Tag: Kylie (Page 1 of 3)

A Short Conversation with THE FRIXION

THE FRIXION are British-born Berlin based singer / lyricist Gene Serene and producer Lloyd Price, best known as a collaborative partner of SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK’s Martin Degville and a member of MASSIVE EGO.

Forming in 2016, Serene and Price’s combined sound mined both classic synthpop and Weimar Cabaret for their debut EP ‘If U Ever Wonder’.

Its five songs, including a cover of PRINCE’s ‘Under The Cherry Moon’, saw Serene coming over like a Goth Kylie over Price’s Numan-eqsue backing in a variety of tempo and signature settings; ultimately it’s what LITTLE BOOTS could have sounded like had she not had major label interference.

THE FRIXION’s new single ‘Deceive A Believer’ develops on that debut EP; with a crisp electronic production, it displays an unashamed musicality with a brooding futuristic mood that will satisfy the ears of pop and Synth Britannia connoisseurs alike.

With a performance at Synth Wave Live 2 and a short UK tour coming up, Gene Serene and Lloyd Price chatted to The Electricity Club about the artistic progression of THE FRIXION.

How did THE FRIXION become a thing?

Gene: PRINCE …we were both devastated when he passed over. Both Lloyd and I were posting the songs we could find on social media , I remember looking for a studio version of ‘Anna Stesia’, I think that’s when we started chatting – we are both massive fans, that’s how we connected… sad but true

What is the creative dynamic between the two of you?

Gene: It’s very interesting… Lloyd is much more dance and programmed based whereas I started off as a live musician, in writing I am more about arrangement and songwriting… he’s all about the synths and the noises, the rhythm, the moves and feel – I am about the lyrics, melodies and chord changes… it comes together nicely.

Lloyd: Yeah, I’m very much about the sounds and rhythms. I love to listen to other stuff and try to figure out how a certain sound was achieved. Then I’ll just bury my head in the kit and get inspired. Basically I’m the nerd.

As experienced hands, what do you each bring to the party that the other doesn’t?

Gene: Lloyd definitely is far more ahead of it all than I am… I find it hard to just “do it”, I have to wait for that magic moment when I “feel” it’s the right time – he’s much more in order than I… I make him break the mould, take risks and changes that may not be comfortable. In a lot of ways, we are worlds apart, and even live in different countries but we know 1+1=3 and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts… personally I wish Lloyd would get his axe out more – but it takes a little coaxing… I think his experience in making people move and my way of making people feel brings a “thing”.

Lloyd: Gene definitely brings a musicality to it that I could never achieve and don’t feel I’ve done in the past. As I mentioned, I’ll listen to something and that drives me immediately to jump to the kit and put something together. I’m very structured in how I work. I turn stuff around really quickly; that was a trick I learnt from my time working with Martin Degville. He was always like “have you got that demo finished yet???”, he was crazy to work with but taught me some really valuable lessons about working to tight deadlines. I actually owe Martin a lot.

The darkness with the brooding melodies on songs like ‘We Walk A Line’, that appears to be the Berlin influence taking its hold?

Gene: Actually it was a visit to Devils Den and Avebury that moved me to write that. Being very interested and involved in the more esoteric and magical things moved me to write that track, it’s about the alchemical marriage, though it has a very deep Berlin feel which Lloyd may have taken from his touring in Germany… I love that track – he did some lovely work on that musically – I didn’t want him to change a thing.

Lloyd: That track was originally a pretty ploddy 120 BPM 4/4 beat. It wasn’t working, so I stripped it back and gave it the 3/4 timing. Slowed it down… it was actually a demo for another project, but once the timing and tempo had changed, I just knew Gene would sound amazing on it. If it has a “Berlin influence” then it really is just an accident. I don’t generally go in for light-hearted pop music. I find the music that moves me most are the moodier sounds.

On the other side of the coin, ‘If U Ever Wonder’ is very pop?

Lloyd: Gene sent me over some music she’d done in the past. Immediately ‘If U Ever Wonder’ just stood out. I put a rough demo of it together and presented it to Gene to see if she’d like to work on it further. Although it does have a pop feel it still has that dark under current running through. It’s a gorgeous track.

Gene: That was written a lifetime ago – it fitted really well into our live set so I wrote to Andy Chatterley and asked if he minded me including it… although it was written in my twenties, I am a firm believer in “a good song is timeless”, it really works, and I think Lloyd has brought it to date perfectly. We had some amazing remixes on that single.

What is ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’ about and how did that come together during recording?

Gene: It’s about the elements, magic and taking charge of your world. It was our first track we ever did so one of the things I want to do is mix and remaster it again for the album. I wanted to inspire people to connect to nature and feel the world they live in rather than react to and live on it.

Lloyd: The music came together from that pulsating bassline. I’d just got a new analogue synth and that sound was the first thing I got out of it.

The demo had been sitting around a while and after chatting to Gene it was the first thing I sent to test the water. That track confirmed that we had something worth pursuing further.

You’ve recorded PRINCE and HOWARD JONES covers which is diverse to say the least?

Gene: We love both those artists. PRINCE was a hero… the HOWARD JONES track is both a classic, and an honour to have him give it the thumbs up. I don’t see too many more covers – though you never know we may slip them in every now and again, we are focusing on original material for the new album.

Lloyd: PRINCE had to be done. For me he was the best thing to come out of the 80s. I read he was inspired by GARY NUMAN around the ‘1999’ album period. If you listen to that album it really shows that he had an ear to what was going on in the UK and electronic music in general. PRINCE took elements of what was going on and stuffed it with sex and groove.

‘What is Love?’ is just a brilliant song. I heard it the other day and thought to myself that Gene would sound great on it. She proved me right. And Howard has given us his blessing too which made my day!

The debut EP came with a companion remix variant, what was the thinking behind this?

Gene: Let’s just say I wanted to give my publisher a chance to “exploit my catalogue” before we parted company, it wasn’t originally intentional to put them all on one CD – it just made sense at that time…

What will be your approach to playing Synth Wave Live 2 compared with other events you’ve performed at?

Gene: We are still a new act and have only played two live shows, we have quite a lot of shows lined up for the first part of 2018. It’s gonna be good to hone that journey, we are working on video content to go with the tracks and hopefully explain a few of the questions asked here. It’s gonna have a lot of new material – more edge, I guess you’ll have to come to really experience its energy. That’s what it will have… more energy.

Lloyd: I definitely want to take us down an edgier path. As Gene said, we’ve not done too many shows right now so I think we’re in an enviable position that no one really knows what we’re about or what we’ll come up with.

What’s next for THE FRIXION?

Gene: We have been looking at the musical and visual journey as well as our live shows in the first part of the year, the next single should be out around March if not before, the album early June… there’s a lot of enthusiasm and we would love to secure some professional support so we can keep the focus on the music.

Currently we are looking at more dates – we would love to play some festivals this year and are looking at another show in Berlin, places like Tallin, Prague, Barcelona are on the radar… we both said we would love to play America too!

But really it’s early days, the focus right now for us is finishing the album… some tracks are still in the writing and production process and the best sound is where I am at….in these immediate times I think people forget how long these things take. I love the music we make – I think it’s quite unique and I want to give it the energy it deserves – things are really looking quite exciting for us – personally I cannot wait ‘til it’s mixed and mastered, then I can take my head out and project!

Lloyd: Taking it out live is important for me now, trying tracks out live to work out what works best and what we should focus on for a great album. We’ve got a very busy schedule in 2018.

We are supporting INERTIA in March, embarking on our first tour of England as part of the ‘Ohm From Ohm’ tour with RODNEY CROMWELL, NATURE OF WIRES and VIEON in March and May. That is going to be a great experience.

We’ve got Synth Wave Live 2 obviously and then we’re supporting DAS FLUFF in June. We’ve got more in the pipeline too. And in all of that we’re writing and recording. It’s going to be a busy first six months in 2018.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to THE FRIXION

The new single ‘Deceive A Believer’ and the ‘If U Ever Wonder’ EP are available in their various formats from https://thefrixion.bandcamp.com/

THE FRIXION also embark on the ‘Ohm From Ohm’ tour with RODNEY CROMWELL, NATURE OF WIRES and VIEON, dates include: Birmingham Actress & Bishop (15th March), Leeds The Fenton (16th March), Salford Eagle Inn (17th March), London The Islington (10th May), Coventry In Music & Arts (11th May), Southend Railway Hotel (12th May) – tickets available from http://www.ohmfromohm.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/TheFrixion/

https://twitter.com/TheFrixionBand


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
24th February 2018

PAUL STATHAM Interview

What do DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE have in common?

They all appeared on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ which acted as a springboard for their fame and fortune.

But the silent success story of the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ has to be Paul Statham; while his band B-MOVIE with Steve Hovington, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey were unable to achieve a foothold in the mainstream like The Big Four, the guitarist later found considerable success as a songwriter and producer.

Working with personalities as varied as Peter Murphy, Jim Kerr, Billy Mackenzie, Dido, Dot Allison, Sarah Nixey, Kylie Minogue, Lisa Scott-Lee, Tina Arena and Rachel Stevens, Statham’s credits also include groups such as THE SATURDAYS and RIGHT SAID FRED.

Statham was also a member of cult electropop trio PEACH with Pascal Gabriel and Lisa Lamb, whose song ‘On My Own’ from their only album ‘Audiopeach’ featured during a key scene in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie ‘Sliding Doors’.

Although B-MOVIE reformed in 2004, Statham has continued his songwriting and production career in parallel.

More recently, there has also been his dark country project THE DARK FLOWERS, while he has also been releasing a series of ambient electronic albums, as well as establishing his own label Loki Records.

Paul Statham kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of The Electricity Club’s questions about his career outside of B-MOVIE…

What has motivated you to start Loki Records in the current climate?

Well, exactly the words “current climate”! I did approach some leftfield labels, but the response time was tragic! Also as a long standing writer through Warner Chappell, there is always the thought that the song has to be commented on or is specifically ‘aimed’ at something , even going through an experimental label. So setting up my own label means I can go sit in the woods filming the moon all night, then decide that will be the video as it was for the track ‘Who Won’t Wait’! Of course who sees the video is then down to you endlessly trying to put links up!

After years of songwriting, how did this move towards more experimental music come about?

I have been involved in writing or creating pieces of instrumental music since 2002 through an art curator friend Victor De Circasia to run alongside writing more commercial music. My project THE DARK FLOWERS put a small element of experimental into traditional song using backdrops of wind or recorded atmosphere behind tracks, but my favourite album is Brian Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ and also I love reading about his compositional practice.

Your third ambient release is ‘Asylum’, how does this differ in concept from your first two releases of this type ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’ which were given away on Bandcamp?

I did plan to do it this way. The first two are unaltered pieces that were actually used in two installations, ‘Installation Music 1’ is very specific to a sculpture ‘Diving Woman’ by Sottish artist David Mach. ‘Asylum’ took some installation music from the Asylum Chapel in Peckham and simply used it as the starting point to create an album that was added to and experimented on over time.

What do you get out of this more experimental direction that you wouldn’t get from writing pop songs?

Total Freedom. A real journey from going out and exploring sounds in the outside world to developing artwork / films and setting out and letting the unfolding music direct where it heads to with no thought of who may like this. That’s why sometimes I’ll give them away for free!

Any thoughts about trying to compose hour long pieces like Brian Eno has done?

I already have a 28 minute piece that was used in an installation. It involved 28 pieces of thirty seconds long, starting with one then adding to it the next piece every 30 seconds to create a collage of found sound, then after 28 minutes it reverses. I will locate it and put it out for free on Bandcamp now you have reminded me! It was accompanied by painter Daisy Cook’s series of 28 small paintings of the Australian landscape but taken from the air. We made a film but I’ve since lost it!

The B-side to B-MOVIE’s ‘Marilyn Dreams’ was ‘Film Music Part 1’, what ever happened to Part 2 and is composing film music a direction you would like to head in?

That was written by Rick and I really like it! I think it was Rick, although Steve wrote most things back then! Film music is something I would love to do and would offer the music for free to any budding or low budget film in need!

After B-MOVIE first ended, you started to work with Peter Murphy in 1988 and continue to do so today, how would describe your creative dynamic?

Slow development! No, it’s completely different than my usual co-writing and has been long distance, with us rarely or actually ever sitting down in the same room and writing anything together. ‘Love Hysteria’ was me sitting in his attic with a four track and a few instruments, then leaving it with him. ‘Deep’ was similar but in a studio room, with Peter adding stuff once I’d put any sort of sketch down. After his move to Turkey, I would visit Ankara but again go into his studio room alone and sketch ideas, whilst he would then go in after me later at night and really shape them up. Since the internet, we simply share files. Some people find this dynamic difficult but after such a long time, I find it easy to send him anything I feel will intrigue.

Photo by Pete Walsh

In 1996, you formed PEACH who you described as “ABBA Meets THE KLF”? What inspired this?

Hahahaha! That was meeting Pascal Gabriel who produced the Murphy album ‘Cascade’. After the ‘Holy Smoke’ album, Peter dropped THE 100 MEN (band) and I went back to co-writing the whole album via sketches and lots of different styles, but with a more electronic feel. We all went to Spain to record, Peter, Pascal and myself and it was fairly high pressure.

On returning to London, I began to hang out with Pascal and he suggested that we form a very up dayglo electronic trio… very different to my Murphy work and at the time, it was something I definitely needed to do.

How did getting signed to Mute come about? It appeared to happen quite quickly…

We signed to Daniel Miller’s Mute label after playing him two demos in his office with no singer and Pascal sorting of humming vocal ideas. I really respect Daniel Miller and how he got what we were trying to do immediately and offered us a deal on the spot!

I will always be grateful to Pascal as he gave me studio keys and access to all these incredible synths and recording gear and simply let me learn my way around it, whilst we simply began recording with no agenda, other than kicking electropop tunes!

While your first single ‘On My Own’ wasn’t a UK Top 40 hit, it attracted positive responses?

It was a hit in the States and reached No 11 on the radio charts and also was a pop Top 40 hit. It was No 1 in Canada, Israel and bizarrely Singapore where Lisa Lamb and myself headed out to play the city’s 33rd birthday celebrations…v v odd!

Photo by Adrian Green

How did you feel when ‘On My Own’ featured in the film ‘Sliding Doors’?

I remember being very excited, especially meeting Gwyneth Paltrow at the aftershow of the London premiere. Also seeing your name come up at the end of the film credits was worth it!

‘From This Moment On’ is a timeless pop tune?

I wrote the majority of that alone, picturing a sort of ABBA / ACE OF BASS crossover with a different rhythmic feel than the rest of the more uptempo songs.

I started with the sequencer and then went back and wrote this long intro as I may have discovered a jazz chord or two from some book! Lyrically, I just liked the sound of the words / sentiment without it being particularly about anything! I don’t normally write lyrics, perhaps you can see why!

The eventual ‘Audiopeach’ album was one of the last recordings that the late Billy Mackenzie contributed to. His ad libs on ‘Deep Down Together’ are so unmistakable, how did you know him and what was he like to work with?

Billy Mackenzie was a friend of Pascal’s and I was a HUGE fan of ASSOCIATES. It was shortly before he committed suicide and he arrived very down to earth and humble with a few cans of beer. He simply opened his mouth and that voice exploded. I loved it so much, I owned a DAT tape of him simply singing his vocal line unaccompanied, it was so pure with such a range. He also sang on ’Give Me Tomorrow’, replacing the high sampled opera vocal. I have read ‘The Glamour Chase’ biography twice now and recently have started listening to him a lot.

Photo by Joe Dilworth

By the time ‘Audiopeach’ came out in 1998, the momentum appeared to have stalled, what happened?

Basically we didn’t all get on. Lisa proved difficult at the time, while Pascal and her were complete ‘Polar Opposites’ in just about everything. I think Lisa herself will admit she found it difficult and although we had success, our vision of what PEACH should sound like / appear like were pulling in two very different directions. I was sad as had left a long running collaboration with Murphy, found success with this pop / electronic vibe, signed to Mute and then walked away from it all.

PEACH supported ERASURE in London but did not play live much, could this have been a contributory factor?

I loved playing live, especially after some amazing live shows around the world with Peter Murphy, who was and is a great frontman and thrived on chaos. Pascal wasn’t so much a live musician and Lisa just got more outrageous, so it wasn’t really a live show at all, just playing a few chords over a backing track. We played three shows with ERASURE in London and before that, two in Hamburg. The German shows were a real success and very enjoyable, but somehow we’d lost enthusiasm by the time we played London!

PEACH appeared to help kickstart your next phase as a pop writer with artists like Kylie Minogue, Rachel Stevens and Lisa Scott-Lee?

Yes, that was only due to the fact I signed via PEACH to Warner Chappell and became great friends with my A&R man Mike Sault who began getting us co-writes with other artists and also, the great work that Sandy Dworniak at TMT Management did as Pascal’s and my manager.

Some might say your best known song is ‘Here With Me’ which you did with Dido, how do you look back on it?

It was so good as Dido had no expectations on her and I loved her voice; as a person and collaborator, she was great fun and wrote quickly and strongly in terms of her lyrics / melodies. We wrote quite a lot of songs and I remember vividly writing ‘I’m No Angel’ with her in about two hours!

So how would you approach a song for a singer, as opposed to artists like Dido, Sarah Nixey or Dot Allison who are more involved in the composition side? Is there a brief from the label?

Yep, sort of. It’s always strange as they give you a reference video by another artist, then the artist plays you something different and the management tell you they want something off the wall and different, so I just try and write the most interesting music I can and see where it goes. It’s so hard to get these things right and you end up with literally hundreds of very very good songs, but then so does everyone else who co-writes with them. It’s frustrating going back and seeing a huge iTunes library with lots of songs that you feel could be hits if the artist / A&R / manager had chosen to go with the song you co-wrote!!

You also worked with Jim Kerr on ‘Return Of the King’, a tribute to Billy Mackenzie for his LOST BOY solo project and subsequently, ‘Kill Or Cure’ for SIMPLE MINDS, what was that like?

Fantastic! I saw SIMPLE MINDS four times in one year when I was a teenager and was a HUGE fan of the first four albums. Not so much ‘New Gold Dream’ onwards, but ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ and ‘Empires & Dance’.

So writing with Jim Kerr in my small bedroom sized home studio was one of those moments you think if I could have told my 18 year old self that, he wouldn’t have believed me! Also we share a lot of great music references in Bowie, Bolan, Roxy and certain literary styles / books. Jim is a very optimistic and supportive friend, he encouraged THE DARK FLOWERS and we have written a lot of material that may or may not see the light of day!

So what’s happening with THE DARK FLOWERS, which has featured Jim Kerr, Peter Murphy and Dot Allison amongst others?

I have all the music… it’s like herding cats trying to get a song or two from each person as they are all involved constantly in their own work. However I’m getting excited about the second album as its shaping up well… darker in tone than the first (deliberately) and featuring David J as well. Lloyd Cole was interested and started a track, but as of yet???!!!!

In all, are you quite happy with how you music career has turned out in its various guises?

I’m very happy… more so than ever. I re-signed to Warner Chappell in January and balance my week with running a course at BIMM in London once a week and heading up the songwriting workshops at Solent University (sixth year now) once a week too. This leaves me plenty of time to work on my own stuff and collaborate with long standing friends / artists

What’s next for you in whatever guise?

– THE DARK FLOWERS 2
– The continued release of experimental music via Loki Records
– AFTER THE RAIN (my new sample / DJ Shadow style project)
– New B-MOVIE album
– New Peter Murphy collaborations
– A new KRAFTWERK / vaporwave project with film composer Magnus Fiennes out in LA
– And continued co-writing via Warner Chappell’s, particularly with electro R‘n’B singer Billie Black.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Paul Statham

‘Asylum’ is released on CD by Loki Records, available from https://www.lokirecords.com/shop

http://paulstathammusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/paulstathammusic/

https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/

http://www.inspiracy.com/peach/

https://www.lojinx.com/artists/the-dark-flowers

https://www.facebook.com/theflowersdark/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd February 2018

TRAIN TO SPAIN I Follow You

Swedish synth duo TRAIN TO SPAIN return with their most optimistic statement yet in ‘I Follow You’.

Continuing the theme set by the 2016 single ‘Believe In Love’, this slice of vibrant Kylie-esque pop originated from a demo that singer Helena Wigeborn had: “It’s actually a really old song that I wrote in my teens when I was around 13-14 years old. It’s one of those love songs that just fills you with happiness and for me I guess I was dreaming about finding someone like that in my future. I normally sat with my guitar after school and wrote songs and dreamt about relationships.”

The promo video for ‘I Follow You’ is a London travelogue from when the pair last visited the city. Despite the cold temperatures in which it was filmed, the end result suits the positive mood of the song.

Of his role in the stomping accompaniment to ‘I Follow You’, synthesist Jonas Rasmusson simply added: “It´s one of Helena’s old songs so I just put my touch on it”

TRAIN TO SPAIN are currently recording the follow –up to their 2015 debut album ‘What it’s All About’, set for release in early 2018 while they will be playing in Germany this October at the Synthetic Orange event; the line-up also includes VILE ELECTRODES and fellow Swedes PRESENCE OF MIND.


TRAIN TO SPAIN play Synthetic Orange with VILE ELECTRODES, PRESENCE OF MIND, LIFE ON DEMAND + HELIOPHILE on Saturday 14th October 2017 at Karlsruhe Substage not far from Stuttgart, further information at http://www.synthetic-orange.net/

http://www.traintospain.se/

https://www.facebook.com/train2spain/

https://twitter.com/TrainToSpain


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st September 2017

THE FRIXION If U Ever Wonder EP

THE FRIXION are a new name, but the duo are both experienced hands…

British-born singer and lyricist Gene Serene emerged from Berlin’s hedonistic club scene and teamed up with RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP and CLOR cohort Bob Earland for her debut album ‘The Polaris Experience’ in 2015.

Meanwhile, synthesist and producer Lloyd Price is best known as a collaborator of SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK’s Martin Degville and a member of alternative eyeliner punk combo MASSIVE EGO who released their most recent opus ‘Beautiful Suicide’ on Out of Line Records.

Forming in 2016, Serene and Price’s combined sound mines both classic synthpop and Weimar Cabaret on their debut EP offering. The rich and stellar vocals of Gene Serene are on full display on the title track; ‘If U Ever Wonder’ oozes an accessibility reminiscent of LITTLE BOOTS, but thanks to Price’s production and arrangement, there’s a dark avant quality about it too.

The pop sensibilities continue on ‘Heartbroke Disco’, with Serene coming over like a Goth Kylie over Price’s trancey Numan-eqsue backbone. The brooding musicality of ‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ exposes THE FRIXION’s moodier side, the wobbling bass synth and minor key mode lifted by a great chorus that is countered by a haunting spy drama instrumental section.

‘We Walk A Line’ swings in 6/8 like a mighty electro-COCTEAU TWINS trapped at Hansa Tonstudio, while to finish the five song collection, there’s a tribute to The Purple One with a touching take of his ‘Under The Cherry Moon’.

This excellent reinterpretation accentuates PRINCE’s often hidden spiritual link to European pop forms and recalls ‘The Rhythm Divine’, YELLO’s collaboration with Shirley Bassey.

The ‘If U Ever Wonder’ EP is a fine collection to launch THE FRIXION; the songs are varied enough while still having a core identity to build a connection with a curious electronic pop audience.

It’s rather like making a good impression on a first date in the hope of at least getting a second one… and yes, The Electricity Club would like its second date 😉


‘If U Ever Wonder’ will be available as a CD EP or download on 14th August 2017, pre-order from https://thefrixion.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFrixion/

https://twitter.com/TheFrixionBand


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th July 2017

JOHN GRANT + WRANGLER Live at the Royal Albert Hall

John-Grant-Royal-Albert-HallAlthough maybe not an obvious choice, WRANGLER were chosen as an opening act because it’s well known that JOHN GRANT is a huge CABARET VOLTAIRE fan.

Ex-Cabs front man Stephen Mallinder, JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS sideman Benge and Phil Winter from TUUNG, flooded the venue with songs from their ‘LA Spark’ album. Although the notoriously cavernous Albert Hall acoustics did not always suit the purity of WRANGLER’s synthetic sound, tracks such as ‘Harder’ and ‘Theme from Wrangler’ gained a good response from the audience; many of whom were likely to be unaccustomed to such a dark and foreboding electronic aesthetic.

As Benge hammered out patterns on a minimal electronic drum set-up, Mallinder vocalised moodily over a sequenced backing; to emphasize their set, WRANGLER used a hypnotic montage of visuals on HD screens set up in front of their stage equipment. It was obvious to the audience that WRANGLER relished this opportunity to play in such a hallowed venue, but sadly the show opened up earlier than expected so many missed the band’s electronic masterpieces.

JOHN GRANT came on stage to the spoken word ‘Intro’ (based upon an excerpt from the ‘First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians’) and opened with ‘Geraldine’, the MOBY styled song about the much maligned actress Geraldine Paige. The downtempo vibe and live vocodered vocals of the track combined with low key lighting helped set the tone of the show to follow.

John-Grant-Live-Royal-Albert-Hall‘Down Here’ with its low pitched Bowie-esque ‘Ashes to Ashes’ backing vocals saw the stage enveloped in dry ice to the point where the band were rendered almost invisible.

After a short explanation about how its lyrical content combined the meaning of midlife crisis in Finnish and the Turkish for Nightmare, ‘Black Tickles, Grey Pressure’ showcased Grant at his most open and sardonic, the lyrics taking in everything from Hemorrhoid commercials through to talk of the sexual promiscuity of the 1970s.

‘Marz’, ‘It Doesn’t Matter to Him’ and ‘Outer Space’ maintained the intimate atmosphere and an early name check for his band (including Budgie from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES on drums) also included a special mention for Grant’s Roland Juno 106 and made you wonder why more artists don’t give props to their favourite synths on stage!

In what was the first of three surprise guest spots, Grant welcomed onstage CATE LE BON who duetted with him MARY MacGREGOR’s MOR classic ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’, making a point on emphasising how messed up the lyrics were, the ménage à trois lyric still sounding squirmingly uncomfortable even now.

‘Pale Green Ghosts’ showcased Grant’s electronic credentials with its sequencing, synthetic woodblock percussion and MASSIVE ATTACK inspired middle string arrangement. ‘Snug Slacks’ and current single ‘Voodoo Doll’ upped the tempo in a set, which covered every spectrum of Grant’s eclectic nature, one minute electronic, the next acoustic, the next funk. After climaxing the main set with the wonderful ‘GMF’, RICHARD HAWLEY was welcomed in to add funk guitar to the single ‘Disappointing’.

John-Grant-Kylie-Live-Royal-Albert-HallFollowing a short break, the band came back for a six-song encore including the big surprise of the evening, the appearance of KYLIE MINOGUE for ‘Glacier’.

In a move reminiscent of her unexpected guesting with NICK CAVE, the Antipodean pop princess ably held her own against her male foil.

But there was a missed opportunity in not having her sing the TRACEY THORN part on the previously despatched ‘Disappointing’. Following on, ‘Black Belt’ was a return to GRANT’s electronic psyche with its squelching synth bass, before a clutch of ballads climaxed the 21-song set.

Throughout, Grant cut an extremely watchable and compelling figure, when not seated playing synths or piano, his body twitched and danced to the more upbeat numbers all the while stalking the stage and relishing every second in the limelight. Because of its downtempo nature, it would be all too easy for the main bulk of Grant’s material to sink into a quagmire of ELTON JOHN veined MOR.

However the combination of quality songwriting, spot-on sonic references (AIR / PINK FLOYD / GARY NUMAN / DAVID BOWIE) and an affable stage presence meant that he deftly sidestepped this trap. Grant portrays himself as the anti-hero, this fact is emphasised by using understated lighting (even in a big venue), and at many points is more than happy to share the limelight and blend in with his band rather than playing the typical ego-driven solo artist.

In a musical world where the over-produced and over-exposed likes of ED SHEERAN and SAM SMITH reign supreme, the underdog approach by JOHN GRANT is all the more welcome and judging by the rapturous reception he now receives, any further midlife crises or Grey Tickles should now be banished… well at least for the time being)


JOHN GRANT ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is released by Bella Union

http://johngrantmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/johngrantmusic

WRANGLER ‘Sparked Modular Remix Project’ is released by Memetune

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/

http://memetune.net


Text by Paul Boddy
20th June 2016

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