘Gettting Away With It’ and ‘The Patience Of A Saint’, Tennant sang lead vocals on his third and final contribution to Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr’s ELECTRONIC. A Europop number inspired by the French dance hit ‘Désenchantée’ by MYLENE FARMER, producer Stephen Hague’s pop sensibilities came to the fore on the lush single mix; ‘Disappointed’ became a fully functioning hit that many understandably mistook for being PET SHOP BOYS.

Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Get The Message: The Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.electronicband.com


BOY GEORGE The Crying Game (1992)

Commissioned to produce the soundtrack of the Neil Jordan film ‘The Crying Game’, Tennant and Lowe covered the 1964 hit for Dave Berry with Boy George as the song for the closing credits; he laid down what the duo thought was a guide vocal, expecting him to return to the studio the next day to finish it. But he didn’t and they were left to salvage the track using the CULTURE CLUB singer’s slightly wayward performance. Not that it mattered, as it gave the finished recording a marvellously vulnerable quality.

Available on the CULTURE CLUB album ‘Greatest Moments’ via EMI Records

https://twitter.com/BoyGeorge


BLUR Girls & Boys – PSB Radio Edit (1994)

Already aping BLONDIE’s ‘Atomic’ and DURAN DURAN with its discofied template, ‘Girls & Boys’ was BLUR’s breakthrough hit. Beginning a spate of remix commissions, bassist Alex James remarked that having a PET SHOP BOYS remix was like having your dog being taken for a walk, but when it came back, it was a different dog! That different dog was performed live by Tennant and Lowe themselves on their ‘Discovery’ tour later in the year.

Available on the single ‘Girls & Boys’ via EMI Records

http://www.blur.co.uk


DAVID BOWIE Hallo Spacebuoy – PSB Remix (1996)

If ‘Girls & Boys’ came back as a different dog, then ‘Hallo Spacebuoy’ was virtually hijacked, with PET SHOP BOYS certainly re-producing this Bowie / Eno composition from ‘1.Outside’ into a much more commercial proposition. But in the true artful spirit of Bowie, Tennant even utilised the cut-up technique made famous by William S Burroughs to decide which words from the song he would duet with. It became Bowie’s biggest UK hit single since ‘Jump They Say’ in 1990.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Nothing Has Changed’ via EMI Music

http://www.davidbowie.com/


PETER RAUHOFER + PET SHOP BOYS = THE COLLABORATION Break 4 Love – UK Radio Mix (2002)

A renowned remixer with DEPECHE MODE and MADONNA among his credits, the late Peter Rauhofer’s project THE COLLABORATION united him with Tennant and Lowe to produce a cover of RAZE’s cult house classic ‘Break 4 Love’. While the ‘Classic Radio Mix’ straightforwardly borrowed the arrangement of the sparse original, the ‘UK Radio Mix’ was more frantic and busy, the energetic antithesis of the more understated ‘Release’ album that was out at the time.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS single ‘Home & Dry’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/djpeterrauhofer


YOKO ONO Walking On Thin Ice – PSB Electro Mix (2003)

The original recording of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ was notable for being the very last song that John Lennon ever worked on. Yoko Ono’s haunting lyrics for the disco inflected tune reflected on the unpredictability of life, death and of “throwing the dice in the air” before poignantly adding that “when our hearts return to ashes, it will be just a story….”. The PET SHOP BOYS remix, with its hypnotic octave shift mantra and metronomic backbone, gave it a respectful futuristic sheen.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Disco 4’ via EMI Records

https://twitter.com/yokoono


PETE BURNS Jack & Jill Party (2004)

Sounding not unlike the backing track to PET SHOP BOYS’ remix of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’, ‘Jack & Jill Party’ was a long awaited recording with the late Pete Burns that exuded a wonderful Electroclash tension that suited the snarly DEAD OR ALIVE singer down to the ground. Mixed by Bob Kraushaar and released on Tennant and Lowe’s Olde English imprint, it actually reached No75 in the UK singles chart but this was to be a collaborative one-off.

Available on the PETE BURNS single ‘Jack & Jill Party’ via Olde English

https://www.discogs.com/artist/46720-Dead-Or-Alive


RAMMSTEIN Mein Teil – PSB You Are What You Eat Remix (2004)

When German industrial metallers RAMMSTEIN released ‘Mein Teil’, it attracted controversy as its lyrics were inspired by the disturbing Armin Meiwes cannibalism case. Vocalist Till Lindemann said “It is so sick that it becomes fascinating and there just has to be a song about it”. Appropriately, PET SHOP BOYS offered up the ‘You Are What You Eat Remix’ which retained the guitars and the aggression, thus maintaining some gothic fervour for the dancefloor.

Available on the RAMMSTEIN single ‘Mein Teil’ via Universal Music

https://www.rammstein.de/en/


THE KILLERS Read My Mind – PSB Stars Are Blazing Mix (2005)

Singer Brandon Flowers referred to the underwhelming ‘Sam’s Town’ as “the album that keeps rock & roll afloat”, but Neil Tennant had joked that he knew THE KILLERS’ second long player would not be as good as the debut ‘Hot Fuss’ because Flowers had grown a beard! After the synth indie hybrid of ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘Mr Brightside’, it was extremely disappointing but Tennant and Lowe put some pulsing electronics into ‘Read My Mind’ to alert audiences as to what could have been.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Disco 4’ via EMI Records

http://www.thekillersmusic.com


TENNANT, LOWE & DRESDENER SINFONIKER Nyet (2005)

‘Battleship Potemkin’ was a 1925 Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein about a 1905 naval mutiny. Using their surnames like classical composers on this updated soundtrack commission, the pair were accompanied by Dresdener Sinfoniker, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer. Arranger Torsten Rasch had released ‘Mein Herz Brennt’, a song-cycle based on the music of RAMMSTEIN. Despite being uptempo, the mix of strings and electronics on ‘Nyet’ reflected the grim tension of the story.

Available on the TENNANT, LOWE album ‘Battleship Potemkin’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


ROBBIE WILLIAMS She’s Madonna (2006)

The former TAKE THAT star had covered ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’ so was a proven fan. With PET SHOP BOYS in charge of production, ‘She’s Madonna’ was inspired by a conversation Williams had with his ex Tania Strecker on the excuse her former boyfriend Guy Ritchie gave for leaving her for Madonna. It was an interesting artistic twist, as Tennant and Lowe had remixed ‘Sorry’ for Madge in 2005.

Available on the ROBBIE WILLIAMS album ‘Rudebox’ via EMI Records

https://www.robbiewilliams.com


SAM TAYLOR-WOOD I’m In Love With German Film Star (2008)

Visual artist and director Sam Taylor-Wood became friends with PET SHOP BOYS when she provided film projections for their shows at London’s Savoy Theatre in 1997. She later recorded covers of ‘Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus’ and ‘Love To Love You Baby’ both produced by Tennant and Lowe, but it was her moody electro version of ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, originally recorded by THE PASSIONS, that was the first to actually be released under her own name.

Available on the SAM TAYLOR-WOOD single ‘I’m in Love With A German Film Star’ via Kompakt Pop

http://samtaylorjohnson.com


LADY GAGA Eh Eh – PSB Radio Remix (2009)

When Tennant and Lowe received their Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the BRITs, they were joined on a ‘Hits Medley’ by THE KILLERS’ Brandon Flowers and LADY GAGA who did her turn on ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’. Originally a lame cod calypso excursion from the latter’s debut album ’The Fame’, PET SHOP BOYS managed to rework ‘Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)’ into an electro-disco stomper despite its break-up subject matter.

Available on the LADY GAGA album ‘The Remix’ via Interscope Records

https://www.ladygaga.com


PET SHOP BOYS featuring PHILIP OAKEY This Used To Be The Future (2009)

‘This Used To Be The Future’ was a dream trioet that featured both PET SHOP BOYS and Philip Oakey of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, recorded as a bonus song for ‘Yes etc’. With Lowe actually singing albeit autotuned, as opposed to just speaking, this celebration of yesterday’s tomorrow saw Oakey deadpan that his utopian dream didn’t quite turn out how Raymond Baxter predicted on ‘Tomorrow’s World’! Disappointed, he conclusively grunts “AMEN!”

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

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


STOP MODERNISTS feat CHRIS LOWE Subculture (2011)

A cover of the lost NEW ORDER single from 1985, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen remembered: “The idea was to take what me and STOP MODERNISTS partner Alex Nieminen felt was an underrated song, make a late 80s deep house interpretation and bring some extra twist with having Chris on the vocals. It’s very hard – impossible, actually – to explain how important this record is to me. PET SHOP BOYS have been the most important musical influence for me”.

Available on the STOP MODERNISTS single ‘Subculture’ via Keys Of Life

https://www.facebook.com/JoriHulkkonen/


JEAN MICHEL JARRE & PET SHOP BOYS Brick England (2016)

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s ambitious ‘Electronica’ project was a worldwide collaborative adventure where the handsome French Maestro “had this idea of merging DNA with musicians and artists of different generations”; ‘Brick England’ with PET SHOP BOYS was a slice of classic mid-tempo Euro disco, with Tennant and Lowe not breaking with tradition, although Jarre’s ribbon controlled lead synth sounded like it was going to break into EUROPE’s ‘The Final Countdown’!

Available on the JEAN MICHEL JARRE album ‘Electronica 2: The Heart Of Noise’ via Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th December 2017

TEC’s 2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner MARK REEDER used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and GARY NUMAN refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just The Electricity Club 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and ALISON MOYET saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, BRIAN ENO presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; The Electricity Club wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer JORI HULKKONEN released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but MICHAEL OAKLEY and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the ex-pats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC, MATTHIAS, NTTX and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and HANNAH PEEL embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform  were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While The Electricity Club does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, The Electricity Club maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


KERSTIN KEY

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: GOLDFRAPP Systemagic
Best Gig: OMD at Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Halle
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: KATJA VON KASSEL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

JORI HULKKONEN Don’t Believe In Happiness

In the frozen depths of the Synthy Nordic basin hides one of the greatest European music producers, turning out accomplished pieces of capable electronica, both for himself and as the part of various collaborations with JOHN FOXX, PROCESSORY and SIN COS TAN.

Finland’s finest Jori Hulkkonen released his first album ‘Selkäsaari Tracks’ in 1996.

However he first came to the world’s wider audience as ZYNTHERIUS with TIGA on their 2001 electro cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’

The love of Detroit techno has always added a certain dose of magical rhythmic edge to his productions, although bred on the likes of JOHN FOXX, PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER’s synthesis, the man from Turku on the southwest coast of Finland, creates his very own discernible sound.

Keen to explore unusual possibilities of synthesis, the Finn assembled a group of nine like-minded buddies, where each of them operated a little acid box of crafts, otherwise known as the Roland TB-303, conducted and mixed by the man himself. The project called THE ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA famously supported KRAFTWERK during their Finnish date in 2009.

To add to his interesting outings, Hulkkonen joined forces with his fellow Finn Jimi Tenor to showcase their silent movie ‘Nuntius’, which improvised soundtrack was presented to live audiences for a unique audio visual experience. But presently, the Finnish master returns with a brand new album, ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’, marking the release of his long player number twenty!

And indeed from the opening ‘Tintån Terdel’, with its pleasantly satisfying star gazing textures à la early PSB, offers floaty qualities of capable musicality, until the gratifyingly uncomplicated ‘New Ideologies’, Hulkkonen takes one onto a journey of the familiar unknown. The title track glides masterfully over the sedate instrumentation; soothingly enticing and teasing, while ‘I’m Just A Phase I’m Going Through’ introduces more powerful synth beats and the faster tempo.

‘We Will Tear Love Apart Again’ steadies the beat into a mantra, which hypnotises and mystifies, while ‘Lowlife Crises’ generates the nostalgia for the easy listening tracks from the best synth years. The arty, GAZELLE TWIN-like elements are introduced in ‘Reach Out To China’. The excellently synthesized noises capitulate to the simplistic melody, to be reintroduced towards the end of the track, creating an open-closed masterpiece of electronic pleasure.

‘I Think About Your Car When I Drive Mine’ shines with the use of assorted synth noises, only to progress into the inconspicuous ‘Sometimes You Win, But Not Very Often’.

The rhythms reminiscent of MOLOKO dazzle on ‘I Am The Night’ and ‘Moon Is Real’. With a more defined beat and creative use of instrumentation, Hulkkonen creates his very own take on bossa nova, Suomi style. They’re the two perfect dance tracks.

‘Water Wars 2021-2027’ brings the futuristic vision of sci-fi inspired things to come. Almost tribal, the ringing rhythms manage to anaesthetise and stupefy, meandering through the computerised textures and vivacious elements.

‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ is like being taken onto a journey into the depths of yourself, discovering the familiar unfamiliarities and being soothed by the powerful self, all at the same moment.

Opus number twenty marks the number of the gratifying achievements, all coming out from within. It’s sedate yet uplifting, grandiose yet simplistic, raw yet polished to perfection.

Jori Hulkkonen has reached the status of god and he deserves every inch of the success that comes his way. With the ergonomic musical design to suit all users, this record is simply superb.


‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ is released by My Favorite Robot Records

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com

https://www.facebook.com/JoriHulkkonen/

https://twitter.com/jorihulkkonen


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
27th November 2017

MR NORMALL Interview

The Amazing Adventures Of Mr Normall have gained a loyal cult following within the post-punk and electronic music world.

With a handshake, big smile, good guy profile, the Finnish music fan’s charming photographs with members of SPARKS, JAPAN, ULTRAVOX, BLANCMANGE, HEAVEN 17, DEPECHE MODE, VISAGE and MARSHEAUX among many, have endeared visitors to his website chronicling his travels.

After appearances in a number of promo videos including Kim Wilde and BEF’s cover of ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ , Mr Normall was more recently cast as the star of the silent art movie ‘Nuntius’.

The film with its live soundtrack by Jimi Tenor and Jori Hulkkonen has played to audiences around the world, with Mr Normall occasionally joining the musicians with on stage cameos at selected performances.

The Electricity Club had the pleasure of catching up with Mr Normall for another chat about his continuing amazing adventures…

Since The Electricity Club last spoke to you in Spring 2011, your fame spread far and wide in some unexpected places. Richard Barbieri wanted his photo taken with you, what was the story here?

Oh yes… that was a surprise and very positive one. We had been friends on Facebook for some time but I had no idea that he knew who I was or that he had paid any attention to me. Then last December – all of a sudden – he tags me and comments “it’s my ambition to have a photo with you”.

Of course it was humour, but I was very pleased nevertheless. JAPAN is my No 1 favourite band and to be sort of acknowledged by one of them was very cool. Mr Barbieri had his wish come true three months later in Birmingham where I went to see him play live. Richard Barbieri is a first-class artist and a very nice person.

You were also recognised by someone in 2014?

I did speak with Jonathan Ross at the SPARKS aftershow at the Union Chapel in December 2013 but he didn’t recognise me, I would have been really surprised if he did. The subject of our chat was ULTRAVOX. He prefers the John Foxx version of the band.

Do you think this recognition all escalated after Jori Hulkkonen asked you to appear in the ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ video for PROCESSORY?

In Finland, a few people did comment about the music video when meeting me but I don’t remember it happening anywhere else. However, I’m certain that ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ video made Mr Normall better known, even if I haven’t got much feedback about it.

The music video was done and released in spring 2011. I was really hoping to see it on TV back then, but it was just about that time when music videos disappeared from TV altogether.

The idea on me appearing on Jori Hulkkonen’s music video started actually almost a year before at the night when ULTRAVOX was playing live in Jori’s home town of Turku. After the gig was over, I and several other people – including Warren Cann – went to the unofficial ULTRAVOX after party at the club called Dynamo. There I told Jori, that if he’s interested to feature me on a music video in the future, I’m game. Few months later Jori contacted me about the subject and the result was ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ music video.

I must tell you this… after the ULTRAVOX gig in Turku when we arrived at the Dynamo club, I had a really good “Steve Strange moment”: The gig venue was quite far from city centre, so we took a big taxi to get the posse to the club. When we got to the Dynamo, I was walking in first and Warren Cann right behind me.

The DJ was playing ‘Fade To Grey’ by VISAGE and at that moment I felt just like that bit on the VISAGE music video tape where Steve Strange arrives a club in Paris and ‘Fade To Grey’ is playing in the background. That was THE way to enter to the club.

Of course after this, Jori and his musical partner Jimi Tenor asked you to appear in their film ‘Nuntius’, this had an interesting concept?

Jori Hulkkonen and Jimi Tenor had talked about making a film, but I suppose they didn’t have clear idea what it should be about. In July 2013 I met both of them at the Turku Modern festival and said that I would like to be in their film if they were interested.

The big idea was to make a silent film that would be shown only with live soundtrack by Tenor and Hulkkonen themselves. The film and its music would never be released in any format or be ever available online. Live performances only.

First days of filming ‘Nuntius’ were in May 2014. We started the car journey from Central Finland where I live and drove next to the Russian border in South-East Finland. The destination was an amazing place called Parikkalan Patsaspuisto (Parikkala sculpture park). We stopped to film where ever the scenery looked right. As far as I know, there wasn’t any actual plot ready when we started.

The only rough plot in the beginning was that “I’m being sent from one place to another to get something from there” and the genre is going to be Sci-Fi, perhaps something à la Tarkovsky.

What was filming like for you?

Those first two days of filming in May 2014 were the most fun and memorable for me. Maybe because it was a new situation and the realisation that this is really happening. Also the car journey itself with Jimi, Jori and Marjaana was fun.

There was three more filming days in 2014 and they were mainly done in an art studio in Helsinki. The studio is very high inside and it has a round platform which moves up and down, and also rotates. The studio was made in 1950s and it was made for the sculptor Kalervo Kallio, who was a son of Finland’s President Kyösti Kallio. The studio is the setting for the “other place” where Mr Normall is being sent somewhere else to get something. I would have never spent time at this special place if it wasn’t for ‘Nuntius’.

In May 2015, there were two days of filming in Helsinki for the second version of ‘Nuntius’. Those shoots were done at several locations. The latest shoots were just recently in July 2017 when we filmed around Estonia over three days.

It was much like the first shoots three years earlier because also this time we drove around the country and stopped where scenery was suitable to be filmed. There are strange ex-military places in Estonia that have been deserted after the Russian Army left them when Estonia got independent. Those were exciting days and I definitely wouldn’t had ever visited those places without ongoing ‘Nuntius’ production.

I don’t know yet what will become of all the new shots; will it be the third version of ‘Nuntius’ with a lot of new stuff or will they became a whole new entity à la ‘Nuntius – Part 2’ or something like that?

You made a new friend named Louis while riding a motorcycle?

Louis the dog was only one year old, but he was already a real pro. There was one shot with Louis which could have ended badly… I was driving a sidecar motorcycle in a tunnel in Helsinki and Louis was sitting in the sidecar. It was a public road and there was other traffic too. The shot had to be done several times and if Louis had jumped out of the sidecar, he might have been hit by a car.

He had a collar and a leash was around my arm, but I’m not sure what would have happened if Louis wanted to jump out of very loud old motorcycle. Luckily he was very cool all the time and it seemed like he knew what we were doing.

I saw Louis again last year and he wouldn’t stop barking at me. I’m not sure what he meant by that.

‘Nuntius’ has taken you around the world with you making cameos while Jori and Jimi are performing. Which locations or events have you found most interesting? Any funny stories?

I have attended several ‘Nuntius’ shows in Finland and also few abroad. Berlin was special because that day was also Jimi Tenor’s 50th birthday, so that evening at the Lido was also his birthday party.

The Sonar Festival 2015 in Barcelona: ‘Nuntius’ was on Saturday afternoon and DURAN DURAN played at the festival the same night. There was my big chance to meet them but it didn’t happen. Barcelona in June is hot even late in the evening and I was wearing a heavy 3-piece suit. Not the best possible choice when everyone else had T-shirt and shorts.

The most important ‘Nuntius’ performance for me has been the one in Düsseldorf in October 2016 where it was a part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE. ‘Nuntius’ was the last item of the two day conference – or rather a festival of electronic music – and right before it, the stage was occupied by John Foxx and co for their ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ performance.

What made this particular ‘Nuntius’ showing so special was that there was several of my favourite artists in the audience, as well as friends whom I have seen at gigs before. Jori summed it up very well: “The audience wasn’t big but it was a good quality audience”.

I have been watching John Foxx on my TV screen hundreds of times and now he was watching me on the big screen. Surreal.

One more special memory… my first – and so far only – visit to Berlin was in March 2015. After arriving to the city and finding my hotel, I went out to have my first ever walk in Berlin. Kreuzberg was only few minutes away so I went that way. Soon I saw some gig posters on a wall – not THE wall – and among them was the special ‘Nuntius’ poster made for the evening’s show. My first time in this big city and when I step out of my hotel there’s a poster featuring a photo of me. It was a unique and strange moment for a visitor from the Finnish countryside.

You’ve made a number of other appearances in videos and photoshoots, are there anymore in the offing?

We are likely to do more shots for ‘Nuntius’ later this year but that’s all. It would be nice to feature in a music video again, especially by an artist that I like. It would be great to experience that again.

Peter Hook had an amusingly and typically Mancunian response when you introduced yourself to him in Düsseldorf?

What was it that he said? I think his kind reply was “there’s nothing normal about you” when I introduced myself. I disagree, of course 😉

Tony Visconti has just about seen it all, so what was your encounter with him like?

I did meet him briefly a few times when HOLY HOLY played live in London and Sheffield during September 2014. I was also at the ICA to listen to Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey talk about making the album ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Both of them were very friendly and didn’t mind signing a few Bowie CD sleeves for me. Getting records signed is a good excuse to approach an artist and it gives you a moment to have a brief chat.

MIRRORS were your favourite new synth act but sadly they are no more. Is there anyone you’ve listened to who you would you rate today?

I suppose you mean new or relatively new acts? Hannah Peel makes good music with often unusual and interesting arrangements. One new band that I like is TINY MAGNETIC PETS. I’ve been listening to their new album on Spotify quite a lot.

Your portfolio has grown over the last few years, but is there anyone left you would still like to meet and be photographed with?

I have met quite a few artists but there are still many of my “official favourites” that I haven’t met yet. With some it’s already too late, but for those still in this dimension I would say David Sylvian and DURAN DURAN are the most important not-yet-met-artists.

Then there’s several others like one ex-member of KRAFTWERK whom everyone else seems to have met but not me. I’m not done yet with these ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Mr Normall

http://www.mrnormall.net/

https://twitter.com/MrNormall


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos courtesy of Mr Normall
3rd October 2017

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