Tag: Laibach

TEC’s 2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner MARK REEDER used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and GARY NUMAN refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just The Electricity Club 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and ALISON MOYET saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, BRIAN ENO presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; The Electricity Club wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer JORI HULKKONEN released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but MICHAEL OAKLEY and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the ex-pats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC, MATTHIAS, NTTX and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and HANNAH PEEL embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform  were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While The Electricity Club does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, The Electricity Club maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: GOLDFRAPP Systemagic
Best Gig: OMD at Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Halle
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: KATJA VON KASSEL


Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG

Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

LAIBACH Also Sprach Zarathustra

Midway through 2017 sees a veritable hive of activity for Slovenia’s LAIBACH, this includes the release of ‘Liberation Day’ which documents the group’s controversial 2015 tour of North Korea; and almost simultaneously ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, the band’s version of music for the theatrical production of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’.

In many respects, LAIBACH are the ideal act to soundtrack this piece of work, both the band and Nietzsche are / were confrontational in their own ways.

‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ provoked outrage upon its release by pondering the concept that “God is dead” and introduced the terms ‘Übermensch’ (Superman) and ‘Untermensch’ (Inferior being)…

As well causing a media storm with their well publicised visit to North Korea, LAIBACH themselves (like their contemporaries RAMMSTEIN) have flirted with imagery, symbolism and themes which are designed to provoke and are often deliberately left open to misinterpretation.

Whereas 2014’s album ‘Spectre’ could be a considered a fairly commercial release when compared with much of LAIBACH’s back catalogue, this piece of work comes across as a far more experimental and challenging proposition. Five out of the twelve tracks are instrumental and although being fairly stripped back in nature, they still remain faithful to the band’s sound and aesthetic.

Opening piece ‘Vor Sonnen-Untergang’ (‘Before The Downfall’) starts with a subtle burst of filtered white noise before a soaring string-driven orchestral overture sets the tone for the piece, a small fanfare of synthesized melody finishes the track, hinting at some of the more electronic elements to come. ‘Ein Untergang’ is bleak and uncompromising, underpinned by a retro analogue bass drum, clanging metallic percussion and Milan Fras’ stentorian vocal.

The German spoken word elements touch upon the themes from the book relating to the concept that man is in transition between ‘Untermensch’ and ‘Übermensch’ and that “the human being is a goal, a bridge”. ‘Die Unschuld I’ sees the first real synergy of synthetic and orchestral elements on the album, again full of percussive layers, the piece would have sat quite happily on the soundtrack to the LAIBACH-scored movie ‘Iron Sky’.

As the album progresses, certain sounds reappear, sounds of knives being sharpened and struck act as percussive layers; ‘Von Gipfel Zu Gipfel’ starts minimalistically before eventually building towards an emotional piano and cello-driven climax and then dissolving into a wall of orchestral strings. ‘Das Gluck’ (‘Happiness’) is a stop/start track full of found sounds (panting, eating and breathing) and ominous synth bass pulsations, not exactly easy listening but again well-suited as a soundtrack piece.

‘Vor Sonnen Aufgang’ is by far the most melodic piece here, featuring the vocals of Mina Špiler, it is a truly beautiful and haunting track with its “here comes the sun” lyric providing a welcome glimmer of hope in an unrelentingly dark album. Throughout ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ there is a signature piece of audio which is not unlike the leitmotif that HANS ZIMMER created for The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’, the sound is that of a continually rising (and sometimes falling) bowed string. Because the note is never resolved, it creates a sense of dread and foreboding and in the context of this soundtrack works extremely well. This is especially effective on the climatic final piece ‘Von Den Drei Verwandlungen’ which is arguably the musical equivalent of someone dragging their nails down a blackboard!

The main issue with LAIBACH’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ is whether it can hope to function as a stand-alone work. To fully appreciate it, ideally one would need to a) have an awareness of Nietzsche’s story to appreciate the underlying content and b) understand the German language to gain an insight into the lyrical message of the vocal pieces here.

These factors aside, this is an undeniably impressive sounding body of work and there could not be a more perfect match in the combination of story and artist involved. LAIBACH, like NINE INCH NAILS, are now in an enviable position in that they can comfortably straddle both the industrial rock arena and the flipside of more artistic endeavours such as film soundtracks. The ability to do this must be a fantastic boon for the band and ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ is a challenging but worthy addition to the bands’ 30 year plus back catalogue.

‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ is available via Mute Artists in CD, vinyl and digital formats




Text by Paul Boddy
Photo by Miro Majcen
21st July 2017

LAIBACH Live in London

LAIBACH are the musical wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) – translated from German as meaning “New Slovenian Art”

Originating from a small industrial mining town in Slovenia, their homeland is unique in that during WWII, they were occupied by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Axis sympathisers Hungary. Slovenian history is far too complex to summarise, but the consequences were years of murderous civil unrest.

It is clear that these political / social and environmental variables have informed LAIBACH’s songwriting and helped create their powerful industrial military sound. Moreover, in the past, the group has worn Fascist style attire adorned with Malevich’s black crosses. The overall effect has deftly confused the mainstream media of their political whereabouts and this confusion was exacerbated last year when the band toured North Korea.

Laibach-soundofmusicDepending on your viewpoint, these shows could be interpreted as either a wickedly subversive masterstroke to infiltrate a totalitarian country by playing songs from ‘The Sound Of Music’ (the premise of the musical being about a family, who want to escape a totalitarian country).

Or, as an act of propaganda to support a regime with a brutal leadership and appalling human rights record.

Whatever your views, this North Korean visitation has given the band a chance to deliver their own insubordinate version of ‘The Sound Of Music’ to a new and already anarchically minded audience in North London’s Kentish Town.

The Forum was originally an Art Deco Cinema built in 1934, but there is an intriguing rumour floating around that the venue was constructed for Sir Oswald Mosley as an arena for his talks and furthermore, to accommodate his Fascist ‘Blackshirt’ following. There is also some online conjecture and some neo-Roman imagery with eagles inside the venue, which may provide some evidence to substantiate these rumours.

However, it is a fact that Sir Oswald Mosley did march through Kentish Town and TEC would like to think that this tenuous link fits LAIBACH’s particular play with irony, as it certainly added an atmosphere of lawlessness past.

Pre-performance, the atmosphere was set with the original soundtrack from ‘The Sound Of Music’ motion picture being played over the PA. Synthesizer players Luka Jamnik, Rok Lopatič and drummer Janez Gabrič commenced the show by building up challenging layers of piano and electronics which delivered a slow burning interpretation of EDVARD GRIEG’s ‘Olav Trygvason’.

Laibach 2 - bit blurry, might be ok smallMore auditory confusion was soon added by the growling sounds of baritone Milan Fras and the frantic screams of mezzo-soprano Mina Špiler; the entwining aural theatrics of LAIBACH began to spirit the audience away into a world of dystopian tales.

The first set mainly focused on tracks from their last Mute album ‘Spectre’, whilst other material was integrated from their early career featuring ‘Now You Will Pay’ and ‘The Great Divide’ from 2003’s ‘WAT’.

The performance included a rather comical fifteen-minute intermission, which flashed up Laibachian propaganda like “We Want You To Join Spectre And Support Our Party!”, never one to shirk on the finer detail, the band have actually set up their own movement complete with a party manifesto.

LAIBACH launched the second half of the set with their visual and political interpretation of ‘The Sound Of Music’. Originally these songs were used in North Korea to teach Korean children the English Language. Apparently during the North Korean Tour, the band considered delivering a version ‘How Do We Solve a Problem Like Korea?’ but sensibly backtracked on that idea!

Laibach 8Nevertheless, back in North London, this segment provided the undoubted highlight of the evening; the shock factor of hearing radically re-worked versions of songs such as ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘The Hills Are Alive’ and ‘Edelweiss’ even prompting an audience vocal shout of “what the actual f***!?”.

Once Mina Špiler’s superb vocals had blown Julie Andrews out of the water forever, LAIBACH then deployed their last single ‘The Whistleblowers’ with military precision.

Proving themselves masters of the cover version, the closing songs were all interpretations of other artist’s works – BOB DYLAN’s ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’, followed by their most well-known track, a Wagnerian-style cover of ‘Live Is Life’ by OPUS. The version aired tonight was not unlike PROPAGANDA’s ‘Duel/Jewel’, being that there was a schizophrenic split including a segue into German. The encore concluded with LAIBACH’s British National Anthem ‘Anglia’, followed by OSCAR WILDE’s ‘Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves’.

Laibach 1The show was a triumph and it is clear that LAIBACH still do not fear controversy or confrontation.

However the years have softened the band and there are elements of subversive humour – from pre-recorded samples of rock ‘n’ roll clichés such as “You are the best audience!” and “We love you!”, through to sound bites of Margaret Thatcher which raised a few pantomime “boos!”.

The band commands an undeniable power and there is a timeless nature to their music, whilst lyrically the songs have taken on more relevance over time and are at times acutely prophetic in nature.

If anything, tonight’s performance will make both long-term fans and newcomers revisit the band’s back catalogue and will surely celebrate an act which has continued to evolve, shock, but ultimately entertain its growing audience.

‘Spectre’ is still available via Mute Artists




Text and photos by Sooxanne Rolfe and Paul Boddy
21st April 2016

The Electronic Legacy of MUTE RECORDS

Without doubt, Mute Records is one of the most important record labels in the history of electronic music. 

While the early electronic legacy of Virgin Records helped the genre gain its first foothold in the mainstream, the discerning ethos of Mute has maintained its presence in both pop and more experimental fields.

Like many, Mute supremo Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers as tools for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’.

The son of Austrian Jewish refugees, he was DJing on the continent after completing his film studies course when he became enthralled by the Kling Klang sound.

He was inspired to make electronic music himself but at the time, the equipment was prohibitively expensive. That all changed with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland.

Daniel Miller 1978Already a fan of German kosmische scene, his sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978.

He needed a label name and chose ‘Mute’ after the button that came on the equipment that he had used as a film studies student.

Distributed by Rough Trade, MUTE 001 was a surprise success and thanks to him including his mother’s North London home address on the back of the striking monochromatic crash test dummy sleeve, Miller started receiving cassettes from kindred spirits who were keen to explore the brave new electronic world; he realised that a new scene was developing.

Through his connections at Rough Trade, he became aware of former art student Frank Tovey. As FAD GADGET, Tovey recorded ‘Back To Nature’ which was issued as MUTE 002 in October 1979. A seminal work that was also critically acclaimed, it helped establish Mute’s credentials as a champion of electronic music.

DAF STUMM1The first album released on Mute was ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ (translated as ‘The Small and The Evil’) by German band DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT (DAF) in March 1980.

Miller had signed them because “they weren’t relying on past rock”.

The majority of STUMM 1 was recorded with the legendary Conny Plank at the controls of the studio recordings, while the remainder came from tape of a live gig at London’s Electric Ballroom.

DAF set the ball rolling in furthering Mute’s aspirations, while the Germanic influence continued through into the label’s cataloguing system as the album prefix Stumm was the German word for Mute.

Meanwhile, Miller was fascinated about the idea of synthesizers as the future of popular music and conceived a teenage pop group who would use only synths; he called them SILICON TEENS although in reality, this was actually his solo electronic covers project. Something of a novelty, his cover of ‘Red River Rock’ ended up on the closing credits of the Steve Martin / John Candy comedy ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ in 1987!

But Miller’s dream became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signed on a handshake 50/50 deal, while the group was a chart success, they fragmented after their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. However the remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, soldiered on and the rest is history. Meanwhile, the departed Vince Clarke went on to further success with YAZOO, THE ASSEMBLY and ERASURE.

With the label’s commercial success, Mute were able to back more experimental releases from Germany including the quirky single ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ by ANDREAS DORAU & DIE MARINAS, and ‘Los Ninos Del Parque’ by LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. Mute’s business ethos, where money made from record sales allowed acts to develop within a sympathetic creative environment free from interference, proved to be key to its artistic and financial prosperity.

As the label expanded over the years, further signings included EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, NICK CAVE, LAIBACH, WIRE, BOMB THE BASS (through the Blast First subsidiary), INSPIRAL CARPETS, MOBY and GOLDFRAPP. Meanwhile Miller took the ultimate step in his love of German music, acquiring the rights to the music of CAN and becoming the winning bidder for the vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ when it came up for auction!

In May 2002, Mute Records was bought by EMI for £23m, although Miller remained as a figurehead and in charge of the company’s global activities. The label became the brand for the multi-national’s electronic music activities and when KRAFTWERK’s back catalogue was finally remastered by EMI, it was released under the Mute banner.

Daniel_Miller_by_Joe_Dilworth_sonar2014_2However, with rapid changes occurring within the industry as a result of the new digital marketplace, EMI and Miller reached an agreement in September 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists for new acts, while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI via its new owners Universal.

As owners of their own catalogue though, DEPECHE MODE formally ended their association with the label that launched them and signed a lucrative licencing agreement with Sony BMG. But the Mute story continues with acts such as MAPS and POLLY SCATTERGOOD, while Miller’s latest addition to the roster has been NEW ORDER whose new album ‘Music Complete’ will be out on 28th September 2015.

So what twenty albums or EPs best represent Mute’s electronic legacy? With a restriction of one release per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s choices…

FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites (1980)

FAD GADGET Fireside FavFollowing the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ with a small but loyal fanbase now established, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated. It came in September 1980 with ‘Fireside Favourites’ co-produced with Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer. it developed on the minimal industrialism of the singles. The superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while the Cold War tensions were documented on ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ was released as STUMM 3


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties (1980)

SILICON TEENS Music for PartiesFollowing the acclaim that was accorded to THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, with Miller singing like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose. With his inherent shyness, the vehicle he used was SILICON TEENS, a fictitious synth group where several young actors were hired to appear in videos and do press interviews.

‘Music For Parties’ was released as STUMM 2


YAZOO Upstairs At Eric’s (1982)

Yazoo-Upstairs-At-EricsDisillusioned by the pop circus following the singles success of ‘New Life and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, Vince Clarke departed DEPECHE MODE in late 1981 and formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet. Although they only released two albums, YAZOO’s impact was long lasting. The debut ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was a perfect union of passionate bluesy vocals and pristinely programmed synthpop. Songs such as ‘Only You, ‘Don’t Go’, ‘Midnight’ and ‘Winter Kills’ set a high standard but Clarke and Moyet parted ways.

‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was released as STUMM 7


ROBERT GÖRL Night Full Of Tension (1984)

Robert Gorl Night Full On TensionIn a departure from DAF’s pioneering electronic body music, drummer Robert Görl lightened up considerably with a solo synthpop record that even had him posing bare chested by a swimming pool on the cover. ‘Night Full Of Tension’ even featured vocal contributions from EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox on ‘Charlie Cat’ and ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’. Although not featuring on the original LP, the brooding but accessible single ‘Mit Dir’ was an electronic cult classic and included on the CD reissue.

‘Night Full Of Tension’ was released as STUMM 16


ERASURE The Circus (1986)

ERASURE The CircusAlthough success for ERASURE was not instant with debut album ‘Wonderland’ and its lost single ‘Oh L’Amour’, the chemistry between Clarke and Bell possessed a special spark. ERASURE toured the college circuit and built up a loyal fanbase, eventually hitting chart paydirt with ‘Sometimes’. ERASURE added political commentary ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be’ and ‘The Circus’ title track, while songs such as ‘Spiralling’ and ‘Hideaway’ confirmed they were more than just a great singles act.

‘The Circus’ was released as STUMM 35


LAIBACH Opus Dei (1987)

Controversial Slovenians LAIBACH played with Teutonic rhythms and Third Reich imagery, while their unique covers of QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’ and OPUS’ ‘Life Is Life’ indicated they were either ironic art terrorists or possibly, preachers of a dangerous political message. There were accusations of Mute tolerating artists having far right sympathies but with Daniel Miller’s Jewish heritage, this was unlikely. Their industrial torture made an impact with ‘Opus Dei’ and laid the foundations for many including RAMMSTEIN.

‘Opus Dei’ was released as STUMM 44


MARTIN GORE Counterfeit (1989)

MARTIN GORE Counterfeit‘Counterfeit’ allowed Gore to indulge in a mini-album of six covers with varying origins. The emotive traditional standard ‘Motherless Child’ revealed his love of the Blues while a great version of SPARKS’ ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ was a fitting look back at the eccentric pop that would have fed the young Mr Gore. Reinterpretations of cult artists such as TUXEDOMOON, THE DURUTTI COLUMN and THE COMSAT ANGELS revealed there was a lot more to Gore’s record collection.

‘Counterfeit’ released as STUMM 67


DEPECHE MODE Violator (1990)

depeche_mode__violatorWhy is ‘Violator’ so important and highly celebrated? It is still DEPECHE MODE’s most complete and accomplished body of work. It was the classic Fletcher/Gahan/Gore/Wilder line-up firing on all cylinders and at their most happiest as a unit. The end result was four hit singles but also songs such as ‘Halo’, ‘Waiting For The Night’ and ‘Clean’ which were easily their equal. And on ‘Blue Dress’, Gore’s lyrics possessed an honesty that while dark and deviant, still retained a naïve innocence that many could relate to.

‘Violator’ was released as STUMM 64


NITZER EBB As Is (1991)

NITZER EBB As Is EP‘As Is’ saw Essex industrialists NITZER EBB at the height of their imperial powers. Although produced by the band, each song was mixed by a different artist or producer. These included Jaz Coleman from KILLING JOKE, producer Flood and MAGAZINE’s Barry Adamson. But the best number was ‘Come Alive’ mixed by Alan Wilder which had the legacy of ‘Violator’ stamped all over it. Although the subsequent album ‘Ebbhead’ which was produced by Wilder and Flood, appeared sans ‘Come Alive’.

‘As Is’ was released as MUTE 122


RECOIL Bloodline (1992)

RECOIL BloodlineWhile there had been two EPs ‘1 + 2’ and ‘Hydrology’ by RECOIL, Alan Wilder’s solo sideline to DEPECHE MODE, it wasn’t until 1992 that there was a full length album. Entitled ‘Bloodline’, it featured vocals from NITZER EBB’s Douglas McCarthy, Toni Halliday of CURVE and MOBY. Wilder’s brooding electronic soundscapes and meticulous production made their presence felt and it was McCarthy’s contributions to a cover of THE ALEX HARVEY BAND’s ‘Faith Healer’ that stole the show.

‘Bloodline’ was released as STUMM 94


MOBY Everything Is Wrong (1995)

moby-everything-is-wrongWhen MOBY was signed by Daniel Miller, he was considered to be a one hit wonder with ‘Go’ in 1991. His first proper album ‘Everything Is Wrong’ arrived in 1995. The superb instrumental ‘First Cool Hive’, the happy hardcore of ‘Feeling So Real’, the gospel punk of ‘All That I Need Is To Be Loved’ and the neo-classical ‘Hymn’ showcased his eclectic tastes. Miller’s tremendous foresight turned out to be a wise decision when the unexpected success of ‘Play’ in 1999 provided a boost in income for Mute.

‘Everything Is Wrong’ was released as STUMM 130



KOMPUTER EP CDMute175London-based duo Simon Leonard and David Baker began in 1982 as I START COUNTING and then morphed into FORTRAN 5. But as KOMPUTER, they created some heavily KRAFTWERK influenced numbers to make up for the lack of new material from Kling Klang. From their 4 track ‘EP’, ‘We Are Komputer’ was their own ‘The Robots’, while there was also the marvellous tribute to the first female Cosmonaut ‘Valentina Tereshkova’ which mined ‘The Model’.

‘Komputer’ was released as MUTE 175


PEACH Audiopeach (1997)

peachThe concept of PEACH was ‘ABBA meets THE KLF’. Released in September 1997, ‘Audiopeach’ is one of those albums that has been lost in the midst of ‘Cool Britannia’. The album’s reputation was based on the participation of its two instrumentalists Pascal Gabriel and Paul Statham. Completing PEACH’s line-up was singer Lisa Lamb. The album’s launch single ‘On My Own’ was classic pop for the modern era with Lamb’s vocal delivery akin to Belinda Carlisle going electro.

‘Audiopeach’ was released as STUMM 153


ADD N TO (X) Add Insult To Injury (2000)

ADD N to (X)While LADYTRON were using their Korg MS20s making sinewaves in a more pop oriented setting, ADD N To (X) took their MS series synths into more obscure, experimental territory. ‘Add Insult To Injury’ had one half written / performed by Ann Shenton and Steve Claydon, while the other was written / performed by Barry 7. The wonderful robotic sexual tension of ‘Plug Me In’ was the highlight while the fun continued with the bouncy ‘Adding N To X’ and the creepy noise fest of ‘Hit For Cheese’.

‘Add Insult To Injury’ was released as STUMM 187


GOLDFRAPP Felt Mountain (2000)

GOLDFRAPP Felt MountainOne of Mute’s best ever albums, ‘Felt Mountain’ was a superb introduction to the then electro Weimar Cabaret cinematics of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. Beginning with the superb ‘Lovely Head’ with its spine tingling whistle and MS20 assisted banshee wails, the album thrilled with Morricone style widescreen inflections to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Spaghetti Western. ‘Felt Mountain’ was a slow burner that was deservedly nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

‘Felt Mountain’ was released as STUMM 188


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2001)

spectrum-pursuit-vehicle‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed in 2000 as part of an art installation where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were ‘programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue’ in a white clothed room. Tracks like ‘White – You Are In Heaven’, ‘Yellow – You Are On A Beach’, ‘Blue – You Are Underwater’ and’ Green – You Are In A Forest’ were all utilised to full effect with a binaural 3D mixing technique that was best heard using headphones.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was released as STUMM 194


CLIENT Client (2003)

CLIENT th003In 2002, DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited to front female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE by Kate Holmes. Somewhere in Leipzig supporting DEPECHE MODE, they became CLIENT and were mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Signed to Mute via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, they announced “Client… satisfaction guaranteed… innovate never imitate… we aim to please… at your service” before a “F*** OFF! DON’T TOUCH ME THERE!”

‘Client’ was released as TH 003


DAVE GAHAN Hourglass (2007)

DAVE GAHAN HourglassHis solo debut ‘Paper Monsters’ was a disappointment, but Gahan was still finding his feet as a songwriter, becoming more realised on ‘Playing The Angel’. His second album ‘Hourglass’ was better and ‘Kingdom’ could have made a great DM recording. But in the same way that Mick Jagger’s 1984 Nile Rodgers produced solo debut LP having very few takers meant that the ROLLING STONES would continue ad infinitum, would DEPECHE MODE still be going if Mr Gahan’s solo career had actually taken off?

‘Hourglass’ was released as STUMM 288


MAPS Vicissitude (2013)

maps-vicissitudeWhile Mute continues to diversify and experiment, the more esoteric pop aspirations of Mute’s synthetic roster continues. MAPS is the vehicle of James Chapman and with a more expansive electronic template, his third album ‘Vicissitude’ was a selection of very personal songs with a strong melodic backbone. Unafraid to let the instrumental synthesizer elements take a prime role in the overall aesthetic, tracks like ‘AMA’ and ‘You Will Find a Way’ put MAPS into the same league as M83 and EAST INDIA YOUTH.

‘Vicissitude’ was released as STUMM 354



Polly-Scattergood-ArrowsPOLLY SCATTERGOOD signalled the more electronic journey of her second album ‘Arrows’ with the marvellous electro-COCTEAU TWINS twist of ‘Wanderlust’. While there were still signs of her folkier roots, synthetic textures and technological trickery were very much part of the action. The sad but driving pop of ‘Falling’ and ‘Subsequently Lost’ attracted empathy with Polly World, while the highly emotive ‘Miss You’ and the dreamy ‘Cocoon’ displayed her passion and vulnerability.

‘Arrows’ was released as STUMM 328


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life
23rd June 2015, edited 14th February 2018


Documentary Evidence

Some of the most successful and influential underground acts of the last 30 years performed over the two day programme at Short Circuit Presents Mute.

The event was curated by the innovative independent record label started by Daniel Miller in 1978 to originally release his single ‘Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ under the moniker of THE NORMAL.

But added to that was a unique and possibly equally exciting lecture series featuring production luminaries including Gareth Jones and Flood. The weekend drew fans literally world-wide to Camden, and the event became not only a rare opportunity to see the stars of the Mute stable past and present on stage – and the collaborative possibilities that presented – but also a meet up for social groups mainly cultivated on the internet, people recognising their tribal brothers and sisters by way of band-logo emblazoned T-shirts and tattoos.

Unsurprisingly, DEPECHE MODE fans seemed to win in the easiest to spot category, but also probably the most common. The presence of two current members and two ex-members of the synthpop overlords had led to barely measurable levels of anticipation of a possible mega-Mode reunion.

Arriving at the beginning of RECOIL’s performance at the early hour of 7.30pm Friday evening, the festival was already very healthily attended, and it would be fair to say that DEPECHE MODE fans made up at least two thirds of the audience in the main room. Cameras were held aloft constantly aimed not only at Alan Wilder and co. on stage but also at the VIP balcony, where Mode celebrity Martin Gore could be seen relaxing with friends.

RECOIL’s show was engaging and slick, surprisingly beefed up from the sound of his recent albums. His recent association with support act and sometime collaborator Daniel Myer (aka ARCHITECT, HAUJOBB and COVENANT drum programmer) seems to have steered Wilder back in a direction closer to his early work ‘Unsound Methods’ and even to shades of the ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ era Mode. As could be expected, the crowd ignited when RECOIL performed a DM mega-remix section, with elements of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, ‘Behind The Wheel’ and ‘Walking In My Shoes’. At the end of the segment the crowd – who had dutifully engaged in the Cornfield Wave already – cheered rowdily, leading Alan to dryly observe “you like a bit of the Mode, don’t you?”

Shortly afterwards we were treated to our first but by no means last example of the Mute Family guest spots, with Wilder bringing out NITZER EBB’s frontman Douglas McCarthy for a spirited rendition of ‘Faith Healer’. But if that wasn’t enough to slake the greedy thirst of Mode fans, after an equinanimous rendering of NITZER EBB’s ‘Family Man’ – a track that Wilder had produced – they climaxed the entire affair with a teaser of what could possibly be in store for DM fans – Douglas McCarthy singing ‘Personal Jesus’. Even for non-DM fans, it was an extraordinary moment, reminding us all of the vast possibilities an event such as this one holds, and just how packed with talent Mute has consistently been.

Why this is so, and why this even is so exciting, subsequently, does come down in many ways to the foresight of just one man – Daniel Miller. And so much did and does Miller believe in his acts and associates that many call him their mentor and friend, influence and support. In return, Miller’s genuine passion for his acts is evident, as he could frequently be spotted in the crowd, nodding or dancing to the act on stage.

NITZEREBBMikeCooper (2)After RECOIL left the stage to loud adulating applause, the stage was set up for NITZER EBB. McCarthy may not have had far to stroll to get back on stage, but he was kind enough to perform a costume change between appearances, coming out in his trademark Terminator-esque shades and slick narrow cut suit, accompanied by Bon Harris in a designer version of a miner’s outfit (braces and flatcap) and current drummer Jason Payne also sharply besuited.

I challenge you, dear reader, to find any frontman more charismatic than Douglas McCarthy, and the NITZER EBB show was a dynamic and stylish yet powerful affair, taking their back catalogue bests for a prowl to a very enthusiastic crowd who lapped up McCarthy’s posing and pacing.

‘Hearts And Minds’, ‘Control I’m Here’, ‘Getting Closer’, ‘Let Your Body Learn’ and many more NE back catalogue highlights, entertained the familiar and the uninitiated alike, with much impressed clapping and shouting – not to mention gesticular dancing – peppering the whole set.

Having seen the crowd growing steadily, and particularly having spied bottlenecks to enter the Studio space where the night’s industrial luminaries were about to take over for a handful of hours, one had to accept that until cloning is viable we can’t be in two great rooms at once and leave before the Nitzer encore to ensure a place at the CHRIS & COSEY (from THROBBING GRISTLE) show.

Whilst TG’s output was always experimental and confronting, CHRIS & COSEY specialised in a more club-friendly sound, making strange dancefloor hypnotic anthems. With the Optimo label’s recent rerelease of early album The Space Between showing the groove that infuses much of CHRIS & COSEY’s more danceable work, it was no surprise to fans who packed themselves tighter than industrial sardines into the small Studio space that the Carter Tutti meets Nik Void (from FACTORY FLOOR) show was at its heart a techno influenced affair.

With a U-shaped stage absolutely covered in gear including effects pedals, synths and laptops, Chris Carter steered the groove with pulsing spacey beats, whilst Cosey Fanni Tutti added guitar, bass and reverb-soaked vocals, Nik Void punctuating the affair with guitar played with a violin bow. It was awesome, brilliant and a little strange. Just a good amount of strange, leaving many first-timers more converted than freaked out.

As to the issue of freaking out the crowd, that was the accepted raison d’etre of following act NON. After CHRIS & COSEY, those who wanted to see NON had the smarts to remain in place through the intermission, as lines streamed up the ramp outside.

Reports gave the average waiting time to get into the Studio from the beginning of the CHRIS & COSEY show until after NON at at least an hour, some seeing none of these acts at all, which understandably resulted in massive disappointment. These acts should have played a larger room, however the limitations of space in the Roundhouse gave no larger space to allocate.

NON’s show was brief and far less confronting than his reputation may suggest. Beginning with iconic track ‘Total War’, the first 20 minutes saw NON man Boyd Rice running through extended versions of a handful of NON pieces, accompanied by hypnotic visuals. His final piece was facilitated by an audience member just happening to have a drill key handy – what are the chances? After fixing his clearly ailing drill Rice treated the audience to a short burst of noise, as he used said drill to play his bass guitar. And then, suddenly and too soon, it was over.

Following this was a very different flavour of electronic sound, Mute producer and electronic artist POLE played an hour of excellent dub techno and house to an oddly mixed crowd, unsure whether to watch or dance. Eventually the dancing won out – as it should have, given the infectious nature of POLE’s grooves. Daniel Miller himself was spotted grooving in the corner, affably speaking with members of the crowd when they were brave enough to approach him.

At this point it seemed prudent to leave some energy for the extremely early showing required for Gareth Jones’ 11am lecture, and T RAUMSCHMIERE was abandoned as a good but unachievable luxury. Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and music-nerds were significantly scuppered by a swarm of takers for the Jones talk, again heavily skewed with DEPECHE MODE fans. After long sighs and cowed shoulders at the words “I’m sorry, this talk is now full”, it was time to wander inside and tinker with the open-to-public modular set up in the floyer.

A Tardis-like construction of modular modules, with several panels wired to speakers so one could share the variably wonderful and execrable bleeps and arpeggios of one’s construction with anyone in hearing vicinity. Nearby were enthusiasts armed with soldering irons, resistors and PCBs, building their own Mute Synths. Converging on the lecture space a couple of hours later to catch POLE – aka Stefan Betke, talking about mastering.

A talk for the more nerdy of the crowd, it did not suffer from the same crowding issues as the earlier Jones talk, and much of the information and question subjects were from and for musicians and home-producers. A criminally under-rated studio producer who has worked with a number of Mute artists in the past, Betke was charming and informative for those who chose to listen. In fact, listening was his best advice for home-production: “learn. how. to. listen”

FLOODMikeCooperA quick dash back to the bar gave 45 minutes to wait for what would reveal itself as arguably a weekend highlight, the talk given by Flood about his role in the development of what have become classic albums like NICK CAVE’s ‘Mercy Seat’ and DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’. Flood proved to be an entertaining and cheeky speaker, taking affectionate digs at the whims of artists. His impersonation of Martin Gore’s first reaction to the disco-ed up studio version of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with a slighty nerdy “…it ain’t my kind of disco” drew huge roars of laughter. There are plenty of YouTube clips of his talk, and you should indeed look them up.

Whether or not they are your favourites, great bands play daily in the UK. But hearing a producer and all-round nice guy like Flood give insights into the making of iconic albums we know and love – was quite an emotional experience and difficult indeed to top for best weekend experience. Not for the first or last time, listeners at this talk felt a sense of commonality – of mutually felt joy and not a little awe at what we all realised was almost a unique opportunity to see Flood in the flesh.

FLETCHMikeCooperHuman needs for sustenance and liquid fortitude took precedence, next, as we waited out the pre-ERASURE hours eating, drinking, bumping into a multitude of familiar faces and finding ourselves unable to manage more than five minutes of THE RESIDENTS.

Like many Mute acts, they were confrontingly strange, odd and unique – but not a cup of tea I found particularly drinkable. And I joined a massive crowd- easily the largest of the weekend – who had gathered to hear ERASURE, expecting and hoping to hear the unexpected.

Rumours had gathered pace as to what may happen on stage, especially when DEPECHE MODE’s Fletch got into the DJ booth beforehand. And whilst it may not have been exactly what was wished for, the ERASURE showcase certainly did not disappoint.

After the hysteria caused by ERASURE’s stage show, LAIBACH were always going to confuse and potentially scare the more commercially oriented part of the crowd. And – they did. Obviously the main influence for RAMMSTEIN, the LAIBACH approach is equal parts martial bombasticness and tongue-in-cheek pomp, best understood when listening to any of their impressively silly covers.

Tonight, after treating the crowd to chart-anthem ‘Live Is Life,’ they chose to cover QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’, repositioning it as a propagandist anthem. ERASURE fans leave in droves quickly, but whilst the audience may have thinned there were no shortage of LAIBACH devotees in the crowd, singing, shouting, air-punching and generally loving what was definitely an enjoyably visual and expansively imperial performance. Ending their set with a refreshing take on one of the most fitting – and most covered – electronic dance tracks from Mute’s back catalogue ‘Warm Leatherette’, LAIBACH put a tougher more menacing spin on the track, after RECOIL’s more groove oriented rendition the previous evening. Another weekend highlight, this was a worthy tribute to the amazing Mr Miller and his Mute legacy.

Closing the weekend’s proceedings was a late running DJ set by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore. Many remained in The Roundhouse, hoping for a Mode tune or two but Gore stuck to his guns with a well thought out set of rugged techno for his kind of disco! Those who were lucky to get invitations to the aftershow party DJ-ed by REX THE DOG carried on partying while many others hung around the outskirts of The Roundhouse to chat.

The influence on popular culture of Daniel Miller’s vision and the Mute back catalogue cannot be under estimated. Its acts have helped shaped genres as diverse as RAMMSTEIN’s industrial metal, house music from the likes of DERRICK MAY and even all singing-all dancing girl pop such as THE SATURDAYS!

A fabulous weekend all round; if this review had a five word limit, I would choose the meeting of like minds to summarise the unique musical, social and creative experience that was the Mute Festival.

Text by Nix Lowrey
Live photos by Mike Cooper
5th June 2011