Tag: Kleerup (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY

Today, electronic instrumental music is everywhere, but often in the form of tedious dance tracks with no tunes all over Beatport and social media.

Luckily, there are still exponents of the classic synth instrumental, and thanks to the rise of the Synthwave sub-genre, there is currently a sympathetic environment for more esoteric and melodic musical offerings.

The key to a good instrumental is it either has to be very melodic to make up for the lack of vocals or very unobtrusive so that while the music is interesting enough to be listened to, it can also be ignored. Thus a Eurorack modular tutorial cannot credibly count as a valid release… 😉

As a follow-up to TEC’s 25 SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The CLASSIC ERA, with a limit of one track per artist, The Electricity Club presents its 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY in chronological and then alphabetical order…


SYSTEM F Insolation (2000)

While Dutch producer Ferry Corsten hit paydirt with club hits such as ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘Cry’ as SYSTEM F, the debut album pointed towards the Trance’s link to electronic pop. As well as a collaboration with Marc Almond entitled ‘Soul On Soul’, the long player included the beautifully majestic classic instrumental ‘Insolation’ which took a breather from the usual four-to-the floor format.

Available on the album ‘Out Of The Blue’ via Premier

http://www.ferrycorsten.com/


PPK ResuRection – Perfecto Edit (2001)

PPK were a Russian trance duo comprising of  Sergei Pimenov and Alexander Polyakov. The original melody of ‘ResuRection’ came from Eduard Artemyev’s synthesized theme from the epic 1979 Soviet movie ‘Siberiade’ which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Easily mistaken for JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, the thrusting seven minute ‘Perfecto Edit’ in particular was like an exuberant rocket launch set to music.

Originally released by Perfecto Records, currently unavailable

http://promodj.com/ppk


LADYTRON Turn It On (2002)

With a piercing synthphonic riff, scat vocoder, robotic bass and a rigid programmed beat, ‘Turn It On’ saw LADYTRON take a bleep forward with an attempt at a KRAFTWERK track for the 21st Century via Liverpool, Glasgow and Sofia. But as it headed towards its final third, it detoured back to Liverpool and turned into ‘Electricity’ in a cheeky homage to Merseyside’s original electronic trailblazers OMD.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Telstar

http://www.ladytron.com/


FROST Klong (2003)

A Norwegian electronic duo consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST released their second album ‘Melodica’ to a positive response, thanks to some production assistance by RÖYKSOPP on two tracks. The beautiful Arctic serenity of ‘Klong’ featuring local trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær alongside layers of gorgeous crystalline synths was one of the album’s highlights that easily outdid anything by GROOVE ARMADA and didn’t rely on using samples either.

Available on the album ‘Melodica’ via Frost World Recordings

https://frostnorway.com/


MYLO Emotion 96.8 (2004)

‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ was the well-received debut album by Scottish DJ Myles MacInnes that alongside DAFT PUNK and BASEMENT JAXX, summed up the sample laden dance music that was prevalent at the time. Produced on a computer in his own bedroo, the album’s best track however was the more downtempo, MOBY-esque richness of ‘Emotion 96.8’ with its beautiful sweeping synth melodies and unobtrusive rhythm structure. A follow-up to the long player has yet to appear.

Available on the album ‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ via Breastfed

http://www.mylo.tv/


ORBITAL Pants (2004)

With a hypnotic Motorik rhythm, pulsating bleeps and spacey whirs driving a moodier template along the lines of cult German experimentalists EMAK, Phil and Paul Hartnoll continued their primarily instrumental template on their ‘Blue Album’, although SPARKS contributed vocals to a totally unrelated track called ‘Acid Pants’. The brothers split shortly after the long player’s release, but returned in 2009 to play The Big Chill Festival.

Available on the album ‘Blue Album’ via Orbital Music

http://orbitalofficial.com/


MOBY Homeward Angel (2005)

From ‘Hymn’ to ‘First Cool Hive’ to ‘A Seated Night’, the man born Richard Melville Hall is a master of the instrumental. The solemn ‘Homeward Angel’ closed MOBY’s comparatively conventional and sample-less ‘Hotel’ album with a solemn yet uplifting slice of mood music that in retrospect, was incongruous with the main act. However, since leaving Mute in 2008, his more recent self-released albums such as ‘Destroyed’ and ‘Innocents’ have displayed this more esoteric quality.

Available on the album ‘Hotel’ via Mute Records

http://moby.com/


RÖYKSOPP Alpha Male (2005)

A ten minute instrumental epic, ‘Alpha Male’ came from RÖYKSOPP’s under rated second long player, one that moved away from the chill-out climes of ‘Melody AM’ into much darker sonic territory. The track’s lengthy ambient intro was interrupted by a mighty metronomic beat and the sort of progressive synth overtures that would have made JEAN-MICHEL JARRE proud.

Available on the album ‘The Understanding’ via Wall Of Sound Records

http://royksopp.com/


JOHN FOXX Kurfurstdendam (2006)

Since his musical return in 1997 with ‘Shifting City’, JOHN FOXX has practically had albums coming out of his ears in song-based, ambient and soundtrack formats, both solo and in collaboration with other artists. The spacey mechanical Schaffel of ‘Kurfurstdendam’ came from an imaginary soundtrack he called ‘Tiny Colour Movies’, inspired by a friend’s birthday screening of a private film collection comprising of random surveillance clips and offcuts from Hollywood.

Available on the album ‘Tiny Colour Movies’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Space-Elevator (2007)

Few acts actually genuinely sound like their name… SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, which translates as “the last man in space”, is the solo project of Swedish synthpop trailblazer Eddie Bengtsson, he of PAGE and S.P.O.C.K fame. The frantic ‘Space-Elevator’ with its swimmy string synths and Sci-Fi derived melody acted as an effective Moroder-esque interlude on his excellent sixth album ‘Tredje Våningen’.

Available on the album ‘Tredje Våningen’ via Energy Rekords

http://www.moonbasealpha.space/


TENEK Ice Fields (2007)

Borrowing the distinctive bassline from SIMPLE MINDS’ 1981 single ‘Love Song’, the British duo put together this lively danceable instrumental for their debut TENEK EP. With a modern mechanical groove coupled to their trademark synth rock, the almost funky ‘Ice Fields’ became an early live favourite, although the duo have focussed on more song based adventures for their three albums to date, ‘Stateless’, ‘On The Wire’ and ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

Available on ‘EP1+’ via https://tenek.bandcamp.com/album/ep1

http://www.tenek.co.uk/


KLEERUP Hero (2008)

In 2007, Andreas Kleerup, producer and one-time drummer for THE MEAT BOYS, undertook his first mainstream collaboration with fellow Swede ROBYN. The success of ‘With Every Heartbeat’ led to the recording of his self-titled debut album which featured a number of brilliant instrumentals. ‘Hero’ was its perfect start and with a solid bassline and strong choral timbres, it had the vibe of how OMD might have sounded if they had formed in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Kleerup’ via EMI Music

http://kleerup.net/


DAFT PUNK Tron Legacy – End Titles (2010)

While most of the ‘Tron Legacy’ soundtrack album was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese, DAFT PUNK’s spiky electronics and drum machine were kept in alongside the epic strings for the end titles of the sequel to the 1982 movie ‘Tron’. There were nods to Wendy Carlos who composed the score to the original film, with Thomas Bangalter focusing on the heroic themes while Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo was more inclined to generating the darker elements.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Tron Legacy’ via Walt Disney Records

https://www.daftpunk.com/


047 Kanpai! (2011)

Forming in 2001, Swedish duo 047 began their chiptune experiments thought a mutual appreciation of vintage video games. But after their debut long player, Peter Engström and Sebastian Rutgersson began to incorporate melodic song based elements and vocals into their music. The end results led to the impressive second album ‘Elva’, but they celebrated their chiptune influenced roots with the jolly YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA salute of ‘Kanpai!’

Available on the album ‘Elva’ via Killing Music

http://www.047.se/


MARSHEAUX Now & Never (2012)

‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ was collection of rarities from the MARSHEAUX archives. While Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou have done a fair number of cover versions in their time, they are not really known for doing instrumentals. But the electro-boppy ‘Now & Never’ was a very promising wordless demo that Vince Clarke would have approved of; as one of his former DEPECHE MODE colleagues once sang: “words are very unnecessary…”

Available on the album ‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records

http://marsheaux.com/


SOFT METALS Hourglass (2012)

Fusing Detroit techno with more European experimental forms, Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks’ second SOFT METALS album ‘Lenses’ featured the fabulous instrumental ‘Hourglass’. As Hall put it: “I really wanted to write lyrics for that one, but was never quite satisfied with what I came up with. I decided it would be better to let that one be an instrumental. I think it holds up on its own. It’s nice to give the listener a chance to interpret its meaning on its own rather than direct them with words”.

Available on the album ‘Lenses’ via Captured Tracks

https://www.facebook.com/SOFTMETALS/


VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens (2013)

Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s tribute to ‘Assault On Precinct 13’, ‘The future through a lens’ was a moody but booming instrumental that began their excellent debut longer player of the same name, which later netted a Schallewelle Award for ‘Best international Album’ in 2014. With their vast array of analogue synthesizers and exquisite taste for sound textures, it won’t be too surprising if VILE ELECTRODES aren’t offered some soundtrack opportunities in the near future.

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

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


TODD TERJE Delorean Dynamite (2014)

Although making his name within EDM circles, the Norwegian producer born Todd Olsen paid a musical tribute to ‘Back To The Future’ and its futuristic gull-wing doored Delorean DMC-12 car with this suitably driving Synthwave instrumental. Unlike other so-called dance producers, Terje is conversant with electronic music history and possesses a wry sense of humour, as evidenced by the witty wordplay of track titles like ‘Inspector Norse’ and his own DJ moniker.

Available on the album ‘It’s Album Time’ via Olsen Records

http://toddterje.com/


BLANCMANGE Cistern (2015)

After the first phase of BLANCMANGE, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe worked within the TV and film industry, scoring soundtracks and incidental music. Although best known for his voice, Neil Arthur’s instrumentals have been a continual form of expression. The brilliant ‘Cistern’ comes over like an imaginary Bond Theme for a retro-futuristic world. The wordless wonder that is the parent album ‘Nil By Mouth’ is an unsung masterpiece.

Available on the album ‘Nil By Mouth’ via Blanc Check

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot (2015)

Adam Cresswell’s sombre vocals and the darker lyrical themes on his debut RODNEY CROMWELL album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ took a breather with the bright and breezy ‘Baby Robot’. With sweet synthesizer melodies, pretty glints of glockenspiel and a bouncy beatbox, the instrumental was inspired by birth of his son. “Yes, ‘Baby Robot’ is the one track on the album that’s 100% upbeat as it is about the experience of being a father” he gleefully told The Electricity Club.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

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


DARKNESS FALLS Thunder Roads (2015)

While Danish duo DARKNESS FALLS are better known for their melancholic Nordic vocals and neo-gothic overtones on songs like ‘The Void’, the dark synthy instrumental ‘Thunder Roads’ proved to be one of the most striking tracks on their second album ‘Dance & Cry’. With a punchy drum machine mantra and menacing reverberant sequence, it was augmented by guitar screeches and sombre six string basslines reminiscent of JOY DIVISION and THE CURE.

Available on the album ‘Dance & Cry’ via Fake Diamond Records

http://darknessfallsmusic.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE & BOYZ NOISE The Time Machine (2015)

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s first album for since ‘Teo & Tea’ in 2007 was a two volume opus entitled ‘Electronica’; it features collaborations with a number of synth pioneers and modern day dance artists including BOYZ NOISE aka Berlin DJ Alexander Ridha. This climactic track took on a new life as the set closer on the French synth maestro’s ‘Electronica’ world tour, with a lasered 3D visual feast that required no special glasses! BUT BEWARE OF FLASHING IMAGES! 😉

Available on the album ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JOHN CARPENTER Utopian Façade (2016)

The horror film king recorded his ‘Lost Themes’ series in collaboration with his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies as standalone pieces, without the pressure of having to put the music to moving images. The second volume was completed on a tighter schedule to accompany a world concert tour and thus replicated some of the challenging moods in his soundtrack work with tracks like ‘Utopian Façade’ recalling his classic movie soundscapes.

Available on the album ‘Lost Themes II’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/


KYLE DIXON & MICHAEL STEIN Stranger Things (2016)

Dixon and Stein are members of the Texan group SURVIVE and their accompanying music to ‘Stranger Things’, a cross between ‘ET’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Alien’, sent electronic music fans into online meltdown with its use of vintage analogue synths. With a soundtrack influenced by the horror flicks of Dario Argento and of course John Carpenter, the one minute opening title music to the acclaimed drama series said all that was needed to be said in its brooding dissonant tones.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Stranger Things – Volume 1’ via Invada Records

https://www.facebook.com/survivesurvive/


TINY MAGNETIC PETS Klangfarben (2016)

As would be expected from a title like ‘Klangfarben’, this vibrant instrumental from Dublin trio TINY MAGNETIC PETS is an enjoyable homage to Germanic music forms, with a loose percussive feel that still maintains that vital degree of Motorik. A word meaning “soundcolour”, it refers to a technique whereby a musical line is split between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument, thereby adding timbre and texture to proceedings.

Available on the EP ‘The NATO Alphabet EP’ via https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2017

TEC’s 25 SVENSKA SYNTH SONGS

Like Germany and the UK, Sweden has an established history in electronic music.

With a melodic tradition rooted in traditional Nordic folk music and the region’s long dark nights causing bouts of melancholy, the Swedes are more than well suited to stay indoors and further the art of synthpop.

In addition, Clavia Digital Musical Instruments, founded in 1983 and based in Stockholm, have emerged as a world leader in modern virtual analogue subtractive synthesizers with its distinctive red Nord Lead series.

Probably the most influential act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Their influence internationally on countless acts such as GAZELLE TWIN, GRIMES, AUSTRA, THE HORN THE HUNT and BECKY BECKY to adopt darker colours and mess with the very fabric of sound, has held a flag for inventive artful experimentation.

Meanwhile, COVENANT maintain an audience across the Atlantic for their resonant futurepop and ROBYN has become so much part of the mainstream that her songs are regularly murdered by reality TV talent show wannabes.

The iconic Energy Rekords provided a platform for modern electronic music in the country while today, labels such as Progress Productions, Labrador and Wonderland have maintained their support for domestic talent.

As KITE lead the way with their upcoming second tour of the US, Swedish synthpop continues to impress with acts like TRAIN TO SPAIN, 047, PRESENCE OF MIND, SILENT WAVE, THE SOUND OF ARROWS and COMPUTE among those with the potential to breakout of their domestic scenes.

So what’s so special about Sweden then? Listed chronologically and then alphabetically from its UK perspective with a restriction of one song per moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 SVENSKA SYNTH SONGS…


LUSTANS LAKEJER Diamanter (1982)

With a shortened title, ‘Diamanter’ was a more synth driven re-recording of their second single. LUSTANS LAKEJER were labelled Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN and like the Birmingham combo, Johan Kinde and Co were heavily influenced by JAPAN. Their third album ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri with Mick Karn popping up with his sax on three of its tracks.

Available on the album ‘En Plats I Solen’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/LustansLakejer/


PAGE Dansande Man (1983)

Founded in 1980 by Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko, PAGE are often credited with bringing the more purer form of synthpop as pioneered by Vince Clarke to Sweden. Their debut single ‘Dansande Man’ was a frantically percussive excursion suitable for dancing to as the title suggested. Bengtsson and Schiptjenko were to become key figures on the Swedish music scene in many guises, as we shall see…

Originally released as a single via Eskimo, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop/


THE MOBILE HOMES Feeling Better (1989)

With their name inspired by a JAPAN song, THE MOBILE HOMES were another Swedish band adopting purer synthpop colours . For their second single ‘Feeling Better’, they signed to Sonet, a Scandinavian independent who coincidentally handled the early publishing of Martin Gore and Vince Clarke. Eschewing the quirkiness of PAGE, THE MOBILE HOMES reflected the more pessimistic side of life often associated with Sweden.

Available on download bundle ‘Feeling Better’ via Universal Music

http://www.themobilehomes.se/


ARMY OF LOVERS Obsession (1991)

An almost cartoonish trio originally comprising of Alexander Bard, Jean-Pierre Barda and La Camilla, ARMY OF LOVERS countered their outlandish visual presence with catchy electronic dance tunes influenced by the hippy musical ‘Hair’. While the epic ‘Crucify’ was the huge worldwide hit, the musically more subtle ‘Obsession’ offered a softer side while still maintaining the cinematic drama.

Available on the album ‘Massive Luxury Overdose’ via China Records

https://www.facebook.com/armyofloversofficial/


S.P.O.C.K Never Trust A Klingon (1992)

In parallel with PAGE, Eddie Bengtsson joined vocalist Alexander Hofman  to write and perform some ‘Star Trek’ themed songs for a friend’s Trekkie themed birthday party. . Originally called MR SPOCK, the band name was changed to an acronym for ‘Star Pilot On Channel K’ after threats of legal action from Paramount Studios. ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is still their crowning moment, a genius combination of deadpan vocals, bubbling synthpop and samples from Captain James T Kirk.

Available on the album ‘Five Year Mission’ via Energy Rekords

http://www.subspace.se/spock/


ELEGANT MACHINERY Hard To Handle (1993)

Founded in 1988, ELEGANT MACHINERY were another act who preferred a purer synthpop stance; they even covered SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ in the style of Vince Clarke for an excellent 1995 Energy Rekords tribute collection of the same name. Many consider ‘Hard To Handle’ their finest song, an excellent blend of dance friendly beats and blippy melodies.

Available on the album ‘Shattered Grounds’ via Energy Rekords

http://elegantmachinery.se/


COVENANT Bullet (2002)

Formed in 1986 in Helsingborg, the Eskil Simonsson fronted COVENANT managed to gain a footing in both synthpop and EBM camps, achieving great success in North America from touring the alternative electronic club network established following the stateside success of DEPECHE MODE. Still going strong, 2016 saw the release of their ninth long player ‘Blinding Dark’.

Available on the album ‘Northern Light’ via Metroplis Records

http://www.covenant.se/


THE KNIFE Pass This On (2003)

Sibling duo THE KNIFE are probably the acclaimed electronic act to emerge from Sweden. Their uncompromising approach has won them many plaudits. But there was a time when with their experimentation came a tune too. The wonderful ‘Pass This On’ took Karin Dreijer’s unsettling pitch shifted vocals and placed them over brother Olaf’s soundtrack of primitive string machine and uplifting steel drums. Things got much darker after this…

Available on the album ‘Deep Cuts’ via Braille Records

http://theknife.net/


ROBYN Who’s That Girl? (2005)

Tired of her label BMG trying to turn her into the Swedish CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ROBYN took began taking an interest in the electronic movement closer to home. Inspired by THE KNIF, she collaborated with them to produce what is now possibly the key song which transformed Robin Miriam Carlsson into the successful independently minded artist she is today.

Available on the album ‘Robyn’ via Konichiwa Records

http://robyn.com/


EMMON Rock D’Amour (2007)

Best known as a member of the cult Swedish indie band PARIS, singer and keyboardist Emma Nylén had aspirations to produce something that was more decisively electronic. Her first recordings immediately showcased a catchy dance friendly sound as exemplified by ‘Rock D’Amour’. Subsequent albums ‘Closet Wanderings’ and ‘Nomme’ have maintained the standard, although EMMON is currently on a career break to raise a family.

Available on the album ‘The Art & The Evil’ via Wonderland Records

https://www.facebook.com/Emmon-240551649322636/


SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Allt Är Klart (2007)

Eddie Bengstsson’s solo project, also referred to as SMPJ, saw him unafraid to mine his Synth Britannia influences. ‘Allt Är Klart’ was an ULTRAVOX tribute and effectively a Swedish vocal version of the instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard, staccato synth bassline was borrowed from the original, but the track was bolstered by some superb whirring synths in the tradition of Billy Currie’s adventures with the ARP Odyssey.

Available on the album ‘Tredje Våningen’ via Energy Rekords

http://www.moonbasealpha.space/


ASHBURY HEIGHTS Spiders (2008)

Combining dual male / female vocals with a danceable electro goth backdrop, Anders Hagström and Yasmine Uhlin achieved success in Germany as well as Sweden with ‘Spiders’. ASHBURY HEIGHTS came out of hiatus in 2015 with a new female vocalist Tea F Thimé and a new album ‘The Looking Glass Society’ after a settling a despite with their label Out Of Line.

Available on the EP ‘Morningstar In A Black Car’ via Out Of Line Records

https://www.facebook.com/ashbury.heights/


BWO Lay Your Love On Me (2008)

BODIES WITHOUT ORGANS or BWO saw PAGE’s Marina Schiptjenko teaming up Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in a project that has probably come closest to exploiting the musicality of ABBA for the 21st Century. Fronted by the extremely handsome Martin Rolinski, the classic pop tradition of the original Super Swedes was more than obvious on the mightily bonkers ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ which they entered for Eurovision.

Available on the album ‘Pandemonium’ via Capitol Records

https://www.facebook.com/bodieswithoutorgans/


KLEERUP Longing For Lullabies (2008)

Producer Andreas Kleerup hit paydirt with ‘With Every Heartbeat’, a collaboration with ROBYN. A marvellous self-titled album followed with ‘Longing For Lullabies’ featuring Neneh Cherry’s sister Titiyo being the tearful highlight. Despite being driven with raw mechanical beats, the simple vocal melody was simple, almost keyboard-like going up and down the ivory scale in the best tradition of OMD while Titiyo’s vocal range made it a bit Agnetha and Annifrid too!

Available on the album ‘Kleerup’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/kleerupmusic/


KARIN PARK Ashes (2009)

One established artist who made a volte face in the wake of THE KNIFE was KARIN PARK. It was on more her ROBYN-esque third album ‘Ashes To Gold’ that she sowed the seeds of her current electronic template. The synthpop disco of ‘Ashes’ fused electronic counterpoints and a live bass guitar with an incessant groove while Miss Park provided her enticing vocal presence.

Available on the album ‘Ashes To Gold’ via Young Aspiring Professionals

https://www.facebook.com/karinpark/


NIKI & THE DOVE DJ, Ease My Mind (2010)

Another act formed under the spectre of THE KNIFE, Stockholm duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf released ‘Mother Protect’ as a free download to launch NIKI & THE DOVE. Then came ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’; shaped by a ritualistic percussive mantra and whirring sub-bass, Dahlström’s witchy mannerisms provided the surreal scenario of what the Dreijers might have sounded like if they had decided to enter Eurovision.

Available on the album ‘Instinct’ via Mercury Records

http://www.nikiandthedove.com/


DAYBEHAVIOR Silent Dawn (2011)

Having issued their first album ‘:Adored’ in 1996 and their second ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’ in 2004, ‘Silent Dawn’ was a single released as part of DAYBEHAVIOR‘s much vaunted comeback. The song was an exploration in laid back filmic pop and breathy continental vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Italian art movie. Indeed their most recent single ‘Change’ was also released in an alternative Italian language version, naturally titled ‘Cambiare’.

Available on the album ‘Follow That Car!’ via Graplur

https://www.facebook.com/DayBehavior/


KITE Step Forward (2011)

KITE have been called “Sweden’s best kept pop-secret”; Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg have undoubtedly been producing some of the best electronic pop of the last few years. Only releasing EPs, things started to truly come together on their fourth release ‘IV’. From it, ‘Step Forward’ with its sharp percussive drama and pentatonic overtones was the undoubted highlight. More recently, the duo have been commissioned to provide a song for a new Steven Segal film.

Available on the EP ‘IV’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ/


CLUB 8 Stop Taking My Time (2013)

With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline from Johan Angergård, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds with ‘Stop Taking Time’ that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor. Formed in 1995 as a more conventional pop act, CLUB 8’s most recent album ‘Pleasure’ celebrated 20 years for the duo.

Available on the album ‘Above The City’ via Labrador Records

http://www.club-8.org/


MACHINISTA Molecules & Carbon (2014)

MACHINISTA are seasoned hands, John Lindqwister was part of CAT RAPES DOG while Richard Flow was in VISION TALK with the late Krister Petersson. Their mantra is produce synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge. Like THE CURE gone electronic, or ALPHAVILLE crossed with SUICIDE, ‘Molecules & Carbon’ is both catchy and danceable with some suitably rousing elements too.

Available on the album ‘Xenoglossy’ via Analogue Trash

http://www.machinistamusic.com/


IAMAMIWHOAMI Chasing Kites (2014)

First launched via a set of mysterious viral videos with alphanumeric code titles, IAMAMIWHOAMI helmed by vocalist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund premiered a delightfully odd cinematic electronic sound. From the second album ‘Blue’, the rich Scandipop of ‘Chasing Kites’ sees Jonna Lee hitting those ABBA-esque high notes with ablomb before adopting a huskier register for the second half.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via To Whom It May Concern

http://towhomitmayconcern.cc/creators/iamamiwhoami


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, JOHAN BAECKSTROM said “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

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

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


TWICE A MAN High In The Clouds (2015)

Founded by Dan Söderqvist and Karl Gasleben, TWICE A MAN were the opposite to many Swedish acts in that they used synths and electronic effects for more sombre atmospheric soundscapes rather than performing outright pop. Still operating as a unit, their 2015 album ‘Presence’ featuring epic environmental message songs like ‘High In The Clouds’ showed their talents have not waned over the years and indeed have become more accessible.

Available on the album ‘Presence’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.twiceaman.com/


VANBOT Trooper (2015)

After her inconclusive self-titled debut album in 2011, VANBOT aka Ester Ideskog had a rethink and started venturing into artier climes with the dreamy and enigmatic ‘Trooper’. With layers of vocals and rushes of lush synth, it started a journey towards the otherworldly template of IAMAMIWHOAMI. Her icy journey continues on her next album ‘Siberia’ which was written and recorded on a 17 day trip aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Available on the album ‘Perfect Storm’ via Lisch Recordings

http://www.vanbotmusic.com/


REIN I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You (2016)

Feisty, ambitious and not to be messed with, REIN has certainly caused a stir with Europe’s male dominated EBM scene. A true Rebel Girl as suggested by one of the highlights from her self-titled debut 2016 EP, even within the inherent shouty nature of the genre and Joanna Reinikainen’s debut song ‘Can’t Handle Me’ effectively being a mission statement, things are ramped up to 11 on ‘I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You’. She’s an artist to watch for sure…

Available on the single ‘I Don’t Get Anything but Shit from You’ via Playground

https://www.facebook.com/reinelectronic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th February 2017, updated 3rd November 2018

SUSANNE SUNDFØR Ten Love Songs

The profile of Norwegian singer / songwriter / producer SUSANNE SUNDFØR is probably at its career zenith right now, thanks to some quality collaborations with a number of high profile friends. Her last album ‘The Silicone Veil’ in 2012 was her UK debut and saw her experimenting more within electronica.

Since then, there has been her epic guest lead vocal on M83’s ‘Oblivion’ for the theme song of the same titled Tom Cruise film, as well as key appearances with fellow Norwegians RÖYKSOPP and Swedish producer KLEERUP.

And that’s without mentioning her remix of MAPS’ single ‘AMA’, and production work for BOW TO EACH OTHER on their debut album ‘The Urge Drums’.

This all sets the scene nicely for SUSANNE SUNDFØR’s new, eagerly anticipated solo album ‘Ten Love Songs’.

Largely self-produced, it is to an extent, a concept album: “To me, love isn’t always what it seems” she said, “When I first started to work on the album, I wanted to make an album about violence, and then, as I was writing the songs, there were violent aspects, but they were usually about love or relationships, how you connect with other people. And in the end, that turned out to be 10 love songs”.

‘Ten Love Songs’ also sees a move towards pop as Sundfør explained: “I wanted to be more mainstream. Not in the sense of the sound, but in terms of expression. There is something about pop songs that, to me, hits me more than any other types of song do. I’ve been a sucker for pop music since I was a little girl, and I’ve always wanted to make a pop record. So I guess this is my attempt!”

But although there are tunes, this is not exactly TAYLOR SWIFT’s ‘1989’ and ‘Ten Love Songs’ is still very much a compelling and tense leftfield record. This is best exemplified by the wonderful launch single ‘Fade Away’. A three minute Nordic Noir drama with fabulous vocal layers, pulsing electronics and a terrific polyphonic synth solo that Sundfør says was inspired by QUEEN, there are rousing, almost gospel like qualities that set the tone for the album.

However, it all begins like a short church service with ‘Darlings’ where a harmonium accompanies Sundfør’s mournful vocal, lamenting about the hopes and fears of love with that Nordic gospel flavour which was hinted at on ‘Fade Away’. “So, it’s definite, then…” announces Sundfør as she ponders the impending emotional gloom.

Photo by Luke Gifford

Photo by Luke Gifford

Hints of DEPECHE MODE’s spiritual longing also emerge so when ‘Accelerate’ kicks in, it sounds exactly what the Basildon boys SHOULD be doing today musically.

In collaboration with BIG BLACK DELTA, solemn synths with a haunting Cold War spectre linger before a detour into some rumbling rhythmic aggression, the combination of live drums and machines providing a magnificent rhythmic surrealism.

Sundfør’s voice is resigned one moment, then vicious the next. The chorus turns into a widescreen assault before some baroque organ interludes into the piercing climax.

The semi-acoustic ‘Silencer’ begins sparsely but when strings by the TRONDHEIMSOLISTENE chamber ensemble appear, things beautifully build like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack for a glacial Spaghetti Western with a Fjord as the scenic backdrop. ‘Kamikaze’ has a similar sparse introduction but then launches into a loose four-to-the-floor stomp. There’s stabs of spacey synths, gunshots and war noises before a sudden harpsichord break for the conclusion… it is this kind of bizarre musical jigsaw puzzle that makes ‘Ten Love Songs’ such a fascinating experience that continually asks the question: “what’s next?”.

And what’s next is the album’s ambitious ten minute centrepiece ‘Memorial’ which sees Sundfør’s partnership with M83 revisited. Again featuring strings by TRONDHEIMSOLISTENE, the tone is neo-classical in the mould of MUSE, but this is not surprising as the track was inspired by QUEEN; “I love Queen, and Freddie Mercury” Sundfør said, “I saw Live Aid when I was about 18, they broadcast it on one of the channels in Norway and I was just sucked towards the screen when he came on stage. His charisma was insane”.

In three distinct movements, Sundfør’s soaring vocal takes a breather for the middle section as a piano and orchestra take the limelight. ‘Memorial’ is a beautiful mini-drama and her cry of “You are heartless cos you took off my dress, and you never put it on again” captures an exposed and haunting vulnerability. These kinds of heartfelt theatrics have been attempted before by Sundfør on tracks like ‘Meditation In An Emergency’ from ‘The Silicone Veil’ or ‘Walls’ from her self-titled debut, but not all together on this grand a scale.

Despite an eerie, droning intro with echoes of THE WALKERS BROTHERS’ ‘The Electrician’, second single ‘Delirious’ thunders with some hard-edged electronics bolstered by more strings, coming over like THE KNIFE meeting DEPECHE MODE. With her moving vocal vibrato, our heroine announces “I’m not the one holding the gun”… this is love as a reluctant battle.

Things calm a little with ‘Slowly’, probably the most classic Scandipop song of the collection. Digital claps also give the track a more vintage feel but although comparatively lighter to the rest of ‘Ten Love Songs’, it is still richly swathed in melancholy.’Trust Me’ exposes more of Sundfør’s heartache as the sombre harmonium of ‘Darlings’ makes a return in a development of the opening track while she snarls “you cannot replace me…”

Susanne Sundfør

Photo by Sofia Fredrick Sprung

So with sinister swirls and a frantic techno rattle to finish, ‘Insects’ possesses a dark finality that is more aggressive than anything else the album.

As the machine gun drums attack, unsettling air raid sirens soundtrack an impending apocalypse. It is said that only insects will survive a nuclear holocaust, so this is a stark consequential reminder of what could happen in a world without love.

‘Ten Love Songs’ is one of those artistically accomplished albums that grows and gets better with each listen. Some components maybe unconventional, but the end results are still songs and therefore accessible in many ways. Accessibility is something THE KNIFE moved away from in their quest for experimentation… SUSANNE SUNDFØR though has successfully married the avant and pop approaches for an emotive commentary on the human condition.

“It is very taboo to be a vulnerable person” she concedes, “It’s almost like the biggest weakness today is to be a human being, because everything around us is about perfection, as if we’re trying to be like robots… If I listen to music or read books where people are saying ‘I’m very human, I feel a lot of things, bad things, good things’, that’s what touches me.”


With thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

Quotes by SUSANNE SUNDFØR from the ‘Ten Love Songs’ album biography by Dan Cairns

‘Ten Love Songs’ is released on 16th February 2015 by Sonnet Sound via Kobalt in CD, vinyl and download formats

http://susannesundfor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/susannesundfor

https://soundcloud.com/susannesundfor


Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th February 2015, updated 14th February 2015

SUSANNE SUNDFØR Fade Away

Susanne SundførThe Nordic vocalist of the moment has to be SUSANNE SUNDFØR.

First coming to wider attention following her appearance on M83′s ‘Oblivion’, she has since collaborated with fellow Norwegians RÖYKSOPP and Swedish producer KLEERUP. Her cover version of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Ice Machine’ with the former showcased her emotive vocal style.

Meanwhile her contributions ‘Running To The Sea’ and ‘Save Me’ to ‘The Inevitable End’ are two of the highlights on an album that has been touted as RÖYKSOPP’s last ever. Meanwhile on ‘Let Me In’ with KLEERUP, she is in a livelier if still melancholic mood, sounding like KARIN PARK fronting latter day ROXY MUSIC.

With the announcement that SUSANNE SUNDFØR’s fifth studio album ‘Ten Love Songs’ is to be released on 16th February 2015, comes the video for its brilliant first single ‘Fade Away’. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, it sees Sundfør in rousing form with a tune that at times sounds almost like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous synth solo is a joy to behold before the final bridge and chorus. The enigmatic video itself is a foggy Nordic Noir drama that suitably compliments the song.

SUSANNE SUNDFØR’s last album ‘The Silicone Veil’ was her UK debut and featured the moody single ‘White Foxes’. However, the ‘Ten Love Songs’ album sees her move closer to pop territory. Indeed, she has cited TAYLOR SWIFT as an influence on this new direction although the music is continually subverted as her experimental inclinations blur the pop picture.

“To me, love isn’t always what it seems. When I first started to work on the album, I wanted to make an album about violence, and then, as I was writing the songs, there were violent aspects, but they were usually about love or relationships, how you connect with other people. And in the end, that turned out to be 10 love songs” says Sundfør. The album should be an intriguing listen.


With thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

‘Ten Love Songs’ is released on 16th February 2015 by Sonnet Sound / Kobalt

SUSANNE SUNDFØR plays The Scala in London’s Kings Cross on Tuesday 3rd March 2015

http://susannesundfor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/susannesundfor


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd December 2014

KLEERUP As If We Never Won

Having delivered one of the best synth based debut albums in recent years, musician and producer Andreas Kleerup is back with two new mini albums, the first of which is entitled ‘As If We Never Won’; the second set to be released sometime in 2015 while a full length album is to follow afterwards.

Kleerup-As-If-We-Never-WonSeven years between albums is a long time even by today’s standards but Kleerup has been busy with his own, more conventionally focussed band ME & MY ARMY who released their debut album ‘Thank God For Sending Me Demons’ in 2011, the soundtrack for the Stockholm Stadsteatern’s production of the Swedish opera ‘Aniara’ and incidental music for Eurovision 2013. Any new KLEERUP recording now lives with a high degree of expectation following the stupendous 2008 self-titled debut that included noteworthy singers like ROBYN, LYKKE LI, MARIT BERGMAN, NENEH CHEERY and Cherry’s sister TITIYO in its full expanded edition.

The EP’s launch single ‘Let Me In’, featuring Susanne Sundfør who sang on M83′s ‘Oblivion’ and RÖYKSOPP’s cover of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Ice Machine’, moves away from the dreamy synth melancholy of the ‘Kleerup’ debut and delivers a more organic template, sounding like KARIN PARK if she had joined ROXY MUSIC to record ‘The Space Between’ from ‘Avalon’. It is a superb calling card, showing progression but retaining the original appeal of KLEERUP’s debut. ‘Let Me In’ is brilliantly classic and yet still very contemporary.

Opening proceedings though is ‘Sad Boys’, a beefier version of the more tranquil ‘Northern Lights’ issued last year as interval music for Eurovision 2013. A vibrant but emotive instrumental in the vein of ‘Hero’ from the ‘Kleerup’ debut, live drums give some syncopated punch which appears to be the main change in the KLEERUP sound after the distorted machine beats of its predecessor. ‘Nothing Left To Die For’ sees Jenny Wilson, formally of FIRST FLOOR POWER, in a deliciously melancholic disco romp with her haunting vocals accompanied by some pretty synth tones. Despite the sadness, like with ‘Sad Boys’, there is a wonderful groove that reveals Andreas Kleerup’s roots as a drummer.

Meanwhile, the pace mellows for ‘Rock U’ featuring Malin Dahlstrom of NIKI & THE DOVE. The witchy growl that featured on ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ and ‘Mother Protect’ is omnipresent in this more guitar focussed rock ballad that sounds like a Nordic CYNDI LAUPER, not entirely surprising as Kleerup produced her song ‘Lay Me Down’ for her great comeback album ‘Bring Ya To The Brink’ and which eventually morphed into ‘Thank You For Nothing’ on the ‘Kleerup’ album.

Kleerup by Mats BeckerThe pace slows even further with the ‘As If We Never Won’ title track, a stark but epic ballad with Kleerup himself moodily duetting with Maja Ivarsson from THE SOUNDS. It takes a while to get going but evolves into something more satisfying with each listen. And in a nod to his ME & MY ARMY project, the EP finishes with ‘Thank God For Sending Demons’ in a raw, stripped down version of the original. Coming over a bit like JOHNNY CASH if he had been born near the Arctic Circle and with just an acoustic guitar for company, it is however the least essential number of this short set and can only be really be considered as a charming, if slightly incongruous filler.

Overall as a taster for the next KLEERUP album proper, ‘As If We Never Won’ contains a number of fine songs and is a welcome pop return for one of the best electronic music producers in Europe.


‘As If We Never Won’ is released as a download EP from the usual digital outlets via Warner Music

http://kleerup.net/

https://www.facebook.com/kleerupmusic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Kleerup Portrait by Mats Bäcker
15th October 2014

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