With hypnotising hints of KATE BUSH, percolating Sakamoto-like textures prevail as the Greek-born songstress announces “I don’t know where I come from… do you know my name?” before a metronomic beat kicks in to lead a dramatic house-laden climax. The song is an ode to “humanity, the world we live in and our importance (or unimportance) as individuals and / or as a whole” according to SARAH P.
The video by Italian director Oirot Buntot is a mini-arthouse movie filmed at the Teatro Rossi Aperto in Pisa and paints a moving picture of the philosophical question “Who am I and where I come from?”
Strangely perhaps, the film was actually conceived to another song. But as SARAH P. eloquently puts it: “Science may have proved that opposites attract each other – but that doesn’t always apply in life; like-minded people attract each other, too – perhaps more often than rarely. And since I’m a romantic, I like to think that a series of events brought Oirot Buntot and me together to magically intermix our artistic work and serve each other’s vision, while enhancing our own. How many chances for two independent artworks that were made at a different time, to find each other and become one thing?”
And it all comes together perfectly in this musical tale of modern day disorientation.
‘Who Am I’ is available now as a download single, the album of the same name out on 12th May 2017 via EraseRestart Records.
The switch to digital technology in the production of synthesizers caused a seismic shift not just in the way that music was produced, but also how analogue devices were perceived.
The advent of pioneering products such as the Yamaha DX7 was the catalyst which caused many musicians to throw out/sell their old Moogs and Korgs with the viewpoint that these new devices could do everything sonically that they could plus more besides.
The newly pioneered Frequency Modulation and Phase Distortion forms of synthesis meant that harmonically complex sounds such as bells and pianos could now be simulated and the warm, analogue sounds of synths such as the Roland Jupiter range began to sound immediately dated in comparison.
The trend was continued when both Korg and Roland introduced their PCM/sample-based M1 and D50 synths which added in new layers of complexity in sound creation which again would have been impossible to create using a voltage controlled oscillator-based device.
One only has to listen retrospectively to songs like ‘Human’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE or albums such as ‘Provision’ by SCRITTI POLITTI to hear how the sawtooth-based electronic sounds of the past had almost overnight become replaced by shiny bell-like tones and THAT omnipresent rubbery ‘Lately’ DX bass sound.
However, hindsight is a wonderful thing and many producers/musicians were left with major egg on their faces when it eventually became apparent that digital synths weren’t the be all and end all, lacking the warmth and ease of programmability that their earlier analogue counterparts were able to provide. Tales of vintage synths being sold for relative peanuts are now legendary and most keyboard players who experienced this era will have an appropriate sob story to tell relating to this!
The next wave of technology to have a significant impact was the birth of the digital sampler – now musicians were able to grab any sound and trigger it from a keyboard and again this had a huge effect on the sound of music production.
Ironically in 2016, everything has now come full circle; manufacturers are now frantically reissuing remakes of earlier analogue and digital products, while with the birth of the virtual synthesizer, packages such as the Arturia Collection V offer up software versions of the Prophet 5, Oberheim SEM and Minimoog at an affordable price.
The choice of digital synthesizers here is a fairly personal one and it isn’t intended to endorse a particular product. Some of the chosen synthesizers weren’t necessarily the highest specified ones either, but were adopted because a producer/musician managed to use it in such a way that belied their lower price point. The synths chosen are also from the first wave of digital synths and as such doesn’t include any of the current wave of digital-based products.
FAIRLIGHT CMI (1979)
The Rolls Royce of samplers and a fully integrated workstation that included a digital synth, sequencer and rhythm programmer, the Australian Fairlight CMI and its 28mb of memory (!) indelibly left its mark on music production. Costing as much as a decent sized house, the CMI helped transform the sound of artists such as JEAN-MICHEL JARRE who used it extensively on ‘Magnetic Fields’ and ‘Zoolook’. Its omnipresent ‘Orchestra 5’ “Whooomph!” patch was used and abused by everybody from PET SHOP BOYS, KLAUS SCHULZE and KATE BUSH to U2 and prog rockers YES…
Iconic example of use: PET SHOP BOYS ‘It’s A Sin’
NED SYNCLAVIER (1979)
The Synclavier was an all singing, all dancing sampling mega-workstation that was favoured by DEPECHE MODE, MICHAEL JACKSON and THE CURE. The cost of some of the versions of the Synclavier made the Fairlight seem affordable in comparison, with a top-spec system going for the outrageous price of $200,000 dollars! Like the CMI, the Synclavier was way ahead of its time and brought a higher quality of sampling and sequencing into a few privileged high end studios.
Iconic example of use: SOFT CELL ‘Tainted Love’
CON BRIO ADS200 (1980)
With only two units being produced, once seen, the Con Brio ADS200 can never be forgotten. Looking like something out of ‘Space 1999’, with a built-in display monitor and clad wall-to-wall in veneer, the ADS200 is probably the nearest the synth world came to an outlandish concept car; it looked incredible, but ultimately was doomed to remain a pipe dream. One belonged to BECK’s father David Campbell who reportedly paid £17,000 for it. The ADS200’s implementation of FM synthesis raised a few legal eyebrows at Yamaha although no action was taken.
Iconic example of use: Fittingly the Con Brio ADS100 got used for sound effects on the movie reboot of ‘Star Trek’
PPG WAVE 2 (1981)
The striking and very blue-looking PPG (Palm Products GmbH) Wave 2 synth became another popular digital synth. Its bell-like quality can be heard on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’. TANGERINE DREAM also toured with one extensively after assisting the company with the development many of their other products. Martin Gore had a Casio MT30 sat on his PPG Wave 2 with a ‘Fairlite’ name stuck on the back in what could be seen as a side swipe at Vince Clarke who had ploughed a large percentage of his royalties into a Fairlight purchase.
Iconic example of use: DEPECHE MODE ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’
YAMAHA GS1 (1981)
Despite its 19th Century appearance and looking for all intents and purposes like a grand piano, the GS1 was the first keyboard produced by Yamaha to feature the patented Frequency Modulation (FM) technology. Like the Fairlight, the GS1’s prohibitive price tag of $25,000 meant that it was out of reach for most musicians. The size and weight of the machine at nearly 90kg meant that it was never intended to be a touring machine; only a 100 units were manufactured too, but it still deserves its place in synthesizer history for kick-starting the FM revolution.
Iconic example of use: TOTO ‘Africa’
DIGITAL KEYBOARDS SYNERGY (1982)
The Synergy used additive synthesis to generate its sounds and its 74 note keyboard made it attractive to keyboard players like WENDY CARLOS who used the Synergy on ‘Digital Moonscapes’ and ‘Beauty In The Beast’. It was unusual in that it allowed the layering of four sounds and also possessed a four track in-built sequencer, but unfortunately lost its memory once the machine was powered down. Sadly, the DX7 signalled the death knell for the Synergy, costing three times less and being fully programmable…
Iconic example of use: WENDY CARLOS ‘Tron’ soundtrack
YAMAHA DX7 (1983)
Taking the technology first used in the GS1, the DX7 brought FM Synthesis to the masses and along the way transformed the sound of the charts between 1983-1989. The DX’s distinctive rubbery bass sound started to appear everywhere from A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’, HOWARD JONES’ ‘What is Love?’ through to LEVEL 42’s ‘Hot Water’. But unless you were a musical brainiac like BRIAN ENO, the DX7 was notoriously difficult to program and legend has it that most units which were returned back to Yamaha for any maintenance still had their preset sound banks left untouched!
Iconic example of use: BERLIN ‘Take My Breath Away’
YAMAHA DX1 (1983)
The DX1 could be considered as a connoisseur version of the DX7, every part of it is THAT more expensive looking from its fully weighted keyboard, deeper control panel through to its wooden end cheeks. The sound of the DX1 was much thicker than the often thin sounding DX7 because the user was able to layer two sounds together. If however you intend buying one of these, the secondary market is extremely limited as only 140 models were produced. Users included PET SHOP BOYS and DIRE STRAITS.
Iconic example of use: DIRE STRAITS ‘Money for Nothing’
CASIO CZ101 (1984)
The CASIO CZ101 and YAMAHA DX100 were almost like distantly related cousins; both had mini keys, utilised digital sound generating techniques and had guitar strap pegs which allowed them to be played in a keytar style. The 101 was adopted by Vince Clarke and was used extensively on the debut ERASURE album ‘Wonderland’. Despite being digital, the CZ range was still capable of some pretty rich analogue style sounds and patches like the Organ preset soon found themselves appearing on many a house track.
Iconic examples of use: BLANCMANGE ‘Believe You Me’ album
EMU EMULATOR II (1984)
Much beloved of DEPECHE MODE and NEW ORDER, the follow-up to the original Emulator was an 8 bit machine that had analogue filters. In contrast to the rack-mounted Akai range, the keyboard-based Emulator became a much more popular live machine, with sample storage being held on 5.5 inch floppy disks. The addition of MIDI compatibility, in-built sequencer and separate audio outputs made it a highly sought after sampler. PET SHOP BOYS’ Neil Tennant played one in the infamous Old Grey Whistle Test performance where he fluffs the string part in ‘Opportunities’.
Iconic example of use: DEPECHE MODE ‘Christmas Island’
ENSONIQ MIRAGE (1984)
The Mirage was a good value for money sampler/synthesizer, although the specifications these days look laughable with 8 bit, 333 note sequencing memory and 128kb of RAM. It featured analogue filters, a velocity sensitive keyboard and 8 note polyphony. Even now, players swear by the warmth that the filter can give to a sample, but the inscrutable programming method it utilised via hexadecimal-code manipulation meant that editing samples was only for the faint-hearted! Users included SKINNY PUPPY and JANET JACKSON on the ‘Control’ album.
Iconic example of use: SKINNY PUPPY ‘Jackhammer’
KORG DW8000 (1985)
The heart of the KORG DW8000’s sound was digitally generated from its DWGS (Digital Waveform Generator System). The DW8000 was a bit of a hybrid, half-way between a DX7 and an analogue synthesizer in that its waveforms were digital and its filter analogue. The synth gained a lot of fans because of its in-built arpeggiator and FX and although not as successful as the M1, it was still used by artists such as DEPECHE MODE and KEITH EMERSON.
Iconic example of use: EMERSON, LAKE & POWELL ‘Love Blind’
YAMAHA DX100 (1985)
The DX100 along with the FB01 sound module were the entry level points for those wishing to explore FM synthesis. Whilst not possessing the same amount of operators as its bigger DX brothers, the DX100 became popular with Detroit Techno producers like Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins because of its distinctive bass sound. If you also check out an equipment list from the ‘Electric Café’ era of KRAFTWERK, you will see that one surprisingly also found its way into the German electronic maestros synth armoury too.
Iconic example of use: RHYTHIM IS RHYTHIM ‘Nude Photo’
SEQUENTIAL CIRCUITS PROPHET VS (1986)
After their success with the Prophet 5, Prophet 10 and Pro One, the Prophet VS was a departure for Sequential Circuits and featured an innovative joystick which allowed the user to mix/program sounds. The VS was used on the soundtrack to ‘Tron’ and John Carpenter’s ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ with synthesist Alan Howarth using some of the synth’s more ‘eastern’ sounding presets to evoke the atmosphere needed for the film. This was another favourite synth for Vince Clarke and featured extensively on both ‘The Circus’ and ‘The Innocents’ albums.
Iconic example of use: ERASURE ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be’
BUCHLA 700 (1987)
Although generally known as Robert Moog’s competitor in the analogue modular synth stakes, Don Buchla actually produced a digital synth in the shape of the 700. Used by Alessandro Cortini of NINE INCH NAILS fame, it used a mixture of synthesis techniques (FM/Wavetable/Subtractive/Additive) and in true esoteric Buchla fashion, let the user create their own tunings with as many or as little notes per octave as wanted. Only six were made, but BENGE went on to create a mini-album using the 700 called ‘Chimeror’ produced as a result an hour’s improvisation with the machine.
Iconic example of use: BENGE ‘Chimeror’
ROLAND D50 (1987)
Utilising a combination of Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) and Linear Arithmetic (LA) synthesis, the D50 was another omnipresent synth. Its many famous users included ENYA, VANGELIS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and Nick Rhodes from DURAN DURAN. For some reason there was a bitter rivalry between M1 and D50 owners as to who had the ‘best’ synth, and to this day, debates still rage on in synth forums! Arguments aside, the D50 was certainly one of the ‘big three’ digital synths that transformed the sound libraries of most synth players in the period.
Iconic example of use: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE ‘Computer Weekend’
AKAI S1000 (1988)
Despite being a royal pain in the ar*e to program due to its small LED screen, the S1000 was THE digital sampler which found its way into the equipment list of every decent studio of the period. Bringing sampling to the masses it also featured a timestretch function which let samples be warped and became the de rigueur vocal effect on tracks such as JOSH WINK’s seminal acid track ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ and DOUBLE 99’s Speed Garage anthem ‘Ripgroove’.
Iconic example of use: PORTISHEAD ‘Dummy’ album
KORG M1 (1988)
Alongside the D50 and the DX7, the M1 was THE synth that was most likely to appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’ when a band featured a keyboard player. With a range of sounds from arguably the first decent ‘real’ piano sound through to some complex/atmospheric patches, the M1 was adopted by everybody from house producers using the organ bass like on ‘Show Me Love’ by ROBIN S through to your typical functions band of the day. OMD’s 1991 ‘Sugar Tax’ album is almost entirely Korg M1!
Iconic example of use: GARY NUMAN ‘Sacrifice’ album
ROLAND W30 (1989)
The W30 deserves its place if only for the way that Liam Howlett from THE PRODIGY was so devoted to it for nigh on 20 years. Despite being Roland’s 1st workstation synthesizer and featuring sampling technology, Howlett used the W30 primarily as a sequencer to drive sounds/loops from his Akai Sampler and would go onto use up until 2008. Howlett’s live use of the W30 was so extensive that he bought up the remaining keys from Roland Japan as he used to break them every other show…
Iconic example of use: THE PRODIGY ‘Everybody In The Place’
ROLAND JD800 (1991)
The JD800 signalled a return to the analogue-style design philosophy of its older machines with plenty of real-time control and sliders, but at the time wasn’t a terribly successful selling machine. The machine featured a keyboard with aftertouch which allowed extra control of its sounds, but if you manage to find a JD800 on the s/h market now, this was one of the things to fail on the machine as the glue used had a habit of melting. Famous users of the JD800 include: FAITHLESS, UNDERWORLD and DEPECHE MODE.
Iconic example of use: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE ‘Chronologie 4’
WALDORF WAVE (1993)
Although a digital synth (it was Wavetable based), the Wave had analogue filters which helped give it its warmth. Its users included HANS ZIMMER, LEFTFIELD, ANTHONY ROTHER, KLAUS SCHULZE and ULRICH SCHNAUSS who still has an orange model – it was also unusual in being expandable from 16 voices up to 48 voices. With only roughly 200 sold, the Wave pretty much put Waldorf out of business, losing money on each unit shipped. Due to its scarcity, the Wave is highly collectable with a price tag close to $10,000 for one.
Iconic example of use: BJÖRK ‘Violently Happy (Live Version)’
CLAVIA NORD LEAD (1994)
The original Clavia Nord Lead helped coin the term “virtual analog synthesis”. It was followed by a series of other machines all in a distinctive red livery and was adopted by many artists including NINE INCH NAILS, UNDERWORLD and FLUKE. The addition of several real-time controls plus the ability to mimic several retro analogue synths meant that the Lead became an extremely popular synth with a range that still endures today.
Iconic example of use: THE PRODIGY ‘Funky Sh*t’
KORG PROPHECY (1995)
The Prophecy was unusual in that it was a monophonic synth that used virtual modelling to emulate everything from blown and plucked sounds, through to thicker, more analogue textures. Probably most famous for providing one of the lead sounds on THE PRODIGY’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, the Prophecy was also blessed with aftertouch and ribbon control on what was often affectionately referred to as a ‘sausage roll’ on the left hand edge of the synthesizer.
Iconic example of use: THE PRODIGY ‘Smack My Bitch Up’
KURZWEIL K2500 (1996)
The K2500 in its keyboard and rack version was popular as a workstation synth, featuring a synth engine, sequencer and sampling with the additional ability to load in Akai samples. It found favour as live machine for several years with PINK FLOYD and in the studio with NINE INCH NAILS. The rack version wasn’t the most user friendly machine to use due its over-reliance on its editing screen, but the machine had a lush warm sound to them and many users continue to swear by them.
Iconic example of use: PLASTIKMAN ‘Plasticine’
WALDORF MICROWAVE XT (1998)
With the rise of melodic trance, synths like the brightly coloured (or some might say ‘lairy’) Microwave XT from the Waldorf range help artists such as FERRY CORSTEN re-introduce some welcome digital-based analogue sounds back into the musical marketplace. The Microwave XT, although a baby brother to the HUGE Wave synth, was still an extremely fat sounding synth and coloured its most prominent control (the filter cut-off) in a fetching shade of red to differentiate it from the other controls on its orange front panel. NINE INCH NAILS also count amongst one its famous users.
Iconic example of use: THE ART OF NOISE ‘The Seduction of Claude Debussy’ album
Canada often treats the listener of electronica to some sparkling gems, including GRIMES, DELERIUM, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY or RATIONAL YOUTH, and PARALLELS are now one of them.
The Toronto based trio consisting of the siblings Holly and Nick Dodson plus Artem Galperine, topped the electronic charts in 2015 and have toured extensively since. Known for their use of vintage synths, including the Korg PolySix and Juno 60, the self-confessed fans of DEPECHE MODE, KATE BUSH and NEW ORDER have now released their third opus ‘Metropolis’.
The claim that “PARALLELS has been more than just a music project to us – it’s something we’ve lived, breathed and dreamt about for many years now” proves that the passion to make music is deeply ingrained in the trio, who joined many other artists to present their work through Pledge.
‘Metropolis’ doesn’t just share the album title with PARRALOX’s 2010 stunning electro dance outing; it’s as synthy and as dishy as that of their Australian friends. The title track, which also opens the long player, has been featured as Song Of The Week on CBC Radio 1’s ‘Here & Now’.
It’s all about high energy, wholesome songs, sung in a stunning voice, which at times recalls MADONNA in her prime. Apart from the mellower pieces, there are some Eurovision worthy anthems, like ‘Civilisation’.
There’s also something dark lurking behind the candied front, which represents itself beautifully on ‘I.R.L’. The hounding vocal leads the elusive melody, studded with perfect electronica and that bass, as if taken from the soundtrack to ‘Twin Peaks’.
‘Ocean, Moon & Tide’ sounds like a female-led ERASURE and ‘Catch’ has the urgency found in the familiar tracks by ROBYN, with synth lines of AND ONE.
The exuberant synth is joined by soft rock elements in ‘The Kids Will Save Detroit’, which also featured on ‘Civilisation’ EP. This tune could truly pass as a something from a film soundtrack. Similarly, ‘Technicolor’ has those larger than life BON JOVI or BRYAN ADAMS guitar riffs, before a more contemporary sound comes back on ‘The Last Man’. The lineal, almost tribal textures here, together with gentle synthesis and subdued lead, close the production.
While the sugar-coated vocal may not appeal to some listeners of the genre, it has to be said that PARALLELS have done their homework and produced an excellent dance album once again. Dodson’s voice has a luscious quality, without being too sickly, and it corresponds with the poppy electronica beautifully. Could she be the female Andy Bell? Sure so!
Since her debut album ‘The Broken Wave’ in early 2011, HANNAH PEEL has undergone something of a transformation.
Her collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS and BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE have seen more electronic elements absorbed into her own traditional template where the piano, violin, trombone and music box have been her instruments of choice.
The title track of her interim EP ‘Fabricstate’ saw analogue synthesizers take an increasing role with a blistering solo amongst the organic instrumentation.
But on her 2014 seasonal single ‘Find Peace’, Peel went the full hog with a dreamy cacophony of electronics and percussive mantras.
‘Awake But Always Dreaming’ is Peel’s long awaited second album and it is an adventurous electronically textured experience, taking its lead from artists like THE BLUE NILE and KATE BUSH while Delia and Daphne also linger in the background.
Themed around memory and the effects of dementia, the album’s opening gambit ‘All That Matters’ is marvellous slice of driving synthpop with sparkling arpeggios, staccato voice samples and uplifting bursts of symphonic strings. A mantra to live in the moment, Peel said the song was: “A constant reminder that no matter what life throws at you, to not forget about the ones who will always care, the ones who are standing waiting to welcome you back, the ones who will forever look after you and say simply, they love you. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters, caring and being cared for. Yet to love and not be loved is one of the saddest things of all.”
A spacey ambience provides the steadfast setting for ‘Standing On The Roof Of The World’ before whirring synths alter the mood. Meanwhile, on the LITTLE BOOTS styled electropop of ‘Hope Lasts’, our heroine plays around with some great counter-melodies for a sumptuous statement of faith.
A pretty piano introduces ‘Tenderly’ with a combination of exquisite strings and synthesized noises constituting the rhythmic passage.
Continuing along a similar palette, a sparse percussive motif holds down the very personal ‘Don’t Take It Out On Me’ as drones and low slung bass build to add to the absorbing drama.
Meanwhile, on the widescreen ballad ‘Invisible City’, tinkling ivories smothered in reverb provide the structure while the emergent orchestrations recall the blurry overtones of BRIAN ENO’s ‘Just Another Day’.
The second half signals the more experimental aspect of the album; in an interview with The Electricity Club, HANNAH PEEL said: “the running order is quite specific in terms of how it goes into the rabbit hole of the brain and the darker side. The instrumentals and tracks with no lyrics represent how people lose their speech and hallucinate, so with that second side which is more psychedelic and the repeating of lyrics, I made sure certain elements were brought out…”
‘Octavia’ is an abstract art piece that reflects aspects of Peel’s MARY CASIO project with cascading woodwinds and brass combining with a buzzing barrage of electronics, not dissimilar in vein to GOLDFRAPP’s earlier material on ‘Felt Mountain’. Following a short burst of piano, more strident notions kick in and it all starts to sound like PHILIP GLASS reinterpreting something off OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’!
The experimentation continues with the comparatively song-based eight minute title track; a twisted electronic adventure with ‘Fourth World’ vocal textures, percussive bleep collages blend in with passages of synthphonic strings seemingly trapped in a nearby radio.
A mournful piano shapes ‘Conversations’, the most Bush-like offering on the collection, as the search for further memories goes on. Lonely and heartfelt, its sonic representation of loss sets the scene for the challenging expedition of ‘Foreverest’.
Symbolism for life’s mountain to climb, it’s a delightfully odd fusing of unsettling swoops and windy soundscapes coupled to bursts of clattering offbeats.
Linked by a claptrap, the second half of this sub-nine minute progressive epic develops into a salvo of mechanical noise while some VANGELIS-derived interventions also drift in.
A beautiful music box assisted cover of Paul Buchanan’s ‘Cars In The Garden’ ends the album and confirms HANNAH PEEL’s affinity with THE BLUE NILE. A harmonic duet with Hayden Thorpe of WILD BEASTS whose song ‘Palace’ Peel covered on ‘Rebox2’, it makes for an emotive closer as gentle synths wallow in and out of the consciousness. With ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’ being a record about memory, it poignantly captures “the luminous and beautiful formation of memories and the devastating loss or slow, insidious damage to the mind”.
Producer and collaborator Erland Cooper has done a masterful job of merging traditional instruments with the electronics on this artistically ambitious album. If HANNAH PEEL’s debut was ‘The Broken Wave’, then ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’ could be considered ‘The Tenth Wave’; as KATE BUSH described ‘The Ninth Wave’ concept on ‘The Hounds Of Love’ as a person’s “past, present and future coming to keep them awake”, the comparison is not unreasonable.
An impressive body of work that will startle even her new followers who have come on board via her work with JOHN FOXX, ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’ sees HANNAH PEEL at her most experimental yet. And it’s an achievement she can be very proud of.
KATE BUSH’s return to live performance this year has highlighted the debt owned to her by any number of female fronted musical projects. THE KNIFE take their lead from Bush’s uncompromising stances while GOLDFRAPP’s avant pop instincts show that while Ms Bush pushed boundaries, she had tunes as well.
More recently, the kooky demeanour of the lady who came up with ‘Babooshka’ has also been omnipresent in Sweden’s IAMAMIWHOAMI but the more epic, gothic overtones of Bush’s work have now appeared in a new Brooklyn based electro duo called AZAR SWAN.
Comprising of Zohra Atash and Joshua Strawn, AZAR SWAN’s drum machine laden, synth and sample assisted template dominates their second album ‘And Blow Us A Kiss’. The immediately appealing title track is a dance friendly death rattle with a beautifully feline vocal from Atash backed by string machine chills and sombre brass tones. Meanwhile, the brilliant new single ‘We Hunger’ borrows melodically from GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Strict Machine’ and adds some eerie exotic vocal timbres reminiscent of KELLI ALI, whose most recent album ‘Band Of Angels’ is possibly the one most comparable with ‘And Blow Us A Kiss’.
AZAR SWAN’s other cited influences include cult industrialists FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY and Essex’s own sonic experimentalists THESE NEW PURITANS; this is quite evident in their cavernous sound. The tribal ‘Bury The Sun’ brings in contemporary sonic references such as GAZELLE TWIN and NIKI & THE DOVE while the exotic drama of ‘Kiss Of Life’ is a marvellously percussive number that comes over like a modern Bond Theme sans strings and even breaks down to percapella at various stages of the song. And with a detuned rhythmical backbone, the minimal ‘Sugar’ makes the most of Atash’s passionate voice around some rich synthesizer moods.
Benefiting from a more streamlined compositional nucleus following the frustrations of multiple musicians slowing the writing and performing process in their previous band RELIGIOUS TO DAMN, the pair’s mutually revived interest in electronic music and hip-hop has blended to form a dark but accessible hybrid that will be enjoyed by those who like their music to be brooding.
‘And Blow Us A Kiss’ is released by Zoo Music in CD, LP and download formats