Tag: Lloyd Cole

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2019

2019 was good for new music. The first two thirds of the year was particularly strong for up-and-coming talent, while a number of veterans returned to making music with synths for the first time in many years.

Inevitably, the quality of new releases couldn’t be sustained and things tailed off during the Autumn period as artists shifted their focus towards the live arena.

The launch of debut full-length releases by relative newcomers has tended to focus towards the winter in order to pitch to the deluge of tastemaker polls that are now prevalent both in mainstream and online media.

Of course, The Electricity Club is unable to include everything in its 30 SONGS OF 2019, so worthy mentions go to SHOOK, CIRCUIT 3, KANGA, FRAGILE SELF, NINA, THE HEARING, JAKUZI, TR/ST, SPELLLING, I AM SNOW ANGEL, PET SHOP BOYS, NO-MAN, RIDER, TINY MAGNETIC PETS, FRAGRANCE. and T.O.Y. for their output this year.

As per usual with a restriction of one song per artist moniker and presented in alphabetical order, these are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2019…


APOPTYGMA BERZERK A Battle For The Crown

Over the 25 years since his debut album ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ , Stephan Groth has straddled EBM, synthpop, futurepop, alternative rock and more recently instrumentals with APOPTYGMA BERZERK. For his first new material since 2016’s ‘Exit Popularity Contest’, the upcoming EP ‘Nein Danke!’ sees a return to the synthpop / new wave format. Part of a teaser single, ‘A Battle For The Crown’ offered a suitably matted austere but crucially did not forget the hooks or the melodies.

Available on the EP ‘Nein Danke!’ via Pitch Black Drive

http://www.theapboffice.com/


BOY HARSHER LA

Stark Massachusetts duo BOY HARSHER formed through an urgent need to produce and consume, so Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller utilised their minimal electronics and intense mindset to create a compelling narrative of deterioration. ‘LA’ featured a wonderfully incongruous mix of icy string synths and orchestra stabs for an enticing display of mutant electronic disco, all brilliantly sinister thanks to its varied use of effects and Matthews’ mournful demeanour.

Available on the album ‘Careful’ via Nude Club Records

https://boyharsher.com/


JORJA CHALMERS She Made Him Love Again

Jorja Chalmers is the sax and keys player for Bryan Ferry but while it was recorded in her boss’ studio, her first solo album ‘Human Again’ exuded a more sombre filmic disposition. Conceived and sketched in hotel rooms during the come down from playing to packed theatres around the world. ‘She Made Him Love Again’ was a song where Chalmers’ breathy vocals possessed a gorgeous forlorn allure and when the icy string machine and deep sax joined in, proceedings lifted to another level.

Available on the album ‘Human Again’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/


LLOYD COLE Violins

Lloyd Cole had recorded an experimental electronic album ‘Selected Studies Vol 1’ with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER in 2013, while there was also a solo instrumental collection entitled ‘1D Electronics 2012-2014’. But he put all of that modular knowhow into a song based format with the charming synthy single ‘Violins’ which saw him turn into OMD! However the King of Glum Rock didn’t totally alienate his main fan base, with guitars making their presence felt in amongst all the machinery at the halfway point.

Available on the album ‘Guesswork’ via earMUSIC

https://www.lloydcole.com/


GARY DALY I Work Alone

CHINA CRISIS have been an unlikely influence on acts such as VILLA NAH and MIRRORS, but while these days their synthwork is less pronounced, front man and keyboardist Gary Daly took the plunge with a full length solo record entitled ‘Gone From Here’. The wonderful first single ‘I Work Alone’ acted as both a statement of intent and an affirmation in self-belief. A lovely whimsical piece of Casiotone folktronica, Daly said “it’s very much ‘Neon Lights’ meets ‘Autobahn’”

Available on the album ‘Gone From Here’ via https://www.musicglue.com/gary-daly

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/


DAYBEHAVIOR Driving In My Car

With a range of tempo variation, ‘Based On A True Story’ was the undoubtedly the best album of Swedish trio DAYBEHAVIOR’s long if sporadic career. Including a number of more danceable numbers to counterpoint the more laid back aspects of their cinematic sound without losing any of their exquisite aesthetics, one of the best examples could be heard in the fabulous Europop number ‘Driving In My Car’. It was just one part of a priceless collection of quality Scandipop.

Available on the album ‘Based On A True Story’ via Graplur

http://www.daybehavior.com


FIAT LUX We Can Change The World

Nearly four decades is a long time to wait for a debut album, but with Wakefield’s FIAT LUX, it was been worth it. Recalling BLACK and CHINA CRISIS, the guarded optimism of ‘We Can Change The World’ provided a call to action in these turbulent times within an uptempo setting dressed with bubbling synths and rousing dual vocals sweetened by smooth sax. Steve Wright and David P Crickmore honoured their late band mate Ian Nelson in the best way possible with their recorded and live return.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk/


GEORGIA About Work The Dancefloor

Georgia Barnes is the daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes and the former drummer for Kate Tempest. Although her eponymous debut album possessed a more urban DIY feel, her sound has recently moved into more accessible electronic pop territory. From upcoming second album ‘Seeking Thrills’, the gloriously throbbing workout of ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ took its lead from ROBYN with its rousing Scandipop sheen, offset by a creepy distorted vocal refrain.

Available on the album ‘Seeking Thrills’ via Domino Recordings

https://georgiauk.com/


GRETA White

A Copenhagen domiciled German, classically schooled Greta Louise Schenk teamed up with Norwegian producer FARAO to enter a dreamy synthpop universe. With its unusual rhythmic structure and chromatic overtones, ‘White’ could have been an art rock number? “I often wonder how this song came out of me” she said, “I actually wrote it on my Irish bouzouki, which may explain the chords. I was listening a lot to LANA DEL REY and it was quite a dark time in my life.”

Available on the EP ‘Ardent Spring – Part I’ via Celebration Records,

https://www.facebook.com/greta.geschenk/


HEAVEN Truth Or Dare

Another project of Johnny Jewel, HEAVEN first came to wider attention with the ‘Lonesome Town’ EP. Fronted by the enigmatic allure of singer and keyboardist Aja, the brilliant ‘Truth Or Dare’ perhaps unsurprisingly sounded like CHROMATICS but with more synths and drum machine. While on tour as keyboardist with DESIRE, Aja took the title literally when they performed a cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and Jewel watched nearby…

Available on the single ‘Truth Or Dare’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/heaven_idib/


ALICE HUBBLE We Are Still Alone

ALICE HUBBLE is the new solo project of Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES. Hubley’s synth earth mother demeanour came to the fore on the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’. While the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody were glorious, when the synth strings responded in that ASHRA style, it became perfect avant pop with Hubley sadly resigning to herself that she “couldn’t find the way to make me better”.

Available on the album ‘Polarlichter’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble


IMI I Feel Alright

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI is gifted with a most glorious soprano but she applies that and her love of analogue synths to an intelligent avant pop aesthetic. ‘I Feel Alright’ with its sharp melodic call and ethereal voices headed into assertive optimism. This most promising young synth talent told The Electricity Club: “This song was written after a few years of struggling with some personal issues and it was a celebration of finally feeling ok and feeling hopeful about the future.”

Available on the EP ‘Lines’ via https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/


INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Love Girl

Hailing from Sheffield, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP and their world of academia would make “eccentric Northern electronic pop” compulsory on the curriculum. From their vibrant and accessible self-titled debut album, the bubbly ‘Love Girl’ was a luscious cross between DUBSTAR and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Cosmic but catchy, their intelligent musical escapism has been just the tonic in these turbulent times. One of their manifesto statements is “Smile at the neon and the mirrorball”.

Available on the album ‘International Teachers Of Pop’ via Desolate Spools

https://www.facebook.com/internationalteachersofpop/


HOWARD JONES Hero In Your Eyes

Producing his most synthpop work in ages, originally from the ‘Eddie The Eagle’ film sessions, Howard Jones said of ‘Hero In Your Eyes’: “I was really drawn to the part where his parents were amazing, continuing to believe in him when he was obviously not really very good at what he’d chosen to do, they kept supporting him. So him being a hero in their eyes always, that ‘I’ll be there for you’ feeling, I thought that it was something a lot of people could relate to”

Available on the album ‘Transform’ via Dtox Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


KNIGHT$ Hijack My Heart

Coming over like the love child of Richard Butler and Neil Tennant, KNIGHT$ made synthwaves with his sparkly Britalo on his energetic debut album ‘Dollars & Cents’. The Hi-NRG romp of ‘Hijack My Heart’ aped BRONSKI BEAT complete with a closing bursts of falsetto as the Winchester lad tightened his glitzy clubbing trousers to full effect and even dropped in a blistering synth solo to add to the fun. It was a highlight on one of the best albums of 2019.

Available on the album ‘Dollars & Cents’ via Specchio Uomo

https://knights101.com/


LADYTRON Deadzone

LADYTRON produced their last offering ‘Gravity The Seducer’ in 2011. Their recent heavier self-titled reboot saw the quartet of Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu entering the ‘Deadzone’. Unsettlingly percussive and full of tension but hitting the spot with the right dose of melodic elements intertwined with haunting grit and grime, LADYTRON were back with a sucker punch. All in all, it was a fantastic comeback.

Available on the album ‘Ladytron’ via !K7

http://www.ladytron.com/


LIZETTE LIZETTE Computer Game

LIZETTE LIZETTE is Lizette Nordahl, a gender neutral Swedish / Peruvian producer and performance artist whose first mini-album album ‘Queerbody’ was released 2017. The beautifully sad Nordic synth ballad ‘Computer Game’ was written in tribute to a departed friend. Showcasing Nordahl’s more emotive side, it was a quality that had not been obviously apparent in LIZETTE LIZETTE’s more danced-based recordings.

Available on the EP ‘Non’ via https://lizettelizette.bandcamp.com/

http://lizettelizette.com/


MACHINISTA Anthropocene

Reflecting gloomier times, ‘Anthropocene’ saw MACHINISTA produce their most consistent body of work yet. Vocalist John Lindqwister and instrumentalist Richard Flow took their time in a refinement of their anthemic signature sound and the addition of some conventionally flavoured twists. The title song took its lead from the dark electronic pop of Norway’s APOPTYGMA BERZERK and owed more than a debt to the haunting riff of ‘Burning Heretic’ in the ultimate sorcerer’s apprentice spell.

Available on the album ‘Anthropocene’ via Infacted Records

https://www.machinistamusic.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Canadian Hayley Stewart. ‘Apathy’ from her new album ‘Let’s!’ can only be described as delightfully nuts, with an inventive mix of a jazz swing Charleston vibe, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

Available on the album ‘Let’s!’ via ORO Records

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


KARIN MY The Silence

Swedish songstress Karin My sang with veteran combo TWICE A MAN on their poignant environmental catastrophe warning ‘High In The Clouds’ in 2105. Her solo single ‘The Silence’ was one of the first truly great songs of 2019. Swathed in beautiful synths and embroiled in that wonderful Scandinavian melancholy, her gorgeous vocals evoked a forlorn abandonment just as a wintery chill set in with the sad dilemma of whether to give up…

Available on the single ‘The Silence’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/


MICHAEL OAKLEY Left Behind

The mighty Italo Disco statement of ‘Left Behind’ came complete with obligatory orchestra stabs and a rousing chorus, gleefully fusing SAVAGE, RAF, PET SHOP BOYS and BEE GEES within a big Trevor Horn styled kitchen sink! But despite the fun laden octave shift frenzy, the lyrics were concerned with midlife reflection. Michael Oakley told The Electricity Club: “the song is about me feeling like everyone around me was getting settled in their career, getting married and taking out a mortgage.”

Available on the album ‘Introspect’ via NewRetroWave

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleyOfficial/


OBLONG Echolocation

Every now and then, the world needs a lively unpretentious synth instrumental record. With the second OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio of Benge, Dave Nice and Sid Stronarch delivered a collection of rustic electro-acoustic organically farmed electronica! With mood and pace, ‘Echolocation’ was a classic synth instrumental with its crystalline textures and charming slightly off-key blips, aurally reflecting the remote moorland location in Cornwall where it was recorded.

Available on the album ‘The Sea At Night’ via Memetune Recordings

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


OMD Don’t Go

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’ but refined for BBC Radio 2 airplay, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synth melodies from Humphreys and a spirited vocal delivery from McCluskey attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes.

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

http://www.omd.uk.com/


PLASMIC Famous

Feisty, fiery and on-message as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”, Lauren Lusardi, better known as PLASMIC dropped yet another synth bomb with a vivid narrative on the fame game where women have to compromise and serve the male gaze to get to where they want. While pink is her colour, the rugged lo-fi cocoon of anxious sound penetrated the soul with a raging reminder that if “You wanna be famous?”, then really “Don’t be so f*cking brainless!”

Available on the single ‘Famous’ via CandyShop Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/plasmicpower/


QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Komarov

“Beautiful melodies telling me terrible things” said a cartoon meme… with echoes of OMD, the life and death of the tragic Soyuz 1 cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was captured poignantly in this instrumental by QUIETER THAN SPIDERS from their brilliant debut album ‘Signs Of Life’; Yi Fan from the anonymous Chinese synth trio said: “we were moved by the human story behind it all together with the haunting backdrop of primitive space experimentation.”

Available on the album ‘Signs Of Life’ via https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-2cd-version-master

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders/


SOFTWAVE No Need To Hide

Danish duo SOFTWAVE have been gaining momentum with endorsements from luminaries such as ex-members of THE HUMAN LEAGUE Jo Callis and Ian Burden, while improving enormously since their 2016 debut EP ‘Together Alone’. Punctuated by machines of ice, ‘No Need To Hide’ was undoubtedly Clarkean, celebrating positivity in possibly SOFTWAVE’s finest moment yet with one of those rousing Scandipop choruses and coming over not unlike Celine Dion fronting ERASURE.

Available on the album ‘Game On’ via https://softwave.bandcamp.com/

http://www.softwavemusic.com/


FIFI RONG Way Out

The powerful electro R’N’B tinged ‘Way Out’ was the first English language taster from Beijing-born songstress’ ambitious new Anglo-Mandarin bilingual album project. Fifi Rong said of her concept to The Electricity Club: “I’m making a double album. One album in Chinese and the other in English. Not the typical type of translation type of bilingual album from one language to another… So the two albums are all individual songs interlinked in sounds, themes, vibes.”

Available on the single ‘Way Out’ via W Records

http://www.fifirong.com/


US Voyager

Andrew Montgomery, best known as the vocalist of GENEVA who scored hits with ‘Into The Blue’ and ‘Best Regrets’ in 1997, teamed up with Leo Josefsson of Stockholm trio LOWE to form the electronic duo US. If Jeff Buckley had dumped his Fender Telecaster for a Korg MS20, then that is the dark anthemic sound of US. ‘Voyager’ went all spacey avant trance in a wonderful cross-pollination of styles that came over a bit like MUSE at Gatecrasher.

Available on the album ‘First Contact’ via US Music Space

http://www.usmusicspace.com/


WITCH OF THE VALE Trust The Pain

It was a big year for WITCH OF THE VALE as their highly spirited otherworldly sound, deeply rooted in Celtic folklore and Wiccan beliefs, found a sympathetic audience at Infest 2019. The eponymous track from their second EP introduced serene, yet uncertain feelings channelled via clear but eerie vocals over the croon from a raven. This angelic ballad put all the fears to sleep and demonstrated how Erin and Ryan Hawthorne sound are like nothing else within the world of modern electronica.

Available on the EP ‘Trust The Pain’ via https://witchofthevale.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/witchofthevale/


OLLIE WRIDE The Driver

Although best known as the lead vocalist for FM-84 on ‘Running In The Night’, Ollie Wride unleashed his debut solo album in 2019. The Driver’ put into dynamic realisation as to what SIMPLE MINDS might have sounded like had Moroder-graduate Keith Forsey produced the 1985 ‘Once Upon A Time’ album instead of Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain. The superb grouchy synth rock saw the Brighton boy successfully pull off a cross between Jim Kerr and Billy Idol!

Available on the album ‘Thanks In Advance’ via NewRetroWave

https://www.facebook.com/olliewrideofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th December 2019

LLOYD COLE Guesswork

It was Maurice Ravel who once said: “Whatever sauce you put around the melody is a matter of taste. What is important is the melodic line”.

What Lloyd Cole has always managed within his songs throughout his career, be it ‘Perfect Skin’, ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, ‘Brand New Friend’ or ‘Like Lovers Do’ is strong melodic lines. Coupled with his bittersweet lyricism, he has been one of the UK’s leading exponents of masterful glum rock. But for ‘Guesswork’, he has put synthesizers and drum machines into his textural palette.

Cole actually first experimented with synthesizers and songs on 1993’s ‘Bad Vibes’, but considering it an artistic failure, it led to the songsmith keeping his future electronic interests purely instrumental and his songwriting traditional, and “never the twain shall meet”.

Cole eventually recorded an experimental album ‘Selected Studies Volume 1’ with German legend Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER in 2013. Released by Bureau B, custodians of the iconic Sky Records back catalogue, there was also a solo instrumental collection entitled ‘1D Electronics 2012-2014’.

Self-produced in Massachusetts and mixed by German producer Olaf Opal, despite reuniting with two former Commotions bandmates Neil Clark and Blair Cowan for the first time since 1987’s ‘Mainstream’, ‘Guesswork’ focusses on synthesizers and programming.

Referencing CHINA CRISIS and PREFAB SPROUT, Cole has also expressed a love of SUICIDE, ULTRAVOX, PET SHOP BOYS and LCD SOUNDSYSYTEM.

Certainly the application of his synthesizer knowhow became fully realised for the album’s wonderful first single ‘Violins’. On first impression, Cole appears to have turned into OMD, but the man himself cites Robert Palmer’s cult electronic pop favourite ‘Johnny & Mary’ as its main inspiration, especially in its incessant synthbass and Motorik backbone. The violin is often seen as a symbol of self-pity and while the move might have surprised his regular fanbase, ‘Violins’ did include a hefty guitar solo at its conclusion to not totally alienate them.

Not in a dissimilar vein to ‘Violins’, the shimmering ‘Moments & Whatnots’ is the most KRAFTWERK-esque of the eight tracks on ‘Guesswork’, with its simplistic electronic percussion and synthetic sparkles recalling ‘Neon Lights’. But as a song and in its afflicted delivery, it couldn’t really be anyone else but Lloyd Cole.

However, the biggest surprise comes with ‘When I Came Down From The Mountain’, a bouncy drumbox driven synthpop number. With jazzier electronic inflections that Thomas Dolby would have been proud of, its chorus even nods towards the era of Dolby-produced PREFAB SPROUT.

Meanwhile with some kosmische modular sequencing, ‘Night Sweats’ utilises a pentatonic aesthetic that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early CHINA CRISIS record, although some eagle-eared listeners will point a finger towards THE CLASH’s ‘Straight To Hell’.

But ‘Guesswork’ begins with an almost silent ambient drone; while in ‘Stranger Things’, they fear ‘The Upside Down’, Cole muses hauntingly about the aura of ‘The Over Under’.

Meanwhile on the cinematic ‘Remains’, synths beautifully substitute for orchestrations and brass arrangements in the manner of THE BLUE NILE.

These songs cleverly offer the new electronic direction without being too threatening, a subtle change of sauce without ruining anyone’s appetite.

Decorated with some great E-bowed six string, the solemn swinging overtures of ‘The Afterlife’ show that Cole has learnt from John Grant, probably the best known modern day defector from the traditional to the electronic, while ‘The Loudness Wars’ provides a relatable metaphor to the breakdown of a relationship in a fine hybrid synth and guitar closer, swathed in glorious midlife angst.

Yes, his poetic melancholy does remain, but as Lloyd Cole recently said: “Now I’m starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun. Because really what have we got to lose?”

After all, how many veteran singer-songwriter guitarists decide that electronics are the way to go? Whether long-standing enthusiasts or new admirers, many will find a lot of joy within Lloyd Cole’s sophisticated artistic diversion on ‘Guesswork’.


‘Guesswork’ is released by earMUSIC in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

http://www.lloydcole.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Lloyd.Cole.1961

https://twitter.com/Lloyd_Cole

https://open.spotify.com/album/5lyyYxXn40x0f7ODFVgzS3


Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th July 2019, updated 22nd September 2019

Introducing VON KONOW

From the same stable as VILLA NAH, SIN COS TAN and THE HEARING comes Marko von Konow.

The flamboyant Finnish art rocker says he is all about contradictions. Combining European cabaret, progressive rock and synthpop within his strange but accessible world, his sound was premiered on his 2017 album ‘Lieder’ and featured the epic single ‘Horses Run With Me’.

Unsurprisingly, von Konow looks towards Nietzsche and Sartre for literary inspiration while within popular culture, the chameleon presence of Bowie, Mercury and Gaga all loom. Embarking on a journey to distant places, his songs tell of the survival of outsiders.

With rousing avant pop melodies and dramatic orchestrations, the lead single ‘On A Hill’ from the new album ‘For All & None’ sonically echoes THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS cult favourite ‘Love My Way’ with its charming marimba hook. In a superbly picturesque monochromatic video directed by Tommi Pietiläinen with costumes designed by Suvi Hänninen, von Konow exudes an enigmatic demeanour dressed with a thoughtful glam edge.

Utilising von Konow’s inherent theatrics, other highlights on the impressive new album include a filmic jazz inflected duet with Salla Seppälä entitled ‘True As a Dream’ and ‘Away To Harbourside’ which comes over like an Owen Pallett collaboration with PET SHOP BOYS.

The intensely adventurous baroque of ‘Overtaken’ is appropriately Bowie-esque while the vivid colours of ‘Lucid Sound’ bounce like THE DIVINE COMEDY meeting LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS, but with unexpected bursts of synth for good measure alongside the strings and woodwinds.

With themes of love and death, these dramatic widescreen overtures could appeal to fans of ASSOCIATES, FIAT LUX and THE FALLOUT CLUB.


‘For All & None’ is released by Solina Records in digital formats

https://vonkonow.net/

https://www.facebook.com/vonkonowmusic/

https://www.instagram.com/vonkonowartist/

https://solinarecords.com/von-konow-for-all-and-none/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st July 2019

LLOYD COLE Violins

LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS were the kings of Glum Rock.

But for a 2015 German tour,  Lloyd Cole announced: “I’m calling these shows LIVE ELECTRONICS, and I should be clear here – there will be none of my songs performed, I will not be singing at all, or playing guitar. My instrument will be my modular synthesizer, along with some effects units and maybe a keyboard.”

Despite being a purveyor of jangling poetic indie tunes like ‘Perfect Skin’, ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?’ and ‘Brand New Friend’, Cole had actually been experimenting with electronics since 2001’s ‘Plastic Wood’ and recorded an album ‘Selected Studies Vol 1’ with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER in 2013. Released by Bureau B, custodians of the Sky Records back catalogue including works by Michael Rother, Conny Plank and Harald Grosskopf amongst others, there was also a solo instrumental collection entitled ‘1D Electronics 2012-2014’.

But Cole has been putting that modular knowhow into a song based format with a charming new synthy single ‘Violins’ in which he seems to have turned into OMD! However, not totally alienating his main fan base, guitars make their presence felt amongst all the machinery about two thirds of the way through.

‘Violins’ is from Lloyd Cole’s new album ‘Guesswork’ which has been self-produced in Massachusetts and mixed by German producer Olaf Opal. Despite reuniting with two former bandmates Neil Clark and Blair Cowan for the first time since 1987’s ‘Mainstream’ long player, ‘Guesswork’ credits ‘synthesizers’ and ‘programming’ rather a lot while the man himself has recently talked of his guitar as “going, going but not quite gone”.

As well as referencing CHINA CRISIS and PREFAB SPROUT, Cole has also expressed a love of SUICIDE, ULTRAVOX, PET SHOP BOYS and LCD SOUNDSYSYTEM, while stating that ‘Guesswork’ is predominantly an electronic album, fashioned from classic and modern keyboard, modular and drum synthesizers with occasional guitar.

Asked whether the remaining songs on ‘Guesswork’ would be of a similar vein to ‘Violins’, he replied on Twitter: “No. The instrumentation is similar. Hopefully the songs go together nicely.”

While some will not necessarily appreciate Cole’s new direction, he has no qualms about the joy of his artistic diversion: “When I was 27, the concept of the washed up older guy seemed very entertaining. Now I’m starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun. Because really what have we got to lose?” 


‘Violins’ is from the new album ‘Guesswork’ released on 26th July 2019 by earMUSIC in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

http://www.lloydcole.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Lloyd.Cole.1961

https://twitter.com/Lloyd_Cole


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th June 2019