Tag: Maison Vague (Page 1 of 2)

CIRCUIT3 Interview

‘siliconchipsuperstar’ by CIRCUIT3 slipped out quietly in December 2015 but became one of the surprise independent success stories of 2016.

The work of Dubliner Peter Fitzpatrick, it was a musical love letter to the classic era of electronic pop between 1978-1982 and like TUBEWAY ARMY’s debut long player, the blue vinyl edition sold out. Rather than go on a cruise or buy a DeLorean, he spent his royalties on more synths!

Those synths have been put to good use on ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’, the new album from CIRCUIT3 due out in Spring 2019 on Diode Records.

Acting as a trailer to the album, ‘For Your Own Good’ is arguably the first Irish synthpop hip hop crossover featuring CIRCUIT 3 working with Ricki Rawness, a respected figure on the Irish urban music scene who is not your average MC…

Peter Fitzpatrick took time out to chat about his love of electronic music, his thoughts on the current fashion for Synthwave and stalking the pioneers of Synth Britannia with his Arturia MiniBrute…

It would be fair to say ‘siliconchipsuperstar’ was an unexpected success? Why do you think listeners connected with it?

It exceeded all of my expectations. Originally I just wanted to make an album that echo’d my teen years and love of that 1978-82 era of synthpop and electronic music, put it out on vinyl and create a couple of promo videos. Above all else I wanted to have some fun.

I thought I’d sell a handful of copies and get a few video views. I didn’t expect the vinyl to sell out or for my mailing list to quadruple in size or for the gigs and festivals and offers of collaboration to happen. That’s the quantitative measure of success, but for me the true success was in making the LP and sticking to my vision of what I wanted to do. On that measure alone, it was hugely successful.

Why listeners connected is something I can definitely talk about because I have the messages from them. They loved the genre and sounds I used as it reminded them of those artists that we share a love and fascination for. All art is theft and so is using motifs and sounds, but I’m ok with that. I’m a magpie.

Another recurring message from the listeners was my old school approach to physical product, making promo videos and not taking it too seriously. They really enjoyed holding the album reading the lyrics and possessing something that was theirs alone. Synthpop is not dead!

What had inspired you to do a synthpop album after many years in rock?

After a number of years playing quite happily in rock bands and earning a living as a composer and sound designer, I was caught up in this belief that nobody wanted to hear my electronic music and that there wasn’t an audience for synthpop anyway. I thought people were only listening to ‘crappy-4tothefloor-house-handbag-squelchy-303’ dance music from whatever EDM EBD ABC XYZ genre was flavour of the month. I was so incredibly wrong.

What triggered it all was when I heard that there was a KRAFTWERK tribute show in Dublin and went along to see THE ROBOTS. Supporting was the Dublin artist POLYDROID. I was blown away both by the music that night but also the crowd at the gig. I must have made a dozen new friends in the space of 3 hours. After the gig we were all talking about our favourite artists. This sounds like a stupid movie story but next day I went online and bought a keyboard controller and a softsynth package (Vintage Collection from Arturia). I started writing and in the first 2 weeks wrote ‘Blue Diary’ and ‘New Man’. I was hooked again. I remembered what I loved.

Don’t get me wrong though. I learned a huge amount when I was in rock / pop bands and made some lifelong friends. Brian Downey, THIN LIZZY’s drummer, taught me a lot about how to push and pull the beat live and of course I grilled him about Midge Ure’s time in the band. Brian is a lovely man and one of the most underrated drummers in the world.

In all that time in rock bands I learned how to structure songs and I learned about confidence when onstage – if you don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself on stage, how is the audience going to feel? Playing in those bands paid my way through university and gave me some lifelong friends. I bumped into Brian shortly after ‘siliconchipsuperstar’ came out and he was fascinated by it – kept referring to Midge and Rusty. He thought it was brilliant that Rusty had played ‘Hundred Hands’ on his show after someone had recommended it to Rusty. He knew Rusty from the early 80s and his work with Phil Lynott, Brian’s close friend and bandmate.

‘Hundred Hands’ had some wonderful drum programming…

Thank you – one review referenced Martyn Ware which is a huge compliment. There are three drum machine touchstones for me: the CR78 which John Foxx used on ‘Metamatic’, the Linn on THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ and HEAVEN 17’s ‘Penthouse & Pavement’.

I think Martyn is the funkiest lad from Sheffield ever. I have clear memory of programming that track and trying to mix between what a real drummer might do and then add some of those funky little off-beats that Martyn uses with Linn rimshots and claps, plus I used the toms like percussion instruments – something I think he has done in the past.

The not-so-secret sauce is to use some parallel compression on the drum subgroup. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I think the snare on that track is pretty dry which is unusual for me because I love a nice bit of gated reverb on my snares…. call me old fashioned….or Steve Levine…

‘Ghost Machine’ had a terrific icy synth pad, what did you use for that and how did the track come together?

Icy! That’s a lovely word to use about synths. I love icy sounds. That’s the Arturia version of the Solina string machine plus a layered sound from a Roland JP8000 and a touch of Roland Juno 106 underneath. There’s a bit of plate reverb on it too.

That track has a cracking story attached to it. Chatting online with a Facebook friend Brian McCloskey who is originally from Derry in Ireland but is now living in California, I mentioned I was making an album and he mentioned he had tried writing lyrics in the past. I rarely had success with a collaboration where a lyricist sends me their words and I write a song around them. We gave it a try and hit paydirt on the first song.

Brian runs the very wonderful blog hosting old issues of Smash Hits ‘Like Punk Never Happened’ and we have a shared love of synthpop and pop in general. Brian’s blog had garnered him credits on BBC documentaries about ‘Top Of The Pops’ plus after show party invites from Mr Gary Kemp from that there SPANDAU BALLET. He moves in all the right circles does Brian. He also has the best legs in California. Enough of that! *LAUGHS LOUDLY*

Back to the challenge in writing songs using someone else’s lyrics; I think the reason this worked is that I visualized what the promo video was going to look like. In my mind I saw ‘Metropolis’. Sure enough when I made the promo video I used that footage.

Have the two of you written anything else?

Brian and I have another song written and it’s a bit of a synthpop cracker even if I say so myself. It’s titled ‘Future Radio’ and sounds a little like the lovechild of BUGGLES and PET SHOP BOYS. I had hoped to include it on my next album but it doesn’t fit with the other tracks. I have other plans for it and can’t wait to release it. There’s a super little vocoder part in it.

Actually, Chi while I’m here and thinking about vocoders… I’m really p*ssed off with Waldorf. They announced a string machine and vocoder a year ago. It’s exactly what I want for ‘Future Radio’ and would be ideal for playing ‘Ghost Machine’ live. It’s complete Vaporware… hasn’t materialized and I’ve had it on pre-order since early 2018! I wish they wouldn’t tease like that.

I’ll bet they’re holding off because Behringer claim to be making a clone of the classic Roland VP-330. If anyone in Dublin is reading and has a proper vocoder to loan me for a day?

Was the minimal structure of ‘In Your Shoes’ influenced by anyone in particular?

Very much so – well spotted. The song was written the week that Robin Williams died. I remembered the quote attributed to him “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” and being quite affected by his illness and what must have been a tortured state of mind that he would lead him to take his own life.

The music, arrangement and production was very heavily influenced by my favourite Howard Jones song ‘Law Of The Jungle’. I think that’s one of his finest tracks and it was only a B-side! I got to ask Howard about the song in the context of a Q&A with him at Metropolis Studios in late 2018. I’d been saving that question since 1984. I do play the long game sometimes! *laughs*

My recording is almost entirely Arturia ‘Modular’ softsynth which is an emulation of the Moog modular system. One of Howard’s trademarks is hitting the occasional high note. He has a very good falsetto. Howard’s an artist who is unfairly written out of Synth Britannia and attracts snide comments. What sort of war crime did Howard commit? I’d like to see some of the people who knock him try doing what he did live with an 808, Moog Prodigy and a Jupiter8. They probably wouldn’t know the difference between a tape recorder and a drum machine anyway. I’ve never understood the nasty responses to his work.

Which songs have been your own favourites?

Off the new album ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’, it’s a pure pop song called ‘I Don’t Want To Fall in Love Again’. It’ll be a single and one of the remixers said it sounded like something off the third YAZOO album that never happened. Possibly that’s the Fairlight samples I used for the rhythm track – almost PET SHOP BOYS I think.

iEUROPEAN did a great remix which I’m delighted with. It’s pure pop and isn’t pretending to be anything else. I’d love to hear this covered by a female vocalist or re-recorded by Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn from BUGGLES.

Now, if you’re talking about the first album ‘siliconchipsuperstar’, I think it’s ‘New Man’ simply because it was the first song recorded for the album and in the live shows it always gets a great response. It opened some doors for me. It’s a track that lets me stomp and play that lead line on as nasty and loud a synth patch as I can put together. On a keytar … doubly so. I love pop so who can resist an opportunity to get the crowd to do the claptrap part? Yes… I borrowed that from ‘Being Boiled’ and I don’t care who knows *laughs*

I know some radio shows have picked up on the ‘New Man’ Numan thing but it’s not about Gary honest! It’s also in C Minor, which as every synthesist knows, is the darkest of all keys.

Talking of YAZOO, how do you look back on your tribute album ‘All I Ever Knew’?

With great fondness. Anyone who knows me will know I’m a huge fan of Vince and Alison. Recording ‘Upstairs At Erics’ was something I’d wanted to do since I first heard the LP in 1982. In truth, ‘All I Ever Knew’ was pure self-indulgence. I made it for me and happened to release it on CD.

I made two decisions before starting on the project. Firstly I decided to stick pretty close to the original sounds and arrangements. Secondly, I decided to bring in some guest vocalists.

The sounds and arrangements decision was the most difficult. With infinite resources and a brave heart, I might well have tried my hand at doing completely new takes on those songs. However, I don’t think that ever really works.

Very few ‘reworkings’ of classics are ever pulled off well. Most are pure crap and don’t get me started on rubbish twee ukulele interpretations of songs I love.

I did however put a couple of little twists and sounds into the recordings but purposefully stayed close to the originals. I’m such a fan that they’re like sacred texts! *laughs*

Working with Emma Barson, Neil Francis and Andy Patchell was really enjoyable. I sent a copy to Vince and he emailed me with some very kind words. The 16 year old me was dumbstruck *laughs*

Then before her show in Dublin I managed to meet Alison and gave her a copy. In return I got a hug. That’s a fair trade I think. Before you ask… no, I have no plans to record ‘You & Me Both’. If I had the chance to do it all again then all I would change is to start it a year earlier and have a go at properly reworking some of the tracks.

The new single is ‘For Your Own Good’, you’ve really gone to town on that with a video and some radical remixes? How would you describe its genesis?

‘For Your Own Good’ is a lesson in embracing collaboration opportunities.

That track was written about 18 months ago and has sat lonely on the digital shelf waiting for me to do something with it. I was mid-recording the YAZOO tribute and had been listening to HEAVEN 17 a lot.

The bassline is Juno 106 and I’m using the Aly James emulation of the Linn LM-1 drum machine. As I looped the bassline, I grabbed a mic and riffed on the notion of privacy, or lack of! I visualized CCTV cameras and Zuckerberg sticking his nose in where it’s not wanted.

Listening to the tracks for the new album, I offered it to a couple of remixers and one of them – a local lad Goldy – created this brilliant remix which has more hip-hop than synthpop. He brought in another Dublin artist Ricki Rawness who added his own spoken word rap to the track. There is no way in a million years that I’d have planned this, never mind known how to put it together.

What I really loved about where Goldy and Ricki took the remix was the words Ricki wrote which took the song into the territory of medication, mental health and the 9-to-5 grind. Arguably we’ve made the first synthpop hip-hop crossover *LAUGHS LOUDLY*

How did the video come about?

We were discussing the track and laughing about how much craic we’d have making a promo video. Well one thing led to another and I found myself with Goldy, Ricki an actress and a cameraman in a video studio in Dublin. We took half a day under Goldy’s direction and made some art. He interpreted the song as me sitting on a virtual bus while the negative sh*t that invades our brains sits alongside these characters invading my personal space.

The remixes really are ‘out there’. Fans of more traditional synthpop will be pleased to hear that there is a synthy extended remix too where you can really hear the Linn and the 106… oh and a remix by Duckworth from ANALOG ON who rendered a ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ type remix. He claims he remixed it on a recent trip to Mars. That’s the kind of friends I have! *laughs*

They’re all on the limited-edition CD single while the original track and Goldy’s remix are on digital platforms.

It has provoked some quite Marmite reactions! From “that’s quite something” to “I turned it off when the rap started” and all points in between. I knew this would happen and while my inner critic said “I told you so”, I remind myself that I’m doing this for me and nobody else. It’s not like I’m U2 and breaking into people’s iPods to force their music on them.

‘The Value Of Everything & The Price Of Nothing’ is the title of the forthcoming album, that’s quite a mouthful, is there a concept at all?

I do like my long-winded album titles don’t I? *laughs*

With so much populism and division undermining our society I want to focus on the value and not the price. It was also a misheard statement on Black Friday which my inner magpie borrowed. There’s a bit of a concept there. If I reflect on the subject matter of the songs the common thread is that they’re all dealing with some aspect of the human condition. Everything from allowing populism to distort your worldview (yes I wrote about Brexit in ‘New Beginning’) to contentment (‘I Don’t Want To Fall In Love Again’) with a stop off at regret (‘Sold My Soul)’ and mental health (‘The Rain’).

I waited until I had a set of songs which all worked together. That was a frustrating wait but one that was worth it I think. Simultaneously I’ve been working on a separate album which is very much a concept album in that it has a storyline – I’ll share more about that another day – and I have Hannah Peel to thank for inspiring me to do it.

Is ‘The Value Of Everything & The Price Of Nothing’ a one-man musical show like ‘siliconchipsuperstar’? Anything you can reveal?

The new album features some backing vocals from my friend Andy Patchell and I’ve got friends contributing remixes. Aside from that, I won’t say more at this stage but there is a very cool artist I’m working with on a mini-album (or is that an EP?) who recently brought in a quite legendary UK electronic music pioneer to further the collaboration. And now we are three.

I had some songs that didn’t fit well with ‘The Value Of Everything & The Price Of Nothing’ and they’re working nicely in this collaboration. My collaborator brings a fresh view on the songs and I have to admit it’s great not having to do all the lifting myself. It’s going to be a hell of a ride in the next 18 months plus I feel another batch of songwriting sessions coming on. Not nearly enough hours in the day to do all of this.

Have you brought any new synths on board? 😉

Chi, you bloody well know I have! How long have you got? *laughs*

One of the reasons I delayed rushing out a new album was to take time to explore some new synths and move out of softsynths. There were a couple of synths I really wanted and managed to find a Sequential Circuits Pro-One as well as a Roland Jupiter 4 in really minty condition. Both had been in storage for years. The Pro-One is like ‘instant Vince Clarke’ when you use a sequencer to manipulate the filter cut-off. Every person who meets it can’t help touching it and talking about ‘Upstairs At Erics’ *laughs*

The Jupiter 4 was an obvious choice and damn I feel sorry now for Vince having read that he carried it to ‘Top Of the Pops’ from the tube. It’s bloody heavy! Seriously it’d damn heavy. I found it in a tiny village on the west coast of Ireland – drove all the way there to get it one Saturday last spring.

What I love about the Jupiter 4 is both the filter and the arpeggiator behaviour. It was Clark Stiefel of MAISON VAGUE who really sold me on the Jupiter 4. Check out some of his videos on YouTube. Set-up a simple patch and let the filter modulate while running the arpeggiator. I could sit there for hours listening to it. Actually… I have… it’s like synthy AMSR *laughs*

The Jupiter 4 features prominently on the song “The Rain’ off the new album. It has this lovely raindrop-like sound but in a melancholic way. Aside from those synths I managed to get my hands on a Moog Sub37 because… well… Moog. It’s got this lovely beefy sound and is possibly my favourite bass synth.

On the drum machine side, I invested in a Dave Smith Instruments Tempest which has challenged me as It’s not a simple machine to operate. I also got a recreation of the Roland CR78 called the Beatbot TT78. It has that lovely metal beat. What I really like about them both is that they force me into processing the sounds when I record them. There’s a couple of tracks where I’vetaken the raw sound out of the Tempest and applied bit crushing or other effects from the Soundtoys plug-ins.

Shortly after releasing ‘siliconchipsuperstar’ I bought the Korg reissue of the ARP Odyssey. Anyone who admires Billy Currie will want one. What’s fascinating about that synth is that it doesn’t follow the so-called traditional left to right layout of oscillators into filter into envelope. It really messed with my head at first and even now when I go back to it I have to think through what I’m doing.

You know what’s the best fun? Putting the Odyssey through a bit of distortion and a delay or reverb, then pretending you’re Billy Currie while playing the filter live. I defy anybody to tell me otherwise *laughs*

It’s the synth version of singing along to with a hairbrush to the new DURAN DURAN single. That’s the thing with the Odyssey. It’s meant to be played on the keyboard with one hand while you ‘play’ the sliders with the other hand. It’s all over the new album especially on the track ‘Sold My Soul’. Big droning beefy wailing sound with lots of echo! What’s not to love?

What’s your favourite synth of all time?

How am I supposed to answer that question? Just one? I’m not having that! *LAUGHS LOUDLY*

My favourite mono synth is the Pro One because it has that Vince sound and is so versatile with all its modulation routings.

My favourite polysynth is the DX7… no just kidding, don’t print that! It’s the Juno 106 because that was my first synth back in 1985. Even now I go back to that synth for simple pads and mad little sequenced ear candy.

How have you managed to blend the mix of analogue and digital while still remaining authentic, do you have any particular stance on this?

Thanks – authentic is a massive compliment. I know this sounds corny but I do try to listen to what I’m doing and put it through the lens of someone producing in the 1970s or 1980s. Dammit, I’m mixing my metaphors again aren’t I? How do you put sounds through a lens? I suppose I could try *laughs*

What I mean is I try to achieve the aesthetic that served my musical heroes so well. Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn whether it’s analogue or digital. I really couldn’t! Having said that there is something gorgeous about analogue when it’s in full flow and executed well.

Let’s take an example: the Linn that was used on ‘Dare’. Should we hate it because it’s got digital in it? I can’t get on with the analogue snobbery. It’s all reduced to 1s and 0s anyway and life is too short.

Electronic pop within the Emerald Isle seems to be in a good state of health at the moment?

It is isn’t it? I’m afraid to list any artists in case I leave someone out. I will call out Hannah Peel though. Oh my god isn’t she brilliant? You recommended Hannah to me so I went to see her prior to my playing a show in London couple of years ago. That was a genius move Chi, I was thinking after seeing Hannah’s show that I was a complete fake *laughs*

So yeah thanks for that, it really set me up for playing my first London show. Hannah is doing exactly what I wish I’d been able to do had things been different in my particular circumstances. I totally admire and envy her in equal measures.

But back to the other artists on this island, I have to say there is some very cool stuff going on and the support CIRCUIT3 has received from other artists here has been really great. What is interesting is the absence of infighting which I’ve seen in other places. No breakaway gigs, festivals, radio shows or weird abnormal social media behaviour. The big problems we face here though are outside of our control.

The thing to understand about Ireland is that in almost every home here, there is a musician so the fact that someone makes music isn‘t at all unusual. So it’s really difficult to get people out to gigs aside from a hard core group of fans who I and others are very very grateful to. Music lovers are spoiled over here.

But there‘s still a heavy bias against electronic music in the venues, TV, Radio, print media. So for example there‘s my situation in mid-2016; I was selling vinyl copies of my debut album as fast as I could take them to the post office, I had been invited to play both the Electric Picnic which is arguably the equivalent of Glastonbury over here plus I was getting airplay on Dan Hegarty’s show on RTE as well as iRadio, plus of course multiple internet radio shows and was invited to play on a bill in London alongside some of the best UK artists and Wolfgang Flür, a former member of KRAFTWERK.

So how many column inches did Hot Press, the so-called go-to music and popular culture publication give to CIRCUIT3? They gave the square root of sod-all. Nothing. Not even an album review. I might as well be invisible. Yet the latest beardy fake folk hipster cr*p is flavour of the month. Some Z-list Bobby Dylan wannabe groans out loud and that’s worth writing about? Give me a break. It’s all so beige if you know what I mean?

Nothing has really changed since the 1980s here. There’s some weird fear or ignorance of synthpop here and it all gets lumped into a lazy ‘80s retro’ label.

Well, the electric guitar blues comes from where? Robert Johnson right? That’s the 1930s, so why isn’t electric blues guitar called ‘Retro 1930s music’?

All of the traditional music forms here haven’t changed in hundreds of years, but the ‘new and exciting’ trad artist is anything but. Music is, by and large, all good but I just can’t get my head around the conscious bias against electronic music here and especially synthpop. The tastemakers have no taste.

As a comparative success within independent circles, it must have been interesting to observe some of the comings and goings of other artists and their efforts to get traction, some of which have been a bit abnormal? What advice would you give to other artists on this? 😉

Oh where to begin? Well look. In my own head CIRCUIT3 is not a success really. I think there’s a way to go before CIRCUIT3 is a success I suppose. Another album for a starter. A tour would be nice.

My observations? I look at other artists and think to myself “damn they’re nailing it!” and then on the same day there’s some really weird stuff happening on social media. Everything from creating scenes that aren’t actually there, to social media personas that aren’t real. I mean don’t people realise that we’re capable of doing google searches?

For whatever it’s worth, my advice would be to focus on the music, ignore the sideshows, don‘t be an a*sehole and try to remember your own little bubble isn’t the world. Tell you what though, I’ve travelled over to gigs in the UK and met up with people and they’re so friendly and cool. I’ve met some great friends through being an ‘artist’ but I’ve seen some weird sh*t, really weird sh*t and if I’m truthful, some of the behaviour I’ve seen online has been quite bizarre. I can’t see how that benefits anyone’s music career.

As a long-time electronic music enthusiast, what do you make of this Synthwave thing?

Do you really want to know? This is a real bug-bear of mine! *laughs*

I think it’s a bit of old nonsense and that‘s as polite as I can be. It’s nostalgia for a sound that never really existed outside of maybe a couple of episodes of ‘Miami Vice’ and a Michael Shreeve album. I was there in the 1980s and this Synthwave thing simply didn’t exist. It’s a complete fraud! It’s like someone dropped acid and watched some YouTube videos.

It’s a complete fantasy. Whoever made it up deserves a medal. It’s a bit like Britpop label, an excuse for dull uninventive repetitive sh*te to be packaged up and sold to people. A saxophone and a Poly6 bass patch does not a song make. I did try to take a listen to some of this earlier this year and figured I’d try to have a go at making some of that sound. I got bored incredibly quickly… too quick to stick a saxophone on it, you’ll be glad to hear! I was going to put it out as a free download but decided against it, in case I got lumped in with the rest of it.

It was quite amusing when the Synthwave fraternity went into meltdown over the artwork of ‘Simulation Theory’ by MUSE?

I was on holiday at the time and thought it was pretty funny. A community built on a genre that never really existed getting their Filofaxes in a twist over a band that has a track record in pinching stuff from ULTRAVOX *laughs*

Ironic as MUSE have always used synths and borrowed heavily from ULTRAVOX since 2003…

I’m not in a position to throw stones though, Midge Ure will be after me for royalties if I’m not careful! *laughs*

If you’re going to borrow then borrow from the best I say. I think MUSE are great – they’re certainly selling more albums than CIRCUIT3 and playing to huge audiences. I can’t quite get my head around why they’ve spent so much time on Reddit as inspiration for their new album.

There was like a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude that you couldn’t use ‘glowing’ artwork unless your music comprised of meandering formless electronic instrumentals… discuss! 😉

Oh yeah ‘rules’ and ‘style’ right? I suspect this whole Synthwave thing was invented so that a couple of artists could feel they belong to a ‘scene’ and it just got out of control before someone could say the emperor has no clothes.

But look, it’s a very normal thing wanting to be part of a gang. Teenagers have done it for years. I dunno, I find the whole thing quite strange. I keep going back to the fact that this is unrecognisable to anyone who was a music fan in the 1980s. The glowing graphic is closer to bloody ‘Blockbusters’, gimme an ‘S’ Bob!

You got to meet one of your heroes Howard Jones recently, how was that?

Ah that was brilliant. It was part of the event to celebrate the box sets of ‘Human’s Lib’ and ‘Dream Into Action’ hosted in Metropolis Studios. I had just landed after a flight from Seattle and was silly jet lagged. The Q&A session with the production team of Stephen W Tayler and Rupert Hine was fascinating.

I got to ask as geeky a question as I wished – basically asking them about their respective approaches to their role when trying to preserve the feel of a demo. Too often that’s lost in the process, perhaps less so these days due to digital audio workstations.

As you would expect, Howard’s live set on Freddie Mercury’s piano was great – especially his impressions. The less well-known side of Howard is his sense of humour – he does a great Welsh accent. I got to meet with him and chat a little. He signed my Live Aid program (yes I was there) and chatted about synths.

You have this mission where you get the great and the good to sign your Arturia MiniBrute, who realistically would you like to add their scrawl on it?

Guilty! *laughs*

I have an Arturia MiniBrute SE which has the wood sides and metallic control panel. What happened was I had a chance to meet Vince Clarke before an ERASURE gig in Dublin so figured ‘why not?’ and brought it along.

It has been signed by Vince, the OMD lads, Gary Numan and now Howard Jones. It’s always a talking point with the artists and we get to connect a little over music which is nice. Paul Humphreys from OMD wanted to go have a chat about the other Arturia synths. A travel issue meant I couldn’t bring it to my meet with Thomas Dolby so maybe next time.

If there’s someone I’d very much like to get to sign it, I think it would have to be Daniel Miller.

I think the chances of that happening are pretty slim though and I’ll probably be escorted out soon as I try to show him my Mute logo tattoo *laughs*

Oh and John Foxx… and Martyn Ware… and Eric Radcliffe…

Where would you ultimately like to take CIRCUIT3?

I want to keep getting better at songwriting and making music that people want to listen to. With the new album ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’, I feel I’m doing that. I’m keeping the flame alive for those sounds and hopefully developing my songwriting along the way. The other album which I’ve been working on at the same time has some songs I’m very proud of and I can feel the development in my writing and production.

One of my dreams would be to tour either as support to another act or to do some shows around UK and Europe on my own or as part of a package tour similar to the ‘Ohm From Ohm’ tour. To be at that level where people are listening to and willing to pay to see you perform live is to me one of the dreams. Maybe the opportunity to work with one of my heroes? Yeah I’d be pleased with that. For now though… I have this new album to mix.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Peter Fitzpatrick

‘For Your Own Good’ is available as a CD single or download from https://circuit3.bandcamp.com/, along with other releases in the CIRCUIT3 back catalogue

CIRCUIT3 plays Synth Wave Live 3 at Electrowerkz in London on Saturday 22nd June 2019, the line-up also includes B-MOVIE, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, EUGENE, LUCKYANDLOVE, CENTRE EXCUSE, YS ATLOV, LOW SEA, SOL FLARE + THE DEPARTMENT – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/461473

http://www.circuit3.com/

https://www.facebook.com/circuit03/

https://twitter.com/Circuit3Music

https://www.instagram.com/circuit3music/

https://soundcloud.com/circuit3/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2018, updated 29th April 2019

THE ELECTRICITY CLUB… The Next Generation?

Sitting on the sofa with my now thirteen year old daughter, who over the years has acquired a rather sarcastic sense of humour (who on Earth does she get that from?!) and pondering how to approach this task of reviewing ‘The Electricity Club’ compilation, makes us both burst out with hearty laughter.

After all, she wants to rise to the occasion properly, and review things “just like Mummy does”, or maybe not, as “Mummy always says it as it is!”

Children have the innate ability to always tell the truth; my daughter, however, has an uncontrollable need to please people, so this could really go either way. She will either be pulling her disgusted face, saying “what a load of rubbish!”, or candidly praise, without certainty.

My own adventure with music dates back many years indeed. I was brought up within, what they used to call in communist Poland, “an intelligence family”, meaning both my parents were white collar workers, rather than working class.

My father, a respectable judge, had loved his music greatly and was an avid guitar player himself, while my mum, a teacher, enjoyed listening to pretty much anything within the popular genre (usually via her radio, which, to this day, is always on).

Recalling the baby book entry, which my mum recorded when I was at the tender age of five, saying “Monika loves listening and dancing to records, she could spend all day doing so”, makes me try and remember the old record player and hundreds of vinyl albums which my parents owned.

All this said, I hold my older by ten years brother solely responsible for my eventual music choices. As I was growing up, I just had to endure what he was listening to (at great volume, may I add!).

As legal copies of western music were incredibly hard (or, simply, impossible) to get, his room was full of pirate cassette tapes of everything from THE HUMAN LEAGUE to MICHAEL JACKSON and anything and everything in between.

He would take great pride in inviting me into his musical cave and fed me with DEPECHE MODE, ERASURE, ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA and OMD.

And all this worked… during his absence, I’d sneak in and put my favourites on, which would primarily include the works of DEPECHE MODE, with the vinyl of ‘Black Celebration’ and maxi-single vinyl of ‘Stripped’ being the firm first choices. And that’s how I acquired the electronic music bug. From then on, not much else mattered but coming home from school and playing the entire back catalogue of the Basildon boys, dotted with the works of YAZOO and ERASURE.

My Allie has had little choice, since her musical adventure dates back to being in my womb. At the age of three she would sing ERASURE’s ‘You Surround Me’ on top of her little baby voice, and her sweet childish vocal was sampled and recorded by a well-known UK electronic duo.

Her first gig was at the age of five, and she went to see ERASURE at six and DEPECHE MODE twice at the grown-up age of seven, keenly taking part in the experience.

Although since she’s found love for KATIE PERRY, ARIANA GRANDE and TAYLOR SWIFT, and electronic music hasn’t been on her radar much lately, she absolutely loved ASHBURY HEIGHTS’ ‘The Looking Glass Society’. She also has a lot of vintage DEPECHE MODE on her Spotify playlist, interestingly enough none of it past ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’, and plays it at least twice a week.

Having heard that, I would include her opinion in the tongue-in-cheek review of The Electricity Club compilation, she keenly decided to be a serious contributor, and so it goes…

MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive

Allie: I don’t like it but I like it…

Mon: Bit GARY NUMAN this is! But a tad laboured and rough and ready.

Allie: I like the synth sounds, the voice sounds a bit weird.

KID KASIO Full Moon Blue

Mon: Ah, my favourite of Nathan’s! Love it, love it, love it!

Allie: I like the sounds, the first bit sounds a bit like DEPECHE MODE!

Mon: Yeah, a tribute to ‘Two Minute Warning’!

Allie: That’s it! I like it a lot. I like his voice.

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout

Allie: Oh my God! Rubbish!

Mon: Why? *cannot contain the laughter*

Allie: It’s just rubbish!

Mon: Erm, the synth is good, not sure about the vocal…

DAYBEHAVIOR It’ s A Game – Marsheaux remix

Mon: I like this, analog synth! Lovely…

Allie: I like it, like the vocal, but it’s not something I’d listen to if I had a choice.

Mon: Oh, I would. Very good song and well produced by MARSHEAUX.

MARNIE The Hunter

Allie: Reminds me of something but I don’t know what. I like it, love the vocal.

Mon: I hear a bit of LADYTRON, BJÖRK and MARSHEAUX. It’s fresh and enticing.

Allie: Yes, LADYTRON! That’s it!

NIGHT CLUB Cruel Devotion

Allie: Ohhhh, I like that!

Mon: You’ve met them last year Allie! Very good!

Allie: Oh yes, I do like this! I like the background sound and the vocals. I’d play that in my room… She doesn’t sound American! Is she American?

Mon: Yes! *laughs*

Allie: I’d make music like that!

ELEVEN ELEVEN Through The Veil

Mon: I like the beginning, bit of KYLIE there.

Allie: I don’t know who that is! I like the vocals!

Mon: I like the sound! (Note to self: “must educate Allie on KYLIE”).

QUEEN OF HEARTS United

Mon: Oh I’m liking this, fat synth and decent voice…

Allie: I like it, both synth and the vocal.

KATY PERRY Hot N Cold – Marsheaux remix

Allie: It’s KATY PERRY! I like this! I like this remix, it’s different from the original! *singing out loud*

Mon: I never liked the original and this doesn’t do it for me either.

Allie: What?! I love it! But her voice is a bit screechy, like on the normal version!

ERASURE Be The One – Paul Humphreys remix

Allie: Sounds like ERASURE…

Mon: It is!

Allie: Ah, I knew it! Is it a remix?

Mon: Yep.

Allie: I love ERASURE, this is lovely.

Mon: Totally agree.

KID MOXIE The Bailor

Allie: I don’t like her vocals.

Mon: I do, it’s a good song.

Allie: I like the music, the melody is nice.

Mon: It’s a grown up song, very atmospheric and cinematic. Great use of synth. My kind of electronica.

KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS Oostende

Allie: I like it! The vocals are great. I’d listen to it in the car.

Mon: Yes, it’s good, both vocally and musically.

FOTONOVELA featuring JAMES NEW My Sorrow

Allie: I’ve heard it before.

Mon: Really? I haven’t! You must be thinking of something else.

Allie: It’s ok, reminds me of something you’ve played before.

GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica

Allie: I don’t like it, vocals aren’t great, don’t like the music.

Mon: It’s not my cup of tea either, but I’m sure it’ll appeal to few people.

AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous

Mon: Interesting start! It’s different, I shouldn’t like it but I do.

Allie: It’s ok, again, it reminds me of something.

METROLAND Thalys – London edit

Mon: Oh I like that. Simple arrangement and that’s all you need. Not sure about the voice sample though.

Allie: It’s very robotic, like science fiction. It’s like something from another planet. It’s KRAFTWERK!

RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog

Allie: Yeah! That’s ok! *does a little dance*

Mon: Hmmm, not sure. It’s not unpleasant.

SIN COS TAN Trust

Allie: Don’t know, not sure about that one.

Mon: It’s ok.

Allie: Bored now!

POLLY SCATTERGOOD Other Too Endless – Vince Clarke remix

Mon: Good synth on this one. Liking this a lot. Competent vocals and arrangement, a real stand out.

Allie: Not my cup of tea.

TENEK What Do You Want?

Allie: Is that MESH? Sounds like it!

Mon: No, it’s not, it’s TENEK. It’s a good song.

Allie: Yes, I really like it. I like the instruments.

ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away

Allie: It’s fast. Not my kind of thing.

Mon: It’s very well written. It needs more oomph! Very OMD.

ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia

Allie: It’s not in tune… I don’t know, I don’t like it.

Mon: It’s different, not me either…

MARSHEAUX Suffer The Children

Mon: A cover. Good.

Allie: It is good, bouncy.

SECTION 25 My Outrage

Mon: Oh dear, messy! Too candied for me, bit all over the place.

Allie: Yes, I don’t think it’s good. I can’t describe it but it’s not something I’d listen to.

047 featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine

Allie: Clubby! Like it. Yes, I do! *bounces away*

Mon: Good, isn’t it? I like the club feel to it. A good dance song.

TAXX Is It Love?

Mon: Oh yes, good stuff! Progressive. Decent vocal too.

Allie: It’s ok, but I wouldn’t listen to it in the car. At a disco, maybe…

LIEBE I Believe In You

Allie: You know the ding-ding sounds? They remind me of PET SHOP BOYS!

Mon: “Ding-ding sounds!” To me the vocal technique resembles NEW ORDER. It’s good.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Shanghai Metro

Mon: It’s ok.

Allie: Too poppy, way too poppy. Chow mein? *laughs*

iEUROPEAN feat WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound

Mon: That’s it! The synth is all there. Semi-modular synth? Very tidy!

Allie: I do actually like it! It’s club but different.

TWINS NATALIA Destiny

Mon: Not me vocally but decent synth I suppose.

Allie: I like the vocals! I don’t know, all confused now, too many songs!

Mon: No, that’s awful.

MESH Tuesday

Mon: YAZOO cover Allie!

Allie: I knew that I knew it! Is that MESH?!

Mon: Yes!

Allie: Thought so. I like anything MESH!

Mon: Now, there’s a surprise!

Allie: You know me!

MIRRORS Between Four Walls

Allie: Like this one, nice music.

Mon: Bit laboured… it’s not bad though.

OMD Time Burns – Fotonovela rework

Allie: Very robotic.

Mon: Not me!

VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red

Allie: I like the vocals, sounds a bit like Sarah Blackwood!

Mon: It’s Jane actually!

Allie: Ahhhh! Doh! I like that a lot. It’s slow! *laughs*

Mon: It is good, but no surprise there.

Allie: Is that the last song?!

Mon: Yes…

Allie: Thank god, I’m tired now!

She will sleep well! I have to say, she did surprise me with some songs and disappointed with others but that just proves to me, that tastes do indeed vary, and even if I’m vehemently against something, others will find it enticing.

‘The Electricity Club’ compilation is a marvellous collection of tunes, and that’s a given. There’s something for everyone here and what a cross-section of all electronica. Still, I come to conclusion that thirteen year olds are probably not mature enough to fully appreciate certain synth music…

Will she follow in my steps? Not for a while… if ever! The one thing we certainly have in common: WE SAY IT AS IT IS!


‘The Electricity Club’ is released on 3rd December 2018 by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records as a 34 track 2CD set in a deluxe 6 panel digipak with track-by-track commentary and ‘O’ card; the compilation can be pre-ordered from the following retailers:

Europe http://www.poponaut.de/various-artists-electricity-club-p-18056.html

North America https://stormingthebase.bandcamp.com/merch/various-the-electricity-club-2cd

Please note this product is NOT on sale through The Electricity Club website and only via retailers

A Spotify sampler of the compilation can be listened to at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7xwTYTeH6b5vgCqjZudfGE

http://www.amour-records.com

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Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
1st December 2018

THE ELECTRICITY CLUB 2CD Compilation

Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records are to release a 2CD compilation compiled by The Electricity Club.

Capturing its ethos to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music, this compilation is the culmination of a period which has seen the resurgence of the genre. Over the years, The Electricity Club appears to have reflected the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music seeded from that ilk.

Little did The Electricity Club know when it launched on 15th March 2010, it would go on to interview many of the key players in Synth Britannia, get granted an audience with two former members of KRAFTWERK and be influential in helping some of the best new synthesizer talents gain a profile within a reinvigorated scene. So it is highly apt that WOLFGANG FLÜR should make an appearance on this collection.

The Electricity Club is pleased to showcase its ethos in the form of this tangible audio artefact. Among the impressive cast, there are prime movers from the classic era like PAUL HUMPHREYS and VINCE CLARKE. Without the influence of the bands they respectively co-founded, OMD and DEPECHE MODE, electronic pop as The Electricity Club likes it would not exist.

Meanwhile the next generation are represented by acts such as KID MOXIE, NIGHT CLUB, RODNEY CROMWELL and VILE ELECTRODES. Incidentally, the latter were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour following ANDY McCLUSKEY’s discovery of the duo while perusing The Electricity Club’s virtual pages. The bloodline from ‘Radio-Activity’ to ‘Romance Of The Telescope’ and then to ‘Deep Red’ is easily traceable and deeply omnipresent.

The Electricity Club has always relished its diverse taste credentials. It doesn’t do retro or contemporary, just good music. No other compendium could dare to include the spiky post-punk of GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS and the rousing electro-rock of MESH alongside pop princesses such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or KATY PERRY. Be it Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL and MARNIE, Manchester veterans SECTION 25 or Essex boys TENEK, it all fits into The Electricity Club’s avant pop playground.

With international representation also from Gothenburg’s DAYBEHAVIOR and 047, Shanghai synthpoppers QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, Texan dance duo ELEVEN: ELEVEN, Belgium’s own passengers METROLAND and the self-explanatory KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS, the tracks gathered capture a special moment in time where innovative musical aspirations and good tunes have again manifested themselves in the same context.

The collection features a number of covers including MESH’s take on YAZOO’s ‘Tuesday’ and MARSHEAUX’s reinterpretation of TEARS FOR FEARS’ first single ‘Suffer The Children’. In addition, tracks such as MARSHEAUX’s stomping remix of KATY PERRY’s ‘Hot ‘N’ Cold’ and MIRRORS’ ‘Between Four Walls’ make their premiere in CD format.

The tracklisting is:

CD1

01 MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive
02 KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
03 ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout
04 DAYBEHAVIOR It’s A Game (Marsheaux remix)
05 MARNIE The Hunter
06 ELEVEN:ELEVEN Through The Veil
07 NIGHT CLUB Cruel Devotion
08 QUEEN OF HEARTS United
09 KATY PERRY Hot ‘N’ Cold (Marsheaux remix)
10 ERASURE Be The One (Paul Humphreys remix)
11 KID MOXIE The Bailor
12 KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS Oostende
13 FOTONOVELA featuring JAMES NEW Our Sorrow (Original mix)
14 GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica 6
15 AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
16 METROLAND Thalys (London Edit)
17 RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog

CD2

01 SIN COS TAN Trust
02 POLLY SCATTERGOOD Other Too Endless (Vince Clarke remix)
03 TENEK What Do You Want? (Alternate TEC version)
04 ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away
05 ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia
06 MARSHEAUX Suffer The Children
07 SECTION 25 My Outrage
08 047 featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine
09 TAXX Is It Love?
10 LIEBE I Believe In You
11 QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Shanghai Metro
12 iEUROPEAN featuring WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound
13 TWINS NATALIA Destiny
14 MESH Tuesday
15 MIRRORS Between Four Walls
16 OMD Time Burns (Fotonovela rework)
17 VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red


‘The Electricity Club’ is released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records as a 34 track 2CD set in a deluxe 6 panel digipak with track-by-track commentary and ‘O’ card; the compilation be purchased from the following retailers:

Europe http://www.poponaut.de/various-artists-electricity-club-p-18056.html

North America https://stormingthebase.bandcamp.com/merch/various-the-electricity-club-2cd

Please note this product is NOT on sale through The Electricity Club website and only via retailers

http://www.amour-records.com

https://www.facebook.com/amour.records/

https://twitter.com/Amour_Records

https://www.instagram.com/amour_records/

https://www.minosemi.gr/

https://www.facebook.com/MinosEmi/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th November 2018, updated 16th January 2020

Five Years of TEC: 25 Favourite Artist Introductions 2010 – 2014

TEC 5 years-02When The Electricity Club became reality on 15th March 2010, it was on the back of a resurgence in electronic pop music.

New starlets such as LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX were acknowledging pioneers such as GARY NUMAN and HEAVEN 17, while the use of synthesizers for melodies as well as effects was becoming more common again and not just as a mocking gimmick.

TEC’s ‘Introducing…’ feature was a platform to showcase promising new talent within the genre and proved that electronic music had not been killed off by Britpop. Around 70 acts have been featured and from these, a number of worthy graduates from the Synth Britannia school and the like emerged. Meanwhile a number were just promising, their talent stifled by line-up changes, record company politics and even geography.

So here are TEC’s 25 favourite artist introductions, listed in the chronological order that they were originally featured on the site…


SHH (2010)

shh_bed1Electronic Pop Buenos Aires Style, SHH were the first act to be introduced by TEC. Led by the vivacious Diana Huarte, they had a sexy blissful optimism that made them a very entertaining live act. They say Latinas are fiery and there was certainly a provocative passion in her performance. Schooled in opera and brimming with charm, Diana’s vocals displayed a magnificent range that suited both uptempo sun-kissed pop like ‘Tiger’ and ERASURE-esque ballads such as ‘Sleepless’.

Their stand-out song was ‘Wonderful Night’ which was reminiscent of Greek power popsters MIKRO with its solid beat and rousing chorus. A third album has yet to be finished, but SHH still make occasional appearances on London’s live circuit, most recently supporting SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK.

https://www.facebook.com/Shhsounds


MIRRORS (2010)

Mirrors-also-boxMIRRORS were the second act to have an ‘Introducing…’ feature on The Electricity Club and are still very much the band that new synth acts are judged against. Their fans included Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Neil Arthur and Eddie Bengtsson. Qualitatively, many a band have been rejected at TEC HQ, simply because “they’re not MIRRORS”. Having delivered a magnificent album in ‘Lights & Offerings’, it is a travesty that MIRRORS’ electronic pop-noir was not embraced by the wider community.

Sadly after founder member Ally Young left in Autumn 2011 due to musical differences, the band appeared to wind down after two releases as a trio. And yet while MIRRORS seem to have been mothballed, far inferior synth acts go on and on and on…

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


ARTHUR & MARTHA (2010)

Almost as soon as ARTHUR & MARTHA were the third act introduced on TEC, they disappeared! The duo comprised of, rather confusingly, Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley, described as “Gilbert & George, disguised as The Carpenters, stealing the hits of Kraftwerk and bashing them out on an old Moog in the style of SECTION 25”. Driven by a synthetic motorik beat, ‘Autovia’ was the superb highlight from their only album ‘Navigation’ which played with a variety of styles ranging from NEW ORDER to CRYSTAL CASTLES.

While ARTHUR & MARTHA are no more, Hubley formed indie act COSINES while Cresswell recently re-emerged as RODNEY CROMWELL.

https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-and-Martha-6821029194/


THE VANITY CLAUSE (2010)

vanityOriginally a duo consisting of David Woods and Russell Harris, THE VANITY CLAUSE‘s potential was blighted by endless line-up changes before a terminal blow. With a synth sound that was heavily influenced by early ULTRAVOX, LADYTRON and Mute Records, it involved big played synths over chunky sequences and urgent rhythm construction. The classic line-up included vocalist and synth girl Louisa Strachan, but never actually released a full length album. An album, appropriately titled ‘Fractured’, was issued after David Woods’ departure, but was disappointing.

The Woods sessions were released eventually as ‘Pre-Stress’ while THE VANITY CLAUSE soldiered on with Mk3 and Mk4 variants. The latter produced an excellent single ‘The Scream’ but the creative momentum could not be maintained. Russell Harris joined ELECTRO KILL MACHINE for a brief period but now makes music as GO YOKO.

https://www.facebook.com/thevanityclauseofficial


KATJA VON KASSEL (2010)

katja1The Electro Weimar Cabaret of KATJA VON KASSEL was a fine sultry presence on the independent music scene. Singing in both German and English, often within the same song in an alluring Marlene Dietrich tone, she had a number of cool elegant songs like ‘Goodbye Was Never Said’, ‘Riding The Horses’ and ‘Lili Marlene’ which were produced with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray. Her best song ‘Lies’ had strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano set to a template in a manner that recalled GRACE JONES’ ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’.

With her “1930s meets the future” twist, she supported ERASURE on their German dates in 2011 and as a result, was signed by a major label. Sadly as has been the case with several acts on the list, that partnership didn’t work out. While record company politics have so far prevented any releases, she intends to have material out soon.

http://www.myspace.com/katjamusic


THE SOUND OF ARROWS (2010)

sound of arrows with dogTHE SOUND OF ARROWS were Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, said by Popjustice to be “the HURTS you can dance to”. Their self-made CGI assisted visual imagery was described as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”! The duo garnered a lot of attention at the end of 2009 with the dreamy widescreen pop of ‘Into The Clouds’ and they were subsequently signed to Geffen Records. The label attempted to push them into a more Ibiza rave friendly sound but eventually, a parting of ways was agreed.

The debut album ‘Voyage’ was eventually released independently in 2011 and was wonderfully swathed in a beautiful Nordic melancholy. There was the poptimistic chant of ‘Magic’ as well as the vibrant Gallic disco number ‘My Shadow’ and the magnificent supreme synthpop of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. THE SOUND OF ARROWS went quiet after that, but Stefan Storm later did some terrific collaborations with QUEEN OF HEARTS

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


VILE ELECTRODES (2010)

vileint1At the time a trio, VILE ELECTRODES had been making a good impression on the London club scene when they were featured on The Electricity Club in 2010. There are not many acts that could get away with an enigmatic video showcasing a seven and a half minute synth ballad, let alone a fledgling one… but get away with it they did with ‘Deep Red’. VILE ELECTRODES’ love of OMD, NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS and CLIENT combined to procure a fresh approach to a music form that many had dismissed as being 80s.

Some less worthy bands claim to have reinvigorated the 21st Century electronic music scene in the UK, but VILE ELECTRODES did exactly that. So it was not entirely surprising when they were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour and the journey began…

https://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


HYPERBUBBLE (2010)

Quirky Texan synthesizer couple HYPERBUBBLE delivered a species of cartoonish synthpop that the duo themselves called “Bionic Bubblepunk”. With Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff being the obedient robotic version of John Steed, their mantra was “guitars are retro and sequencers are the key to the future”. Their third album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ was a tasty fairground ride that took in influences as diverse as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING to THE OHIO EXPRESS and THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE, all with a shiny sense of humour.

While a fourth album has not yet been forthcoming, a series of soundtrack and collaborative EPs have maintained HYPERBUBBLE’s profile while they played London for the first time in Autumn 2014.

http://www.hyperbubble.net


SUNDAY GIRL (2010)

sunday4Jade Williams got her stage name from a part time job she had in a pet shop where she was known simply as SUNDAY GIRL. With a raspy voice that appeared to have been shaped from smoking far too many Gauloises in a Paris café, she was signed to Geffen Records. Her first two singles, ‘Four Floors’ and a cover of Italo standard ‘Self Control’ were more ELLIE GOULDING in demeanour. But it was ‘Stop Hey!’ with its piercing MIRRORS meets MGMT template which showed her potential. The unreleased ‘24 Hours’ was wonderfully claustrophobic post-punk but best of all was ‘All The Songs’, a brilliant slice of avant pop powered by pulsing electronic bass and layers of vibrato synth.

However, Geffen Records had other ideas and pushed her into covers of songs made famous by STEPS and THE PIXIES! Once LANA DEL REY hit the airwaves internationally, it was all over bar the shouting and the debut album never came out. Today, Jade Williams is involved in a more conventional pop project under the less mysterious moniker of WHINNIE WILLIAMS.

http://www.wearesundaygirl.com


MAISON VAGUE (2011)

maisonIn 2008, PARRALOX declared “We believe in electric love”! In 2011, “Synthpop’s alive!” was the MAISON VAGUE battlecry! Consisting of lone American-born German based keyboardist / programmer Clark Stiefel, the title track of MAISON VAGUE’s album was a musical reply to a YouTube video that proclaimed “Synthpop is dead”. With a template of GARY NUMAN meets DEVO, MAISON VAGUE combined aggression with eccentricity, but all the songs possessed a sly tongue-in-cheek irony as well as a gloriously vintage synth sound.

A second album has yet to appear but Clark Stiefel still continues with his day job in the classical music world.

http://www.maisonvague.com


QUEEN OF HEARTS (2011)

queenQUEEN OF HEARTS is the talented Elizabeth Morphew who first came to public attention via RED BLOODED WOMEN, a girl group who sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD being produced by Daniel Miller. She once said “pop is not a dirty word” and this was reflected in her electro wonderland. Her debut EP ‘The Arrival’ contained enticing songs like the Moroder-esque throb of ‘Freestyle’ and a gorgeous cover of FOALS’ ‘Spanish Sahara’. But best of all was 2012’s ‘Neon’ with its deliciously wired glitterball sparkle that managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP.

Her work attracted interest from producers like Mark Reeder who reworked ‘Neon’ and collaborated on ‘United’, although the Stuart Price produced ‘Feel’ has still to officially see the light of day. Her well received debut album ‘Cocoon’ was released in 2014 and she is presently in the studio working on new songs.

http://www.iamqueenofhearts.com/


KID KASIO (2011)

kid kasio-4-700x1024KID KASIO is Nathan Cooper, one-time member of those once great white hopes THE MODERN aka MATINEE CLUB who in their time, supported HEAVEN 17 and released the excellent single ‘Jane Falls Down’ mixed by Stephen Hague. With a debut album ‘Kasiotone’ under his belt, KID KASIO’s vintage but modern flavoured sound updated the one man and his synth template pioneered by HOWARD JONES.

‘The Reason’, ‘Not For Turning’ and ‘Telephone Line’ were fine examples of his bouncy riff laden ditties with catchy choruses reminiscent of imperial phase DURAN DURAN. But the best KID KASIO number was ‘I Miss You’ which sounded like ‘Forbidden Colours’ reworked by LA ROUX. A second album is currently being finished.

http://www.kidkasio.com


CURXES (2011)

Curxes-Lucy-GoodaleCURXES have been continuing their development into a more aggressive post-punk template with wonderful songs such as the haunting staircase mystery of ‘Spectre’ and the CHVRCHES gone aggro stand point of ‘Avant-Guarded’. But when the Blitz Poppers first made a splash on the scene back in Summer 2011, they were “a decorative set of bones, channelling the ghosts of discothèques past” in a manner of DEPECHE MODE being eaten by SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. This material was released as a mini-album ‘Precurxor’ in 2014.

Where they are heading next may be less overtly synthy but is still technologically dynamic and inventive. Their debut album ‘Verxes’ has been a long time coming but if tracks such as ‘Valkyrie’ are anything to go by, it will have been worth the wait.

http://www.curxes.com/


SOFT METALS (2011)

SOFT METALS colourMore immediate than XENO & OAKLANDER and much shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES, SOFT METALS took their arsenal of cool vintage synths into ORBITAL territory with a rugged squelch ‘n’ bleep framework driven by Roland Rhythm Composers. Comprising of Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the duo have proven their artistic worth with a hypnotic sound on their first self-titled album. The synthetically charged joy of ‘Voices’ was a great calling card while ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Eyes Closed’ showcased Patricia Hall’s flirtatious demeanour over a Detroit Techno influenced backbone.

The second album ‘Lenses’ was a natural development of the debut and tracks like ‘Tell Me’, ‘No Turning Back’ and ‘Hourglass’ have indicated there is still more great music to come in that delicious Métaux Mous vein.

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals


ELEVEN: ELEVEN (2012)

111-Sicca-thumbComprising of the seductively celestial voice of Sicca and the instrumentation of Jake Childs, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have an electronic dance sound that recalls a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Electroclash and the band BERLIN. Their impressive debut ‘Through The Veil’ showed subtle, crafted thinking within EDM as well as hypnotic hints of BOBBY O and GIORGIO MORODER.

With range of rhythmical dynamics on songs such as ‘Little White Lies’, ‘No Words’ and the brilliantly sparkling title track, ELEVEN: ELEVEN’s songs rarely clock in above four minutes, thus avoiding the death-by-four-to-the-floor syndrome that afflicts the majority of club music.

http://weare1111.com/


CHVRCHES (2012)

CHVRCHES-in-fieldThe Electricity Club took a punt at covering CHVRCHES after just one song, but it all turned out rather well. Introduced to the band by the wonderful CURXES, CHVRCHES’ brilliant opening gambit ‘Lies’ was ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ re-imagined by DEPECHE MODE but fronted by ROBYN. With electronic drum tattoos, meaty piercing synths and a great tune, the Glaswegian trio of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty certainly made an impression.

‘The Mother We Share’ proved it was not a fluke while ‘Now Is Not The Time’ showed CHVRCHES were in a position to regulate great songs to B-sides. Support slots with DEPECHE MODE, a never ending tour and a well-received debut album in ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ have been further evidence of CHVRCHES impact in the international arena.

http://www.chvrch.es/


TITANS (2012)

TITANSImagine if RAMMSTEIN were reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE but without the flame throwers? TITANS‘ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan crossed with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In a sub-genre known for its shouting, TITANS’ mighty calling card ‘It’s Dark’ was menacing but melodic. The parent album ‘For The Long Gone’ was an enjoyable listen too, energetic without being bombastic and tuneful without being twee.

The foreboding synth atmospheres of ‘All There Is’ were reminiscent of a doomy CAMOUFLAGE while the Olympian effort of the title track could have been ULTRAVOX meeting RAMMSTEIN for an electronic collaboration. While an EP ‘My Sorrow’ with new songs came out in 2013, a second album is eagerly awaited.

http://www.facebook.com/TitansOfficial


SAY LOU LOU (2013)

say lou lou4Stunning identical twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey have been labelled the female HURTS and certainly their second single ‘Julian’ is still one of their best songs, full of tension, angst and intrigue like a Nordic Noir mini-series compressed into a three minute pop song. Like HURTS, their music could do with a kick occasionally but numbers such as ‘Everything We Touch‘ are like a sophisticated Scandipop take on HEART, driven by a togetherness that can only come from two siblings.

The forthcoming release of their debut album ‘Lucid Dreaming’ will confirm whether SAY LOU LOU have been able to deliver on their brand of shimmering but accessible escapism.

http://www.sayloulou.com/


GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS (2013)

GIRL ONE GREASE GUNS PHOTOWho are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS? Nobody really knows for sure, but this mysterious combo with their lo-fi noise and motorik beats have revealed a series of energetic singles over the past few years. There was the ‘Logan’s Run’ tribute ‘Jessica 6’, an eerie post-punk cacophony of sound laced with icy string machine sounding like THE PIPETTES fronting an OMD assisted JOY DIVISION while a winter of discontent overtone sat on the dysfunctional indie synthpop of ‘Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)’.

However in 2014, a much softer side was revealed on ‘No Longer Spellbound’. With its beautiful atmospheric quality smothered in icy synths and grainy vox samples, it would have been the theme tune to ‘Twins Peaks’ had the series been set in The Lake District.

http://www.squirrelrecords.co.uk/girl-one-and-the-grease-guns/


NIGHT CLUB (2013)

NIGHT CLUBForming in 2011, vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and producer Mark Brooks began writing songs that combined the pure pop of PINK and BRITNEY SPEARS with the heavier spectre of SLAYER into a danceable, electronic underworld. They truly arrived on their second EP ‘Love Casualty’, with the highlight being ‘Poisonous’ which reimagined EURYTHMICS’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ fronted by Britney if she had gone Goth.

And with their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’, NIGHT CLUB delivered their best body of work yet. Featuring a dark disco cover of INXS ‘Need You Tonight’, it was trumped by the sinister yet playfully feline ‘She Wants To Play With Fire’ and the Electroclash flavoured ‘Cruel Devotion’. Based on the evidence trajectory so far, NIGHT CLUB’s fourth EP looks like it will be a blinder!

http://nightclubband.com/


QUIETER THAN SPIDERS (2013)

quieter than spidersCould The Electricity Club have found another MIRRORS in QUIETER THAN SPIDERS? But whereas MIRRORS openly flaunted their Gilbert & George look, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have been totally anonymous. Their “Shanghai Synthpop …using home-made electronic sounds played by hand” has certainly made an impact with ‘Shanghai Metro’ recalling the obvious melodic elements of classic OMD.

Then there was the haunting dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ with its modern, processed twist while the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ glided with a glacial beauty that was not only appealing to the ear, but could be danced to as well. The long awaited debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ is to be released on Anna Logue Records sometime in 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders


I AM SNOW ANGEL (2014)

i am snow angel -julieI AM SNOW ANGEL’s music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins but with a North American twist. Her self-titled debut EP introduced enticingly understated numbers like ‘Grey White December’ and ‘Let Me Go’, but it was her debut album ‘Crocodile’ that united a countrified twang with her dreamy, whispery world to produce a unique and quietly subversive sound within electronica.

There was the excellence of the title track while ‘Walking On Wires’ recalled THE POSTAL SERVICE. But just when you thought there could be no more surprises, there was her drum ‘n’ bass take on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’!

http://iamsnowangel.com/


MACHINISTA (2014)

Machinista_bandThe Swedish pairing of John Lindqwister and Richard Flow have declared themselves “synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge” but MACHINISTA have shown themselves to be far weightier with songs such as the superb Brechtian drama of ‘Summersault’ and the midlife pondering ‘Pushing The Angels Astray’. Their debut album ‘Xenoglossy’ delivered on the promise already shown with their first EP ‘Arizona Lights’ and an appearance at ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’.

Combining the best elements of both ALPHAVILLE and THE CURE into an enjoyably well produced template of anthemic electro, they even had the bottle to do a cover of DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Heroes’ and did a pretty good job of it too.

http://www.machinistamusic.com/


FIFI RONG (2014)

FifiRong-01FIFI RONG has been building her repertoire using a wide range of influences such as dubstep, trip hop and Chinese folk music while also name checking the likes of COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR. She also collaborated with TRICKY and her first album ‘Wrong’ came with a rework of her TRICKY track retitled as ‘Only If I Knew’ which was by far a more beautiful interpretation and fully exploited the song’s potential.

Her best number so far though has is ‘Next Pursuit’, which combines the vocal mystery of KELLI ALI and the quirkiness of MOLOKO. Adding rhythmical variation and avoiding clichés, FIFI RONG has manifested her own dream laden underground electronica. She is currently working with BORIS BLANK of YELLO fame.

http://www.fifirong.com


PAWWS (2014)

Pawws2PAWWS is what CHVRCHES would sound like if they were an all-female concern ie a blokey free zone. With some Scandipop influences and a dose of second hand Roland JX-8P, the end result is some sweet, sugary electronically driven pop. The coy, feline magnetism of ‘Slow Love’ showcased PAWWS aka Lucy Taylor’s brand of “upsetting disco” and ‘Give You Love’ from the following ‘Sugar’ EP also lived up to that template.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times described the EP title track “As if Kylie had worked with OMD”. If there is one lady who could fill the female fronted synthpop void that has been vacated by LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS, it is PAWWS. With the warm reception accorded to the first two releases, more music is on the way from Miss Taylor…

https://www.pawwsmusic.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th March 2015, updated 22nd May 2016

Five Years of TEC: Favourite 30 Albums 2010 – 2014

TEC 5 years-04In the five years since its formation on 15th March 2010, The Electricity Club has reviewed over 130 albums and EPs.

During this time, the album has become less of an artistic statement, with the focus of both consumer and media, including TEC, being more centred around single songs. This has indirectly led to the prominence of the extended EP or mini-album in today’s digital marketplace. It is a halfway house, but at least the creative output of an artist can be showcased by a small body of work. And increasingly, many are combining and reworking several EP releases in order to formulate a full length album.

Despite the move towards downloads and streaming, there is still a demand for physical product. However, The Electricity Club has been slightly bemused by the music industry bias towards vinyl, to the neglect of CD. It should be noted that silver digital discs are still the preferred medium for the general consumer, as proven by the million plus sales of TAYLOR SWIFT’s ‘1989’ opus on CD. This was a release which was confined to compact disc and digital download variants with no concessions towards streaming and, initially in the first few months of release, vinyl.

rega2TEC confesses it has no love whatsoever for vinyl in the 21st Century, and is rather irritated by it being turned into an antiquated object of fetish and snobbery which bears little relation to the music on it. And to think ironically that the world’s record labels tried to kill off vinyl back in 1989 in favour of err… cassette! Yes, the music industry… as forward thinking as ever!!

With regards Spotify, TEC actually is not particularly fond of that either… even with the subscription model, with so much music available, most of it is not listened to properly, thus devaluing any music that is perhaps worthy of greater recognition. Think of it like the casual music festival goer who just hops between all the acts playing on the many different stages after just two songs… it’s a false economy in reality!

But despite its concerns, TEC still loves a good album in whatever format. It is the content that is most important, not the mode of carriage. So which long players still stand up to scrutiny and can claim to have lasted the course over the last five years? Listed by year then alphabetical order, with a restriction of one album per artist and no recent releases from 2015, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 favourite albums from the period between 2010 to 2014…


GOLDFRAPP Head First (2010)

goldfrapp-headfirstAlthough now disowned by the duo, ‘Head First’ was Alison Goldfrapp finally all relaxed and having fun. Stomping synth tunes like ‘Alive’, ‘Believer’ and ‘Believer’ were fine examples of Ms Goldfrapp taking her Olivia Newton John fixation (which had been apparent on early B-side ‘UK Girls’ with its interpolation of ‘Physical’) to a fully realised musical level. But best of all though on this short and sharp collection were the marvellous ABBA tribute of the ‘Head First’ title track and the ethereal ARP laden Eurodisco of ‘Dreaming’. While the more recent ‘Tales Of Us’ has seen GOLDFRAPP venture into more cinematic orchestrations again, a return to electronic pop is always possible with Ms Goldfrapp’s record of chameleon-like tendencies.

‘Head First’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Mute Records

http://goldfrapp.com/


TENEK On The Wire (2010)

tenek_otwFor their second album, TENEK successfully smoothed off some of their more industrial edges to deliver their most accessible song collection so far. Most immediate was ‘Blinded By You’ with its rousing chorus and a structure not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’. Meanwhile, anthems like ‘Losing Something’, ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘No Time For Fighting’ were modern synthetic dance rock at its best. But the highlight was ‘The Art Of Evasion’, a great number with nods towards TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

‘On The Wire’ is available as a CD and download via Toffeetones Records

http://www.tenek.info


VILLA NAH Origin (2010)

villa3One of the best electronic albums to have been released in 2010, ‘Origin’ was a fine crystalline balancing act that combined the classic synthpop of days gone by, with the freshness of new technologically fuelled dance music. The songs of the Helsinki based duo Juho Paolosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä ranged from the supreme GARY NUMAN on Prozac of ‘Remains Of Love’ and ‘Ways To Be’, to the Moroder-esque hypnotism of ‘Kiss & Tell’. Then there were the OMD influences on ‘Some Kind Of Dream’ and ‘Envelope’ so it was not entirely surprising the pair were invited to support than band on their 2010 tour. But while VILLA NAH then went into hiatus, Paolosmaa partnered up with ‘Origin’ co-producer Jori Hulkkonen to form SIN COS TAN.

‘Origin’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Keys Of Life Records

https://www.facebook.com/pages/villa-nah/8854069998


AUSTRA Feel It Break (2011)

Austra-feel it breakThe baroque electronic trio of Katie Stelmanis, Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf successfully broke away from the short lived Witch House sub-genre to yield their own emotionally charged sound. The moodily enigmatic ‘Beat & The Pulse’ and the frankly bonkers ‘Lose It’ had already gained a worthy amount of attention as singles and luckily, AUSTRA’s debut album did not disappoint. The tremendously epic spectre of ‘The Villain’ successfully utilised programmed technology and live drums while the sexual tension of ‘Spellwork’ was like a gothic opera crossing THE KNIFE with DEPECHE MODE that provided their most overtly synthpop offering.

‘Feel It Break’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Domino / Paper Bag Records

http://www.austramusic.com


DURAN DURAN All You Need Is Now (2011)

duranSince the return of the classic line-up in 2004, DURAN DURAN’s new material had general failed to meet expectations. However, despite losing guitarist Andy Taylor on the way, the Mark Ronson produced ‘All You Need Is Now’ saw DURAN DURAN reclaim their quintessential sound. The superb glitterball rework of ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for the title track signalled their intentions while ‘Girl Panic’ and ‘Runaway Runaway’ captured classic Duran for the 21st Century. The superb sequencer assisted ‘Being Followed’ had a tingling metallic edge that captured the tensions of post 9/11 paranoia while songstress KELIS dreamily counterpointed on the moody, string laden ‘Man Who Stole A Leopard’ which recalled ‘The Chauffeur’. Nick Rhodes claimed the album was “undoubtedly one of the strongest of our career”; and he was right!

‘All You Need Is Now’ is available as a CD and download via Tape Modern

http://www.duranduran.com


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS Interplay (2011)

john foxx maths_interplay‘Interplay’ was possibly JOHN FOXX’s most complete and accessible body of work since his classic ‘Metamatic’. Together with Chief Mathematician and synth collector extraordinaire BENGE aka THE MATHS, the use of vintage electronics with modern recording techniques captured a mechanised charm while simultaneously adding a correlative warmth. Among the realised examples of this fresh approach were the feisty ‘Catwalk’, the electro-folkisms of ‘Evergreen’ and the eerie ‘The Running Man’. One of the stand-out tracks ‘Watching A Building On Fire’ featured Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON and was perfectly dystopian, while the title track and closer ‘The Good Shadow’ both added a subtle atmospheric quality to proceedings.

‘Interplay’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Metamatic Records

http://blog.johnfoxxandthemaths.com/


MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive (2011)

Maison Vague-SynthpopsAlive-coverMAISON VAGUE’s ‘Synthpop’s Alive’ was one of the surprise albums of 2011 and the creation of Clark Stiefel, a German domiciled American with a love for all things Synth Britannia. A classically trained virtuoso who studied piano and electronic music at a conservatoire, his title track battle cry sounded like the result of an unlikely sexual liaison between DEVO and PLACEBO. Chunky riff laden tracks such as ‘Pixelated Lover’, ‘My Situation’, ‘Living On Ice Cream’ and ‘Give Them Away’ affectionately revived The GARY NUMAN Principle but for some variation, there were the marvellous BETTE MIDLER gone electro of ‘No Show’ and the reggae inflected ‘Tunnel Vision’.

‘Synthpop’s Alive’ is available as a download album via Stiefel Musik

http://www.maisonvague.com


MIRRORS Lights & Offerings (2011)

Brighton pop-noir quartet MIRRORS’ only album ‘Light & Offerings’ was a seamless majestic journey swathed in layers of vintage electronics and modern rhythmical dynamics. It began with superb sonic pulsar of ‘Fear Of Drowning’ with its dramatic overtures of young manhood before continuing with reworked recordings of the band’s excellent first two singles ‘Look At Me’ and ‘Into The Heart’. The sublime ‘Hide & Seek’ was soulful electronic pop while ‘Ways To An End’ proved MIRRORS could cut it on the dancefloor too. Elsewhere, ‘Somewhere Strange’ took the listener on the most euphoric train ride since NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’ while the final track ‘Secrets’ was an ambitious ten minute epic in three movements featuring its own ambient parenthesis. MIRRORS were worthy successors to the original Synth Britannia generation, but they sadly fragmented in Autumn 2011 and all momentum was lost before things really could get going.

‘Lights & Offerings’ is available as a CD, 2LP and download via Skint Records

http://mirrorsofficial.bandcamp.com/


GRIMES Visions (2012)

grimes_visionsWith the critically acclaimed ’Visions’, Montreal’s GRIMES aka Claire Boucher explored a hybrid style of electro influenced by K-Pop, New Age and R ‘n’ B. ‘Genesis’ was one of many kookily inventive tunes on the album and like its close cousin ‘Oblivion’, played with Kling Klang derived rhythm section that came over like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Often using pentatonic scaling to show her affinity towards South East Asian culture, GRIMES’ sumptuously infectious approaches made tracks such as ‘Be A Boy’, ‘Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)’ and ‘Vowels = space and time’ an aurally challenging but rewarding listen. And all this while retaining a quirky sense of humour in her promo videos…

‘Visions’ is available as a CD, LP and download via 4AD Records

http://www.grimesmusic.com


METROLAND Mind The Gap (2012)

metroland-mind-the-gap-2012Although METROLAND have little in common with GIRLS ALOUD, they are indeed The Sound Of The Underground. While highly influenced by KOMPUTER and KRAFTWERK, the single ‘Enjoying The View’ indicated METROLAND were more textural in their use of synthetic sequences, robotic vocals and vintage drum machines. With tributes to London Underground map designer ‘Harry Beck’, Kling Klang homages such as ‘It’s More Fun To Commute’ and a cover version of IGGY POP’s ‘The Passenger’ that has to be heard to be believed, METROLAND’s soundtrack provided a ride through an electronic landscape designed for the commuter world.

‘Mind The Gap’ is available as a CD, deluxe 2CD and download via Alfa Matrix Records

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


SIN COS TAN Sin Cos Tan (2012)

sin_cos_tan-albumHaving worked together on the ‘Origin’ album, a side project between VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa and ace producer Jori Hulkkonen was almost inevitable. Under the moniker of SIN COS TAN, their debut album impressed with a rich filmic quality permeating amongst all the synths and drum machines in a much more mature approach than had been apparent on ‘Origin’. There was plenty of variation too, from the dark, atmospheric space ballad ‘In Binary’ and laid back electro R’n’B of ‘Book Of Love’ to the NEW ORDER styled dream attack of ‘After All’ and the almost Balearic ‘Calendar’. But true to form with Hulkkonen’s intelligent disco manoeuvres, the beat templates were complimentary and never overbearing. And with the sublime “disco you can cry to” closer of ‘Trust’, SIN COS TAN’s place in electronic music has been assured.

‘Sin Cos Tan’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Solina Records

http://sincostan.net/


TRUST TRST (2012)

trust_trstA release that actually slipped under TEC’s radar on initial release, TRUST was the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left after its release to return to AUSTRA, ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. The filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of portamento and dance beats, while ‘Bulbform’ was perfectly doomy disco. There were more immediate moments too like the trancier synthscapes of ‘Sulk’ and the alternate Euro-disco of ‘Dressed In Space’ which came over like a more depressed version of CAMOUFLAGE. In all, ‘TRST’ was one grower of a record.

‘TRST’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Arts & Crafts

http://ttrustt.com/


ULTRAVOX Brilliant (2012)

Ultravox brilliant artwork‘Brilliant’ reminded people why the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX were supreme when firing on all cylinders. It also laid to the rest, the ghost of the dreadful ‘U-Vox’ album in 1986. The title track and ‘Live’ contained all the hallmarks of Billy Currie’s Eurocentric piano and synth embellishments complimented by the motorik power house of Chris Cross and Warren Cann while Midge Ure’s voice now possessed a fragility and honesty that could only come from life experience. Then there was the pounding electronic rock of ‘Satellite’ and  the percolating sequences of ‘Rise’ which saw the return of Currie’s distinctive ARP Odyssey soloing. The whirring Odyssey also appeared on ‘Change’ with beautiful ivory runs over the shuffling schlagzeug. ‘Brilliant’ was proof than while Billy Currie needed Midge Ure, Midge Ure also needed Billy Currie.

‘Brilliant’ is available as a CD, 2LP and download via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk


KARL BARTOS Off The Record (2013)

If people can still hold enough regard for a version of KRAFTWERK featuring just Ralf Hütter to crash the websites of the world’s art spaces, then KARL BARTOS should at least be accorded some kind of equal status. After all, Bartos did co-write ‘The Model’, ‘The Robots’, Neon Lights, ‘Numbers’ and ‘Computer Love’. Utilising musical sketches and ideas gathered during his period with KRAFTWERK and his later project ELEKTRIC MUSIC, ‘Off The Record’ was a fully realised recording with Kling Klang at its heart. Indeed, ‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons. The punchy ‘Rhythmus’ revisited ‘Numbers’ and ‘Computer World 2’ while the wonderful ‘Hausmusik’ had its clanking core driven by the type of mechanised backbeat heard on the ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Radio-Activity’ albums. Even using ideas gathered prior to 1996, KARL BARTOS produced a classic but modern electronic pop album.

‘Off The Record’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEF Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark (2013)

bef_darkThe third instalment to Martyn Ware’s ambitious BEF covers project, amongst its fourteen tracks was some of his most overtly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Kim Wilde’s brilliant opener ‘Every Time I See You Go Wild’ used just a Roland System 100 while the GIORGIO MORODER meets SPACE electro disco of ‘Same Love’ featuring David J Roch was another highlight. Other notable vocalists included ERASURE’s Andy Bell on an eerie take of ‘Breathing’, POLLY SCATTERGOOD’s kooky vocal on ‘The Look Of Love’ and CULTURE CLUB’s Boy George whose interpretation of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ possessed a previously unheard grouchy edge. But it was a slowed down waltz remake of ASSOCIATES’ ’Party Fears Two’ voiced by HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory that virtually stole the show and brought the hankies out.

‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ is available as a CD, deluxe 2CD and download via Wall Of Sound

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


CHVRCHES The Bones Of What You Believe (2013)

chvrches-the-bones-of-what-you-believeLike it or not, CHVRCHES have managed to attain a mainstream recognition that was denied to MIRRORS, thus furthering the cause of electronic pop worldwide. And in Lauren Mayberry, they have a sweet voice that counterbalances some of the harsher aural aesthetics that come with using Moog and her sisters. This album was full of quality synthpop with excellent songs such as ‘The Mother We Share’, ‘Science / Visions’, ‘Gun’, ‘Lies’ and ‘Recover’. However, an otherwise great debut was spoilt by Martin Doherty’s dreary blokey ramblings on ‘You Caught The Light’ and ‘Under The Tide’… and with the far superior ‘Now Is Not The Time’ sitting on the B-side bench, it is this type of noted Glaswegian bloody mindedness that will be the Achilles’ Heel to this trio achieving further success.

‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Virgin Records

http://www.chvrch.es/


FEATHERS If All Now Here (2013)

feathersLPWhile claims that FEATHERS were the female DEPECHE MODE may have perhaps been overstated, ‘If All Now Here’ was an impressive opening gambit that actually came over more like THE BANGLES fronting Basildon’s finest. Essentially the one woman project of Anastasia Dimou, she successfully combined harmonies, dystopia and deserts for some dreamy electronic soundscapes. ‘Land Of The Innocent’ was a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ while ‘Soft’ borrowed from the single mix of ‘Behind the Wheel’, but added an enlightening pop sensibility. Of course the raunchier, bluesier side of DM revealed itself on ‘Fire In The Night’ and ‘Believe’, but in ‘Dark Matter’, there was a tune with a Latino dancefloor heart, but reimagined by NITZER EBB! Opening for DEPECHE MODE on the winter 2014 leg of the ‘Delta Machine’ tour completed the circle.

‘If All Now Here’ is available as a download via Nyx, CD available via http://feathers.bandcamp.com/album/if-all-now-here

http://www.feathers.fm/


FOTONOVELA A Ton Of Love (2013)

fotonovela front coverNamed after the cult Italo standard, FOTONOVELA’s sophomore album ‘A Ton Of Love’ was conceived as a supreme electronic record featuring vocalists from all stages of classic synthpop, as a homage to the genre. As a sign of their ambition, the first person they approached was OMD’s Andy McCluskey and the sessions went well… so well, that the resultant number ‘Helen Of Troy’ ended up on OMD’s ‘English Electric’ opus instead! With FOTONOVELA’s tracks being coveted by their heroes, it boded well for the remainder of the album. With a cast that included SECTION 25, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX, the quality was maintained and several cases, even exceeded. In particular, ‘Our Sorrow’ featuring MIRRORS’ James New captured the essence of classic OMD with a spirited, majestic vocal while ‘Justice’ found DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood in particularly feisty form. The presence of some of the most distinct voices in electronic pop music made ‘A Ton Of Love’ a fine showcase for one of best production teams in Europe.

‘A Ton of Love’ is available as a CD and download via Undo Records

http://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela


MARNIE Crystal World (2013)

MARNIE Crystal WorldWith LADYTRON in hiatus, Helen Marnie set out “to create an electronic album with more of a pop element and pristine vocals” for her first solo record. Vocally and musically expansive like an Arctic escapist fantasy, this objective was achieved with ‘Crystal World’ with the classic pop of ABBA and MAMA CASS obviously apparent as well as MARNIE’s love of fellow weegies CHVRCHES. The brilliant launch single ‘The Hunter’ was the vibrant electropop single that LADYTRON never quite got round to releasing while there were other shining jewels like ‘Hearts On Fire’, ‘We Are The Sea’,  ‘High Road’ and ‘Sugarland’. Meanwhile, ‘The Wind Breezes On’ was MARNIE’s own ‘Love Is A Stranger’ while the neo-acappella ‘Laura’ sat as a lush centrepiece to the collection.

‘Crystal World’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Les Disques Crespuscle

http://www.helenmarnie.com


MESH Automation Baby (2013)

MESH Automation BabyMESH’s danceable electro-rock ambitions became fully realised on ‘Automation Baby’. The lead single ‘Born To Lie’ was a brilliantly aggressive slice of Goth glam while in ‘Taken For Granted’, MESH had their own ‘Never Let Me Down Again’. ‘Just Leave Us Alone’ added some trancey dressing to the classic MESH template but it was the atmospheric maturity of the album’s ballads that were the big surprise. The beautiful ‘It’s The Way I Feel’ showed a more sensitive side with hints of ENNIO MORRICONE while ‘Adjust Your Set’ displayed some subtle traits despite its mechanical rhythms. But with the aptly titled ‘You Couldn’t See This Coming’, this orchestrated epic saw Mark Hockings’ passionate angst exposed for all. With the sonic balance bolstered by additional strings to MESH’s bow, ‘Automation Baby’ was undoubtedly the best album of their career to date.

‘Automation Baby’ is available as a CD and download via Dependent Records

http://www.mesh.co.uk/


MOBY Innocents (2013)

MOBY InnocentsOn ‘Innocents’, MOBY’s familiar chord changes and sweeping string synths were all present and correct. But this was an adventurously beautiful work tinged with emotion, sadness and resignation that explored mid-life and mortality. Damien Jurado’s sensitive vocal on ‘Almost Home’ provided a marvellous slice of folktronica while Skylar Grey’s angelic voice on ‘The Last Day’ provided a beautiful innocence over the looping male gospel sample. One of the key moments of the album was ‘The Perfect Life’, an enjoyable duet by MOBY with FLAMING LIPS’ Wayne Coyne that came over bizarrely like GARY NUMAN at a Pentecostal church! With an elegiac tension, MOBY described parts of ‘Innocents’ as “nostalgic futurism”… it was also soothing electronic soul.

‘Innocents’ is available as a CD, deluxe 2CD, 2LP and download via Little Idiot

http://www.moby.com


OMD English Electric (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricIn 2013, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys finally released the album that many had been wanting since 1984. ‘English Electric’ was a brilliant concept album that encompassed the mantra “what does the future sound like?” The reality of unfulfilled dreams and impending mortality lingered on ‘Metroland’ and ‘Night Café’ while ‘Dresden’, ‘Helen Of Troy’ and ‘Final Song’ used clever metaphors for tales of relationship breakup. However, the magnificent ‘Our System’ did what OMD always did best, with an emotive soundtrack about the universe while ‘Kissing The Machine’, McCluskey’s collaboration with KARL BARTOS from 1993, was given some appropriate Synth-werk. And there was the return of the Paul Humphreys vocal on the very personal ‘Stay With Me’, a melodic ditty that was up there with ‘Souvenir’.

‘English Electric’ is available as a CD, deluxe CD/DVD, LP and download via BMG Music

http://www.omd.uk.com


PET SHOP BOYS Electric (2013)

pet-shop-boys-electricLaced with House, Italo and Eurotrance references, ‘Electric’ took a few risks with the opening track ‘Axis’ being virtually instrumental, re-imagining Bobby Orlando in the 22nd Century. The brilliantly titled ‘Love Is A Bourgeois Construct’ recalled the pomp of ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’ but then came the hypnotic ‘Fluorescent’. Basically a wonderful dancefloor makeover of ‘Fade To Grey’, waves of synth sirens attacked like a Martian invasion. Meanwhile, ‘Thursday’ re-explored the New York club scene with the distinctive squelch of a TB303 and captured the vibrant excitement of what is now the new Friday. The slightly berserk ‘Shouting In The Evening’ was a slice of “banging” techno before the comparatively conventional ‘Vocal’. With the vivid sentiment “I like the singer, he’s lonely and strange – every track has a vocal…and that makes a change”, it was a befitting conclusion of what this album was about; ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature.

‘Electric’ is available as a CD, LP and download via X2 Recordings

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk


TWINS NATALIA The Destiny Room (2013)

TWINS NATALIA The Destiny RoomAnglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA captured a pristine technostalgic journey through a Europe of real life and postcard views on ‘The Destiny Room’. A wonderfully emotive soundtrack of elegance and decadence with a touch of neu romance, the collection’s main act began with the gorgeously arpeggiated ‘Destiny’. Then there was the more frantic HI-NRG romp of ‘I Avoid Strangers’, while the PET SHOP BOYS styled neo-orchestrated statement of ‘Set Love Free’ climaxed like a pomped up ‘Rent’. As an appendix, there was also the superb debut single ‘When We Were Young’ b/w ‘Kleiner Satellit’ which first appeared in 2008. With rich, vibrant soloing from Dave Hewson on a Roland Jupiter 6 throughout, ‘The Destiny Room’ was perfect listening electronic music enthusiasts of a time when people actually played synths and explored the capabilities of their drum machines.

‘The Destiny Room’ is available as a download via iTunes via Anna Logue Records, CD and deluxe box set available at http://annaloguerecords.blogspot.de/p/releases.html

https://www.facebook.com/twinsnatalia


VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens (2013)

The Future Through A LensThree years in the making, ‘The future through a lens’ was well worth the wait. While not as immediate as the tracks on the preceding three EPs made available for their German tour supporting OMD, the album itself took a more esoteric, filmic approach. Like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ORBITAL, ‘Damaged Software’ was an enticing piece of electro while ‘Drowned Cities’ was an enticing entry point following the title track overture. Both the pulsating ‘Proximity’ and the moody ‘Nothing’ grew with further listens. But with the closing ‘Deep Red’, it took all that was great about early OMD, putting ‘Statues’, ‘Stanlow’ and ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’ into a breathtaking seven and a half minute epic. This full length debut impressed enough for VILE ELECTRODES to snap up two Schallwelle awards in Germany for ‘Best International Album’ and ‘Best International Band’ in 2014.

‘The future through a lens’ is available as a download via Vile Electrodes, CD and cassette package available at http://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.co.uk


WESTBAM Götterstrasse (2013)

WESTBAM GötterstrasseTechno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, the magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ voiced brilliantly by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler was not actually a celebration of illicit substance use. It was an album full of surprises like the dramatic ‘Kick It Like A Sensei’ with rapper LIL WAYNE and the tensely militaristic ‘Iron Music’ featuring the distinctive baritone of IGGY POP. Meanwhile, ‘She Wants’ saw the return of NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner on a new electronic dance composition and the frantic but serene ‘A Night to Remember’ with THE STRANGLERS’ Hugh Cornwall brought proceedings to a euphoric come down via some piano and Solina strings.

‘Götterstrasse’ is available as a CD and download via Warner Music

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


ANALOG ANGEL Trinity (2014)

Analog Angel trinityThe transformation of Glaswegians ANALOG ANGEL has been startling. Moving away from their industrial shackles, they came up with a largely excellent collection of quality synthpop in ‘Trinity’. ‘Drive’ was a haunting drama about domestic violence that was given extra poignancy by a ghostly guest vocal by Tracy J Cox. There was also the frantic ERSAURE on Stella Artois of ‘The Chase’, the rousing schaffel stomp of ‘Round Again’ and the refined CAMOUFLAGE meets VANGELIS atmospheres of ‘Inner Voice’. But the biggest surprise was ‘The Last Time’, a cinematic masterpiece involving an orchestra that cascaded into an epic Pan-European journey across The Steppes. The virtual symphonic strings and gothic choirs gave an indication as to what OMD might have sounded like if Jim Steinman had been producing!

‘Trinity’ is available as a download, CD-R available via http://analog-angel.bandcamp.com/

http://analog-angel.com


IAMAMIWHOAMI Blue (2014)

iamamiwhoami;_BLUEAfter the promise of the ‘Bounty’ and ‘Kin’ collections, ‘Blue’ fully realised the potential of IAMAMIWHOAMI, the slightly bonkers moniker of delightfully odd vocalist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund. Expanding on the audio / visual template of its predecessors, the first impression of ‘Blue’ is that it is more of the same. But like fine wine, this album gets better with age. The windy breeze of glacial Scandinavian beauty immerses itself on tracks like the sub-COCTEAU TWINS ‘Fountain’, the ABBA-like ‘Chasing Kites’ and the closing reverberant mood piece ‘Shadowshow’. But it is the more uptempo danced based numbers like the mutant techno of ‘Ripple’ and the KATE BUSH gone trance of ‘Hunting For Pearls’ that show the most advancement. Jonna Lee’s otherworldly rasp does polarise but once overcome, the sonic rewards can be startling.

‘Blue’ is available as a download via towhomitmayconcern, deluxe CD/book available at http://shop.towhomitmayconcern.cc/collections/releases/products/iamamiwhoami-blue-cd-book

http://www.towhomitmayconcern.cc/


RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End (2014)

Royksopp-TheInevitable-artRÖYKSOPP’s final album took five years but it ultimately benefitted the outcome. ROBYN returned for a shorter, sharper version of ‘Monument’, but her thunder was stolen by some supreme vocal performances by SUSANNE SUNDFØR and Jamie McDermott from THE IRREPRESSIBLES. ‘Save Me’ and ‘Running to The Sea’ reinforced why the former is the Nordic vocalist of the moment, while the latter’s contributions to ‘You Know I Have To Go’ and ‘I Had This Thing’ showed how modern electronic dance music can be both vibrant and heartfelt. Only the pointless profanity laden ‘Rong’, ironically featuring ROBYN, stopped ‘The Inevitable End’ from achieving perfection.

‘The Inevitable End’is available as a 2CD, 2LP and download via Dog Triumph / Cooking Vinyl

http://royksopp.com/


MIDGE URE Fragile (2014)

MIDGE URE fragileThe ULTRAVOX reunion had a profound effect on the diminutive Mr Ure if nothing else and got him to fully focus on the solo album he’d been working on since 2001. The time that passed was worth it; songs like ‘Become’ recalled his work with VISAGE while the title track revealed that despite the moustache and long raincoat back in the day, he’d always wanted to be in PINK FLOYD. Meanwhile, instrumentals such as ‘of ‘Wire & Wood’ and ‘Bridges’ showed that Ure’s music still has subtlety. But the undoubted highlight of ‘Fragile’ was ‘Dark, Dark Night’, a co-write with MOBY. The song built to an amazing climax with the follically challenged pairing forming a partnership made in heaven. Overall, the album was an impressive musical diary of a man pondering and confronting his post-midlife.

‘Fragile’ is available as a CD, LP and download via Hypertension Music

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th February 2015

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