Tag: Katsen

Missing in Action: MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO

Along with VILE ELECTRODES, KATSEN and ARTHUR & MARTHA, Teeside’s MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO were among a wave of independent British acts who rode alongside more mainstream acts like LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS, HURTS and MIRRORS to use the synthesizer as their prime musical weapon of choice following the extended hangover after Britpop.

Comprising of two cousins Kev Oyston and Rob Boggild, MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO only released one album ‘Music & Machines’ in 2008.

While the duo quietly disbanded afterwards, their songs on dystopian themes such as surveillance and artificial intelligence have become scarily prophetic… “machines have eyes” indeed as the smart phone and voice-control systems like Alexa embed themselves into society without a flinch.

Ten years on from ‘Music & Machines’, Kev Oyston kindly took time to chat about his time with MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO, his continuing admiration for GARY NUMAN and his new more unorthodox musical project THE SOULLESS PARTY…

MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO was something of a family affair?

It certainly was. I teamed up with my cousin Rob who is something of a whizz on the synths. We grew up quite close. Almost like brothers. He had a loft conversion which was built in the early 80s to house his nifty collection of synths. He had a college band with his best mate and they spent many an hour composing tracks or doing covers. I was a tad younger, so when I visited, I’d lurk around the loft ladders listening in to all the strange and wonderful synthy noises. I had already become fascinated in that sound at quite a young age. I’d already been taken in by KRAFTWERK, JEAN MICHEL JARRE, VISAGE and of course GARY NUMAN.

As time wore on, I got older and started buying my own synths and tried to create my own sounds throughout the 90s which were a little bit experimental.

By early 2000s, I’d started writing actual songs and this is when Rob caught on to what I was up to and wanted to share in writing duties too. The ‘Myspace’ era was taking off and it was then we decided to take what tracks we had out on the road.

What artists were you particularly influenced by?

As mentioned already, I was a huge fan of early Numan and of course KRAFTWERK. It was the usual late 70s – early 80s synth crowd really. However, from the late 80s and even till now, I still regard JOHN FOXX’s first seminal album ‘Metamatic’ as one of my favourite albums of all time.

When I heard the album for the very first time in the early 80s, I hated it. It didn’t make for comfortable listening to my, probably, very young tastes. However, as I got older, I revisited it, almost by mistake. My thoughts and tastes had obviously completely changed. I was completely blown away by it. He was far ahead of his time and I just love the cold, concrete sounds and effects that he uses to which his voice perfectly complements in such an eerie way. A sublime atmospheric album. It was an album never to be repeated though, in my opinion, as I don’t think he could quite capture that feeling in the same way with his future offerings.

What sort of synths were you using and what do you think of these remakes like Korg’s APR Odyssey and MS20-mini?

Back then, SH101, Korg Microkorg, Access Virus, Alesis Micron – even a Stylophone. I very much welcome the retro synths that are coming out now. Those original sounds are still the best and sound just as warm and juicy as they did originally. I’d like to get my hands on an original Moog of course! Wouldn’t we all?!

‘Think Like You’ had a few Numanesque mannerisms…

Yeah, you could say that. I think Numan had always been a bit of an influence for my MIT stuff. I don’t have the best singing voice, but I did try to bring in different and ‘familiar’ inflections that were reminiscent from singers in the 70s and 80s. Not a direct mimic, but a similar tone to say, Numan, Midge Ure and even a bit of Oakey. Not sure if it came out that way.

Just out of interest, what do you think of Numan’s recent creative rebirth with ‘Savage’, which appears to have finally achieved more of a right balance between synths and rock?

It’s nice to see. I’ll always try to catch a Numan gig where I can. It’s lovely to hear him do the classics of course, but his new stuff is also up there with being quite catchy and riffy. I know he hit some rough patches musically for many years, but he’s turned it around for the better.

I know from what I’ve seen and read, he’s a true family man and they have played a big part in encouraging him to keep going and getting stronger. He’s achingly lovely and humble in interviews and to hear how he’s coped with personal battles is inspiring stuff. He could have easily given it up I’m sure, but with that support he’s had, its brilliant to see him bouncing back in a big way and signing up to a large label.

‘What’s The Matter With You? featured KID MOXIE way before the profile she has now within music? How did the collaboration come about?

It was really a favour for a favour as I’d already done a couple of little remixes for Eleni and we’d always be talking and sharing ideas. It was a pleasure to have her do the backing on that particular track. It was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek humorous number. I think with Eleni’s vocals, it worked pretty well.

‘Dance To The Record Machine’ had that electro Schaffel stomp which GOLDFRAPP popularised…

Yes, it was rather a cheeky nod to them, I think. I just liked that glammy sound at the time and wanted to utilise something similar.

Of course, always been a huge GOLDFRAPP fan since their ‘Felt Mountain’ album, so it was obviously another influence at the time.

‘Machines’ is more than relevant today, especially in the context of the internet and social media?

Well, it was kind of written with the internet in view and bearing in mind it was the early days of social media as, again it was the ‘Myspace’ thing that was happening back then when it was written, there was a general feeling of being ‘watched’ or looked at by lots of strange people. I think it was with that paranoia in mind that the track was written.

Now everyone can be looked at and watched or judged by millions of strange people without your knowing!

MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO were doing quite a bit of remix work for acts like KID MOXIE and RED BLOODED WOMEN…

Yes, I really enjoyed working with lots of different artists. Again, it was the early ‘Myspace’ days and a lot of musicians would talk and support each other in many different ways. For me, remixing was a way to try and grow my own knowledge, technical ability and experience. It was an opportunity to experiment with music that wasn’t my own and to see what I could do to make a track sound interesting and different from its original form.

It was nice of the artists I worked with to let me run free, so to speak, on their tracks. I listen back now to some of those mixes and I can detect a lot of naivety and very rough edges on my part as I tried to do different things. It was a big learning curve.

You were playing a lot of concerts in 2007 and 2008 around the UK, plus the mainstream press were catching onto that LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX thing, did you think your time might be coming?

Not at all. I never viewed what we were doing as a meal ticket to huge success. My view was and always has been – As long as you enjoy what you do and the music you make, and you don’t set any unreal expectations, you’ll be fine. You never know what might happen.

But if you put too much pressure on yourself to be seen in all the right places or trying to make the most ‘current’ music just because you desperately want to be heard by a label, then it becomes too much of a chore and unenjoyable. It can all end abruptly and with an empty feeling.

But after a London gig in late 2008, MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO sort of disappeared, what happened?

Life stuff happened really. I got married and we’ve now got 2 lovely little boys. My hair rapidly turned grey over night with a few wrinkles and a nicely nurtured Dad bod! I’m not sure I would cut a dash as the lead singer of a pop band these days! So nowadays I keep a low profile behind the safety of a synthesizer and laptop. I’m now writing under the guise of THE SOULLESS PARTY where the sounds are slightly darker and sinister compared to MIT.

However, I still like to keep up to press with the latest electronic releases thanks to you guys at TEC and Electronic Sound mag. I try to keep my ear close to the ground and regularly listen to music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud to find something new and different. I even have a regular radio slot on BBC Tees where I talk about latest electronic releases.

How do you look back on that period now, what might you have done differently on ‘Music & Machines’ and with MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO in hindsight?

I’m really quite happy with what we achieved. Admittedly, I think we were an amateur act that were trying to experiment and get things to sound right. We did okay. We also seemed to be a little bit on the cusp of being in the right place at the right time.

There were a lot of similar or likeminded synth acts about at the time and the London scene was seeing a nice little resurge in live electronic acts and it was lovely to be a part of that. The best show I think we played at was Bedsitland hosted by Tracy McKenzie and the lovely Wiggy who sadly passed away. It just seemed to be the right atmosphere and crowd for us that night. I guess more nights like that would have suited us.

Possibly the best MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO song ‘A Soulless Party’ wasn’t included on the album; why was that?

Do you know, I don’t know? I can’t remember if we were going to use it as a B-Side to a potential CD single release thing that never happened. I’m pleased you liked it. I’m seriously thinking about doing a little re-issue of Music and Machines and will probably get it put on there.

KATSEN did a great cover of it…

Yes, it was a nice little boppy version they did of it with Chris Blackburn running the vox. I think it suited their vibe pretty well. I was actually very flattered they did it and have always liked what Chris does. We originally clicked by having similar interests and I asked if I could mix an old KATSEN track called ‘I’m A Doctor’ which I had fun doing. He asked me to mix a few more tracks from then on. Many years had passed, and it was a nice surprise to be asked to do a remix again for him.

Of course, this song inspired the moniker of your current project THE SOULLESS PARTY, how does this musically differ from MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO?

Massively different. I think as I’ve gotten older and slowed down a bit, I’ve started to appreciate the wider field of music and what it has to offer. I’m heavily into Jazz and classical music. My heart still beats for the electronic sound though.

You’ve continued your association with KID MOXIE via THE SOULLESS PARTY and there was this striking track on her ‘1888’ album called ‘Blackberry Fields’?

Yes, we really like Eleni from KID MOXIE. She was such a sport to let me remix for her in the past etc. It was equally lovely that she asked if she could take an existing track that that was written for my ‘Tales From The Black Meadow’ project and do a version of it for her album. It’s testament to how versatile she is as an artist and how willing she is to try different things and experiment with her music. I think it suited the album’s theme really well.

Fast forward to today, and distributing music to retail via digital is more straightforward as well as more independent radio stations and bloggers on the web; so is this a blessing or does that mean there’s an even bigger sea of varying quality to wade through to be noticed?

It’s nice to be able to sell on digital platforms like Bandcamp who are massively fair to hard working artists and musicians. You can also use Bandcamp to sell your own CDs and vinyl, and again, they are fantastically fair on how you get paid as an artist for your product.

On the other hand, and this may sound a bit like a rant – it’s quite a kick in the teeth if you’re trying to get heard on popular platforms such as Spotify or iTunes as the rewards for plays or purchases are astonishingly miniscule and insignificant. It almost feels pointless to place yourself on these platforms as there isn’t any good way to be found or categorised properly and you’d be instantly lost in the melee of other artists. On top of that, we are poorly paid due to the fat cat owners of these platforms taking ginormous chunks for themselves. There’s always someone who is going to profit. It’s like you’re paying them a huge sum, simply to have the privilege of being on their site.

Any thoughts on the current wave of UK independent electronic artists, anyone you like?

There’s plenty of things happening out there now as the creation of electronic music has become even more easier thanks to advances in technology. I’m pretty excited about a new act who are starting to hit the mainstream music media already and they are INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP; a fabulous blend of late 70s disco, Moroder and KRAFTWERK sensibilities. Just great to hear. I’m probably going to sound biased (because he’s a mate), but CONCRETISM is another artist who grabs my attention due to the fact that he creates electronic music that completely evokes the Cold War era and sounds like old mangled tapes and Public Information Films set to beautiful synthesizer tunes.

So what’s happening with THE SOULLESS PARTY and future releases?

Well THE SOULLESS PARTY is really myself writing the music and my friend Chris Lambert who writes stories that basically are borne out of the music I write. The main project I’ve been working on with Chris is entitled ‘Tales from the Black Meadow’ and is basically a concept album based on a created universe taking in real life and folkloric stories that take place on the North York Moors.

I try to blend electronic and synth sounds with orchestral sounds and instruments. I suppose in someway it can be described as ‘haunting’ or ‘radiophonic’.

It was originally released in 2013 and I was a bit shocked at the response it got. For the first time, I started to get radio plays, magazine reviews and articles on the project and was even asked to take it out on the road for live shows. There’s still quite a following for it and I’m happy to say it always sells pretty well on re-release.

So, call us unoriginal, but we’re about to release a sequel album and book in 2019 entitled ‘The Black Meadow Archive: Volume 1’ and we’re proud to say that it’ll be initially released on vinyl with the brilliant Castles in Space label.

Any advice you would give to an aspiring independent electronic musician?

I can probably echo what I mentioned earlier in this interview and encourage anyone who is aspiring to do this or are just starting out, to really enjoy what they’re doing. Get in to it and don’t pressure yourself to make music just to please others. Make the sounds you enjoy, and you’ll never know who may just pick up on it.

Use a platform like Bandcamp because it’s for real independent artists and musicians who are passionate about their sound!Use Soundcloud to demo your sound to the world and Tweet about it! I think Twitter massively outweighs Facebook as a great way to talk about your music. Also, think about uploading your stuff on places like BBC Introducing and try not to fret about how bad or good it may sound!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Kev Oyston

MOTORBIKES IN TOKYO ‘Music & Machines’ can be downloaded for free from Bandcamp at https://motorbikesintokyo.bandcamp.com/album/music-and-machines

THE SOULLESS PARTY ‘Tales From The Black Meadow’ is available direct from https://thesoullessparty.bandcamp.com/

https://myspace.com/motorbikesintokyo

https://www.facebook.com/The-Soulless-Party-122914134421887/

https://twitter.com/soullessparty


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th December 2018

30 Lost Art School Bops Of The Digital Era

Here are 30 songs which may have escaped attention as the world went grunge and then had an ongoing hangover in the wake of Britpop.

Denied mainstream recognition and now lost when looking from a UK perspective even within the dwindling synth music community, these offerings come from artists who have mostly remained in total obscurity.

However, some are highly established in their own right, albeit not necessarily in the electronic pop field.

As with the 30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era feature, acts who have since been featured on The Electricity Club like ARTHUR & MARTHA, DE/VISION, ONE DOVE, PEACH, WOLFSHEIM and YOUNGER YOUNGER 28s have not been included on this list.

Starting from 1992 when the CD established itself as the dominant format to the year before The Electricity Cub came into being, here are 30 Lost Art School Bops listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


VEGAS Walk Into The Wind (1992)

What happens when you cross FUN BOY THREE, EURYTHMICS and SHAKESPEARS SISTER? This lovely under rated electro-reggae tune featuring Terry Hall, David A Stewart and Siobhan Fahey! VEGAS was a one-off project when Hall and Stewart were between bands, with the former’s forlorn opening gambit of “You have to learn to love by loving” more than suiting the latter’s lush cinematic backdrop on the captivating noir of ‘Walk Into The Wind’.

Available on the album ‘Vegas’ via RCA Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1343740-Vegas-8


SVEN VÄTH L’Esperanza (1993)

Sven Väth is a Frankfurt based DJ whose his career started in 1982. Mixmag rated his album ‘Accident In Paradise’ one of the Top 50 dance albums of all time. From that, this synthpopped remix of its most accessible track ‘L’Esperanza’ recalled ‘Magic Fly’ by SPACE and captured the tranquillity of a swim with dolphins. The melodies sang despite the tune being totally instrumental while the groove drove along without being intrusive.

Available on the single ‘L’Esperanza’ via Eye Q / WEA Records

https://www.facebook.com/SvenVaethOfficial/


2WO THIRD3 Hear Me Calling (1994)

Hear Me Calling captured the spirit of early ultrapop DEPECHE MODE and even had CULTURE CLUB backing singer Helen Terry thrown into the mix of this infectiously catchy number. Although a publicly a trio, there was a silent fourth songwriting member who was represented by a cartoon character called Biff in the band’s promotional material. Biff was actually Richard Stannard who has since written songs for KYLIE MINOGUE, LITTLE BOOTS, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS and SPICE GIRLS.

Available on the single ‘Hear Me Calling’ via Epic Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/2wo+Third3


INTASTELLA Grandmaster (1996)

INTASTELLA were formally indie rockers LAUGH, until they discovered singer Stella Grundy  and adapted their sound to a more dance-orientated style in a vein not dissimilar from fellow Mancunian’s HAPPY MONDAYS. Having had a minor hit with the SAINT ETIENNE flavoured cover of the FRANK VALLI Northern Soul favourite, the funkier electrovibe  of ‘Grandmaster’ was the follow-up and later featured on the soundtrack of the ‘9½ Weeks’ sequel ‘Love In Paris’.

Available on the album ‘What You Gonna Do’ via Planet 3 Records

https://www.facebook.com/Intastellastellagrundy/


INAURA Soap Opera (1996)

INAURA combined NINE INCH NAILS and DURAN DURAN, with the latter every much in mind when the band were signed to EMI. Produced by Steve Osborne, the metallic finish of ‘Soap Opera’ gave a rock edge to the electronically driven sound. But despite securing a support slot with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, the band got emboiled in internal record company politics with EMI actively trying to bury the band. The shelved album ‘One Million Smiles’ eventually secured an independent release in 1998.

Available on the album ‘One Million Smiles’ via ORG Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/61052-Inaura


ORLANDO Just For A Second (1996)

Melody Maker’s Simon Price announced the arrival of a new scene of New Romantic revivalists, with a bold headline declaring, “ROMO – The Future Pop Explosion!” From these Romantic Modernists came ORLANDO who combined stylish, synthesized dance-pop with a love of classic songwriting. ‘Just For A Second’ was their best song, with elements of PET SHOP BOYS euphoric flavour as reimagined by the boy bands of the day, combined with an emotive lyrical backdrop.

Available on the album ‘Passive Soul’ via Blanco Y Negro Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/125280-Orlando-4


SEXUS The Official End Of It All (1996)

Also seen as part of the Romo movement were SEXUS, a Manchester duo comprising of David Savage and Paul Southern  Signed by ZTT, ‘The Official End Of It All’ was their second single and recalled ELECTRONIC’s ‘Getting Away With It’. The pair recorded a full album with Trevor Horn but it remains unmixed and unreleased. The duo would later team up again musically under the name PSYCHODELICS.

Available on the single ‘The Official End Of It All’ via ZTT Records

http://www.psychodelicates.com/sexus.htm


MONO Life In Mono (1997)

MONO were Siobhan de Maré and Martin Virgo, who found their cinematic sound lumped in with trip hop movement that spawned SNEAKER PIMPS and PORTISHEAD. A mysterious Gallic flavour crossed with samples from John Barry’s soundtrack to ‘The Ipcress File’ provided the song’s spy drama chill. The track was later incorporated into a contemporary film adaptation  of ‘Great Expectations’ which starred Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hank Azaria. SPICE GIRLS’ Emma Bunton recorded a cover of it in 2006.

Available on the single ‘Life in Mono’ via Echo Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1564-Mono


BROADCAST Come On Let’s Go (2000)

The late Trish Keenan’s ice maiden cool was instrumental to BROADCAST’s cognoscenti appeal and with their experimental electronica, they won many fans among the cognoscenti. ‘Come On Let’s Go’ was their most accessible offering with its spy drama feel, vintage organic textures and Keenan’s sweet nonchalant vocal tones. Futuristic yet with a Cold War chill, this pushed all the tender buttons. The band were a favourite of Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’.

Available on the album ‘The Noise Made By People’ via Warp Records

http://warp.net/records/broadcast


QUEEN OF JAPAN I Was Made For Loving You (2000)

QUEEN OF JAPAN were a colourful European trio consisting of singer Koneko alongside eccentric producers Jo Ashito and Jason Arigato. Specialising in dance covers of an incongruous origin like JOHN LENNON and QUEEN, their fun electronic sound took on a distinct sinister turn with this brilliant synthesized interpretation of rock legends KISS’ neo-discofied 1977 anthem. The track gained prominence after being included as part of 2 MANY DJ’s ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Part 2’ DJ set in 2003.

Available on the album ‘Headrush’ via Echohammer Records

http://www.queenofjapan.net


DOT ALLISON Substance (2002)

Following Ms Allison’s pop flavoured debut album ‘Afterglow’ in 1999 and prior to her ‘Aftersun’ collaboration with MASSIVE ATTACK, the former ONE DOVE vocalist experimented with some lo-fi electro sounds alongside some more folky acoustic excursions on her album ‘We Are Science’. Playing squelch games over stuttering percussive loops, Allison’s enigmatic breathy vocal style almost acts as another instrument in a mildly hallucinogenic dance fashion.

Available on the album ‘We Are Science’ via Mantra Recordings

http://www.dotallison.com


MANNEQUIN Take Me To The Club (2003)

Apparently based on true events, ‘Party Monster’ starring Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green and Chlӧe Savigny was effectively ‘Electroclash – The Movie’; ‘Take Me To The Club’, written and produced by Bruno Coviell, captured the tension and euphoria of nightlife. Electrofied slap bass and sinister sequences added some gothic grandeur to the aural hedonism. “I only feel right under bright lights… take me to the club” was the profound proclamation!

Available on the album ‘Party Monster’ (V/A) via TVT Soundtrax

https://www.facebook.com/partymonsterfan


SYNTAX Pray (2003)

‘I Feel Love’ meets THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS on this duo’s amazing debut single, SYNTAX consisted of Jan Burton and ex-FLUKE member Mike Tournier. The 8 minute full length version possessed a pulsing hypnotic quality while spacey Sci-Fi synths and full-fat sequences recalled a bygone disco age but updating the template for a new century. Dark but immensely danceable!

Available on the album ‘Meccano Mind’ via Illustrious/Sony Music

http://www.syntax.uk.com/


WHITE TOWN Whenever I Say Hello (2003)

WHITE TOWN aka Jyoti Mishra had a freak No1 hit with ‘Your Woman’ in 1997 but kept a low profile, carving out an independent musical career with little regard for public profile. Influenced by his heroes OMD and DEPECHE MODE, ‘Whenever I Say Hello’ first appeared on Ninth Wave’s ‘Electricity 2’ compilation and was the highlight of his album ‘Don’t Mention The War’, eventually released in 2006. A wonderful lonely paean to lost love, this does sound like ‘Things You Said’ reimagined for ‘A Broken Frame’.

Available on the album ‘Don’t Mention The War’ via Bzangy Records

http://www.whitetown.co.uk


DARREN HAYES I Like The Way (2004)

Sony Music were none too happy when the former SAVAGE GARDEN front man veered from his drippy ballads to go electro! ‘I Like The Way’ was the highlight from his album ‘The Tension & The Spark’, the title of which came from the chorus of this spiky piece of synthpop. Like ERASURE gone all aggressive if you can believe that, Hayes and Sony Music parted ways following this fuzzy excursion.

Available on the album ‘The Tension & The Spark’ via Sony Music

http://www.darrenhayes.com


VIC TWENTY Txt Msg (2004)

THE great lost act of the synthesizer revival has to be VIC TWENTY. Blowing away ERASURE while supporting them on their muted covers tour, Piney Gir and Adrian Morris showed promise with their cartoon-like girl/boy synthpop. One of the highlights in their live set was an ironic electronic reconstruction of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. Released on Mute, ‘Text Msg’ was their only single as a duo, a quirky narrative of the modern generation who can only dump hapless lovers by mobile phone.

Available on the single ‘Txt Msg’ via Mute Records

http://www.victwenty.free-online.co.uk


COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO Fantasy (2005)

Argentine combo COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO originally started out as a duo comprising of Maru Pardo Saguier and Sebastian Cordoves. With a heavy KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER influence but adding a rock edge, ‘Fantasy’ from their eponymous debut album was a perfect demonstration of their strong melodies based around club friendly synthetic grooves and new wave sensibilities. Their most recent album ‘Humanum’ came out in September 2017.

Available on the album ‘Cosaquitos En Globo’ via https://cosaquitosenglobo.bandcamp.com/album/cosaquitos-en-globo

http://www.cosaquitosenglobo.com.ar/


DELAYS Valentine (2005)

After the succes of  THE KILLERS, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again and DELAYS almost went the full hog with this Trevor Horn assisted electronic disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were just pure DURAN DURAN, while Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.

Available on the single ‘Valentine’ via Rough Trade Records

http://www.thedelays.co.uk


JULIET Avalon (2005)

Before he worked with MADONNA, NEW ORDER, THE KILLERS, KYLIE MINOGUE, TAKE THAT and PET SHOP BOYS, Stuart Price produced and co-wrote most of the only album by Philadelphia songstress Juliet Richardson. Driven by a heavy percussive mantra coupled to a deep bass rumble, her sultry soulful vocals worked well within the cool electro backing to provide a wonderful sexually charged atmosphere. Richardson is now a yoga teacher with a young family.

Available on the album ‘Random Order’ via Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/93024-Juliet


THE MODERN Jane Falls Down (2005)

This promising band took the best of New Romantic thrill and a tight Stephen Hague production for a brilliant single with a killer chorus and solid beats, reinforced by a big reverberating bassline. Despite a support slot with HEAVEN 17, a chart scandal involving over enthusiastic management on their second single ‘Industry’ destroyed all momentum and the band retreated, re-emerging later as MATINEE CLUB before becoming THE MODERN again! Nathan Cooper has since reappeared as KID KASIO.

Available on the single ‘Jane Falls Down’ via Universal Music

https://www.themodernband.com/


LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)

Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ suggested that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved to be nominated for that title far more! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader, with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.

Available on the single ‘Going Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop’ via Fantastic Plastic

http://www.lukehaines.co.uk


PROTOCOL Love Is My Drug (2006)

PROTOCOL had some Romo flair and despite being almost entirely based on ‘Atomic’ by BLONDIE, second single ‘Where’s The Pleasure?’ secured that all important radio play. But despite this, Polydor pulled the plug on their excellent follow-up ‘Love Is My Drug’ and the promising debut album ‘Rules Of Engagement’ despite sending out promos to the press and filming a promo video. Lead singer John Pritchard took another punt at stardom by participating in the 2013 series of ‘The Voice’.

Available on the album ‘Rules Of Engagement’ via https://protocoluk.bandcamp.com/

https://rkukmedia.co.uk/Protocol/


STEFY Chelsea (2006)

This was an excellent ‘Sweet Dreams’ pastiche from vocalist Stefy Rae and producer Jimmy Harry. Aimed at the teen pop market with its Orange County brat subject matter, ‘Chelsea’ was more sophisticated than it appeared and was probably three years ahead of its time. Co-written by the soon-to-be ubiquitous producer Greg Kurstin and accompanied by a video featuring an Adam West cameo, if this had come out in 2009, it probably would have been a Top 10 hit.

Available on the album ‘The Orange Album’ via Wind-Up Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/558653-Stefy-2


DEAD DISCO You’re Out (2007)

Victoria Hesketh before she was LITTLE BOOTS, she came to together with Lucy Catherwood and Marie France at Leeds University to produce a series of well received spikey pop numbers before splitting. Their final single ‘You’re Out’ was produced by Greg Kurstin and the start of a more electronic sound in the mix. Treated guitars, fuzzy bass and subtle synths all merged together in a feisty cocktail and the seed of the raw excitement found its way into songs like ‘Meddle’.

Available on the single ‘You’re Out’ via 679/Atlantic Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/526693-Dead-Disco


FROST Sleepwalker (2007)

Consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST have described their music as upbeat space-pop.  This was beautiful electronic dance music from the enigmatic Norwegian duo with Peterson’s soaring soprano and the gorgeous synth vibrato putting minds into a marvellous trance. ‘Sleepwalker’ was the sort of song you would want to play at a rave in the snow! their cool cover of OMD’s ‘Messages’, from the ‘Love! Revolution’ album which ‘Sleepwalker’ came, is also a worthy listen.

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

http://www.frostworld.no


HEARTBREAK We’re Back (2008)

Italo disco was a much maligned form of electro kitsch but was rooted in GIORGIO MORODER which eventually influenced NEW ORDER and PET SHOP BOYS; Anglo-Argentine duo HEARTBREAK revived the genre, complete with accents, “wo-woah-ah” chants and heavy dance rhythms. On great catchy songs such as ‘We’re Back’, the sweaty impassioned charisma of vocalist Sebastian Muravchik was more than convincing while Ali Renault provided the meaty electronic backing.

Available on the album ‘Lies’ via Lex Records

http://lexprojects.com/releases/heartbreak-lies/


POLARKREIS 18  The Colour Of Snow (2008)

The Dresden sextet were a dreamy but epic cross between A-HA and SIGUR RÓS. Singer Felix Räuber’s falsetto voice polarised but the frantic driven tempo, dramatic electronic strings and rousing melancholic chorus of ‘The Colour Of Snow’ made it a fine follow-up their German No1 ‘Allein Allein’ and gave the band enough of a reputation to be invited to support DEPECHE MODE at their Leipzig gigs in 2009.

Available on the album ‘The Colour of Snow’ via Vertigo Records

http://www.polarkreis18.de


RED BLOODED WOMEN You Made Your Bed (2008)

Pure octave shift disco heaven on this ode to the IKEA generation by modern electronic take on BANANARAMA. Despite being all under 25, these three ladies grew up to the sound of the synthesizer and learned to dance to the beat of electronic drums via their mothers’ ERASURE and A-HA singles. Paying girl group homage to both YAZOO and DEPECHE MODE, RED BLOODED WOMEN sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD produced by Daniel Miller!

Available on the album ‘Electronically Yours Vol 1’ (V/A) via Undo Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1202070-Red-Blooded-Women


KATSEN Florian (2009)

KATSEN were a short lived Brighton duo comprising of Donna Grimaldi and Chris Blackburn who crossed CRYSTAL CASTLES with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA for their own brand of quirky synthpop. ‘Florian’ with its mournful melodica line inspired by ‘Kommetenmelodie 2’ was yet another in a tradition of songs dedicated to the enigmatic quiet man of KRAFTWERK which have included ‘V2 Schneider’ and ‘Rolf & Florian Go Hawaiian’ (sic).

Available on the album ‘It Hertz!’ via Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation

http://katsen.com/


SPUTNIKO! The Google Song (2009)

SPUTNIKO! (real name Hiromi Ozaki) showcased her brand of laptop pop around London where she was based. “Exploring intersections between technology and popular culture” as reflected by titles such as ‘The Skype Song’ and ‘The Mixi Song’, her most immediate track has been ‘The Google Song’, a story of love in the modern computer age. Too shy to approach the object of her desire, she simply went home to her faithful laptop and googled him!! “I like you” she proclaimed. It was tremendously catchy too!

Available on the DVD ‘Parakonpe 3000’ via 360° Records

http://sputniko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th September 2017

BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA Interview

BOO_profile_fireplaceSouth Coast based synth duo BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA have been building on a momentum which has seen them gain the support of BBC Introducing.

The husband and wife DIY duo of Brigitte Rose and Chris Black released their first album ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ in September 2014 several years after Black’s previous project KATSEN came to a sudden end.

With their brand new album ‘Radiation’, BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA’s fun but authentic approach to synthesizers has been a welcome ray of sunshine in a dreadfully gloomy 2016.

While perhaps not as straightforwardly accessible as neighbours and friends VILE ELECTRODES, BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA are a fine example of a wholly independent entity where music is made for the sake of being made.

Brigitte Rose and Chris Black kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about their DIY ethos…

Following the momentum of KATSEN coming to a sudden stall, how long did it take to get into the musical mindset of BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA?

Chris: It was a hard transition to make. It was a rotten time after KATSEN came to an end. Like you say, it all seemed to be accelerating and then it all stopped. We just started recording again in the summer of 2010 as a kind of therapy. ‘He Hit Me’ was the first thing we did, and it’s free on Bandcamp, if you want to hear what we sounded like, before we knew who we were! In all, it took two years for us to self-release anything we felt had the BOO identity!

Was it a natural evolution? Some might say KATSEN and BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA are the same, but how would you explain their conceptual differences?

Chris: In a way, I feel like I might have intentionally stage-managed some of the differences between KATSEN and BOO. First of all, the name had to change, and with that, we lost all the contacts and progress we’d made up to that point. Some people have only just realised this year that BOO and KATSEN have the same DNA! The excellent RODNEY CROMWELL got in touch a couple of months ago, 8 years after his label Happy Robots released the KATSEN track ‘Constellation’ on the ‘Botpop’ compilation. He heard one of our tracks on the radio, and thought “that sounds like KATSEN!”. He googled us, and realised it sort of was!

Battery Operated Orchestra-01Ha! Ha! Yes, when TEC posted up the video to ‘Obelisk’ on our Facebook page, we said it sounded like KASTEN!

Chris: It all seems silly and counter-productive now, but in the early days we really wanted a clean break from the past, and wanted BOO to stand on its own, rather than use the KATSEN momentum. We also intentionally went darker than KATSEN. I mean, there are still some bubblegum moments, even in ‘AC/EP’, but KATSEN would never have done a track like ‘Calling’, which is much more gothic, and thunderous than the old stuff. I think we’re much more relaxed about the similarities between the two now, I mean, it’s a bit schizophrenic to intentionally try to be different from the music you wrote and made yourself, isn’t it!

Brigitte: For my part, everything we created was new and took its own time to form. We purposely struck out to forge our own path but like Chris says, we’re much more comfortable with any similarities now between us and KATSEN. It was important to try to make something different at the beginning as we needed to define what BOO was and find its edges. Now it’s established enough to define itself.

Who and what have been your biggest influences?

Brigitte: Influences are hard to detect yourself. They get absorbed into your life and come out in unexpected ways. I’ve recently been described as sounding like Debbie Harry and I really admire her so I’ll take that! I aspire to make songs as heartbreakingly awesome as ABBA’s ,but I’m also influenced by punk and DIY in a big way. I think everything that really moves me comes out in what I do, and that’s a lot of influences, but in particular it’s artists who look at their work as a whole, ie they’re not just a player, they’re a writer, painter, director, singer, noisemaker, experimenter etc. Artists like DEVO, DAVID BOWIE and PRINCE.

Chris: I agree with Brie, although our music has been described as 80s-influenced etc, and I have all the usual suspects as influences (you can probably guess), I think the more particular influences on my music are in my upbringing, being brought up by my Mum, and listening to her music. That’s how I first heard JOY DIVISION, Bowie’s ‘Low’, and LINTON KWESI JOHNSON’s very particular London dub sound. ‘Unknown Pleasures’, ‘Low’ and ‘Forces Of Victory’ were pretty much the soundtrack of my childhood. Then I heard ‘Pocket Calculator’ on the John Peel show in ‘81, got on a tube to the HMV on Oxford street and bought every piece of KRAFTWERK vinyl I could lay my grubby eleven year old hands on. I got a red shirt and black tie that day too!

BOO-YamahaCS-01I was also obsessed with UFOs and ghosts just like most kids in the late 70s were, and we all know that these things demand a swirling synthesizer soundtrack! I began making music when I was 11 or 12, and saved up for my first synth (after I got my VL-1) the Yamaha CS-01 in 1985. Then my Dad (Mum and Dad split when I was 9, but I bumped into him in a music shop when I was 16 and re-connected with him) gave me his SH-1 in 1986 and a WEM Copicat, and that was the sound of my music from then on. I just loved sitting in the dark with a dark soundscape I’d just made swirling around! No, I didn’t have girlfriends!

The trusty Yamaha CS-01 is still a stalwart of your live set-up. Can you explain your emotional attachment to this distinctive portable synth?

Chris: It’s love. Pure and simple. I bought it from Freedmans on Leytonstone High Road when I was 15. I mangled it in my early 20s, trying to get it to scream, and I succeeded. It sounds incredible! I’ve had a couple of pretty noisy bands ask if I would sell it to them, they loved the sound it now makes so much, but it always has to be a no. Like I said, it’s love.

Brigitte: It’s the ultimate synth really, so simple in its design – giving the gift of restriction on your creativity – and yet you can really push its boundaries. More than that though, this synth truly has a voice of its own. I remember when I first played it, pressing my ear to its speaker while playing it upways like a clarinet and exclaiming “It’s breathing!”. It’s also so lightweight that you can play it while wearing it which is the dream really, isn’t it? Who said keyboardists can’t shred?

Your debut album ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ was released in 2014, how do you look back on your earlier releases?

Chris: As Spike Milligan said: “I don’t look back. It hurts my neck”. I think we’re still happy with our old stuff. We’re just getting better at being who we are, and the old stuff, because it was honestly just trying to find our path, though it may be less developed, is still nice to listen to. There are still some great tracks on ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ that surprise me when they come on in a shuffle playlist because they sound pretty good, I think.

Brigitte: They still feel fresh to me! That’s part of why playing live is great, we can bring out older tracks that people might not be so familiar with, ‘Calling’ and ‘National Grid’ are amazing fun to play live. At the same time, there is definitely an evolution of sorts happening in our music, it’s becoming more focussed and distilled. I think creating art is a journey, so I look at each earlier part as an irreplaceable step in that journey and don’t really measure it against any particular success criteria. They are good because they are part of the whole. And they’re good on their own anyway because they’re great songs!

BOO T-shirtHow do you feel the general reception for ‘Radiation’ has been?

Chris: It’s been great, hasn’t it?

Brigitte: Incredibly positive and far more widespread than ever before. It seems like a lot of people are sitting up and taking notice of this one and it’s very rewarding to see people getting so much out of it.

I particularly love it when people share photos and messages about the joy of unfolding the package itself. We put so many hours into making it, both sonically and physically, it really means a lot when people can see that care and they appreciate it.

The title track is an interesting hybrid of dark and light?

Chris: Thank you! I don’t want to stamp a meaning on it too firmly, because we think people’s personal interpretation is more important than ours, and it’s horrible when an artist comes along and says “this song is about x” when you always thought it was about “y”. I’ve had some songs I’ve loved ruined that way!

But I will say this: We had a poltergeist experience in the flat where we were staying in Hamburg, and to calm down, wrote the first rendering of ‘Radiation’. We were shutting ourselves off from mainstream media. We absorbed our ghost experience and the image of the transmission tower and decided we wanted to imagine ourselves radiating out through the universe, jamming the signals of all the evil sods who ru(i)n the planet. We had also recently re-watched John Carpenter’s ‘They Live’, so maybe that’s a far simpler explanation of the title track and album concept. But the image of the tower standing in the dark radiating its signal was with us from the beginning.

While BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA are known for being quirky and irony free, ‘Fairy Tale’ is wonderful accessible avant synthpop. Please describe its genesis…

Chris: Thank you! It was a riff that stuck in my head. I went to bed and couldn’t sleep, it kept writing itself… Finally I got 10 minutes sleep and dreamed the chorus. So I had to get up, in my pyjamas, and go to our studio and quickly sketch the song… Unfortunately I didn’t get any sleep that night at all as I kept hearing new bits adding themselves to the track, and I had to sketch them down before I forgot them! It’s only the second time that has happened to me: a song has materialised fully formed-words and all, the other time being ‘Where Nobody Can Find Us’ by KATSEN. I wasn’t sure how I felt about ‘Fairy Tale’, but now we’ve played it live a couple of times, it’s one of my favourites! I think it might be a single one day, but we don’t know when…

Battery Operated Orchestra-03Was there any particular place you had in mind when you conceived ‘New Town’? How did that one develop?

Brigitte: I had to go away overnight to Sheffield a little while ago. I had never been to Sheffield before and all I knew about it was ‘Threads’.

I missed Chris like crazy, he was at home experimenting with new tracks. In this lonely state I wandered about the middle of the town centre which is all open and empty, full of chain stores and an eerie lack of people.

There is the odd old building from the steel industry boom times, but it seems like they’re just relics that the new part is trying to iron over. The Sheffieldians I met there said “No one hangs out in town, there’s a sort of perimeter around the town centre after which you find all the people and pubs”.

“Just like a bomb had been dropped!” I thought. It left a really strong impression and when I got home, Chris played me a track he’d come up with that day and I sang on it. That became ‘New Town’. It was only after the track was formed I learned of the incredible synth heritage of that place, so many artists I love come from there and I didn’t even know!

Chris: It was fun explaining what a “new town” was to Brie, she being a country girl from another continent… We watched lots of public information films of town planning in the 1950s. They were going to make Britain a better place, you know! *hollow laughter*

BOO-TeiscoHaving finished ‘Radiation’, where do you stand now on the analogue versus digital debate?

Brigitte: An artist can use whatever tools work to express their art… but I do believe you’d be restricting your palette to use purely digital sounds. For me, there’s a life in analogue sounds and instruments that is missing from many digital instruments. So analogue is important to BOO.

The sounds have to be alive, pulsating, with a beating heart. This is also pretty important when you’re making electronic music I think, because you don’t necessarily have a sweaty, flailing drummer to rely on.

Chris: I agree. To misquote the NRA: Synths don’t make music – people make music, and good music can be made with the worst instruments provided the person is coming from the right place. I’ve been in love with analogue synths since I first heard ‘Switched On Bach’ when I was 5. I had no idea what I was listening to, but I was mesmerised by the distinct personalities of the individual sounds. It was a visual experience, you know. Years later I was similarly immersed in ‘Warszawa’ and ‘Art Decade’ from ‘Low’, and began to understand that these sounds were coming from magical tools called synthesizers, and they seemed to create a direct pathway between your imagination – into sound – into the imagination of the listener. So obviously I wanted one!

I think one of the key factors in this equation is the imagination-sound part, and analogue synthesizers have always been quick and relatively easy to craft and sculpt sound with, before your imagination runs away somewhere else… This is important. If you ever tried to program a DX-7 (which I used to attempt in my optimistic youth), you can find yourself getting lost pretty quickly, which is also fun, but not if you’re trying to make something specific. I think it’s fine to use whatever you want, so long as your imagination is engaged. We love to hear music where people have stretched what seems sonically plausible, or sane!

At what point does practicality over ideology eventually win over?

Brigitte: I think when you’re playing live. People do approach it differently and I’m always interested to see how electronic musicians articulate their sound on stage. We like to play as much as it’s physically possible to without relying on backing too much. However our ‘old ladies’, the analogue synths we have at home are too heavy and temperamental to bring out live, so we use a smaller set up that’s still capable of delivering those big sounds.

Chris: Yeah! It goes hand-in-hand, I suppose… We just thought of a video for ‘Fairy Tale’, and storyboarded it roughly etc, but we figured out that it would be wayyy too expensive to make, and would probably take us a couple of years to complete. So practicality won that time! Maybe practicality has to win every time?

Brigitte: Yeah!

Battery Operated Orchestra-02BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA handle their own recording, production, artwork and videos… what have been the pros and cons?

Brigitte: The pros are you have total creative control, which is paramount. The cons are you have no one pushing it out there for you, no-one advertising, no-one arranging gigs for you, submitting to festivals, raising your profile etc. All this stuff really is a full-time job for more than two people and it’s difficult to do any of that when all you really want to focus on is the creative part. We’re slowly building up a solid fanbase which we’re really engaged with and I’m proud of, but sometimes I think it sure would be nice to be able to have a tour manager, PR person and band manager on Team BOO!

Chris: Agreed. And maybe this will be the next step… We already have a third album waiting in the wings to be tweaked into life, and it’s quite daunting to think that we’re doing it all ourselves. You have to divide yourself into four people:

1) the recording musician writing and recording songs
2) the gigging musician figuring out how to do it all live, practising, working out transport etc
3) the PR person emailing a million music blogs, only to get responses from a handful
4) the designer doing the artwork, making the packaging, filming and editing videos

And that’s before you take into account persona #5 – the person with a full-time job to hold down. I tell you, we have the utmost respect for anyone doing this, whatever their degree of success. It ain’t easy!

BOO Brie-YamahaCS01How do you feel about media coverage for electronic pop, within both independent and mainstream spheres, especially when some journalists can’t tell their tape recorders from their drum machines?

Brigitte: I have to say it’s pretty dire. I like to keep up with new music and it’s incredibly tough to find DJs or writers I can rely on to give me informed opinion on new music, especially electronic music or pop.

So often these days when I’m looking for new music I find something labelled electronic which is just a pitched down slow voice over a 90s dance track – and it’s got rave reviews! It’s really alienating and leaves me feeling like culture is stagnating.

Although it is a matter of where you look, some DJs and writers are doing an amazing job (TEC for instance). When I get fed up with my search, I usually put on Liz Berg on WFMU or Lisa Uber on WRSU (both in New Jersey). Liz plays a pretty eclectic mix but there’s always a great pop tune in there somewhere. Lisa’s ‘Machine Age Voodoo’ show plays an awesome mix of contemporary and past electronica from minimal wave to cheesy synth-pop and bleeding edge limited cassette releases.

Has there been too much bias towards dance music as the only credible form of electronica?

Brigitte: Yes! Which to me is a terrible indication of how deep pockets and big labels dominate the music media… Because obviously there is a wealth of incredible and diverse electronica out there, we just aren’t getting to hear it.

Chris: Yeah!

BOO-instHow do you see the current state of UK electronic pop? Are there any acts you think readers should listen out for?

Brigitte: It’s hard to say, I tend to listen to music from all over the world, not just the UK.

This is probably because in Australia music is so dominated by rock, I’ve always had to search farther afield for new sounds. Lately I’ve been listening to ESSAIE PAS (Montreal), DERADOORIAN (LA) and THE UNITS (New York).

Based on my experience gigging, it seems like there’s no shortage of fantastic bands out there, and it’s definitely starting to feel like a few dedicated groups of people are establishing more opportunities for these bands to play live, like Synth Club.

We’re a bit excited about a new venue in Brighton that’s been opened by the BEATABET collective who seem much more open to playing electronic pop. I think with a musical genre, it’s always there, people are always doing it, but the popularity of each genre comes and goes in waves. I do feel a synth wave coming on.

Chris: Yes, the UK is full of great acts at the moment. It’s a special time. All the acts I would recommend would take up too much time, and I think it’s very much a question of one’s own taste. I would say that we can normally be found reading TEC for tipoffs! And WFMU is a great station, if you want to hear something that you’d never hear anywhere else…

What’s next for BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA?

Chris: We’re moving house, leaving Brighton for Newhaven, then gigs, a single, and start work on LP3…

Brigitte: Global domination, essentially!

Chris: In a nice way…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA

‘Radiation’ is available as a CD or download from https://batteryoperatedorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/radiation

http://batteryoperatedorchestra.com/

https://www.facebook.com/batteryoperatedorchestra

https://twitter.com/BOOelectric

https://www.youtube.com/user/BatteryOrchestra


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th August 2016, updated 4th September 2017

BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA Radiation

BOO-Radiation_coverartSince their 2012 debut mini-album ‘AC/EP’, BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA have been steadily building a fine reputation for their quirky chiptune influenced synth adventures.

Crossing CRYSTAL CASTLES with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, the husband and wife DIY duo of Brigitte Rose and Chris Black released their first album ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ in September 2014. While Black’s previous project KATSEN folded after just one long player, luckily the Duracells have lasted for BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA to produce a second album.

Inspired by a poltergeist experience after a gig in Hamburg, the resultant work ‘Radiation’ is a dark journey encompassing themes of broadcasting, ESP, sex, mind control and alien beings. The opening song ‘New Town’ is a sombre number that captures the claustrophobic brilliance of early HUMAN LEAGUE. Yes, there are musical references to the past, but it is fully Battery Operated.

With Brigitte’s wonderfully dispassionate vocals complimenting the Motorik backing to a tee, the following ‘Radiation’ title song brings to mind TUBEWAY ARMY and as it searches for its shadow in vain, the unsettling Dsytopian build is strangely uplifting as the countering brightness takes hold.

The computer game influenced ‘Grey Room’ is archetypal BOO while the album’s first single ‘The Sea’ is another variation on the theme, with blips and ghostly overtures adding to the energetic mystery. It all comes over like a more in-tune version of XENO & OAKLANDER.

‘I Go Invisible’ takes on a steadier pace while the vintage synths provide colour, but the bouncy charge of ‘Diamond Feelings’ ramps up the alluring action, with some haunting detuned intervention.

The crisp aural spectre of ‘Live Rail’ utilises hypnotic Casio rhythms effectively, while the drone laden ‘Rewild’ enters more gothic territory before a great wobbling synth solo makes its presence felt.

‘Fairy Tale’ is a mighty Kling Klang referencing tune with a duel female / male vocal that works wonderfully with a melodic burst reminiscent of TIME ZONES’ ‘ World Destruction’. This album highlight comes with the bonus of a WEM Copicat processed Theremin at the start and the end as they decide it’s “Time to end what we’ve begun”. So closing ‘Radiation’ is the sparse ‘Backburning’, an eerie slice of wonky pop that sounds like it could fade into a black and white Sci-Fi movie.

BOO_profile_fireplace‘Radiation’ is a significant artistic progression for BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA while maintaining their quirky, irony free ethos. This really is a record made for the sake of being made, rather than the calculating entitlement mentality of some independent acts who frankly are just too normal and lacking in talent.

This album might not be for everyone, but it is perfect for those who can tell their drum machines from their tape recorders, especially if it’s the Roland 707. While perhaps not as straightforwardly accessible as VILE ELECTRODES, BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA’s fun but authentic approach to synthesizers is a welcome ray of sunshine to what has so far been a dreadfully gloomy 2016.

‘Radiation’ uses the following synthesizers: MFB Dominion 1, Roland SH-1, Teisco 110f, Yamaha Reface DX, Roland MC202, Casio MT70, Casio CT401, Casio CZ101, JHS Drum Synth, Moog Etherwave Theremin, Arturia Minibrute, Yamaha PSS480


‘Radiation’ will be released as a CD and download 1st August 2016, pre-order at https://batteryoperatedorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/radiation

‘Diamond Feelings’ is available as a free download until 8th July from https://batteryoperatedorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/diamond-feelings-single

http://batteryoperatedorchestra.com/landing_diamond-feelings/

https://www.facebook.com/batteryoperatedorchestra


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2016

Introducing BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA

Battery Operated Orchestra-01One of the best electronic albums of 2009 was ‘It Hertz!’ by eccentric synthpop duo KATSEN.

Championed by BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq, despite the critical acclaim, there was however to be just one live gig supporting VILE ELECTRODES and another EP ‘Basic Pleasure Unit’ before Donna Grimaldi and Chris Blackburn called it a day.

Fast forward to today and Chris Blackburn is back with his Yamaha CS01, this time with his wife Brigette Sutherland hailing from Hobart, Tasmania in BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA. They released their debut mini-album ‘AC/EP’ in 2012 while the seven track ‘TSK!?’ came a year later.

Their quirky demeanour recalls the crossing of CRYSTAL CASTLES with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA that made KATSEN so appealing. Indeed, the KATSEN remix of ‘National Grid’ from ‘TSK!?’ made available this year demonstrated the obvious genetic kinship between the two combos.

Based in Brighton, BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA started out in the summer of 2010 dressing up as ghosts doing B-52s covers on a couple of Casiotones. Chris naturally handles an array of vintage synths while Brigette sings and plays theremin; the pair also produce their own videos.

Their first album ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ was released in September and from it, ‘Obelisk’ showcases their energetic DIY ethic with a cute appropriation of chiptunes for a colourful and fun musical adventure. This self-sustainable effort also extends into the artwork and packaging of their CD-Rs. Thus BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA really are a true independent entity.

Other highlights on the album include the chirpily sequenced ‘Tin Can Telephone’ and ‘Clown’ which featured on an earlier EP ‘Obsevatory’; both tracks feature rich vintage synthesizer tones and charmingly entice the listener via Brigitte’s affected vocals. There’s also the trippy bleeps of ‘Boa’ which is partly reminiscent of KATSEN’s hypnotic ‘Constellation’ while ‘Collapse’ could be a more in tune XENO & OAKLANDER. But it’s not all zaniness as closing numbers ‘Wish List’ and ‘For The 10’ explore more sombre, abstract ambient territory.

It’s a mad world of irony free synthpop with BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA… let’s hope the pair have enough Duracells to get to the second album at least.


Battery Operated Orchestra-incompleteBATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA’s debut album ‘Incomplete Until Broken’ and the limited edition EPs ‘TSK!?’ and ‘AC-EP’ are available as CD-Rs and downloads via bandcamp: http://batteryoperatedorchestra.bandcamp.com/

http://batteryoperatedorchestra.com/

https://www.facebook.com/batteryoperatedorchestra


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th October 2014