Tag: Mecha Maiko (Page 2 of 4)

MECHA MAIKO ‘Let’s!’

Hayley Stewart and Jared Nickerson had a good thing going with DEAD ASTRONAUTS.

But it was Stewart’s solo debut ‘Mad But Soft’ that turned heads in the circles of care-free synthwave. A self-confessed lover of Japanese culture, the Canadian songstress adopted the name of MECHA MAIKO and started creating little electronic gems, mixing sweet and poppy naive synth with the nostalgia of the classic era.

Her first creation wasn’t by any means amateur; on the contrary, it showcased slick synthpop candies with interesting twists, promising more was to come from the super talented lady.

And then the Canadian Geisha didn’t disappoint. Her five song EP ‘Okiya’ proved that the girl was so much more than candied synth wave. In came experimental sounds, quirky drum patterns and eloquent progressions, presenting a truly different side to MECHA MAIKO’s world of synth.

The Canadian electronic scene appears ever united with the likes of PARALLELS or DANA JEAN PHOENIX working together, and the latter has collaborated with Stewart, praising the artist in her endeavours.

And what does the Toronto based star do with it all? She goes off and makes another album. ‘Let’s!’ will surprise again and potentially steal the top spot for many this year. It’s enough to hear the opening ‘Apathy’ to prove that Stewart is not scared to use all sorts of influences to get what she wants. Nobody else has mixed the sound of swing into their electronic tunes, and the idea could seem ridiculous until you hear this track. Thrown together with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation, she goes for the kill.

VANDAL MOON lends his voice on the super electronic ‘Meet Me At The Arcade’ loaded with gaming noises and robotic progressions. ‘End Of Your Life’ brings back the sweet music MECHA MAIKO presented on her first opus, it’s far more grown up now however, even though she still sounds as delicate and gracious as she did before.

A true oriental floor stomper comes next in the form of ‘Trust’; “Trust” her to make something so catchy, so captivating, so fast pacing.

‘Change Alot’ is a semi-paced ballad with vintage PET SHOP BOYS piano, while ‘Phones’ is heavily influenced by heavy club beats interspersed with classic elements; it’s MECHA MAIKO’s own ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’.

She’s very much ‘Alive’ and kicking, as she throws in a sparkly gem song after song, and this one is a superb combination of fabulous vocal and superb programming.

‘I Can’t Wait’ brings things to a halt with a slower paced, wonderfully poignant story, which floats cleverly into ‘Oddities’, with its massively original tribal beats.

The closing ‘Be The Reaper’ bubbles away with soft vocals and enchanting musical elements, drawing in and pulling under. Another easy listening pearl, it shines on a bed of gritty electronic ocean floor.

For some artists, album number two can be a tricky endeavour, but this simply wasn’t the case here with MECHA MAIKO. If her debut opus was splendid, the following EP quite magnificent, ‘Let’s!’ is truly superb.

Varied, interesting and very grown up, this will be the album to look out for this fall. Stewart has outdone herself here, proving that the Canadian synth ladies rule above all.


‘Let’s!’ is released by ORO Records, available from as a digital album from https://mechamaiko.bandcamp.com/

https://www.mechamaiko.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/

https://twitter.com/mechamaiko

https://www.instagram.com/mechamaiko/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photo by Duncan Foy
9th October 2019, updated 20th March 2020

FM ATTACK Interview

Shawn Ward is the DJ and producer behind FM ATTACK. The Vancouver native grew up enjoying New Wave synthpop with ‘Space Age Love Song’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS being a particular favourite.

He released his first EP ‘In The City’ under his own name on Tiga’s Turbo Recordings in 2001 before, after over a dozen solo releases, creating FM ATTACK in 2009 to fashion much more dreamier electronic disco vibes.

With a dance style not too dissimilar to regular Tiga associate Jori Hulkkonen, the debut FM ATTACK album ‘Dreamatic’ got a profile boost in 2011 when ‘Drive’ actor Ryan Gosling mentioned the directing team were fans of the record during interviews promoting the now-influential cult movie.

2013’s ‘Déjà Vu’ moved into more song-based movie soundtrack and Italo territory, but the third FM ATTACK album ‘Stellar’ in 2017 featured Texan combo MNYNMS and saw Ward’s love of new-wave and post-punk truly entering the fore, alongside the neon aesthetic that was now known as Synthwave.

With a new album just released appropriately titled ‘New World’ featuring the likes of MECHA MAIKO and VANDAL MOON on vocals alongside the more understated tones of Ward, he kindly spoke to The Electricity Club’s about his career to date as FM ATTACK and his upcoming live appearances in the British Isles this Autumn which include a London date with FUTURECOP!

What attracted you to produce music that had more of an atmospheric filmic vibe, rather than say full-on EDM?

My parents brought me up watching all the great 70s and 80s films and albums so that was definitely a big influence. My mom was more into new wave and my dad was a rocker.

What are the tools of your trade? Have your views on the hardware / software debate changed as you’ve progressed in your career?

I’m a vintage synth nerd, there is something very unique about programming your own sounds, the ones I use often are the Roland Jupiter 8, Jupiter 4 and the Emu Emax, I think software based synths can be great too, I’ve heard some great songs that are totally software based. Analog gear seems even more popular than ever now as people realize that you can really get “that” sound using the old gear and also they are a lot of fun!

How do you look back on your development from the first FM ATTACK album ‘Dreamatic’ in 2009 to 2017’s ‘Stellar’ which featured the vocals of MNYNMS on two tracks?

‘Dreamatic’ is more on the disco side of things and even touches on some French house vibes. ‘Stellar’ I think is more of a listening album and journeys into some more indie / post-punk vibes.

‘Magic’ from 2013’s ‘Déjà vu’ is considered to be your most popular track and is sung by Kristine, what was it inspired by and how did that come together in the studio?

I reached out to Kristine after I had done a remix for FLAMINGO DRIVE (SATIN JACKETS) with her on vocals. I originally sang on that song but thought her vocals would suit it much better, so I sent it to her with the lyrics. She sent me back her takes within a day and nailed it!

‘Ultraviolet’ from your most recent album ‘New World’ reflected a modern day take on Giorgio Moroder, is he a key influence?

I’m a big fan of Italo Disco so it came about pretty naturally. I’ve always been a Giorgio fan and also love Gino Soccio who did a lot of groundbreaking electronic disco tunes.

The subtle vocoder aesthetic which permeates through a number of FM ATTACK tracks is an interesting style, how do you decide when a track remains instrumental or needs a vocal whether natural or treated?

The vocoder gets used quite a bit of use in my studio. I like to use it for harmony vox to get dreamy textures or sometimes for funky main vocal lines.

Speaking of natural vocals, you collaborated with MECHA MAIKO on ‘Stranger’, what was she like to work with?

Hayley is a very talented artist. She knew exactly what to sing and came up with an amazing chorus when I sent her ‘Stranger’. Everything just clicked on that song.

The ‘New World’ title track has an interesting twist with more of a gothic vibe, plus it features VANDAL MOON on vocals… it sounds like THE SISTERS OF MERCY gone synthwave! Please discuss *laughs*

Yes! Blake (Vandal) has an amazing voice and adds a huge vibe to this song. We recorded his vocals on the fly in my studio – The guy is brilliant.

And ‘Believe’ sounds like THE CURE gone Synthwave??

Again I can’t say enough about Blake’s talent. He has so much passion and vibe in his vocal delivery and he encapsulates so many epic darkwave influences. He also wrote the lyrics instantly and we recorded the takes right away.

You remixed ‘Lifetime’, a great track by KOISHII & HUSH voiced by Gillian Gilbert in 2016, how was it to work on a track featuring one of NEW ORDER?

This was a very exciting and fun remix and I just love Gillian’s voice and always thought she sang amazing with THE OTHER TWO. It was pretty surreal when they announced the remix on New Order’s webpage too!

Canada appears to be a hotbed of electronic talent in its various sub-genres and at all levels, what might be in the water at the moment in your opinion?

Haha. Yes it seems like a lot of great synth wave / synthpop artists are coming out of here nowadays. It’s funny I think the same thing was said back in the 80s maybe? 🙂

There is a not entirely unfair criticism about Synthwave in a live context, so how do you undertake the challenge of presenting your music engagingly to an audience in a club or concert hall?

It’s never easy to perform live and deliver your show to an audience. Try to just let the music speak as I’m not a big stage performer and have very little stage presence.

You’ll be coming to play in London and Dublin this October, how are you looking forward to your first gigs in The British Isles?

London and Dublin are epic cities so I feel very lucky to play shows in both! The people are quite passionate about the music there so I am quite excited!

What’s next for you as FM ATTACK?

I am finishing off a remix for this great band from Vancouver called ACTORS. There is a new BETAMAXX album due for release in the Fall that I am working on also!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Shawn Ward

Special thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

‘New World’ is released by Starfield Music in vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats direct from
https://fmattack.bandcamp.com/ along with all the back catalogue

FM ATTACK plays London Electrowerkz on Thursday 24th October 2019 with FUTURECOP! – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/479136

There will also be a performance at Dublin Whelan’s on Monday 28th October 2019 – tickets available from http://www.whelanslive.com/index.php/fm-attack/

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

https://twitter.com/fmattack

https://www.instagram.com/fmattack/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th August 2019

DANA JEAN PHOENIX Interview

Synthilicious ditties aren’t usually the thing of the colder climates of Toronto, but as far DANA JEAN PHOENIX is concerned, the Atari worthy tracks flow like liquid candy; pink and glossy, sweet and retro.

Bringing back that elusive feel of youth, first loves and first disappointments, DANA JEAN PHOENIX offers feel good music that doesn’t have to be too serious and too complicated, recalling a world when things were simpler and exciting.

With a European tour approaching and including an Outland hosted event in London at Easter, The Electricity Club had the pleasure to chat with the Alternative Ice Maiden and check out her super poppy world.

Sheridan College provided your first musical education, what was it in the form of?

After I studied Jazz at Humber College, I attended Sheridan for Musical Theatre. The two experiences really helped me in understanding songwriting, song structure, and putting on a more theatrical show experience.

When did you start writing your own music?

When I was on tour as a singer for Canadian R&B Queen JULLY BLACK, I was inspired to write my own music. Then when I became a lead singer for the Canadian funk band, GOD MADE ME FUNKY, I got to hone those skills while writing more electrofunk and disco.

What attracted you to using synths?

My parents had a stacked record collection growing up. I would root through them and always come back to the albums that were heavily synth and funk inspired! Then I moved on to my brother’s electronica collection and fell in love with the warm, melancholic and nostalgia inducing synth sounds of BOARDS OF CANADA.

With influences from?

The greats like MJ, PRINCE, MADONNA and HOWARD JONES are always influences, but my love for synth funk in groups such as CHANGE, D-TRAIN, SHALAMAR, THE TIME, S.O.S BAND and ZAPP & ROGER are a major source of inspiration.

2013 saw you performing in musical theatre…

Right out of theatre school, I was fortunate to land a lead role in a show called The Musical of Musicals of Musicals at an indie theatre festival, which then got picked up by Mirvish (Canada’s equivalent to Broadway or the West End in London). I got to explore musical comedy in that time, which really inspired me to be fearless to try new things in front of an audience.

‘Drrty Shooz’ was your first long player. It was well received. That must have been a dream come true? How do you look back on it now?

I was experimenting in styles and stretching my voice in new ways on the album. Looking back, it was my stepping-stone into immersing myself in the synthwave genre, as it was the first time I had collaborated with synthwave artists such as SUNGLASSES KID and ROBOTS WITH RAYGUNS. It was an organic transition, merging my previous forays in songwriting to fully fledged synthpop and retrowave.

And then your music started featuring in motion pictures…

TIMECOP1983 sent me the music for what would become ‘Dreams’ and I got chills as I was writing the vocals because I knew it was special. Just as awesome as having that song featured in two Netflix original films and the PS4 game ‘Crossing Souls’ though, was getting to perform the song live with Jody in Stockholm last year!

For the stage adaptation of ‘The Wedding Singer’ in 2015, you were nominated for ‘Best Supporting Actress In A Musical’…

That was a totally rad experience! I played the role of ‘Holly’ played by Christine Taylor in the movie, so all of my costumes were MADONNA inspired and I got to dance and sing my heart out every night over super 80s pop music! I got doused with a bucket of water every show a la the famous ‘Flashdance’ scene. It was great example of how the retro aesthetic and nostalgia really resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds.

You’re known for your collaborations, which one would you say you’re the most proud of?

It’s always dope working with MECHA MAIKO – she produced ‘Be Alright’ on my new album ‘PixelDust’ and it felt great to collaborate with a fellow female synth artist from Toronto.

She also inspired me to start producing more of my own music, like my song ‘Funky Fly Free’ – my first fully self-produced song.

MECHA MAIKO also worked with you on ‘Cold’, which featured on her debut album ‘Mad But Soft’, and she was thrilled working with an icon like you…

I really dug her work with DEAD ASTRONAUTS, so it was hella cool finding out she was also a Torontonian in the scene. We’ve since performed ‘Cold’ live together in Toronto, Philadelphia, and at the inaugural NEON RetroFest in Rhode Island.

You’ve also collaborated with MICHAEL OAKLEY on a track called ‘Now I’m Alive’ for his new album ‘Introspect’… The Electricity Club can picture Demi Moore and Rob Lowe making out to that one!!

Right?! We created a powerhouse retro ballad.

It’s so fun to write and perform harmonies with an amazing singer and songwriter like Michael.

You describe yourself as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”. Could you expand on that?

A consistent theme in my music is self-empowerment and the courage to be in control of your own destiny. Retro music brings you back to a time when possibilities seemed endless and inspires those moments of boldness and courage. I combine these elements into pure synth jams that will make people wanna shake their ass on the dance floor and feel empowered while doing it!

‘PixelDust’ is girly and fluffy, fully reminiscent of the good old times; would you say you changed how you make your records much?

Since touring Europe and the US and Canada last year, my writing has become more focused to making songs that will rock in a live setting, keep you dancing, and make you wanna blast it in your headphones!

You’ve moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles and have adopted other branches of electronic pop, which are your own favourite songs on ‘PixelDust’ and why?

I love rocking out with my keytar, Jareth, onstage, so it was great to add my first keytar solo to the Darkwave inspired ‘Red Line’ produced by Favorit89, and ‘Only One For One Night’ produced by Powernerd and ‘Iron Fist’ produced by Straplocked have made for awesome music videos.

But of course, you were born towards the end of the synthpop era, do you wish you were born earlier so that you could have experienced the real thing?

I’m actually so glad to be here and now. As awesome as the 80s were, there were huge barriers of entry for artists who weren’t willing to have record companies dictate their sound and image.

Today, we have the technology to binge watch ‘Top of The Pops’ and ‘Miami Vice’ and fully immerse ourselves in the era, but we also have the ability as independent artists to reach a broader audiences than before and have more creative control over our music and career.

The synth revival still continues, with the latest addition of ‘Stranger Things’, and the renaissance of the era’s clothing, gaming and music…

Proof that the world needs Synthwave! Anyone who resists is a total mouth breather.

Last year saw you touring Europe extensively, how did that go? Any favourite places?

I toured Vienna, London, Warsaw, and Stockholm and every show was special! I was overwhelmed by the turnout and the passion the European audiences brought.

Any plans to return and include the UK?

I’ll be playing London at Zigfrid von Underbelly Hoxton with Outland Presents on Thursday April 18th alongside KALAX and LEBROCK! Brett and Stu run a tight ship and know how to put together an epic retro party. I’m excited to come back and shred some more keytar solos.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be releasing a Deluxe Edition of my album ‘PixelDust’ with some darkwave remixes by Tommy ’86, Gregorio Franco, FacexHugger, The Rain Within, Dredd, and Oceanside85!! I’m super geeked to come back out to Europe in April for my ‘PixelDust’ Tour!!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to DANA JEAN PHOENIX

‘PixelDust’ is released by New EmPire Entertainment, available from https://danajeanphoenix.bandcamp.com/album/pixeldust

DANA JEAN PHOENIX appears at Zigfrid von Underbelly of Hoxton in London on Thursday 18th April 2019. Presented by Outland, the event also features KALAX + LEBROCK – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/462089

https://www.danajphoenix.com/

https://www.facebook.com/danajeanphoenix/

https://twitter.com/danajeanphoenix

https://www.instagram.com/danajeanphoenix/


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Additional questions by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Hayley Stewart
23rd February 2019

MECHA MAIKO Okiya EP

With her superb debut last year, Hayley Stewart aka MECHA MAIKO grabbed attention way past her previous collaboration with Jared Nickerson on DEAD ASTRONAUTS.

‘Mad But Soft’ brought a much needed dose of romance into the world of electronica, showcasing sweet, poppy, yet slick synth, laced with delicate, girlish vocals, capable of interesting twists and turns. The first long player provided a plethora of easy listening synthpop candies, served with carefree nostalgia and a certain touch of naïveté and now the Canadian Geisha is back with a five track EP ‘Okiya’.

From the onset of the eponymous first track to the closing rhythms of ‘Interrogation Override’, it is clear MECHA MAIKO is finding her feet well in the vast ocean of electronica. While ‘Mad But Soft’ was a melodious offering, showcasing danceable pieces of various persuasions, the EP shows quite a different side to the artist. The catchy vocal escapades are still there, but this time mostly hidden behind the experimental sounds, quirky shift bends and curious drum patterns.

‘Okiya’ is gritty, ear piercing and vastly creative, captivating with a simplistic base and Japanese string instrumentation. ‘Bug’, accompanied by a video of a journey, continues the minimalistic, almost tribal feel, with Stewart moulding the sounds to her liking; it’s as if she’s playing with the shifting perspectives, deciding to achieve the complexity of cosmic proportions.

‘Moonrise Maintenance Co’ is a short instrumental piece, leading smoothly into ‘Ochaya’, containing chanting, bells and all things oriental, canvassed on a nonchalant classic styled synth.

The nod to pre-war Japan continues on the last track from the EP, ‘Interrogation Override’, which brings out more of the temporary pushing of boundaries, going way beyond the retro feel of ‘Mad But Soft’ where Stewart has done as promised: “it’s time to set free some tracks I’ve been holding onto and get working on something a bit more conceptually cohesive”.

She surely did so, utilising her love and appreciation of Japanese culture, this time going all out for the backdrop for ‘Okiya’: “It is 1930s Japan. World leaders have established a complex relationship with an advanced civilization from Alpha Centauri B, trading natural resources for new technologies. City populations skyrocket and the demand for luxurious goods and entertainment is unquenchable. A boarding house in Kyoto receives a new shipment of androids. The mother uploads all the necessary memories and relationships for the hundred new girls to begin their lives as geisha and maiko. These are the memories of one particular maiko unit”.

And that explains it all.


‘Okiya’ is released by Zoey Records, available as a 12 inch vinyl EP and digital download direct from https://mechamaiko.bandcamp.com/album/okiya-ep

https://www.mechamaiko.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/

https://twitter.com/mechamaiko

https://soundcloud.com/mecha-maiko

https://www.instagram.com/mechamaiko/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
24th January 2019

TEC’s 2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame. Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour. Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit.

There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, NEW ARCADES, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption. However, the side was let down by the conveyor belt of lame profanity laden offerings from a number of British acts afflicted with deluded normality.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year. The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, The Electricity Club’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that The Electricity Club has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band. Out of all the synth based pop acts of the Synth Britannia era, The Electricity Club had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, The Electricity Club bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

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