Since March 2010, The Electricity Club has built up a big portfolio of live reports featuring gigs by evergreens such as JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, OMD and HEAVEN 17 to modern day exponents of electronic music like EAST INDIA YOUTH, NIGHT CLUB, VILE ELECTRODES and TENEK.
Events both home and abroad such as The Electronic Phuture Revue and the ELECTRI_CITY CONFERENCE have also been reviewed. All of TEC’s live reports have been archived in an easy-to-use page set in reverse chronological order. More inside ›
CHRIS PAYNE is best known as being a long standing member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979 to 1990.
First appearing with Numan as part of TUBEWAY ARMY when they appeared on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ to perform ‘Are Friends Electric?’, he played a vital role on the synth pioneer’s solo debut ‘The Pleasure Principle’ sharing keyboard duties and contributing the beautiful viola part on ‘Complex’.
It was while on ‘The Touring Principle’ that during soundchecks, Payne and fellow keyboardist Billy Currie (on hiatus from ULTRAVOX) began jamming with a number they’d written entitled ‘Toot City’. The pair eventually recorded the track at Genetic Studios with band mate Ced Sharpley on drums; a few months later it was reworked by Midge Ure and morphed into ‘Fade To Grey’, a 1981 No1 in West Germany for VISAGE.
Although always remembered for an iconic video featuring Steve Strange and Princess Julia, musically ‘Fade To Grey’ was shaped by the hypnotic synth bassline and haunting string tones played by Payne on a Polymoog.
While Numan was on a much publicised touring hiatus after three spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in 1981, Payne joined Cedric Sharpley and guitarist RRussell Bell in DRAMATIS, releasing an album ‘For Future Reference’ on Elton John’s Rocket Records.
After leaving the Numan band, Payne moved to France where he began a successful career in Celtic music as the mastermind behind CELTIC LEGEND. More recently, he has returned to the synthpop fold, co-writing five songs with RUSTY EGAN for his new album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.
With the revival of his old side project ELECTRONIC CIRCUS as well, CHRIS PAYNE chatted to The Electricity Club…
It was a few years ago that RUSTY EGAN first engaged you to work on some songs with him. Are you pleased overall with how your co-compositions have turned out on his ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ long player?
Yes, very pleased. Having spent many years composing orchestral music plus the CELTIC LEGEND project, it was great to get back to synth basics again.
Basically my role was to create backing tracks of synth pads, bass lines and rough arrangements with various synth lines, piano etc and hand the tracks over to Rusty, who then worked on melodies and lyrics with new drum patterns etc.
It is an amazing feeling when you hear the melodies for the first time. On a couple of the tracks, it completely transformed the song into something I could never have imagined. It’s a very good way of working providing you’re not too precious about your original ideas.
I have to hand it to Rusty, he had gone through some horrendous moments to get this album done, but credit to him. He never gave up, whereas a lot of musicians would have. I admired his determination and I guess that’s what kept me in touch with him during the entire period. Plus I wanted these songs to be finished as much as he did.
How did you feel when Midge Ure reworked ‘Glorious’?
It was like completing a cycle and I remember punching the air with joy when I first heard Midge’s version. I should explain the background to ‘Glorious’ and it will make more sense.
For a while, I had had this idea of writing a track called ‘Glorious’ with reference to the English National Anthem in the chorus of the song but slightly transformed. “I’m feeling glorious, you make me feel so victorious” type of thing, which mad though I am, I thought could be quite interesting.
I tried to get the point over to Rusty and he came back with some tunes he’d written with another very talented songwriter called Gerard O’Connell. They were good, but it was all a bit chilled and not what I’d envisioned.
Well, time passed and one day I had a call from Rusty saying that Midge had recorded some of his ideas on ‘Glorious’. When I heard it for the first time I was delighted. Midge had transformed the chorus into this huge anthem sound and stripped back the verses and added his guitar and voice. It’s curious that 35 years earlier ‘Fade to Grey’ was also constructed this way with Billy Currie and I doing the backing track and Midge adding lyrics and melody. He really made the song into what you now hear, and I have to say it is probably my favourite track on the album.
And what about ‘Lonely Highway’ featuring Tony Hadley?
That song has a weird history; I had come up with this simple synth riff and very basic simple chord structure using very old analogue synth sounds through a Roland JV 1080 and Alesis Quadrasynth. The odd thing was that Rusty tried loads of very good singers on the song and surprisingly, they just didn’t work. It didn’t make a great deal of sense to me as both Gerard and Rusty had come up with a great vocal melody and the key was fine for most singers.
Anyway, ‘Lonely Highway’ was lying around for about two years and suddenly I get an email from Rusty telling me that his friend Tony Hadley from SPANDAU BALLET had agreed to record it. That was another revelation for my ‘ageing’ ears. What a vocal he produced, simply stunning and the way he sings it, you’re hooked in from the start.
One thing that is apparent is Rusty’s choice of singers. It’s true that he has used famous names like Tony Hadley, Midge Ure, Arno Carstens and Peter Hook, but equally he has had some outstanding vocalists that have given such colour to the songs. So acknowledgement has to go to these amazing singers including Kira Porter, Erik Stein (who performed with us in Düsseldorf), Andy Huntley and Emily Kavanaugh.
You had the chance to put your vox humana Polymoog touches on songs like ‘Hero’ and ‘Ballet Dancer’, was that intentional?
Yes, very much so. When Rusty first approached me with a view to writing songs for what was then going to be another VISAGE project, I intentionally worked with old analogue sounds admittedly by using plug-ins rather than the original instruments (have you seen the prices of Minimoogs and Polymoogs these days???).
The Polymoog vox humana was the obvious one for me as it is synonymous with the early Numan sounds of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’, plus ‘Fade To Grey’. This was my attempt to place sounds on Rusty’s album directly relating to my past life as Numan’s keyboard player from 1979 until 1990, and with DRAMATIS and VISAGE’s ‘Fade to Grey’. I thought it might work and having heard what Rusty did to ‘Hero’, it worked very well.
‘Evermore’ has turned into a frisky little number now with the vocals of Emily Kavanaugh from LA synthpop duo NIGHT CLUB, did that surprise you?
A big surprise; this was the very first track I presented to Rusty back in 2011 and he quickly added the guitar of ex-ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon who played with that very distinctive sound that he used on ‘Systems of Romance’. Gerard had sung on it and although it was only supposed to be a guide vocal, it sounded very good and then it was kind of shelved for ages.
Then as always with Rusty, this MP3 arrives one morning with a female voice recorded on ‘Evermore’. Of course, I hadn’t a clue what was going on and when I questioned Rusty, he told me about Emily Kavanaugh’s role in the song.
Her vocals fit ‘Evermore’ perfectly and in my opinion have given it a slight change in direction. She is a very talented young singer and performer, and I like her non-conformist rebellious attitude. She’s definitely going far if you ask me.
You played a short selection of material as part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2016 in Düsseldorf, how was it for you to be back on stage again after so long?
I had done some GARY NUMAN shows in 2012 as a guest performer so it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been on stage for ever. But you’re right, I’m not a regular performer and I’d like this to change.
The Düsseldorf Festival was a great weekend and I got to meet some great people over there including event organiser Rudi Esch who is an amazing person. Also putting together this event in what is after all a historic city for electronic music was something very special.
The show went very well considering Rusty and I with another keyboard player Nick Bitzenis from the band MARSHEAUX had never rehearsed together. I remember meeting Nick at the hotel for the first time and having a coffee with him and Rusty comes up to me and says: “Guys, we’re 10 minutes short so Chris, can you improvise something?”. I just looked at Nick and buried my head into my cup of coffee in despair!
Because of the lack of preparation, the show was a bit scary in that respect but it worked well in the end for a first show and certainly it came across well on the TV channel ARTE who filmed the event. My only regret was not being able to stay for JOHN FOXX’s performance, but I had to get back to work in France.
Your short set featured material recorded for your first solo album ‘Between Betjeman, Bach and Numan’ in 2012, how do you look back on it today?
Yes it was a short set. I think it lasted about 10 minutes or so and I just improvised sections of it, punctuated by references to ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and playing ‘Down in the Park’ and ‘Fade to Grey’ on piano. It went well apart from the occasional ‘harmonic howler’! But my philosophy is if a mistake is made, smile and move on… life’s too short
So ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is being formally rebooted again, what’s happening there?
Well, this all came about in the strangest of circumstances. I’ve been trying to bury this bloody project for years and it keeps coming back to me as if to say “record it and they will come”. I know it sounds a bit melodramatic, but it really feels like this to me.
It all started up (again) when my old music college buddy Michael J Stewart contacted me one day and said that our original song called ‘Direct Lines’, which had been recorded back in 1980, had received nearly one million YouTube views. Of course I was astounded, but it seems that a song released back in the day and having sold about six copies has gone a bit viral as a synthpop classic. How bizarre is that?
Now to cut a long story short, I have never really wanted to go out and perform under my name, but soon I’m performing at The Seventh Wave Festival in Birmingham in March as CHRIS PAYNE, as well as my performance with RUSTY EGAN scheduled for the following day. To me ‘An Evening with Chris Payne’ sounds like you’re going to go to a tedious event in a village hall and listen to some old git banging on about crop rotation in the 19th Century!
So I added the name CHRIS PAYNE’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, which will be dropped the moment I’m associated with EC… for a more detailed history check out our site www.electroniccircus.co.uk
There’s going to be a reworking of the brilliant ‘Roundabout’ coming; now some may think the lyrics are a bit banal but they’re metaphoric…
Well spotted. Yes, I have to admit that my lyrics are entirely based on satire and metaphors disguised as banality. The notion of the roundabout is a quirky and fun ‘mid-life crisis song’, but at the same time quite frightening. We have choices in life and life is very challenging. I liked this idea of using the roundabout as a ‘map of life’ where you can either turn around, take a different direction or carry straight on. A simple idea, but effective with the music.
You’ve turned a previously released piano ballad into an electronic track?
Yes indeed, another track that I’ve re-worked is called ‘Graceland’. Most people hear this as a simple love song but oh no!! It’s actually about the tragic destruction of the Planet Earth’s environment believe it or not, and not a love song.
It started as a piano ballad to test my daughter Marikay’s vocals under studio conditions. I’m not saying this because she’s my daughter, but she has a good voice and a lot of potential. She will sing a bit with ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, but she’s more into folk acts like OMNIA and that style, and I think this is where she will head towards eventually.
How is the other ELECTRONIC CIRCUS material turning out?
It’s all going well and a lot of fun. It is an eclectic mix so far. I have songs, instrumentals in the style of JEAN MICHEL JARRE, classical styles, pop and minimalist, also what I call naive synth. With Mike’s contributions, that will add another dimension as he was trained under the great British composer Sir John Tavener and as you know, I’m capable of throwing in a medieval crumhorn for good measure. So as it says on the label, it is an Electronic Musical Circus where virtually anything goes, providing it’s predominantly electronic of course.
Now this is going to sound contrived, but I swear it isn’t. The new ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album is tentatively called ‘Trumpety Trump’ to add to the slightly quirky nature of the project, and the obvious references to ‘Nelly The Elephant’ (and something else that escapes me for the time being?)
What’s happened to the DRAMATIS comeback?
To be honest and this might sound bad, but as far as I’m concerned, DRAMATIS died with Cedric. RRuss and I met up with him the weekend before he had his fatal heart attack and for me, the project’s never been the same since.
Yes it’s true that RRussell and myself had written and recorded a few songs before we met back up with Ced, but it’s been so long now, I can’t see it coming together. Also RRuss is so busy with other projects as am I. Also bear in mind we live in different countries, so it’s very difficult to get the momentum back.
I will never rule out another album, but unless circumstances change, I’ve got to be realistic and say it’s doubtful.
How do you feel how modern electronic pop is heading, where would you take it? Is there enough musicality these days?
I think there are interesting times ahead. Of course, history has proved on so many occasions that you can’t predict music fashion. But I have a strong feeling something big is around the corner and possibly involving synthpop. I don’t see my ELECTRONIC CIRCUS project being hugely influential as it’s very diverse and will no doubt end up a bit mad.
As for musicality, I honestly don’t know. It would be nice to see a few bands playing some great synth solos like Billy Currie did with GARY NUMAN and ULTRAVOX, as there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of that as far as I have heard.
Personally I’d like to hear a band as good as ABBA songwriting wise, but all in the electronic domain.
In spite of my academic but rather stultifying classical music training, I’m a shameless fan of ABBA’s.
Actually that’s given me an idea. ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ with Polymoogs…
What’s next for you?
Well I would really love Rusty’s album to break through and do more shows with him. Finish ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album and see where that takes me, but that’s all I have time for.
I run a music resource business with producer Nigel Bates called the ‘Electronic Music Library’ which is great fun but time consuming, and not a lot of people know this, but I am a licensed acupuncturist practising Chinese medicine in the Dordogne, South West France.
So as you can imagine I don’t really have time for anything else at the moment. But knowing me, that will all change!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to CHRIS PAYNE
CHRIS PAYNE appears as part of The Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music in Birmingham on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th March 2017. For more information on the weekend’s programme, please visit https://theseventhwaveblog.wordpress.com/
NIGHT CLUB have been active since 2011, and have since taken off enormously in Tinseltown, getting numerous gigs for television shows such as ‘Jersey Shore’, ‘XOX Batsey Johnson’, ‘Washington Heights’ and ‘The Mysteries Of Laura’.
The Comedy Central show ‘Moonbeam City’ saw the duo’s compositions utilised and the soundtrack was released in 2015.
Larger than life front lady Emily Kavanaugh, joined by the master of synth Mark Brooks, have produced a “more bombastic and aggressive” sound on their latest long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, seeing Kavanaugh’s voice undergo all sorts of experimentation.
Indeed, NIGHT CLUB offer a rockier, darker approach to synthpop, while still remaining true to the genre.
The Electricity Club is chatting to the LA based duo about their latest offering and the highlights of their career.
‘Requiem For Romance’ is your first full length opus, however, you’ve been together since 2011. Some would say it is a long time to wait for a debut?
At first we were pretty content just making EPs and not worried about doing full albums. Then we spent a year and a half writing all the music for ‘Moonbeam City’ and a year scoring the feature film ‘Nerdland’. So to us, it hasn’t been that long considering we put out 3 EPs, a TV soundtrack and a movie score. After that was all finished, we finally had time to sit down and write a full record.
How did the ‘Moonbeam City’ collaboration come about?
Chris Prynoski, a friend of ours who owns an animation studio, asked us to give him some music to make a teaser for an animated project that he was trying to bring into the studio. That project ended up being ‘Moonbeam City’ and the creator of the show, Scott Gairdner, liked the music so much that we ending up scoring the pilot for him. When the show got picked up, we ended up scoring the entire season and releasing a soundtrack. Scott loves music more than anyone we know, so it was a blast to make music for someone that had such eclectic taste.
Given you’re based in LA and its accessibility to anything movie related, are you planning to supply your music to other TV programmes/films?
Yeah, we love to write original music for television and film as well as having our own songs placed in projects.
Late last year, we scored our first film called ‘Nerdland’, written by Andrew Kevin Walker (‘Se7en’), that will be coming out this December. It stars Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt as two Hollywood losers willing to do just about anything to become famous.
Right now, our attention is 100% back on the band and we’re really just trying to tour as much as possible and promote the new record. We’re sure at some point we’ll pick up where we left off and score another project.
The album feel is rockier than the previous EP releases, is that the direction you are willing to pursue from now on?
There was no master plan when we started writing this record, we just fell in love with some of the new sounds we were making organically. The “rock” element came out of having a more aggressive live sound and we wanted to incorporate it into this LP. We love to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s expected and keep it interesting for the audience as well as ourselves. Just for the record, there are NO guitars on this album. It’s all synthesizers.
Your new single ‘Dear Enemy’ sounds like Britney Spears has joined NINE INCH NAILS…
We take that as a supreme compliment!
The album kicks off with ‘Requiem’. It does sound like a little brother to DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Shake The Disease’?
Actually that’s one of the last songs we wrote for the record and it was solely an instrumental until we thought it should have a simple little vocal line. Emily came up with the part on the spot and we finished the album. It wasn’t until the LP came out that people brought up its similarity to the intro of ‘Shake The Disease’, and we realised once again DEPECHE MODE just naturally runs through our veins. Could be worse.
Mark, what are your favourite synths to use? Do you sway towards the real thing or are soft synths your preferred medium?
I prefer to use soft synths as I find them more flexible and creative in the process of writing and recording. Even though I own quite a few old school synths, I find them to be very limiting in the songwriting process. With soft synths, you can change / tweak / destroy all the sounds up until the very last minute of mixing.
Emily, your voice sounds fantastic on the new album, how do you work on your voice?
Lots of pinot noir, spaghetti and channeling my inner neuroses. I don’t do any vocal exercises and I’ve never taken a lesson. I think I’ve just developed a confidence from recording and touring over the past few years and maybe it came through a bit more on this record.
When I first recorded ‘Lovestruck’, which was our first single back in 2012, I was super intimidated and insecure about my voice, and the idea of being a lead singer in a band freaked the sh*t out of me. It’s taken a while, but I think I’ve finally come to accept myself as a vocalist and musician.
Speaking of working on voices, a lot of pitch shift effects have been used to make Emily sound more blokey… what inspired this?
We’ve always been using vocal effects as part of our sound, but on this record we decided to experiment a little more. We started coming up with vocal parts that seemed like they should have a different voice saying them. Once we recorded the bridge to ‘Bad Girl’, we got hooked on seeing how far we could push the effects on certain vocal parts. We love how that sound has added a dark, creepy, schizophrenic quality to the music.
Emily, you recently worked with Rusty Egan on his ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ collection, is lending your voice on other projects something we are to expect more of?
I’m always down to work with other artists and producers as long as it’s something that seems like the right fit.
2016 will forever be remembered as the year when a significant number of cultural icons and popular musical figures left us; DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, TOMITA, PETE BURNS, COLIN VERNCOMBE, KEITH EMERSON, DON BUCHLA and LEONARD COHEN were just some of the names who sadly departed.
But despite sadness that loomed, the year did produce some good music, particularly in the second half of the year.
GARY NUMAN launched an ambitious Pledge Music campaign and released some excellent collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and TITÁN. But with his retrospective tour of material from his three most popular albums taking up much of his year, his new crowdfunded album did not meet its planned October release deadline.
Meanwhile JEAN-MICHEL JARRE had an excess of material and issued the second volume of his ‘Electronica’ project which also featured YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS, plus a third instalment to his classic opus ‘Oxygène’.
YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS also released new albums to a positive reception, proving again that partnerships featuring personnel over the age of 60 can still create music that is fresh and relevant.
Incidentally, one of YELLO’s young vocalists FIFI RONG continued to maintain her artistic profile with successful campaigns for her releases ‘Forbidden Desires’ and ‘Alone’.
2016 saw two concept albums emerge in ‘The Ship’ from BRIAN ENO, a solemn art piece with poignant anti-war messages and ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, a very personal musical statement by HANNAH PEEL on the traumas of dementia. It was a busy year for Miss Peel with her also contributing her voice to BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, as well as showcasing her own MARY CASIO side project.
WRANGLER released a new album ‘White Glue’ which exuded a less rigid format compared to its predecessor ‘LA Spark’ and collaborated with JOHN GRANT at the Rough Trade 40 live celebrations, while the prolific Neil Arthur issued another new BLANCMANGE album in ‘Commuter 23’ while also launching a new side project NEAR FUTURE with BERNHOLZ.
The Manchester veteran ERIC RANDOM issued ‘Words Made Flesh’, the second album of his recent return to the music while RUSTY EGAN finally presented ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which despite its title, was actually a collection of classic styled synthpop. After many years of trials and tribulations for the co-founder of VISAGE, the long player featuring MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY and CHRIS PAYNE who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ exceeded expectations.
Space travel and synths were just made to go together, so JØTA and VANGELIS conceived projects covering The Cold War space race and the more recent Rosetta probe respectively. Meanwhile, WHITE LIES again showed they are as synthy as they are guitary on their ‘Friends’ album, and even started to sound like A-HA!
So again, Sweden still proved it was special with SILENT WAVE and MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY exhibiting varying degrees of potential. But it was REIN in particular who was causing a stir within the ranks of EBM, while the country’s best kept secretKITE toured North America and Asia. However, neither of these two latter artists figured in the line-up of Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2016 festival.
The Nordic region saw the welcome return of VILLA NAH with the album ‘Ultima’ after a five year absence, while TRENTEMØLLER made the case again as to why he is still the perfect producer for DEPECHE MODE with his new long player ‘Fixion’.
Greece was still the word with LIEBE, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX all presenting brand new releases, while SARAH P. maintained her profile with a series of inventive promo videos highlighting the ongoing issues of equality for women within the music industry. Embracing the same issue on the other side of the Atlantic, I AM SNOW ANGEL immersed herself in setting up the FEMALE FREQUENCY collective while also releasing her own music.
Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB developed on the promise of their EP trilogy and got a bit heavier on their debut long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, ending up sounding not unlike Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS in the process!
Meanwhile the instrumental front, Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE provided some ‘Music To Color By’, Brussels duo METROLAND touchingly paid tribute to their late friend Louis Zachert with ‘Things Will Never Sound The Same Again’ and ULRICH SCHNAUSS went ‘No Further Ahead Than Today’. And MOBY offered a gift to profound relaxation with his free ‘Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.’ download package.
PERTURBATOR’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’ became a flag bearer for the synth wave movement, along with the acclaimed soundtrack by SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for the absorbing Netflix drama ‘Stranger Things’.
But totally unexpected was ‘Silver City Ride’, a full length electro album from MARC ALMOND in collaboration with STARCLUSTER featuring his most synth laden body of work since SOFT CELL.
The biggest surprise of 2016 was ‘Fly’ the soundtrack souvenir to ‘Eddie The Eagle’, the light hearted biopic of the bespectacled Olympic ski jumper; featuring new material by members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD in collaboration with TAKE THAT’s Gary Barlow, this looked like a terrible idea on paper.
But it was brilliantly executed and the resultant album was a largely enjoyable collection of retro flavoured pop.
Electronic acts actually got to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2016, albeit on The Other Stage as opposed the main event; NEW ORDER and CHVRCHES wowed the crowds when they shared the bill on the Saturday night. There were rumours that KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE might feature in 2017 but this was not to be, although both acts sent social media into overdrive when they announced major tours.
Among those accorded career spanning multi-disc boxed sets were ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, DEAD OR ALIVE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Somehow though, SIMPLE MINDS managed to milk a six disc variant of ‘New Gold Dream’ in the third of their classic album deluxe box editions; it was an amazing feat seeing as only ten songs were completed during the original sessions! The collection boasted no less than twelve takes of the aptly titled ‘Promised You A Miracle’; but the latest incarnation of the Glaswegians combo’ first big hit with KT TUNSTALL for their ‘Acoustic’ album proved to be one version too many.
Much better value for the money for the discerning music fan were the four ASSOCIATES double CD reissues, supervised by Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey. Based around their first three albums and a ‘Very Best Of’ compilation, each additionally featured a plethora of rare and previously unreleased songs; they were a fitting tribute to the late Billy MacKenzie.
Nostalgia was very much a part of 2016, with HEAVEN 17, OMD and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT all touring popular albums. And following the success in recent years of retro festivals such as ‘Rewind’ and the strangely named ‘Let’s Rock’, classic synthpop finally found itself part of the holiday camp circuit. Part of the Butlins Music Weekender series, ‘Electric Dreams’ featuring OMD, MARC ALMOND, HEAVEN 17, BLANCMANGE and HOLLY JOHNSON almost went badly off-piste with the addition of GO WEST and THE ZOMBIES (!?!) to the programme.
But the organisers pulled an unexpected surprise and booked modern synth acts like MARSHEAUX and AVEC SANS to support the bill.
Hardened retro festival goers are notorious for not embracing new music, but this ethos has to be welcomed and could provide an interesting new model for the future of event based entertainment.
However, based on photographic evidence, the presence of inflatable pink flamingos and coloured wigs indicated the crowd atmosphere might have been no different to any of the usual nostalgia outings, but with a roof and central heating added!
And while TEC004 featuring MARSHEAUX, KID KASIO and RODNEY CROMWELL was not in the same league, it was a fine showcase for the best in independent synthpop.
Both events proved again that the best electronic music events are those actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, something that is not the case with several other events.
In all, 2016 was not a vintage year for electronic pop. If there was a lesson this year, it’s been to cherish and appreciate great life’s moments where possible, especially with the number of music figures that have been lost in the last 12 months.
Things cannot go on forever sadly…
Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Like Before
Best Gig: CHVRCHES at the Royal Albert Hall
Best Video: CHVRCHES Bury It
Most Promising New Act: REIN
Best Album: PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley
Best Song: SOULWAX Transient Program for Drums & Machinery
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES featuring PARTY NAILS Solid Gold
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW
Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES In The Shadows Of Monuments
Best Song: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Barren
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at Denver Oriental Theatre
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW
Best Album: ERIC RANDOM Words Made Flesh
Best Song: RATIONAL YOUTH This Side Of The Border
Best Gig: Troika! featuring KITE BASE, HANNAH PEEL + I SPEAK MACHINE at Shacklewell Arms
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: ZANIAS
CHI MING LAI
Best Album: VILLA NAH Ultima
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE Diagram Girl
Most Promising New Act: ANI GLASS
Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Norwich UEA
Best Video: MARSHEAUX Like A Movie
Most Promising New Act: DISQO VOLANTE
MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL
Best Album: APOPTYGMA BERZERK Exit Popularity Contest
Best Song: KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Islington Academy
Best Video: BLACK NEEDLE NOISE featuring JENNIE VEE Heaven
Most Promising New Act: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM