Tag: Martha Ladly (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 25 TRACKS FROM THE CIRCUIT BOARDS OF CANADA

Like Sweden, as a country with a relatively small population in relation to land mass, Canada punches above its weight when it comes to its contribution to popular music.

Canada’s internationally famous artists may be Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morisette, but there have been so many more that have been far more interesting.

Canada has been a significant presence in synth from the post-punk pioneers such as NASH THE SLASH and CERAMIC HELLO, to international MTV-era hits from the likes of MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and KON KAN, up to the present day via the mainstream profile of GRIMES, PURITY RING and CRYSTAL CASTLES. Meanwhile, it also has developed into a hub for the burgeoning sub-genre of Synthwave thanks to FM ATTACK and DANA JEAN PHOENIX.

Like in the UK with the availability of affordability of technology from Japan in particular, Canadian youngsters were taking up synthesizers. And while several were to attain cult status like RATIONAL YOUTH and PYSCHE, some such as the Winnipeg trio EUROPA were destined just to have their moment on domestic television without an official release to their name.

Today, the tradition continues with artists such as DEADMAU5, TIGA, KOISHII & HUSH, LOLA DUTRONIC and TECHNIQUES BERLIN covering a wide spectrum of electronic pop and dance music.

So here is The Electricity Club’s list of 25 tracks from the circuit boards of Canada, subject to a limit of one per artist moniker, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. But notice a void in between 1990 to 2000 when it could be said that the likes of Dion, Adams and Morisette dominated the airwaves of the globe.

However, the number of electronic acts who have appeared in the 21st Century have more than made up for things.


CERAMIC HELLO Climatic Nouveaux (1980)

CERAMIC HELLO were a duo who hailed from Burlington in Ontario, formed by Brett Wickens in 1980 after leaving post-punk band SPOONS. He teamed up with Roger Humphreys who added a more classical bent to their minimal synth in the vein of JOHN FOXX and FAD GADGET. Their first release was the detached cold wave paranoia of ‘Climatic Nouveaux’. Wickens later moved to England to join Peter Saville Associates, making a major contribution to the artwork for OMD’s ‘Architecture & Morality’.

Available on the album ‘The Absence Of A Canary’ via Suction Records

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


NASH THE SLASH Swing Shift – Flexi Version (1981)

NASH THE SLASH opened for GARY NUMAN and was signed to Dindisc Records. It was during this period that he had his highest mainstream media profile with features in ‘Smash Hits’; it was with the pop mag that his best known recording in the UK came via a blue flexi-disc with an early self-produced stripped down version of ‘Swing-Shift’ sitting next to his label mates OMD’s live rendition of ‘Pretending To See The Future’. He sadly passed away in 2014.

Available as a bonus track on the album ‘Children Of The Night’ via Artoffact Records ‎

http://nashtheslash.com/


MEN WITHOUT HATS The Safety Dance (1982)

Hailing from Montreal, ‘The Safety Dance’ was written by MEN WITHOUT HATS lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing, thus it was effectively a protest song against conformity, a call for freedom of expression. it had been misinterpreted as a being about safe sex and as an anti-nuclear protest song. The bouncy almost medieval feel combined with Doroschuk’s vocals like a less doomy Andrew Eldritch to produce a huge international hit.

Available on the album ‘Rhythm Of Youth’ via Bulldog Brothers ‎

http://safetydance.com/


SPOONS Arias & Symphonies (1982)

Hailing from Toronto and lead by Gordon Deppe, after the acclaim for the 1981 debut album ‘Stick Figure Neighbourhood’, the songs on the second ‘Arias & Symphonies’ were more European influenced. With JAPAN producer John Punter behind the desk, the title song was an perfect amalgam of prog theatrics, new wave gallop and synth pomp. SPOONS were soon to be opening for bands such as SIMPLE MINDS and THE POLICE. Today, Deppe is also the guitarist for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Available on the album ‘Arias & Symphonies’ via Ready Records

https://www.spoonsmusic.com/


STRANGE ADVANCE Love Games (1982)

STRANGE ADVANCE were a Canadian new wave band formed in Vancouver, made up of Drew Arnott (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Darryl Kromm (lead vocals, guitars), and Paul Iverson (bass). Utilising synthesizers and advances in programming technology, their music was a fusion of progressive rock and MTV friendly pop that struck a chord, with the lyrical couplet “The time is right / We’ll love tonight” of ‘Love Games’ capturing the mood of times.

Available on the album ‘Worlds Away’ via VR

https://www.strangeadvance.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with Brett Wickens from CERAMIC HELLO on this charming pop tune which echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass while the dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continue his university studies, but contributed synth programming to ‘Holiday In Bangkok’, a sinister overwrought warning about the dangers of becoming international drug mule.

Available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


TRANS-X Living On Video (1983)

French-born Canadian Pascal Languirand was the man behind TRANS-X, and had previously been known for his spacey progressive rock solo albums like ‘Minos’ and ‘De Harmonia Universalia’. Originally issued in French as ‘Vivre Sur Video’, this cosmic octave-shifting electronic dance tune, with additional vocals by Laurie Ann Gill, became a massive hit worldwide after being re-released in 1985 and went onto to influence Electroclash artists such as FISCHERSPOONER and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Living On Video’ via Unidisc

http://transx-music.com/


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo from Edmonton, founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen. Of the foreboding overtones of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, “Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved” Darrin said, “It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.”

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


SKINNY PUPPY Dig It (1986)

“Love cannot attach itself to binding ugliness” goes the theatrical horror of ‘Dig It’; formed in Vancouver by cEvin Key of IMAGES IN VOGUE and vocalist Nivek Ogre, SKINNY PUPPY are widely considered as the pioneers of industrial. ‘Dig It’ was a big favourite of NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor and heavily influenced his own track ‘Down In It’ which appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, so much so that he later confessed he had actually sampled it!

Available on the album ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ via Nettwerk America

http://skinnypuppy.com/


MITSOU Les Chinois (1988)

Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas achieved the comparatively unusual feat of having a francophone pop hit across Canada with ‘Bye Bye Mon Cowboy’. But her best tune was the saucy Fairlighted ‘Les Chinois’ from the multicultural-themed album ‘El Mundo’. Written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac who later worked with Céline Dion, she exclaimed “Non non non c’est pas comme ça, qu’on fait l’amour, regarde les Chinois”… was she trying to make babies?

Available on the album ‘El Mundo’ via Unidisc

http://mitsoumagazine.com/en/


KON KAN I Beg Your Pardon (1989)

The project of Barry Harris, the KON KAN name was a play on the policy of “Canadian Content” which enforced Canadian radio station to air at least 30% domestic music. Voiced by Kevin Wynne, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ was not just content with borrowing off NEW ORDER but inspired by ‘Pump Up The Volume’, used samples of other songs like ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)’ and ‘Get Up & Boogie’, as well as National Lampoon’s ‘Disco Hotline’. This mash-up became a huge international one hit wonder.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via A&M Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


SOLVENT Wish (2005)

Toronto-based Jason Amm is all about “synthesizers, drum machines, fx, knobs, buttons, wires, wave, electro, acid”. But while he is now best known for his documentary film ‘I Dream Of Wires’, he has a vast catalogue of music released under the SOLVENT moniker. With gentle vocoder treatments and glorious whirring synths, ‘Wish’ set a pattern for acts like FOTONOVELA and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS to follow in the understated melodic machine pop stakes.

Available on the album ‘Demonstration Tape (1997-2007)’ via Ghostly International

http://www.solventcity.com/


DRAGONETTE I Get Around (2007)

Toronto’s DRAGONETTE comprised of singer Martina Sorbara, producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. The acclaim for their self-released self-titled EP led to a deal with Mercury Records and a relocation to the UK. Opening shows for BASEMENT JAXX and SUGABABES, the highlight of their debut album ‘Galore’ was ‘I Get Around’ which was previewed on Planet Clique and Lucky Pierre’s ‘Robopop – The Return’ compilation. It also was used in ‘The Vampire Diaries’.

Available on the album ‘Galore’ via Mercury Records

http://www.dragonetteonline.com/


FM ATTACK Sleepless Nights (2009)

With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling being a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Shawn Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk, all with a fine-honed musicality. From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album which opened up the gates and led the way for what was to become Synthwave, ‘Sleepless Nights’ crossed arpeggios with octave lilts for an enjoyable vocoder-laced romp.

Available on the album ‘Dreamatic’ via Starfield Music

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/


CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (2010)

Named after a line in ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’ and capturing a gritty lo-fi electronic sound, Toronto’s CRYSTAL CASTLES were a world apart from other modern duos with chaotic live shows that had an almost demonic energy. With Ethan Kath’s deliberately distorted synthetic goth-punk and Alice Glass’ afflicted vocal presence, ‘Suffocation’ was haunted, yet captured an understated beauty. But in October 2014, Glass announced that she was leaving to pursue a solo career amid acrimony.

Available on the album ‘(II)’ via Fiction Records

https://www.crystalcastles.com/


AUSTRA Spellwork (2011)

Named after the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, Toronto’s  AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of arty electronica fuelled by the sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blended light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrowed from classic DEPECHE MODE and crossed it with THE KNIFE for ‘Spellwork’, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album ‘Feel It Break’.

Available on the album ‘Feel It Break’ via Domino / Paper Bag Records

http://austra.fyi/


GRIMES Oblivion (2012)

While Claire Boucher might be now more widely known for being the girlfriend of Elon Musk, she began as the kooky Montreal sensation GRIMES, sounding like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Presented in a fun leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion, ‘Oblivion’ was a sumptuously infectious tune that despite the almost unintelligible vocals and weird noises, was probably the most immediate track on her ‘Visions’ album which also featured less immediate but equally enjoyable ‘Genesis’.

Available on the album ‘Visions’ via 4AD Records

https://grimesmusic.com/


PARALLELS Moonlight Desires (2012)

Behind PARALLELS is Holly Dodson and on their second long player was a lovely synthpop version of GOWAN’s 1987 rock tune ‘Moonlight Desires’. She said of her love for the song: “We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia. I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha…”

Available on the album ‘XII’ via Marigold Productions

http://www.iloveparallels.com/


TR/ST Gloryhole (2012)

TR/ST began as the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left to return to AUSTRA, the debut ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. From it, the filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of sinister portamento and hypnotic dance beats. Postepski returned to the fold for the recent double album opus ‘The Destroyer’, but Alfons still remains something of an awkward character.

Available on the album ‘TRST’ via Arts & Crafts

https://tr-st.xyz/


FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Killing Grounds (2013)

Bill Leeb formed FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 1986 after his short stint with SKINNY PUPPY under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. With Rhys Fulber as the other long standing member, they were influenced by acts such as CABARET VOLTAIRE, PORTION CONTROL, DAF, TEST DEPT and SPK. Having integrated guitars, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY returned to making exclusively electronic music on their fifteenth album ‘Echogenetic’, the highlight of which was ‘Killing Grounds’.

Available on the album ‘Echogenetic’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mindphaser.com/


ELECTRIC YOUTH Without You (2014)

Hailing from Toronto, ELECTRIC YOUTH‘s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. Echoing Aussie combo ICEHOUSE  and ‘Great Southern Land’ in particular, its bridge and chorus were particularly tremendous with a nostalgic Brat Pack movie presence.

Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian

https://electricyouthmusic.com/


PURITY RING Begin Again (2015)

With CHVRCHES having had success borrowing PURITY RING’s electro template, the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice. The pair off a major surprise by working with Katy Perry on three songs for her 2017 album ‘Witness’.

Available on the album ‘Another Eternity’ via 4AD Records

https://purityringthing.com/


DANA JEAN PHOENIX Only For One Night (2018)

Self-described as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”, Toronto’s DANA JEAN PHOENIX isn’t a stranger to synthylicious ditties. Having moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles, as one of the best live solo synth performers currently, she enjoys rocking out onstage with her keytar Jareth. The sparkling template of one of her most rousing numbers ‘Only One For One Night’ brought along a youthful escapism that reminisced about first loves and first disappointments.

Available on the album ‘PixelDust’ via New EmPire Entertainment

https://www.danajphoenix.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy (2019)

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Torontonian, Hayley Stewart. The delightfully odd ‘Apathy’ from her second album ‘Let’s!’ was an inventive oddball fusion of jazz swing Charleston, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

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

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
17th February 2020

A Beginner’s Guide To WILLIAM ORBIT

William Mark Wainwright got his affectionate nickname Orbit from his friends who considered him to be something of a “space cadet”.

As William Orbit, the Hackney born musician and composer became one of the most revered producers, winning Grammys, Ivor Novellos and several other music industry awards.

Despite being a competent guitarist, Orbit considered himself unable to play keyboards well and admitted that it was the advent computers in music that allowed him to fully realise his creative potential.

His portfolio has ranged from electronic acts like KRAFTWERK, OMD, CAMOUFLAGE, ERASURE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, NITZER EBB and DEPECHE MODE to rock bands like QUEEN, U2 and BLUR.

However, it was within dance-oriented pop that Orbit made his fortune through productions characterised by his trancey soundscapes, sparing fretwork and understated rhythmic construction. He even had a Top5 hit bearing his own name, albeit with a radically different trance remix by Ferry Corsten of ‘Adagio For Strings’ in 2000.

Brought up in a classical music loving family, Orbit shocked his teacher parents by dropping out of school to pursue his more creative inclinations, having tried a synth for the first time at the age of sixteen.

Things came to came to fruition when a friend wanted to start a recording studio. That venture eventually became Guerilla Studios which has now been based in various locations over the past three and a half decades.

These days, Orbit is a very content man, hosting a classical music show on Scala Radio as well as curating occasional lecture and multimedia art events.

Showing little concern for the financial aspects of the music industry, his two most recent albums ‘Orbit Symphonic’ and ‘Strange Cargo 5’ were given away as free downloads on Soundcloud in 2014.

With such a vast and varied career, it would be quite tricky to compile eighteen tracks involving Orbit’s magic touch, but The Electricity Club will attempt to do that with the restriction of one track per album project. So presented in chronological order, here is a Beginner’s Guide to William Orbit.


TORCH SONG Prepare To Energise (1983)

Comprising Orbit, Laurie Mayer, Grant Gilbert and latterly Rico Conning who subsequently worked with Martin Gore on the ‘Counterfeit’ collection, TORCH SONG were signed by music entrepreneur by Miles Copeland; the advance allowed for Orbit to build up his Guerilla Studios. ‘Prepare To Energise’ is probably still their best known tune, a pulsating cosmic club favourite with robotic voices and synthesized textures which featured in the film ‘Bachelor Party’ that was maybe ahead of its time.

Originally available on the TORCH SONG ‘Wish Thing’ via IRS Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/10950-Torch-Song


THE PARTNERSHIP Sampling The Blast Furnace (1984)

THE PARTNERSHIP was an unrealised side project comprising of Peter Saville cohort and ex-SPOONS member Brett Wickens with Roger Humphreys who together recorded as CERAMIC HELLO. Produced by Orbit and heavily influenced by KRAFTWERK, the uptempo ‘Sampling The Blast Furnace’ featured lead vocals by Andy McCluskey of OMD alongside vocodered voices and chants by Martha Ladly. The slower McCluskey-less demo was a bonus on the reissue of CERAMIC HELLO’s only album.

Not officially released, alternate demo version available on the CERAMIC HELLO album ‘The Absence Of A Canary V1.1’ via Vinyl On Demand

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


ERASURE Supernature – William Orbit mix (1989)

Having artists from Mute Records and their dance subsidiary Rhythm King who included S-EXPRESS being remixed at Guerilla Studios gave Daniel Miller first-hand exposure to William Orbit’s capabilities. So who better to ask to house-up ERASURE’s cover version of Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark? The end result was suitably vibrant while still importantly retaining the core of the tune amongst all the fascinating dance rhythms and interplanetary effects.

Available on the ERASURE boxed set ‘Singles – EBX3’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Stars Are Going Out (1990)

From THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s final Virgin album, ‘The Stars Are Going Out’ was a good tune from Oakey and Co that was one of four mixed by William Orbit in a bitty collection that also contained two songs produced by Martin Rushent and one by ex-ZTT cohort Bob Kraushaar. Strangely though, there appeared to be little of Orbit’s distinctive magic audible in the end result. It had been an unhappy time, as Orbit preferred to work without any of the band present, something they had not been prepared for.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Romantic?’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


BASSOMATIC Fascinating Rhythm (1990)

Combining modern developments in house music and dub with the feel of SOUL II SOUL, Orbit slotted right into the zeitgeist with ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ featuring vocalist Sharon Musgrave and rapper MC Inna One Step with an uplifting club friendly number that had “pulsating action” and was “breaking into heaven”. BASSOMATIC lasted for just two albums but it cemented Orbit’s position as a studio wizard who understood sound as well as the dancefloor.

Available on the BASSOMATIC album ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Bass’ via Virgin Records

https://www.williamorbit.com/


KRAFTWERK Radioactivity – William Orbit 12″ Remix (1991)

‘The Mix’ was actually supervised by KRAFTWERK themselves, with the most significant makeover being ‘Radioactivity’ and its additional unsettling machine chant of “TSCHERNOBYL – HARRISBURGH – SELLAFIELD – HIROSHIMA” for an anti-nuclear message highlighting recent atomic catastrophes. For the single release, remixes were farmed out externally and Orbit’s version offered a more preferable electro enhancement than François Kevorkian’s house laden rework.

Originally available on the KRAFTWERK ‎single ‘Radioactivity’ via EMI Records, currently unavailable

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring BETH ORTON Water From A Vine Leaf (1993)

If there was a track that could be considered the root of the recognised Orbit signature sound, it probably has to be ‘Water From A Vine Leaf’, his first collaboration with kooky folktronica maiden Beth Orton. Having met at a party and beginning a relationship shortly after, he asked her to contribute spoken word phrases and singing for the third in his ‘Strange Cargo’ series over some looping rhythms, hypnotic bass and chill-out vibes. Orton went on to have a solo career and work with THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS.

Available on the WILLIAM ORBIT album ‘Strange Cargo III’ via Virgin Records

https://www.bethortonofficial.com/


THE ELECTRIC CHAMBER Fratres (1995)

Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works came about because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In his first attempt using a pseudonym, one of the key tracks was ‘Fratres’ by 20th Century Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Comprising of a six-bar theme, Orbit gave his electronic arrangement a sublime haunting stillness that explored the piece’s rich harmonic space via a slow meditative tempo. However, Pärt objected to its copyright infringement and the album was quickly withdrawn.

Originally on THE ELECTRIC CHAMBER album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ via N-Gram Recordings, currently unavailable

https://www.arvopart.ee/en/


MADONNA Ray Of Light (1998)

With Orbit having remixed ‘Erotica’ in 1992, Ms Ciccone was keen to work with the Englishmen, spending four and a half months at Larrabee Studios in Hollywood. ‘Ray Of Light’ was an interpolation of a little known 1971 song ‘Sepheryn’ by the British folk duo of Dave Curtiss and Clive Maldoon. Despite its frantic pace, Orbit ensured that the rhythmic elements were subtle in their make up to procure an earthy rave quality that was the antithesis of most dance music of the era.

Available on the MADONNA album ‘Ray Of Light’ via Maverick/WEA

https://www.madonna.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT Triple Concerto (2000)

With his new found fame via MADONNA, Orbit was given the opportunity to reissue ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ and included several new recordings, one of which was Ludwig Van Beethoven’s lesser known ‘Triple Concerto’. With synthetic bells and glistening pentatonics reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto added for a soothing lullaby effect, use was also made of the metallic percussive loop that had been part of his version of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Cantus’ from the original withdrawn album… waste not, want not!

Available on the WILLIAM ORBIT album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ via WEA

https://www.facebook.com/WilliamOrbit/


ALL SAINTS Black Coffee (2000)

Following MADONNA’s success, next in line for the Orbit treatment were London girl group ALL SAINTS. Having scored a No1 with the sublime ‘Pure Shores’ from ‘The Beach’ soundtrack, the combination did it again with ‘Black Coffee’. Orbit’s dreamy electronic aesthetics, spacey effects and minimal textural guitar worked perfectly for the soulful quartet to produce something that was commercial and accessible yet otherworldly and unconventional.

Available on the ALL SAINTS album ‘Saints & Sinners’ via London Records

http://www.allsaintsofficial.co.uk/


U2 Electrical Storm (2002)

With his high-public profile thanks to MADONNA and ALL SAINTS, it was no big surprise when U2 came calling. With a suitably airy beginning and heavy on acoustic guitar for the more esoteric sound that the Dubliners had been peddling since working with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, in the end ‘Electrical Storm’ just built up to sound just like U2, albeit with occasionally prominent windy electronic textures. There was also a second Orbit produced tune in ‘The Hands That Built America’.

Available on the U2 album ‘The Best Of 1990-2000’ via Island Records

https://www.u2.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SUGABABES & KENNA Spiral (2006)

Continuing his flirtation with out-and-out pop, Orbit teamed up with the UK pop’s answer to Charlie’s Angels SUGABABES and US/Ethopian artist Kenna on this slice of ambient electro R’n’B. Continuing to collaborate with TORCH SONG bandmates Laurie Mayer and Rico Conning, while the ‘Hello Waveforms’ album continued in the chill-out vein of ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ and even included ‘The Humming Chorus’ by Puccini, prominent vocals were in the mix as well as real strings and brass.

Available on the WILLIAM ORBIT album ‘Hello Waveforms’ via Sanctuary Records

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugababes


ROBBIE WILLIAMS Louise (2006)

By the mid-noughties, Robbie Williams was the biggest popstar in the world but strange things were happening in the wake of his split with hit collaborator Guy Chambers. Finding a new collaborator in Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy, he belatedly went electroclash with their first fruit of labour ‘Radio’. He then went all Synth Britannia on ‘Rudebox’, working with PET SHOP BOYS but also covering his new writing partner’s ‘Kiss Me’ and THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Louise’ which Orbit produced…

Available on the ROBBIE WILLIAMS album ‘Rudebox’ via EMI Records

https://www.robbiewilliams.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night (2010)

During the CLIENT hiatus, Sarah Blackwood took time out to work on ‘White Night’, a Rico Conning penned track for Orbit’s ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’ album which dated back to their TORCH SONG days. Although her version did not appear on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem which lyrically expressed her pain during that period.

Originally available as a free download, currently unavailable

http://dubstarofficial.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT Carmen (2010)

Producing a long awaited follow-up to his original electronic classical collection, ‘Pieces In A Modern Style 2’ continued where its predecessor left off, offering another predominantly chill-out album that had some good tunes. But one of the bonuses was an unexpected novelty in a sparkling technopop version of Georges Bizet’s opera standard ‘Carmen’, complete with stabbing synths and dramatic percussive passages to portray the seductive title character as a kind of Barbarella.

Available on the WILLIAM ORBIT deluxe album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style 2’ via Decca Records

https://www.instagram.com/therealwilliamorbit/


BRITNEY SPEARS Alien (2013)

A co-write with the one-time princess of pop, ‘Alien’ highlighted Britney’s feelings of loneliness. However, a vocal warm-up recording without her characteristic electronic treatment was leaked onto the internet, prompting Orbit to say in defence of the starlet: “Whomever put this on the internet must have done so in a spirit of unkindness, but it can in no way detract from the fact that Britney is and always will be beyond stellar! She is magnificent! And that’s that.”

Available on the BRITNEY SPEARS album ‘Britney Jean’ via RCA Records

https://www.britneyspears.com/


TRIANA TERRY Did It For Love (2013)

Orbit had discussed how becoming a superstar producer had made him unhappy and how he was pleased to have blown his fortune as all he had done was spend it on first class travel and equipment he never used. So when he recorded ‘Did It For Love’ with actress, artist and performer Triana Terry, the sentiment couldn’t have been more poignant in a feisty oddball mixture of electronic, pop and rock dynamics. Together, Orbit and Terry have presented a number of exhibitions combining paintings and music.

Not officially released, only available on YouTube

http://trianaterry.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
Photos by Simon Helm
13th April 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To NEW ORDER Collaborations + Projects

Photo by Glenn A Baker

Like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER collaborated with other artists from quite an early stage in their career, as well as later working on their own various projects during the band’s recurring hiatuses.

Even in the JOY DIVISION era, Ian Curtis, together with manager Rob Gretton produced ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25 in 1979.

Following the passing of the charismatic front man, NEW ORDER underwent a well-documented musical transformation, aided by the advancements in music technology.

While NEW ORDER began with electronic instruments such as the Doctor Rhythm DR-55 drum machine, ARP Quadra and Sequential Pro-One, their synth armoury would expand to a Moog Source, Emulator, several Prophet 5s and an Oberheim DMX.

Bernard Sumner in particular relished the opportunity to further his craft by recording with other artists. Although more naturally inclined to the live environment, Peter Hook did bring his experience into the studio as well, while Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert primarily found an outlet for their knowhow within television. The compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ released on Factory Benelux gathered many of these works.

Photo by Donald Christie

But there are still a significant number of tracks which featured the artistic input and involvement of a NEW ORDER member that are worthy of discovery and recognition.

So here are 20 tracks which encapsulate the spirit of NEW ORDER through the medium of collaboration and joint working, restricted to one track per project and presented in chronological order.


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

Martha Ladly was already part of the NEW ORDER family having produced the paintings for the Peter Saville Associates artwork of ‘Temptation’ and the ‘1981-1982’ EP. Formally of MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye. The promo video was directed by Midge Ure and Chris Cross of ULTRAVOX.

Originally released as a single on Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


52ND STREET Cool As Ice (1983)

While the trailblazing electro of ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Bernard Sumner contributed the synth basslines which were from a Moog Source run from a Powertran 1024 sequencer; it was to become the trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER front man’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul courtesy of Beverley McDonald’s vocals and New York urban influences was unsurprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic.

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

https://www.discogs.com/artist/11896-52nd-Street


MARCEL KING Reach For Love (1984)

One of Bernard Sumner’s productions for Factory with Donald Johnson, ‘Reach For Love’ featured the late Marcel King who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. With its distinctive Moog bassline programming, this was a vibrant electro disco tune that couldn’t have been more different. Shaun Ryder of HAPPY MONDAYS remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory Records, it would have been a hit!

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

https://www.discogs.com/artist/36617-Marcel-King


NYAM NYAM Fate/Hate (1984)

Despite Peter Hook’s more rock inclined sympathies and productions for acts like STOCKHOLM MONSTERS and THE STONE ROSES, he showed that he knew his way around the dancefloor as well with this Moroder-esque offering by Hull combo NYAM NYAM which he produced. Featuring a Roland TR808 plus NEW ORDER’s Emulator and Prophet 5 amongst its instrumentation, ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly today deserves to be as lauded as SECTION 25’s ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.

Available on the compilation album ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/nyam_nyam.html


SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop – Restructure (1984)

In a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson, the clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations dominated what was to become a much revered cult club classic.

Available on the SECTION 25 album ‘From The Hip’ via Factory Benelux

http://www.section25.com


PAUL HAIG The Only Truth (1984)

Possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded, although ex-JOSEF K front man Paul Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, when as Haig told The Electricity Club: “Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson started adding more to it like extra guitar, bass and percussion. We spent a long time on the sound of the percussion” . ‘The Only Truth’ was like a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and the 12 inch version was almost as long!

Available on the PAUL HAIG album ‘At Twilight’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule

http://www.rolinc.co.uk


SHARK VEGAS You Hurt Me (1986)

Mark Reeder moved from Manchester to Berlin in 1978 having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was for a time Factory Records’ representative in Germany. Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes around the world. His own Deutsche musical journey started with DIE UNBEKANNTEN, who mutated into SHARK VEGAS; the sequencer heavy ‘You Hurt Me’ was produced by Sumner at Conny Plank’s studios near Cologne.

Available on the MARK REEDER album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux

https://www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/


REVENGE Jesus I Love You (1989)

The aptly named REVENGE was Peter Hook’s response to Bernard Sumner’s ELECTRONIC. Comprising of Hook, Dave Hicks and Chris Jones, the  single ‘Seven Reasons’ backed with the edgy gothique of ‘Jesus I Love You’ got in the shops a few weeks before ‘Getting Away With It’. Coming over like early SISTERS OF MERCY with some extra raw power, it was a promising calling card. However, as things progressed, the output of REVENGE was not particularly well-received by the music press.

Available on REVENGE album ‘One True Passion V2.0’ via LTM Recordings

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/revenge.html


THE BEAT CLUB Security – Remix (1990)

Miami duo THE BEAT CLUB were the husband and wife team of producer Ony Rodriguez and singer Mireya Valls. The Bernard Sumner remix of ‘Security’ was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of Rob Gretton. Sumner’s creative additions saw an overhaul of the original version with the crucial addition of his own vocal contribution, giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/the_beat_club.html


808 STATE Spanish Heart featuring BERNARD SUMNER (1991)

Having been largely instrumental and sample based on their debut ‘90’, the Manchester dance collective used guest vocalists on their more melodic second long player ‘Ex:El’; while Björk contributed to ‘Ooops’, Bernard Sumner added his voice to the dreamy Balearic of ‘Spanish Heart. A less frantic cousin of ‘Mr Disco’ from ‘Technique’ with its holiday romance subject matter, ‘Spanish Heart’ had a blissful feel not too distantly related to ELECTRONIC’s ‘Some Distant Memory’.

Available on the 808 STATE album ‘Ex:El’ via ZTT Records

https://www.808state.com


ELECTRONIC Some Distant Memory (1991)

Frustrated with the conflicts and confines within NEW ORDER, Bernard Sumner had planned a solo album. But on bumping into Johnny Marr who had just departed THE SMITHS, it was turned into a collaborative project with the occasional guests including Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe and later Karl Bartos. It was ELECTRONIC not just in name but also in nature. The beautiful closing section of ‘Some Distant Memory’ featuring the oboe of Helen Powell enhanced the string synth melancholy.

Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via EMI Records

http://www.electronicband.com/


THE OTHER TWO Tasty Fish (1991)

Having done the music for the BBC shows including ‘Making Out’ and ‘Reportage’, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris began turning their stockpile of unused material into songs when NEW ORDER went into hiatus. The original singer slated as the vehicle for these tunes was Kim Wilde, but when this fell through, Gilbert took over on lead vocals. Amusingly titled after a fish and chip shop near Stockport, ‘Tasty Fish’ was a catchy electropop single that should have been a big hit.

Available on THE OTHER TWO album ‘And You’ via LTM Recordings

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/the_other_two.html


A CERTAIN RATIO Shack Up – Radio Edit (1994)

Smoother, tighter, speedier and dancier plus more ELECTRONIC in both name and nature, A CERTAIN RATIO reconfigured and re-recorded their 1980 signature cover with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr at the production controls, all as part of a 1994 updates retrospective for Creation Records. Originally a rare groove track by BANBARRA from 1975, this new version was popular with those who had not previously enjoyed the Mancunian band’s earlier industrial funk exploits.

Available on the A CERTAIN RATIO album ‘Looking For…’ via Creation Records

https://acrmcr.com


MONACO What Do You Want From Me? (1996)

With the demise of REVENGE and seemingly NEW ORDER, Peter Hook regrouped with guitarist David Potts to form MONACO, a combo very much in the mould of the latter. Proudly embracing his signature melodic bass sound, the first single ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ sounded like it could have come off ‘Technique’, with Hook’s Curtis-like baritone and Potts’ Sumner-esque refrain enabling a prompt audience acceptance for the duo.

Available on the MONACO album ‘Music For Pleasure’ via Polydor Records

http://peterhook.get-ctrl.com/#/


THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS featuring BERNARD SUMNER Out Of Control (1999)

‘Out Of Control’ was THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ sonic template actually fulfilling its potential within a song based format with Bernard Sumner as the willing conspirator. With echoes of NEW ORDER’s 12 inch only excursions like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves like Us’, ‘Out Of Control’ had everything from a bombastic backbeat, cerebral sequences and bizarre lyrics, especially when Sumner resigned to the fact that “Maybe my moustache is too much…”

Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Singles 93-03’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thechemicalbrothers.com/


BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure (2008)

Having worked with Robert Smith of THE CURE, German trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner high on their list of singers for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The track managed to fill the electronic dance gap that had opened up with NEW ORDER’s more rock focused albums ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Waiting For The Siren’s Call’, while the single release came with excellent remixes  from Mark Reeder and Paul Humphreys from OMD.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours

http://www.blankandjones.com/


FACTORY FLOOR A Wooden Box – STEPHEN MORRIS remix (2010)

Some say the music of FACTORY FLOOR is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat. Stephen Morris was a fan, hearing kindred spirits in their use of sequencers next to live drums and guitars, sometimes on the brink of post-industrial noise chaos. With his remix of ‘Wooden Box’, Morris brought out its more tuneful elements and added some vocoder processing. He continued to work with the band as the producer of 2011’s ‘(Real Love)’.

Available on the FACTORY FLOOR single ‘A Wooden Box’ via Blast First Petite ‎

https://www.facebook.com/factoryfloor/


WESTBAM featuring BERNARD SUMNER She Wants (2013)

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Brian Molko and Hugh Cornwall as guest vocalists. ‘She Wants’ saw the return of Bernard Sumner on a new electronic recording. With the guitar driven BAD LIEUTENANT having been his main vehicle over the intervening years, it was great to hear him on something approaching the classic sound of synth-centred NEW ORDER again.

Available on the WESTBAM album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Vertigo Germany

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


NEW ORDER featuring BRANDON FLOWERS Superheated (2015)

Brandon Flowers named THE KILLERS after a fictional band in the ‘Crystal’ video while his own combo covered the JOY DIVISION standard ‘Shadowplay’ for the ‘Control’ film. So a collaboration was not totally unexpected in this union of the sorcerer and the apprentice. A Stuart Price production featuring Flowers on the chorus, ‘Superheated’ was a slice of supreme pop which despite the frantic drum ‘n’ bass elements, sounded more like THE KILLERS than it did NEW ORDER.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com


KOISHII & HUSH featuring GILLIAN GILBERT Lifetime – FM ATTACK Remix (2016)

Simon Langford and Alex Sowyrda are the British-Canadian duo KOISHII & HUSH whose tracks have featured unusual vocalists ranging from DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor to actress Joanne Whalley. Gillian Gilbert lent her voice to ‘Lifetime’, sounding not unlike Sarah Blackwood who incidentally sang on their 2015 offering ‘Rules & Lies’. The remix from FM ATTACK aka Canadian synthwave exponent Shawn Ward added a serene crystalline quality to proceedings.

Available on the KOISHII & HUSH single ‘Lifetime’ via Grammaton Recordings

http://www.koishiiandhush.com


RUSTY EGAN featuring PETER HOOK The Other Side (2017)

With the opening salvo ‘The Otherside’ featuring Peter Hook on Rusty Egan’s debut solo album, sonic comparisons with NEW ORDER were inevitable and the song’s melodic basslines showed how much his sound was a vital part of the band. The Bass Viking’s vocals also exuded a vulnerability that listeners could empathise with. But with Hooky touring the JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER back catalogue, new material from him has been rare.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net


FREEBASS You Don’t Know This About Me – Remix Instrumental (2017)

A Mancunian supergroup of three bassists Hooky, Mani and Andy Rourke that spent five years in gestation before imploding. Producer Derek Miller aka OUTERNATIONALE was a fan and told The Electricity Club: “Really liked this song despite Hooky’s project falling apart on him! As you know, I’ve started and thought it deserved a proper release, albeit belatedly! So, I’ve been back in the studio with it and totally overhauled it sonically. There’s also a surprisingly punchy instrumental mix now”

Available on the FREEBASS single ‘You Don’t Know This About Me’ via 5 Pin Din Recordings

http://www.5pindinrecordings.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th March 2017

30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era

Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.

So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time. These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK, but which all deserve critical reappraisal.

Please note that acts who nearly made it but have since been featured on The Electricity Club like B-MOVIE, BLUE ZOO, DRAMATIS, THE FALLOUT CLUB, FATAL CHARM, FIAT LUX, PAUL HAIG, HARD CORPS, ROBERT MARLOW, THE MOOD, OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDINGVICE VERSAVIENNA and WHITE DOOR have not been included on this list. The songs are listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)

Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.

Available on the album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Horvergnugen Records

http://www.plasticbertrand.com


DALEK I Destiny (1980)

DALEK I LOVE YOU DestinyPre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined the fully named DALEK I LOVE YOU!

Available on the album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


DIE DORAUS & DIE MARINAS Fred Vom Jupiter (1981)

The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year-old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of teen and pre-teen school girls during a far more innocent time in history!

Available on the album ‘Hauptsache Ich – Retrospektive 1981-2014’ via Bureau B

https://www.facebook.com/andreasdorau/


FOX Electro People (1981)

FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Susan Traynor aka Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!

Available on the album ‘Images ’74-’84’ via Cherry Red

https://www.discogs.com/artist/356308-Fox-3


IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1981)

The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.

Available on the album ‘Essence: The Best of’ via Sony Music Japan

http://lifeintokyo.net/familytree_tsuchiya.html


MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNES Disco Rough (1981)

Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synthseizers and almost spoken staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual  stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

Available on the album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ via Celluloid Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45920-Mathématiques-Modernes


JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT & HOLGER CZUKAY How Much Are They? (1981)

JAH WOBBLE, HOLGER CZUKAY & JAKI LIEBEZEIT How Much Are TheyAlthough dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura, as well as the sadly recently departed Liebezeit and Czukay.

Available on the album ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMC

http://jahwobble.com/

http://www.czukay.com/


E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)

E.M.A.K. FilmmuzikE.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic on their artwork to NEU!  Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.

Available on the album ‘A Synthetic History Of’ via Soul Jazz Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/EMAK


PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)

PETER GODWIN Images Of HeavenA member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.

Available on the album ‘Images of Heaven’ via Phoenix Recordings

http://www.facebook.com/PeterGodwinFans


IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)

IGNATIUS JONES Like A GhostDespite Australian Top 5 success as lead singer of JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback,  the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack.  He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Ignatius+Jones


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

LEISURE PROCESS Love CascadeFeaturing Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.  The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


POEME ELECTRONIQUE The Echoes Fade (1982)

The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson  plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing GRACE JONES and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA who released an album ‘The Destiny Room’ in 2014.

Available on the album ‘The Echoes Fade’ via Hwesonics

http://www.poeme-electronique.com/


SANDII &THE SUNSETZ  Living On The Front Line (1982)

SANDII & THE SUNSETZ Living On The Front LineAnother Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!

Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan

http://www.sandii.info


BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)

Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!

Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2008/01/box-of-toys-3d-light-1982-1986.html


CARE My Boyish Days (1983)

CARE My Boyish DaysWhenTHE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)

ENDGAMES Love CaresThe success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS in their time. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!

Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)

MATT FRETTON It’s So HighFans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.

Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/86051-Matt-Fretton


INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)

INDIANS IN MOSCOW MirandaLed by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Indians in Moscow’ via Planet Of Sound

http://www.indiansinmoscow.com


THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)

‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.

Available on the album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records

http://thelotuseaters.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

MARTHA Light Years From Love2 7 inchThe stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running. By 1985’s ‘Heredity’ though, RATIONAL YOUTH was effectively a Howe solo project.

Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

SEONA DANCING More To LosePre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite on US college radio! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”

Extended Mix available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada

http://seonadancing.com/


S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)

S.P.K. Metal Dance‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!

Available on the album ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’ (V/A) via Strut Records

https://www.facebook.com/SPKindustrial/


EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)

EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts InNuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.

Available on the album ‘The Cherry Red Vintage Collection’ on Cherry Red Records

http://www.eyelessingaza.com


THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix  (1984)

THOMAS LEER InternationalLeer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”.  He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken.

Available on the album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records

http://www.thomasleer.co.uk/


BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)

BILL NELSON AccelerationThe former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with BLANCMANGE.

Available on the album ‘Chimera’ via UMC

http://www.billnelson.com


VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)

VITAMIN Z Circus RingTEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!

Available on the album ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA

http://pages.interlog.com/%7Edolphind/vitz.html


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who  were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)

TWO PEOPLE HeavenAn earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Two+People


WHEN IN ROME The Promise (1988)

WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s nearbrush with fame came with ‘The Promise’, a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the closing scene and end credits of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…

Available on the album ‘When In Rome’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/FarringtonMannUK/

http://wheninrome2.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To MIKE HOWLETT

Mike-HowlettMike Howlett is undoubtedly one of the producers who helped shape the sound of Synth Britannia and Trans-Atlantic post-punk.

As the bassist in Sydney band THE AFFAIR, he relocated to London after the group travelled to England following winning the Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds competition.

In 1973, he joined progressive rockers GONG who featured guitarist and future SYSTEM 7 co-founder Steve Hillage.

After leaving GONG, Howlett formed STRONTIUM 90 which featured Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers who of course, subsequently had success as THE POLICE. His production career began in earnest at Dindisc Records, the Virgin Records subsidiary where his then-girlfriend Carol Wilson was Managing Director. There, he worked with fledgling acts such as THE REVILLOS, MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, MODERN EON and OMD.

While his first Top 20 UK chart entry was with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, it was his three consecutive Top 15 hits with OMD, including the mighty ‘Enola Gay’, that were to make him an in-demand producer between 1981-1985.

Working with a number of synth friendly acts like BLANCMANGE and CHINA CRISIS, this lucrative period was to include a Grammy Award for ‘DNA’ with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS in the ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ category. His portfolio was not just restricted to electronic pop, with FISCHER Z, ANY TROUBLE, COMSAT ANGELS, THE ALARM and JOAN ARMATRADING among the artists he also worked with.

Compared with a number of his peers, Howlett’s output was small, but it was highly influential in a short period. Although he moved away from album production, he co-founded the Record Producers Guild in 1987 and launched a record label Mauve in 1993.

Today, he lectures in music technology at several universities throughout the world, having been awarded a PhD in record production in 2009, while he also performs with his psychedelic space funk combo HOUSE OF THANDOY and the occasional reunion of GONG.

Presented in calendar year order and then alphabetically, with a restriction of one song per album project to conceive an imaginary 18 song compilation CD, The Electricity Club looks back at the impressive studio career of Mike Howlett…


MARTHA & THE MUFFINS Echo Beach (1980)

MARTHA & MUFFINS Echo BeachMARTHA & THE MUFFINS were six Canadian art students who confusingly had two members named Martha; Gane and Ladly. Combining the spirit of punk and North American styled new wave, ‘Echo Beach’ was a catchy slice of credible pop that featured sax, flute and organ alongside the more conventionally accepted guitars, bass and drums. Reaching No10 in the UK singles chart, it was Howlett’s first big hit and set him off on his successful production path.

Available on the album ‘Metro Music’ via Virgin Records

http://www.marthaandthemuffins.com/


OMD Messages (1980)

OMD MessagesFor its single release, OMD re-recorded ‘Messages’ from their self-titled debut. Utilising a pulsing ‘Repeat’ function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, Howlett harnessed a template of basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a No13 UK chart hit. As well including Mal Holmes’ separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap, Howlett added several melodic bass guitar lines onto the coda to enhance the warm sound that was distinct from Messrs Numan and Foxx.

Available on the album ‘Messages: OMD Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


OMD Stanlow (1980)

OMD OrganisationJust nine months after the release of OMD’s self-titled and self-produced debut, the band entered Ridge Farm and Advision studios with Howlett for the much more cohesive and gothic follow-up ‘Organisation’. The album’s closer was ‘Stanlow’, a brooding 6 minute epic that conveyed the emotion of returning home after a long journey; the sight of that huge, brightly lit oil refinery from the M56 motorway was apt symbolism. The intellectual but cryptic lyrical themes of OMD set them apart from other synth based acts.

Available on the album ‘Organisation’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/


THE TEARDROP EXPLODES When I Dream (1980)

THE TEARDROP EXPLODES When I DreamWhile THE TEARDROP EXPLODES were not a synthesizer group, their use of synths often confused some to dub them New Romantics as they straddled the line between psychedelic pop and Synth Britannia. The Howlett produced ‘When I Dream’ released in Summer 1980 launched Julian Cope and Co’s debut album ‘Kilimanjaro’. Dressed with detuned synths and low-end sweeps, it got them closer to the charts but it took a brass section to net that first hit in ‘Reward’.

Available on the album ‘The Greatest Hit’ via Mercury Records

https://www.headheritage.co.uk/


MARTHA LADLY & THE SCENERY CLUB Tasmania (1981)

MARTHA LADLY FinlandiaFollowing designing the cover to MARTHA & THE MUFFINS second album ‘Trance & Dance’, Martha Ladly won a scholarship to study graphic design and left the band. She also began working with Peter Saville. She continued a solo career with her first single ‘Finlandia’ produced by Mike Howlett. While this was akin to Nordic folk, the B-side ‘Tasmania’ was a brooding percussive piece reminiscent of JOY DIVISION with sombre chants from Ladly. Just one more single ‘Light Years From Love’ emerged in 1983.

Originally released as the B-side to the single ‘Finlandia’ via Dindisc Records, currently unavailable

http://womenandtech.com/interview/martha-ladly/


MODERN EON Euthenics (1981)

MODERN EON EuthenicsMike Howlett had effectively become house producer at Dindisc Records and led him to work with most of their artist roster. His production of MODERN EON’s ‘Euthenics’ was a re-recorded version of a single released by indie label Inevitable in 1980. With a sprightly but solemn sound like WAH! HEAT and HAMBI & THE DANCE, the band showed some promise. Led by Alix Plain, this version of ‘Euthenics’ included Tim Lever and Cliff Hewitt who later respectively showed up in DEAD OR ALIVE and APOLLO 440.

Original version available on the boxed set ‘Birth Of A Nation – Inevitable Records: An Independent Liverpool 1979-1986’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.soulsaw.com/modern-eon/


OMD Souvenir (1981)

OMD SouvenirMike Howlett’s work on ‘Souvenir’ cannot be underestimated, with the nightmare scenario of spinning taped choir loops alongside early synthesizer technology. And all this while dealing with a disillusioned Andy McCluskey, who was feeling left out of a song written by his bandmates Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper. Even after its recording, ‘Souvenir’ didn’t sound quite right, until Howlett varispeeded to the point of Humphreys almost sounding like Alvin The Chipmunk. The end result? OMD’s biggest UK hit!

Available on the album ‘Architecture & Morality’ via Virgin Records

http://www.mikehowlett.co.uk


THOMPSON TWINS Perfect Game (1981)

THOMPSON TWINS Perfect GameBefore THOMPSON TWINS settled into being the Alex Sadkin produced electropop trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway, they were a seven strong combo with a more conventionally driven musical outlook. Previous to that, they were a five-piece art squat collective and Mike Howlett produced their guitar driven third single ‘Perfect Game’. The band later signed to Arista Records and released the more synth friendly breakthrough single ‘In The Name Of Love’ in 1982.

Available on the album ‘A Product Of…’ / ‘Set’ via Edsel Records

http://thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk/


BLANCMANGE I Can’t Explain (1982)

With a blistering opening of Linn Drum and elastic synth bass, ‘I Can’t Explain’ opened BLANCMANGE’s ‘Happy Families’ and set the scene for an impressive debut album. With a sub-Ian Curtis vocal from Neil Arthur, this  wasn’t far off an electronic take of JOY DIVISION’s ‘Interzone’, which was based on the Northern Soul fave ‘Keep On Keeping On’ by NF PORTER. This feeling was enhanced further once David Rhodes’ frantic processed guitar kicked in alongside the bizarre, staccato gospel backing vocals.

Available on the album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Space Age Love Song (1982)

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Space Age Love SongWith titles ‘like Modern Love Is Automatic’ and ‘Telecommunication’, the futuristic Sci-Fi vibe of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS came to its zenith with ‘Space Age Love Song’. Howlett’s brilliantly punchy production integrated synths with guitars, which undoubtedly helped this often forgotten Liverpool band gain a foothold in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. But the song was popular in Europe too, as exemplified by MARSHEAUX’s blatant interpolation of its main hook for ‘Dream Of A Disco’!

Available on the album ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ via Cherry Pop

http://www.mikescore.com/


GANG OF FOUR I Love A Man In A Uniform (1982)

GANG OF FOUR I Love A Man In A UniformA popular cult single from the Leeds combo named after the Chinese Communist faction led by Madam Mao, ‘I Love A Man In A Uniform’ was a fine example of the scratchy post-punk funk that was prevalent with alternative acts such as A CERTAIN RATIO, PIGBAG and BAUHAUS. Exploring the public fascination with the military, it was also perhaps a passing dig at ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN who the year previously had perfected a camouflaged look that their fans were copying.

Available on the album ‘A Brief History Of The 20th Century’ via EMI Music

http://gangoffour.co.uk/


TEARS FOR FEARS Pale Shelter (1982)

TEARS FOR FEARS Pale ShelterWith the title inspired by Henry Moore, Roland Orzabal described ‘Pale Shelter’ as “a kind of a love song, though more referring to one’s parents than to a girl” – the original single version was produced by Howlett and subtitled ‘You Don’t Give Me Love’ but failed to chart. It began with an unsettling, reverse spoken vocal from Orzabal. Much darker and obviously synthetic than the familiar re-recording produced by Ross Cullum and Chris Hughes for the TEARS FOR FEARS debut album ‘The Hurting’.

Available on the deluxe album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

http://tearsforfears.com/


TV21 All Join Hands (1982)

TV21 All Join HandsNamed after the Gerry Anderson offshoot comic, TV21 primarily used conventional instrumentation, but their Howlett produced single ‘All Join Hands’ featured an OMD styled bass synth sequence and drum machine. Possibly the best known song in the Edinburgh band’s short career, ‘All Join Hands’ was filled with melodic drama, thanks to some classical augmentation by THE CANNIZARRO STRINGS and a fine lead vocal from singer Norman Rodger.

Available on the album ‘Snakes & Ladders – Almost Complete: 1980-82’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/TV21-63251111019/


CHINA CRISIS Wishful Thinking (1983)

China_Crisis_Wishful_ThinkingWith his OMD success, Mike Howlett was drafted in by Virgin Records to produce what turned out to be the most synth based CHINA CRISIS long player. Utilising Emulator strings and a pizzicato sample derived from plucking an acoustic guitar string close to the bridge, ‘Wishful Thinking’ was a sweetly textured, melodic pop single that deserved its Top 10 chart placing. One fan of the record was STEELY DAN’s Walter Becker who went on to produce the 1985 follow-up ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’.

Available on the album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/China-Crisis-295592467251068/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Wishing (1983)

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS WishingWith a percussively clanky backbone and using just black keys for its infectious melody line, ‘Wishing’ was the big home hit that A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS has been waiting for, following their acceptance by the MTV audience across the Atlantic. Although much derided in the UK, it was in the US that A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS made a cultural impact, with send-ups of singer Mike Score’s outlandish hairdo appearing in ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Friends’. Score later moved to America and lost his Scouse accent!

Available on the album ‘Listen’ via Cherry Pop

http://www.afosfanclub.com/


JOHN FOXX Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1983)

JOHN FOXX The Golden SectionWhile Zeus B Held provided his rugged arty pop energy for the majority of ‘The Golden Section’, a gentler hand was required for the more serene closer ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’. Bringing in Mike Howlett to fulfil the role, he gave the tune an epic gothic aesthetic that recalled ‘Statues’ from OMD’s ‘Organisation’. The end result had more of a connection to its predecessor ‘The Garden’ thanks to the choir boy vocal of James Risborough and John Foxx’s own forlorn whistling alongside the synthesized dramatics.

Available on the album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com


TIN TIN Hold It (1983)

TIN TIN Hold ItAfter leaving DURAN DURAN prior to the band signing to EMI, Stephen Duffy formed TIN TIN, an electronic oriented project. Their first single ‘Kiss Me’ released in 1982 became a cult dancefloor hit and for its follow-up ‘Hold It’, Mike Howlett was drafted in on production duties. Less immediate than ‘Kiss Me’, ‘Hold It’ nevertheless gained club traction thanks to a remix by Francois Kevorkian. Duffy eventually went solo and it was a Fairlighted remake of ‘Kiss Me’ that got finally got him a hit.

Originally released a single on WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://thelilactime.com/


BERLIN Now It’s My Turn (1984)

Although the two songs produced by Giorgio Moroder grabbed most of the attention on BERLIN’s first album proper, the rest of ‘Love Life’ was produced by Howlett. Having achieved success with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, Howlett was a natural choice for the LA based band and their Eurocentric aspirations. Combining electronics with a dash of AOR, BERLIN often sounded like ULTRAVOX fronted by HEART. With a defiantly feisty vocal from Terri Nunn, ‘Now It’s My Turn’ was absorbingly anthemic.

Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Remasters

http://www.berlinpage.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th January 2016, updated 3rd May 2020

« Older posts