Tag: Jori Hulkkonen (Page 2 of 5)

A Beginner’s Guide To JORI HULKKONEN

JORI HULKKONEN is one of Europe’s most highly regarded electronic producers, yet remains something of a hidden secret.

While a fan of synthesized music such as PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and JOHN FOXX, Hulkkonen’s love of Detroit techno and house music has brought a rhythmical edge to his many productions and remixes.

Hulkkonen released his first album ‘Selkäsaari Tracks’ in 1996, but he first came to the world’s wider attention as ZYNTHERIUS with TIGA on their 2001 electro cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’.

As well as solo long players such as 2010’s acclaimed ‘Man From Earth’ and collaborative projects like KEBACID, STOP MODERNISTS, PROCESSORY, SIN COS TAN and THE TANIA & JORI CONTINENTS, he has DJ-ed around the world, presented his own radio shows and remixed artists as diverse as ROBYN, KID CUDI and JOE JACKSON.

Based in Turku on the southwest coast of Finland, Hulkkonen recently downsized the amount of hardware in his AlppIVhouz Studios, although he still retains a Korg PS3100, Emulator II, Roland Jupiter 4, Roland SH101, Roland TR808, Roland TB303, Siel Orchestra and the ubiquitous Eurorack Modular system.

Always up for the odd spot of artistic mischief, he assembled THE ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, an experimental avant-garde techno ensemble of nine fellow conspirators each controlling a Roland TB-303, conducted and mixed by Hulkkonen; the collective famously supported KRAFTWERK on their Helsinki date in 2009.

More recently, Hulkkonen has teamed up with fellow Finn Jimi Tenor for a touring presentation of their silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Starring Mr Normall as its central alien character, it features a live improvised soundtrack ranging from blippy ambient to frantic motorik; none of the music is to be released. So with each performance being unique, ‘Nuntius’ provides a cerebral audio / visual experience for who are able to witness it.

With such a varied catalogue of work and projects, The Electricity Club looks back at the career of JORI HULKKONEN in the shape of this eighteen track Beginner’s Guide, arranged in chronological order and with a restriction of one track per album / project

TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS Sunglasses At Night (2001)

This cover of Corey Hart’s cult classic, adopted as a signature song by the Electroclash movement, came about when Hulkkonen was in Montreal promoting his ‘Helsinki Mix Sessions’ CD released on TIGA’s Turbo label. “The synthline just felt very cool to use with the 808 beat” he told The Electricity Club, “I’m glad I used a pseudonym for that release as even though I loved a lot of the music that was around and connected with Electroclash, the whole scene felt a bit distant to me.”

Available on the TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS single ‘Sunglasses At Night’ via City Rockers / International Deejay Gigolo Records


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JOHN FOXX Dislocated (2005)

“’Metamatic’ is one of my all-time favourite albums” said Hulkkonen, “and for me it was a fantastic opportunity to get a chance to work with one of the people who had shaped my musical world. ‘Dislocated’ was written by me, with John and the sound of ‘Metamatic’ in mind”. The end result sounded like what the title suggested and the pair worked together again in more collaborative manner in 2008 on ‘Never Been Here Before’; it wouldn’t be for the final time either…

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Dualizm’ via F Recordings


TIGA High School (2006)

Work had actually begun on a TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS album, but the pair both felt that keeping the project as a one hit wonder was a much cooler alternative. However, several songs from those recording sessions ended up on their various solo albums, with ‘Dying In Beauty’ appearing on Hulkkonen’s ‘Dualizm’, while ‘High School’ with its hypnotic synth sequence and latent machine groove found a home on TIGA’s debut long player ‘Sexor’.

Available on the TIGA album ‘Sexor’ via PIAS


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JUSTINE ELECTRA Errare Machinale Est (2008)

2008 could be considered Hulkkonen’s Down Under phase and for the title track of his sixth solo record, he recruited Electra, a Melbourne-based singer / songwriter / musician / DJ to add her wispy nonchalant voice to this expansive mood piece with an extended ambient intro.  The track utilised grainy Emulator II strings in an aesthetic that was to become one of his trademarks. The album also featured a tune fittingly titled ‘Forgive Me Father For I Have Synth’.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Errare Machinale Est’ via Solina Records


THE PRESETS This Boy’s In Love – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2008)

Australian duo Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes made their international breakthrough with ‘This Boy’s In Love’, an uptempo ASSOCIATES flavoured highlight from their second album ‘Apocalypso’. Hulkkonen stretched out the track out for almost ten minutes in a beat laden squelch fest and described it to The Electricity Club as: “a 10 out of 10 remix on my standards. It’s difficult to say why but somehow everything just clicked when I was making it and it still sounds fresh”.

Available on THE PRESETS single ‘This Boy’s In Love’ via Modular Recordings


CLIENT Can You Feel – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2009)

Co-written with one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth, Hulkkonen’s remix adopted a deep framework and applied a pulsing club friendly vibe to the dark cool of Client A and Client B’s Cold War Chic, while “dancing on a ticking bomb”. Growing up in Finland during that era with The Bear next door looming would have had a profound effect on Hulkkonen in shaping his soundscapes.

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line


TIGA Sex O’Clock (2009)

Like its predecessor, TIGA’s ‘Ciao’ was mostly co-produced by Belgian brothers SOULWAX, although James Murphy of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM gave a helping hand on another track originally intended for TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS. Hedonistic and sweaty like a clubby Marc Almond, TIGA however could never quite escape the DJ tag to establish himself a fully-fledged artist in his own right. Indeed, he once congratulated LADYTRON “for escaping Electroclash”.

Available on the TIGA album ‘Ciao!’ via PIAS


JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Neuro Video – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2010)

‘Neuro Video’ came out of Foxx and Gordon’s ‘From Trash’ recording sessions and reflected Foxx’s known love of old science-fiction B-Movies which had influenced much of earlier solo work. For his remix, Hulkkonen stripped the track down and made it less percussively frantic, procuring a spacious groove for the bubbling electronics to work within. This remix and another of ‘Impossible’ were originally made available as a free download via Foxx’s Metamatic web platform.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Sideways’ via Metamatic Records


VILLA NAH Ways To Be (2010)

Hailing from East Helsinki, Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä’s superb debut album ‘Origin’ was co-produced by Hulkkonen. He told The Electricity Club at the time: “The guys had written a lot of songs in the previous couple of years, so someone outside their songwriting duo having a fresh pair of ears was crucial in picking a group of songs that would make a good album…They have a lot going on for them though; great songwriting, a very good debut album to build on and definitely not least, Juho’s magical voice”.

Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Origin’ via Keys Of Life


PROCESSORY Take Me To Your Leader (2011)

“We were both going through on a very deep phase with THE SMITHS” said Hulkkonen of ‘Lo-Fiction’, his first collaboration with reclusive vocalist Jerry Valuri in 2005. With their ambitious joint project PROCESSORY, the aim was “to create its own little universe” with various space travel themed concepts. With a lo-fi anguished gothique, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ concocted some very introspective moods at The Finland Station… however, nothing has been proved.

Available on the PROCESSORY album ‘Change Is Gradual’ via Sugarcane Recordings


STOP MODERNISTS feat CHRIS LOWE Subculture (2011)

A cover of the lost NEW ORDER single from 1985, 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


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

When VILLA NAH went on hiatus, Hulkkonen and Paalosmaa formed SIN COS TAN. Explaining the difference, Paalosmaa told The Electricity Club: ”With VILLA NAH, I’ve been solely responsible for the songwriting, so I knew that would be different with SIN COS TAN. With Jori, we both bring our ideas to the table”. Very nocturnal in tone, ‘Trust’ was a superb 21st Century answer to ‘Enjoy The Silence’, described by Hulkkonen as “Disco You Can Cry To”. Indeed, like that iconic tune, ‘Trust’ had been written as a ballad.

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


BILLY MACKENZIE Boltimoore – Original JiiHoo Bootmix (2012)

The magnificent voice of Billy Mackenzie from his stark cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Baltimore’ was flown into a hypnotic tech house bootleg constructed by Hulkkonen. With deliberate incorrect spelling of our hero’s name to mask its illegal nature, it was a haunting ghostly return from the heavens to the dancefloor. Mackenzie would have loved it and had he been alive today, he would have almost certainly been working with Hulkkonen; what magic that would have been…

Available on the 12” vinyl release ‘Boltimoore’ via Kojak Giant Sounds


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

Despite their collaborative history, Foxx and Hulkkonen had never worked together on a body of work with a conceptual theme, but the opportunity came with the appropriately titled ‘European Splendour’ EP. It took on the grainier downtempo template of PROCESSORY and  the lead song ‘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 JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Recordings


SIN COS TAN featuring CASEY SPOONER Avant Garde (2013)

Hulkkonen first found fame during the Electroclash era and a noted personality from that scene made an appearance on the second SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’. ‘Avant Garde’ featured Casey Spooner who provided a suitably cynical snarl to contrast Paalosmaa’s lost boy cry on a track that sounded like THE CURE being produced by PET SHOP BOYS. Paalosmaa was particularly thrilled, saying “I’ve been a big FISCHERSPOONER fan since their debut in 2001, so it was a very cool honour”.

Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records


JORI HULKKONEN Italian Love Affair (2015)

A brilliant slice of uptempo electronic pop with more than just a hint of GIORGIO MORODER and NEW ORDER, ‘Italian Love Affair’ was Italo Disco laced with a soaring vocal and a fabulous neon lit groove. Despite having shied away from singing throughout the majority of his career, Hulkkonen took on vocals himself on this highlight from his ninth solo album, with the end result sounding not unlike a cross between Jerry Valuri and Juho Paalosmaa.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Oh But I Am’ via My Favorite Robot Records


FEELS If You’d Meet Me Tonight – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2016)

FEELS are a Helsinki based indietronica band comprising of Sofi Meronen, Mikael Myrskog and Jooel Jons; when Hulkkonen saw them band play live in Turku, he became a fan and asked if he could work on their material. Speeded up considerably and pracatically changing the entire character of the song, his remix of ‘If You’d Meet Me Tonight’ was highly danceable, but still retained the trio’s glorious Nordic melancholy for some more of that “Disco You Can Cry To”.

Available as a free download via https://soundcloud.com/feelsfeels/if-youd-meet-me-tonight-jori-hulkkonen-remix


VILLA NAH Stranger (2016)

VILLA NAH unexpectedly returned after six years and Hulkkonen was there to assist again as co-producer. Of the magnificent track with which they returned, Paalosmaa said: “‘Stranger’ is a play on words; how somebody you’ve known can turn stranger over the span of time… and end up as a complete stranger in the process”. This was classic crystalline synthpop with a modern twist at its best, in a fine juxtaposition of swirling arpeggios and melodic tension.

Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ via Solina Records


JORI HULKKONEN Tintån Terdel (2017)

Hulkkonen has released several EPs and singles over the last couple of years in the build-up to a new long player, while a new single ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ is set to be unleashed. A cinematic synth wave instrumental with a dripping percussive template, ‘Tintån Terdel’ signals a possible future in film work. It’s an avenue already being explored by himself and Jimi Tenor in a live context via the unique presentations of their silent Sci-Fi movie ‘Nuntius’.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘I Am The Night’ / ‘Tintån Terdel’ via My Favorite Robot Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Tapio Normall
26th August 2017


mark-reeder-and-john-foxxThe ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE held its second event at Düsseldorf’s CCD following the success of the inaugural gathering.

With impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music, former NEW ORDER bassist Peter Hook, OMD’s Andy McCluskey, HEAVEN 17, WRANGLER, MICHAEL ROTHER, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS were among those who took part in 2015.


The conference coincided with co-organiser Rudi Esch publishing ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, an English language version of his acclaimed book documenting the development of the city’s innovative and inspiring music scene which spawned acts such as KRAFTWERK, DAF, RIECHMANN, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF. With Jochen Oberlack of Bellerophon Records acting as the weekend’s Master of Ceremonies, the first of the special international guests was MARK REEDER.

mark-reeder-in-dusseldorf2016Presenting his acclaimed documentary ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West-Berlin 1979-1989’, the film captured the music, art and chaos of West Berlin before the infamous wall came tumbling down.

But as Reeder explained in his charmingly fluent Mancunian lilted German to Tassilo Dicke in the Q&A afterwards, the enclosed conscription free environment allowed a creative melting pot to emerge where everything and anything seemed possible.

Next up was CHRIS PAYNE in an interview hosted by The Electricity Club. Best known as a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979-1990 and for co-writing VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ with Billy Currie and Midge Ure, the Cornishman began by demonstrating his bass Cornamuse, a double reed instrument from the 14th Century.

chris-payne-and-cornamuseRevealing that he studied Medieval music, he even treated the audience to a quick burst of ‘Cars’ before reflecting on its limitations and therefore highlighting the expansive possibilities of synthesizers.

Now domiciled in Normandy, he happily chatted about his period with Numan, recalling how he had 21 keyboards in his armoury and some of the practical jokes he played on the 1979 support act OMD.

At this time, OMD were a duo comprising of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys plus a third member Winston. Despite some electronic music publications stating Winston was a drum machine, Payne confirmed that Winston was most definitely a tape recorder. And on the final night of the UK leg of ‘The Touring Principle’ at Hammersmith Odeon, Payne thought it would be amusing to put on the lock of the TEAC A344 4-track reel-to-reel to stop it from playing.

chris-rusty-markThe genesis of ‘Fade To Grey’ occurred during soundchecks on ‘The Touring Principle’, but Payne recalled how the song’s cyclic structure had been composed during his time at music college. With regards the song’s female French voice, while the eventual German No1 featured RUSTY EGAN’s then-girlfriend Brigitte, the idea had come from Monsieur Payne and featured on the original recording made at Martin Rushent’s Genetic Studios with a different lyric.

Mute Records impresario DANIEL MILLER and techno guru CHRIS LIEBING followed and while Miller reflected on his love of German music which inspired his own recordings, he highlighted the musical kinship he had with Liebing and even joked that they would probably want to play exactly the same tracks during their DJ sets later that night at the Time Warp club night hosted by Salon des Amateurs.

eric-random-2016The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was about live music too and Manchester electronic veteran ERIC RANDOM had the honour of opening proceedings. Random recently released his new album ‘Words Made Flesh’ on Austrian record label Klanggalerie, but the one-time CABARET VOLTAIRE and NICO collaborator made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES.

Opening with his set with the groovy ‘Knock Yourself Out’, he captured the ethos of the weekend with his sinister but funky, voice sample laden electro. Occasionally adding vocoder and his own FAD GADGET inspired vocals as on the hard beat driven ‘Let It Go’, the Germanic environment more that suited his stark style of presentation.

marsheaux-live2016MARSHEAUX’s appearance prompted dancing in the aisles and despite monitor issues, the duo delivered a fine performance which can soon be witnessed in the UK at TEC004 in Norwich.

The brooding aggression of ‘Burning’ from the new album ‘Ath.Lon’ proved to be a highlight, while other newbies such as ‘Safe Tonight’ sat well next to slightly reworked fan favourites like ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Dream Of A Disco’ and ‘Come On Now’.

A beautiful rendition of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ won over anyone who wasn’t already convinced, with two new converts being Claudia Schneider-Esleben, sister of KRAFTWERK co-founder Florian and JOHN FOXX who sat absorbed throughout the entire set.

chris-payne-liveFinishing proceedings on day one was RUSTY EGAN with a part live-part DJ presentation of his upcoming record ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.

Augmented by NIKONN and CHRIS PAYNE, it began with a marvellous dual overture where the latter performed instrumental piano based renditions of ‘Down In The Park’ and ‘Fade To Grey’, while sneaking in snatches of Numan evergreens ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ as well.

Seguing into the ‘Nu Cinematic’ ambient version of VISAGE’s German No1 featuring Payne on violin, there was then the surprise inclusion of the beautiful VISAGE instrumental ‘Whispers’; this was not entirely successful as the monitor problems continued, but it was a brave choice and more than welcome for that very reason.

rusty-egan-live-2016Erik Stein from CULT WITH NO NAME joined the ensemble for ‘Ballet Dancer’ and ‘Love Is Coming My Way’, his voice more than complimenting the two synth heavy tunes before the video playback section. Featuring the lead vocals of Andy Huntley, Midge Ure, Emily Kavanaugh and Tony Hadley, such was his enthusiasm, Egan couldn’t resist joining in on the mic. But Egan got his turn on lead when he morphed into an MC for ‘Wonderwerke’, adding a “was ist das?” snarl shaped by his inimitable London swagger.

Closing the main set with ‘Thank You’, Egan’s vocodered list of musical heroes over layers of sweeping synths even prompted him to walk into the audience to encourage their additional robotised contributions.

The following day began with artists and journalists being given an informal tour of Düsseldorf by Rudi Esch. The landmarks included Düsseldorf HBF where KRAFTWERK had their iconic monochromatic photo on Gleis 17 taken and the entrance to the former Kling Klang studios.

john-foxx-talks-about-conny-plankAmong those present were JOHN FOXX and MARSHEAUX, with one particularly memorable moment taking place outside Der Ratinger Hof, when Foxx held court as he chatted about working with Conny Plank on ‘Systems Of Romance’. Appropriately, formal second day proceedings began with the showing of ‘Keine Atempause – Düsseldorf, Der Ratinger Hof und Die Neue Musik’, a film about the city’s music scene followed by a panel Q&A.

But afterwards, a familiar character from Berlin reappeared. The scheduled speaker MARTYN WARE had unfortunately been taken ill, so MARK REEDER kindly stepped in with an interview in English conducted by The Electricity Club. This chat differed slightly from the day before, focussing on Reeder’s own music career and his long association with NEW ORDER.

Interviewed by German journalist Ecki Stieg, JOHN FOXX gave a marvellously eloquent talk covering his entire career. Working with Brian Eno on the first ULTRAVOX! album, the one-time ROXY MUSIC synthesist told Foxx it was important to keep a space at the end of an album to make a new song out of nothing; that nothing of course became ‘My Sex’. Reflecting on the recording of ‘Systems Of Romance’ to applause from the attentive audience, Foxx also declared Conny Plank as the most important record producer since George Martin.

john-foxx-at-electri_city_conferenceDespite the innovation of his debut solo album ‘Metamatic’, Foxx moved away from pure electronics due to criticism that his music was cold. At the time he thought “Maybe I’ve done the wrong thing… it made me afraid of my own music in a way… I’ve never been any good at judging the quality of what I do, I like it but don’t know if it’s any good or not!” – this led to the more band oriented sound of the follow-up ‘The Garden’ which included the actual ‘Systems Of Romance’ song.

Talking about his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, Foxx said “I wanted to combine electronics with psychedelia… I think I failed because I tried to fit too many favourite things together. It’s always a mistake, it’s like having a meal with all your favourite food, you have fish and pudding and cake and soup and it’s not good! You might love them all, but if you put them on the same plate… but it was out of enthusiasm so I can forgive my younger self for making mistakes like that!”

cult-with-no-name-dusseldorf-2106Post-punk balladeers CULT WITH NO NAME and their inherent laid-back atmospheres provided the perfect transition into the evening’s programme of live music.

While many of CULT WITH NO NAME’s songs are piano based, it’s when they mix in some uptempo electronic tension that things get really interesting. This was exemplified by ‘Rosabelle Believe’, a new song featuring Steven Brown of cult art rockers TUXEDOMOON.

Also including the best known number ‘Breathing’, those still recovering from the techno and deep house barrage at Time Warp on the night before would have found this set most welcoming.

Premiered in 2014 at London’s South Bank, JOHN FOXX and STEVE D’AGOSTINO supported by visual artist KARBORN gave an assured performance of ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’, “a unique investigation of the terrors and pleasures of temporal displacement. A sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”.

evidence-of-time-travel-02KARBORN’s cut-up images and filmed segments complimented the stark and stoic soundtrack.

A continually evolving audio / visual experience, the finale of ‘Empty Clothing Blows Across A Beach’ saw Katia Isakoff join the trio on a Moog Theremin as they locked into a wonderfully trippy improvisation with disturbing schizophrenic voices also reverberating around the enclosure.

The second day concluded with a unique presentation of the silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Featuring a live improvised soundtrack from Finnish musicians JIMI TENOR and JORI HULKKONEN, the film stars MR NORMALL as its central, alien character. Seemingly manufactured in outer space, MR NORMALL explores the woods, stares intensely and even rides a motorcycle sidecar combination through a tunnel in Helsinki with a Shetland sheepdog named Louis.

nuntius-film-02The film’s accompanying music ranged from blippy ambient to frantic motorik, with Tenor occasionally taking to a flute while Hulkkonen brought out his portable Trautonium, an electronic instrument with a pressure sensitive glided board and whose conceptual origins date back to 1929. The whole experience was totally mindbending and when MR NORMALL appeared on stage with Tenor and Hulkkonen, things became even more surreal.

It was fabulous weekend that was a reminder of Düsseldorf’s importance as a centre for art, culture and fashion. With the rising profile of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE, the 2017 event will be a must-attend date in next year’s diary.

rudi-at-der-ratinger-hofThe Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Live performances can be viewed at






















Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Markus Luigs, Roger Kamp, Lola Li and Chi Ming Lai
23rd October 2016

A Short Conversation with VILLA NAH

villa-nahfriendFinnish duo VILLA NAH have returned after a five year hiatus.

With their recently released second album ‘Ultima’, Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä have reminded the general public as to why they wowed audiences who saw them open for OMD in 2010. However, despite the acclaim, the childhood friends faded from view after that tour.

During the break, Paalosmaa formed SIN COS TAN with ‘Origin’ co-producer Jori Hulkkonen and excellent songs such as ‘Trust’, ‘Calendar’, ‘Avant Garde’, ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Love Sees No Colour’ filled the void left by VILLA NAH.

While their debut album ‘Origin’ was prime crystalline synthpop, ‘Ultima’ undoubtedly comes over as a more varied and mature musical statement. There are fewer club friendly tempos but this has been offset by a comparatively sunny disposition on songs like ‘Love Chance’ and ‘Life Is Short’, as well as an abundance of dreamier atmospheres like on the beautiful grown-up lullaby ‘Proxima’.

Despite their new found optimism, VILLA NAH’s inherent melancholy remains while their technical prowess is as sharp as ever. Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä chatted about the genesis of ‘Ultima’ and its influences, both musical and technical.

VILLA NAH2016-02How does it feel to have recorded together again after a gap of 5-6 years?

Juho: Feels good! We had met on numerous occasions over the years, but became active again in our studio in 2015 when the majority of ‘Ultima’ was recorded. It helps a lot that we’ve been friends since kids, as there’s always that connection. Five or six years can feel like a long time for many, but after a 30 year long friendship, it’s not that bad.

What was the impetus to renew the partnership?

Juho: A number of reasons. We never really buried the idea of recording again – it was always likely to happen. It just had to feel spontaneous, natural. I think it also helped that no-one was really expecting us to release anything anymore. Working under the radar made things fun again, it gave us a free creative space with no rush to anything. On a more personal level, there are also some songs on this record that had haunted me for a very long time; songs like ‘Mistakes’ and ‘Heaven’. I simply needed to get them out, and they played a big part in forming what would become the overall feel of ‘Ultima’.

villa-nah_ultimaJori Hulkkonen is again involved on the production side. But he is also involved in SIN COS TAN… so for the uninitiated, how would you explain the musical and compositional differences of VILLA NAH?

Juho: For the uninitiated, I’d describe the differences of VILLA NAH and SIN COS TAN with one word: atmosphere. VILLA NAH has more of a romantic, softer, at times naivistic quality to it. SIN COS TAN on the other hand is colder, more cynical, and the songs have a harder, more modern edge to them.

As far as songwriting process goes, in SIN COS TAN, me and Jori write songs either collaboratively, separately, or just jam them out together in the studio. So the songwriting is pretty much a 50/50 job in SIN COS TAN, but Jori stays in charge of production and especially mixing. I usually just lie on the couch at that point and complain about the lack of reverb…

With VILLA NAH, the songwriting is fully my responsibility, while Tomi handles the engineering and often the percussive side of things. A key difference between ‘Ultima’ and our debut ‘Origin’ was the mixing. This time Tomi had all the mixing duties, which gave ‘Ultima’ a very distinct, warm sound. I think it sounds lovely.

‘Ultima’ sees a more atmospheric, filmic side to VILLA NAH compared perhaps to ‘Origin’ with?

P000153 DB0016 ArtJuho: Well, I find that ‘filmic’ sensibilities have always been present in our music, it’s pretty much inescapable. I’m a big cinephile and think of melodies in very visual terms, usually even describing them as scenes in an imaginary film or a play. But with ‘Ultima’, I specifically wanted to make my own interpretation of a dream-pop record.

Dreams have been a constant inspiration with VILLA NAH, the worlds they inhabit and how they’re fuelled by our memories and experiences. So yeah, that certain atmosphere was very important to get across on ‘Ultima’. And I’m happy if it did.

The dance influenced rhythms that were a characteristic of ‘Origin’ are less prominent on this album, is that just a part of getting older?

Juho: There’s a few reasons for it. First off, I had worked on several records with Jori in SIN COS TAN where there were a lot of dance tracks. In fact, our latest EP ‘Smile. Tomorrow Will be Worse’ was comprised only of more club orientated stuff. Also, some earlier songs I had done as demos for VILLA NAH – tracks like ‘Trust’ and ‘Limbo’ – went to SIN COS TAN, as they felt more in tune with what we were doing with Jori at that time.

So when it came to ‘Ultima’, I wanted to explore a softer and calmer atmosphere. Getting older certainly plays a part in it too, but also the world we inhabit: things feel pretty insane in 2016 in a lot of ways… and I personally like the idea of having a relatively gentle, unabrasive pop record in the middle of it. It’s almost like a quiet manifest against all the glowstick parties and warmongering out there.

‘Stranger’ was a perfect song to return with. How did that emerge and what is it about?

Juho: I was heavily into JOHN MAUS when we made that, I think we both were. The off-kilter vibe of his music was definitely an influence – even though the end result sounds nothing like him. ‘Stranger’ is a play on words; how somebody you’ve known can turn stranger over the span of time… and end up as a complete stranger in the process. I don’t think it’s a track I would’ve written as a 20 year old. It requires some years of age and experience to really understand how time can change people, including yourself.

What’s the story behind the composition of ‘Spy’ and the ‘Spy vs. Spy’ computer game?

Juho: Bit of a long story this one… when we were little kids, me and Tomi had a mutual bond with the characters of ‘Spy vs. Spy’. Tomi subscribed to a comic magazine called ‘MAD’ which featured the amazing cold war influenced cartoons of Antonio Prohías called ‘Spy vs. Spy’. And I had a Commodore 64 computer at home with a game called ‘Spy vs. Spy’ – based on the very same cartoon by Prohías.

This game had a 20 second loop of music which played throughout nonstop. You’d think it’d be infuriating to listen to, but instead it was just really hypnotic. So hypnotic that it stayed in my brain ever since. Fast forward to 2008, and I wrote a VN track based around the game’s lead melody.

villan2In the process of picking out tracks for our debut ‘Origin’, ‘Spy’ was one contender. I don’t remember why it didn’t get picked, but I do recall Jori loving it… so on ‘Ultima’, we really didn’t want to leave it out again.

Before we could proceed, however, we needed to track down Mr. Nicholas Scarim, the man behind the theme music’s ingenious composition.

Soon enough, we found ourselves corresponding with Mr. Scarim. We humbly presented him our interpretation and were happy to hear that Nick really loved the track and gave us his approval!

The rhythm programming on ‘Mistakes’ is unusual in many respects for an electronic pop record, what was it inspired by?

Juho: ‘Mistakes’ was a track that had existed for many years, in various forms, most of them ringing in my head like an obsession. The rhythm track also changed a lot in the process – it was initially much more straightforward, too much so. Jori introduced the idea to make it more contemporary, which gave the song a more compelling twist.

Tomi: Got to give credit to Jori Hulkkonen for saving that song. It was one those songs that was completely lost in the endless swamp different versions and styles, so it definitely needed outside intervention to become finished.

‘Love Chance’ and ‘Life Is Short’ might remind some UK audiences of CHINA CRISIS. Is that a coincidence or do you have an appreciation for them?

Juho: True story… the first time I heard of CHINA CRISIS was from Andy McCluskey when we supported OMD back in 2010. Andy mentioned to me that our sound reminded him of CHINA CRISIS, and I was genuinely like “Wow, really?” (and simultaneously thought “Who? Gotta write that down!”). I didn’t know the band, so it must’ve been a happy coincidence…

Subsequently I did find the music of CHINA CRISIS later on. And fortunately liked what I heard. Some of their stuff had a similar vibe to things I adore, like the poppiest work of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and their solo efforts; chorus vocals sung in laid-back unison, where the emphasis being on the song’s instrumentation contra to the leading vocal melody. This is something I wanted to explore as well, with ‘Life Is Short’ and ‘Love Chance’ being precisely the songs on ‘Ultima’ where you can hear that. So yeah, I really don’t object to this comparison – even if really, it is more of a coincidence.

The album sees more prominent use of guitar, are there any particular guitarists or styles that influenced how the instrument would work for VILLA NAH?

villa2Juho: Way before we started doing music with synths, we played with more traditional instruments. I still write music with either keys or a guitar. But I don’t regard myself as a proper guitarist by any means.

Guitars can help a song with its groove – in the stuff we make it’s not always necessary, but with the right song it can work nicely and give it another dimension.

Tomi: Guitar is actually an annoyingly difficult instrument to blend in properly with synths, the way you play guitar versus synths is so different, so guitar melodies clash easily with synth melodies in a bad way. Then again, it is a matter of skill, haha! I’d like to mention John Frusciante here, he’s been my favourite guitarist for a long time and in recent years, he has been going nuts with synths.

Have you changed any of your technological approaches with ‘Ultima’, like with hardware synths versus softsynths, vintage analogues versus modern ones?

Tomi: I have to admit that I’ve pretty much grown out of the analogue synth hype. Actually I’ve always just wanted instruments that sound good, the technology itself has not been the reason for example to buy analogue synth classics. They’re classics because players have found the good sounding, simple and straightforward instruments. So on the hardware side, we did use quite a lot of digital synths and it was also a bit of an exploration of a new tech-territory.

My favourites at the moment are older wavetable synths, they are honestly digital rather than being “virtual”-something. I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of modern analogues, they lack the murkiness or mud of the old ones. I like mud, though the new Prophet-6 is pretty amazing sounding.

And when it comes to soft synths, I did use them mostly for layering and supporting uses etc. The problem for me with the soft synths is that I like to record things in a pretty old fashioned way and that is something I cannot do with the software. For example overdubbing, using hardware effects / running signals through guitar amps is hard or boring to do with softsynths, since you lack the proper interaction with the instrument and other hardware.

VILLA NAH2016-01Your favourite songs on ‘Ultima’?

Juho: It’s funny, I don’t really have one particular favourite. I tend to view the record as a whole, and I think the songs emphasise that: there’s less immediate tracks – they’re all meant to complement one another and sort of slowly creep in over time. Perhaps the tranquillity of ‘Proxima’ is something that I really like, but again that’s probably because it’s right after the intense crescendo of ‘Stranger’.

Tomi: ‘Clockwork’, ‘Proxima’ and ‘Heaven’ are my favourites. I think they are the most atmospheric pieces on the record. I’m hoping that ‘Heaven’ finds its audience, it’s a beautiful song. ‘Clockwork’ and ‘Proxima’ are both quite minimalistic yet deep and full of feelings, these were also my favourite tracks to mix / produce.

Who do you think ‘Ultima’ will appeal to?

Juho: Hopefully to anyone who still has the capacity to listen to a full LP of what I regard as traditional pop. It’s not a party album really, so I think it demands a little more time and individual attention. It’s a combination of quite dreamy and melodic synth tracks with a lot of romantic themes. If those as a concept sound at all appealing, then please proceed to ‘Ultima’ territory.

What’s next for VILLA NAH? Will you tour ‘Ultima’?

Juho: We’ve been playing some record release shows here in Finland and try to stay active in our studio in the meantime. Plenty of tracks are still unreleased, plenty more get born all the time. We’re having fun. At the end of the day, that’s really what matters.

Tomi: Yeah, aside from the ‘Ultima’ related gigs, we’ll be spending time in the studio as it also works as a safe haven from the real world, keeps us sane.

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to VILLA NAH

Special thanks to Tom Riski at Solina Records

‘Ultima’ is released by Solina Records in vinyl and digital formats




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Kimmo Virtanen
10th October 2016


villa-nah_ultimaHaving released one of the best electronic pop albums of 2010 in their debut ‘Origin’, Helsinki’s VILLA NAH went quiet after a well-received UK tour supporting OMD.

But childhood friends Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä are now back after a five-year hiatus. During that break, Paalosmaa formed SIN COS TAN with ‘Origin’ co-producer Jori Hulkkonen and their three albums to date filled the void left by VILLA NAH. ‘Ultima’ sees the duo and Hulkkonen present an escapist soundtrack for a Nordic summer, swathed in dreamy synthesizers.

While Paalosmaa’s vocals are as forlorn as ever, there is a cautious air of optimism too. Beginning the album in earnest, the ‘Ultima’ title instrumental is a gently atmospheric waltz that would make a fine theme to a romantic art movie.

A sweet pizzicato movement shapes ‘Vortex’ with its marvellous synthscape retaining the filmic characteristics of the album’s intro before the beat kicks in. ‘Mistakes’ takes things more uptempo as gorgeous synth vibrato and some harp-like runs sit over an inventive rhythm construction. It all proves that modern electronica doesn’t have to be set to the retarded 4/4 monotony of most generic club music; the song’s uplifting choral qualities and soaring chorus make this an early album highlight.

villa-nahfriendWhile VILLA NAH’s debut showcased an affinity with OMD, both ‘Life is Short’ and ‘Love Chance’ echo another Merseyside act CHINA CRISIS; the former is punctuated with synthetic brass tones while the latter exudes a distinctly exotic flavour with plenty of wistful melodies in keeping with the song’s title. The wonderful “new romance” of ‘Love Chance’ also sees prominent but subtle use of rhythmic guitar in the vein of Messrs Daly and Lundon.

A gentle piano motif introduces ‘Heaven’ before more downcast overtones and guitar textures make their presence felt. Meanwhile things get darker on ‘Clockwork’, a mood piece that is possibly the most sombre offering on the album.

‘Spy’ takes on a nostalgic feel by borrowing the theme music for the vintage computer game ‘Spy Vs. Spy’ with the blessing of its composer Nicholas Scarim. This clever interpolation for the song’s lead melody is a perfect fit for VILLA NAH’s template, harking back to ‘Ways To Be’ from ‘Origin’. As the layers build, Paalosmaa even starts to sound like Robert Smith of THE CURE guesting on a fantasy track for JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s ‘Electronica 3’!

VILLA NAH2016-02The magnificent ‘Stranger’ can be held up as an example as to why Paalosmaa’s melancholic songwriting prowess and Hyyppä’s technical knowhow gained VILLA NAH so many new fans when they opened for OMD in 2010; the detuned synths provide drama and tension while still retaining a vital sense of melody.

To finish ‘Ultima’, the serene ‘Proxima’ canters along and beautifully rings like a grown-up lullaby.

‘Ultima’ is a welcome return for VILLA NAH as a mature successor to ‘Origin’. While there are fewer uptempo, dance friendly songs compared to its predecessor, the passing years have naturally provoked a more sophisticated outlook that will appeal to all generations of classic synthpop aficionados.

Hienoa että olette palanneet…

With thanks to Tom Riski at Solina Records and Tapio Normall

‘Ultima’ is released by Solina Records in vinyl LP and digital formats




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Kimmo Virtanen
13th September 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To JOHN FOXX

The recent release of the ULTRAVOX! 4 CD box set ‘The Island Years’ was a timely reminder that their one-time leader JOHN FOXX has had a music career that has spanned over four decades.

Born Dennis Leigh, his first recorded work was a ROXY MUSIC styled cover of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ for an arthouse adult film of the same name, as a member of TIGER LILY. The quintet comprising of Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Stevie Shears renamed themselves ULTRAVOX! and signed a deal with Island Records.

Reinforcing their art rock aspirations seeded by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and DAVID BOWIE, ULTRAVOX! secured the production input of synth pioneer and label mate BRIAN ENO for their self-titled debut in 1977. Two albums later, they began to make headway with a template inspired by the emergent electronic bands from Germany such as KRAFTWERK, CLUSTER and NEU!

However, Foxx became disillusioned with the restrictions of a band format and departed ULTRAVOX! in 1979 for a solo career; the end result was the ‘Metamatic’ album, released in 1980 on Virgin Records. Recorded at Pathway, an eight-track studio in Islington using an ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody 610 and Roland CR78 Compurhythm, the seminal long player yielded two unexpected hit singles in ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’.

Foxx said of that period: “You felt like some Film Noir scientist inventing a new life-form in the basement. I also think it was the beginning of Electro-Art-Punk or something like that. A strange wee animal. Seems to have bred copiously with everything available and still survived – right to this day.”

In the years since, JOHN FOXX has continued to innovate within electronic, experimental and ambient spheres. Despite this, he is still very much under rated, especially compared with artists who benefited from his influence.

Ultravox1978GARY NUMAN has always acknowledged his debt to the synth rock overtures of ULTRAVOX! while DEPECHE MODE’s admiration of ‘Metamatic’ led to its incumbent engineer Gareth Jones working with the band on their own Berlin Trilogy of ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’ and ‘Black Celebration’.

So with a vast repertoire to his name, what tracks in his various guises would act as a Beginner’s Guide to the man referred to affectionately as Lord Foxx Of Chorley?

This is not intended to be a best of chronology, more a reflection of highly divergent career. With a restriction of one recording per album project, The Electricity Club lists its #Foxx20.

ULTRAVOX! My Sex (1977)

Ultravox_ultravoxUsing Brian Eno’s Minimoog with a knob marked with a sheep sticker to indicate that it made woolly sounds, Billy Currie’s classical sensibilities combined with Foxx’s detached dissatisfaction for the wonderful ‘My Sex’. Of Eno, Foxx said, “It was good to hear his stories and enact his strategies. He wasn’t greatly experienced in studio craft but he was a good co-conspirator, someone with a useful overview, who understood where we wanted to go. He was just what we wanted, really. A sort of art approach to recording”

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ultravox!’ via Island Records

ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

ULTRAVOX-ha-ha-haUtilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was Foxx moving into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the first album and the aggressive attack of interim 45 ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had been premiered as a spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. The ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of GLORIA MUNDI, a collective fronted by EDDIE & SUNSHINE who later appeared with Foxx on ‘Top Of The Pops’.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records

ULTRAVOX! Quiet Men – 12 inch version (1978)

ULTRAVOXquietmen12inchRelocating to Cologne to work with the legendary Conny Plank for their third album ‘Systems Of Romance’, ULTRAVOX! became more texturally powerful thanks to Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey, the EMS Synthi AKS of Chris Cross and the recruitment of guitarist in Robin Simon. ‘Quiet Men’ was a perfect integration of all those elements attached to a rhythm machine backbone. Of the even punchier 12 inch rework, Foxx told Record Collector in 2003: “We remixed it so that Warren’s metal beats would shred speakers”

Available on the ULTRAVOX! box set ‘The Island Years’ via Caroline International

JOHN FOXX He’s A Liquid (1980)

john_foxx-metamatic“I want to be a machine” sang Foxx on the ‘Ultravox!’ debut and he virtually went the full hog with the JG Ballard inspired ‘Metamatic’. His mission was to “Make a language for the synth and the drum machine”. The deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ was pure unadulterated Sci-Fi: “I think it was a bit of punk electronica at the right time – just before everyone else raided the shed. Historically, perhaps it defines an impulse – something that wasn’t possible before – one man and some cheap machines making music independently”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records

JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

JOHN FOXX The GardenFoxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up ‘The Garden’ recording complex and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Featuring acoustic guitar and piano, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Garden’ via Edsel Records

ANTENA The Boy From Ipanema (1982)

ANTENA The Boy From IpanemaBefore NOUVELLE VAGUE, French-Belgian combo ANTENA hit upon the idea of merging electronic forms with a samba cocktail style. Released on the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques Du Crépuscule who Foxx contributed ’A Jingle’ for the compilation ‘From Brussels With Love’, he produced their cover of ‘The Boy From Ipanema’, adding robotic textures via The Human Host. Much lighter that any of his own work, it was also quite sinister, making this a unqiue curio in the JOHN FOXX portfolio.

Available on the ANTENA album ‘Camino Del Sol’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule

JOHN FOXX Ghosts On Water (1983)

JOHN FOXX The Golden SectionFoxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check: Beatles, Church music, Psychedelia, The Shadows, The Floyd, The Velvets, Roy Orbison, Kraftwerk, and cheap pre-electro Europop”. Working with Zeus B Held, the album had a psychedelic electronic rock flavour, liberally seasoned with vocoder effects and samplers. With folk laden overtones and some frantic percussion work from HAIRCUT 100’s Blair Cunningham, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was one of the album’s highlights.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

JOHN FOXX Shine On (1985)

JOHN FOXX In Mysterious WaysBy 1985, Foxx had lost his way and got embroiled in attempting a more conventional pop sound. With its sax sample lead line, ‘Shine On’ showed Foxx could deliver a fine pop tune but he wasn’t happy: “I simply didn’t like the mid to late eighties scene – all perfect pop and white soul. I suddenly felt isolated. I remember one day finding myself half-heartedly toying with some sort of sh*tty pop music while longing to be out of the studio and working on something visual. So I thought right that’s it – time for a change”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘In Mysterious Ways’ via Edsel Records

NATION 12 Remember (1990)

NATION 12 RememberFoxx made an unexpected return to music with an acid house inspired number produced by Tim Simenon of BOMB THE BASS fame: “It was a great experience – a new underground evolving from post-industrial Detroit, using analogue instruments rescued from skips and pawn shops… Tim Simenon turned up wanting me to do some music… so Foxx was out the freezer and into the microwave…” – the other material that was recorded didn’t see the light of day until 2005.

Available on the NATION 12 album ‘Electrofear’ via Tape Modern

JOHN FOXX Sunset Rising (1995)

JOHN FOXX Cathedral Oceans‘Cathedral Oceans’ saw Foxx developing his interest in ambient forms fused with Gregorian chants, as exemplified by ‘Sunset Rising’. But the project had an extremely long genesis with the first recordings made in 1983. Inspired by his brief period as a choir boy, when asked what this material gave him that songs couldn’t, he answered: “Well, they cover a different emotional and sonic spectrum – more concerned with tranquility and contemplation. Music with beats can’t address this at all”. The third volume was released in 2005.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Complete Cathedral Oceans’ via Demon Records

JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Dust & Light (1999)

john foxx louis gordon crash&burnWeaned on ‘Metamatic’, LOUIS GORDON was a natural collaborator for Foxx’s song based comeback. Their partnership over four albums, confirmed that Foxx still had that inventive spark within electronic music. Noisy and percussive, ‘Dust & Light’ recalled the unsettling Dystopian standpoint with which Foxx had made his pioneering impact. Tracks like ‘Drive’ and ‘Automobile’ continued the theme, although Foxx sustained his interest in more psychedelic forms via songs like ‘An Ocean We Can Breathe’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Crash & Burn’ via Metamatic Records

HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX Subtext (2003)

foxx budd Translucence + Drift MusicWith beautiful piano and processed electronics, the sparse ‘Subtext’ was very reminiscent of HAROLD BUDD’s 1984 Eno collaboration ‘The Pearl’. From the ‘Translucence’ album which was twinned with the more discreet, sleepier textures of ‘Drift Music’, it was smothered in echoes and reverberations galore as slow atmospherics and glistening melodies esoterically blended into the ether. A further collaboration ‘Nighthawks’, with the additional input of Ruben Garcia, was issued in 2011.

Available on the HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX album ‘Translucence + Drift Music’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE My Life As An Echo (2009)

guthrie foxx mirrorballIf nothing, JOHN FOXX had diverse artistic interests. The ‘Mirrorball’ album with COCTEAU TWINS’ Robin Guthrie took textural guitars and echoing piano into a dreamworld that he could now enter. ‘My Life As An Echo’ was a beautiful instrumental which stopped short of being fully ambient thanks to its live drum loop. Other tracks such as ‘Estrellita’ and ‘The Perfect Line’ saw Foxx adding Glossolalia to the soundscape, recalling not only ‘Cathedral Oceans’ but Guthrie’s work with former partner Elizabeth Fraser.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE album ‘Mirrorball’ via Metamatic Records

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

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

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

GAZELLE TWIN Changelings – JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix (2012)

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS became extremely prolific and a number of remixes appeared, the best of which was for GAZELLE TWIN aka Elizabeth Bernholz. She said: “John and Benge’s remix of ‘Changelings’ was really delicate and elegant. It’s one of my favourites of all the remixes because it doesn’t alter the song much at all. I love the addition of John’s vocal in there too. It was perfectly suited. I am so flattered that they chose to put (it) on the new ‘Evidence’ album. It’s really special for me”.

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

JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John_Foxx_Jori_Hulkkonen_-_European_Splendour_CDFoxx and JORI HULKKONEN had worked together previously on the songs ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’ for the Finnish producer’s solo albums ‘Dualizm’ and ‘Errare Machinale Est’ respectively, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their eventual ‘European Splendour’ EP took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ possessed a glorious pastoral elegance coupled with an otherworldly anthemic chorus.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO The Forbidden Experiment (2014)

John Foxx & Steve D'Agostino Evidence Of Time TravelWith a Dystopian backdrop, Foxx returned to the more mechanical approach in collaboration with STEVE D’AGOSTINO for the soundtrack of Karborn’s experimental short film. Described as “a unique investigation of the terrors and pleasures of temporal displacement”, it was “a sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”. The rumbling rush of ‘The Forbidden Experiment’ became a favourite of those Foxx enthusiasts who preferred his instrumental work to have more rhythmic tension.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO album ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ via Metamatic Records


Ghost_Harmonic_CodexGHOST HARMONIC was a project comprising of Foxx and Benge alongside Japanese violinist Diana Yukawa. Foxx said: “the underlying intention was we all wanted to see what might happen when a classically trained musician engaged with some of the possibilities a modern recording studio can offer…” – the result was a startling dynamic between Yukawa’s heavily treated violin and the looming electronics. The closing album title track was a string and synth opus of soothing bliss.

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX The Beautiful Ghost (2015)

JOHN FOXX-LondonOvergrown-artwork‘London Overgrown’ was Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, ‘The Beautiful Ghost’ was like Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century with beautiful string synths placed in a cavernous reverb. Recalling WILLIAM ORBIT’s ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, ‘London Overgrown’ was an accessible chill-out record that encompassed emotion and subtle melody.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘London Overgrown’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS A Man & A Woman (2016)

JOHN FOXX 21st CenturyA previously unreleased song, ‘A Man & A Woman’ was a surprise in that it was less rigid than previous JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS recordings. Featuring the enchanting voice of Hannah Peel, it was a departure that even featured some acoustic guitar flourishes. Despite this, vintage synths were still a key element to his mathematical theories: “Analogue is a bit more complex – still mysterious and rebellious. Digital is more controllable. Use where necessary. Avoid anything with a multi-function menu!”

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

A selection of the JOHN FOXX back catalogue is available from http://johnfoxx.tmstor.es/




Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th June 2016, updated 25th February 2018

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