Tag: Parallels (Page 1 of 3)

Lost Albums: PARALLELS Visionaries

While now established as a modern synthpop force in a similar vein to CHVRCHES, AVEC SANS and DANA JEAN PHOENIX, the story of PARALLELS actually began in 2008 while their debut album ‘Visionaries’ came out in 2010.

Fronted by Holly Dodson, PARALLELS at the time was a partnership with Cameron Findlay who had toured previously as the drummer for CRYSTAL CASTLES, while Joey Kehoe later joined as a live keyboardist. One of the Visionaries’ tracks ‘Dry Blood’ was used in the soundtrack for the 2012 film ‘Curfew directed by Shawn Christensen which won an Oscar for ‘Best Live Action Short Film’.

PARALLELS later achieved a wider worldwide breakthrough with their third album ‘Metropolis’ in 2016 with support from The Blitz Club legend Rusty Egan; a North American tour with NINA followed in 2018 after a successful premiere of the pairing at Zigfrid Von Underbelly in London.

Since then, there have been a number of notable collaborations, the most recent being on the soundtrack to the film ‘Proximity’ with RADIO WOLF aka PARALLELS live bandmate Oliver Blair whose previous credits have included CLIENT and KELLI ALI.

‘Visionaries’ has been reissued to celebrate its tenth anniversary in a double album edition featuring a remaster of the original and a bonus collection of special remixes from the likes of ANORAAK, MECHA MAIKO, GLITBITER, BETAMAXX, GHOSTHOUSE and many more from the synthwave community.

Despite being a decade old, ‘Visionaries’ has a lovely innocent charm about it, with Dodson finding her voice amongst a palette of catchy synth hooks, tight electronic sequences and live drums.

Deserving re-evaluation and discovery by those who may have missed it first time round, ‘Visionaries’ is a must for modern synthpop connoisseurs seeking a bridge to synthwave.

Holly Dodson kindly chatted to The Electricity Club from her home in Toronto about the start of her journey as PARALLELS and the making of the ‘Visionaries’ album.

Having grown up in a music family, was making an album always inevitable for you?

It was definitely encouraged! I was a really shy kid though, so it took me a while to build up the confidence to even say I wanted to learn how to record. Since the mid-70s, my parents were running an indie label and studio out of their basement so I was always in a studio environment growing up… so it would have been difficult to not get the music bug.

But before ‘Visionaries’, you released a solo album called ‘The Carousel’ in 2009; how do you look back on that and what made you opt for the more New Wave concept of PARALLELS for your next record?

When my Dad learned that I had been writing songs, he said the first thing I should do is learn how to build a production, learn how to program and arrange… basically learn my way around the studio so that I could be self-sufficient and record my ideas. He’s got a really DIY sensibility so he instilled that in me from early on. So making ‘The Carousel’ record was my first foray into producing my own records. At that time, I was hugely inspired by KATE BUSH, BAT FOR LASHES, DEPECHE MODE and JONI MITCHELL.

‘Visionaries’ was a collaboration between myself and drummer Cam Findlay and when we were writing that album, we were listening to a lot of NEW ORDER and JOY DIVISION… hugely inspired by New Wave so it inevitably spilled into our songwriting.

‘Visionaries’ had a distinct synthpop direction as heralded by the album opener ‘Find The Fire’, what interested you in synths? 

Yeah, my main instrument was piano so I knew how to navigate around a keyboard. There were a collection of vintage synths in my Dad’s studio – Roland D-50, D-70, Yamaha DX-7 so there were always synths to play with growing up.

I love how colourful synths sounds are and how you can really customize these crazy sound waves, turning electricity into a song.

Had there been any particular acts like liked who you referenced to formulate your sound?

PETER GABRIEL, KATE BUSH, DM, NEW ORDER… asking “what would Kate do?” often gets me out of a production rut haha.

PARALLELS is widely accepted as your musical vehicle today, but at the time of ‘Visionaries’, was there more of a democratic band dynamic in place?

Yeah, like I had mentioned previously, ’Visionaries’ was a collaboration so Cam would make up demos and then I’d write topline, and we’d complete them together at my Dad’s studio. We tracked drums there as well! That ‘Visionaries’ era was pretty crazy for us, we were learning the industry – managing ourselves – figuring out who we were as artists etc, and it took a toll on Cam and I’s relationship so we ended up parting ways. He started a solo project and I continued on with PARALLELS… obviously 😉

‘Dry Blood’ has a real chill about it with those great synth strings, haunting choir samples and prominent vocoders, what was on your mind when you made it?

Cam had come to me with that track and I immediately thought it was a cool entity. I think it was one of the first tracks he had written. He didn’t really have lyrics for it so for the ‘Visionaries’ album I wrote some vocals and we put live drums on it which gave a bit more depth to the track. I was super into gothic literature at that time so… to precede your next question, the Goth girl was emerging…

On ‘Nightmares’ you sang about “the taste of blood in my mouth”, has there always been a Goth girl waiting to escape from you?

Yes. There still is ha! I was always into the supernatural and witchy things so discovering the original goths of the Romantic era opened up that world to me… I was reading Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, William & Coleridge – huge nerd over here, still am.

In terms of equipment, were you using hardware or software synths? Did you have any favourites?

We were working with a PolySix, Juno 60, Prophet, Waldorf Blofeld, Roland D-50, D-70 so ‘Visionaries’ features those.

‘Magnetics’ brought a pulsating NEW ORDER feel to proceedings? Have you always been a fan?

NEW ORDER was a huge inspiration throughout the whole album – I used to have jam sessions in my basement in high school, and some of my friends who would come to those jams (Cam included) turned me onto their stuff.

Meanwhile, ‘Counterparts’ explored the other side of NEW ORDER with a driving bass guitar?

Yeah, and very fast. We tend to play that one at the end of the set when the adrenaline is going haha. I think it was just bringing the whole scope of our inspirations in, and some songs call for different things so the chorus-y bass guitar adds a different colour to it. We were mixing a lot of electronic with live elements through the whole album.

The live drums took a breather and you got a drum machine out for ‘Vienna’, what was this song inspired by, as apart from ‘Dry Blood’, it’s probably the one that is the most different to the others on ‘Visionaries’?

This song was very escapist for me, dreaming of travelling to places I’d never been before and being in big open air, with open arms wandering fields like Julie Andrews haha. We were really into ‘Games Without Frontiers’ as well, so I think production-wise that played a part.

‘Midnight Voices’ has this fabulous futuristic disco vibe like Giorgio Moroder which still stands up?

Thank you! Huge fan of Giorgio Moroder – we were also super into Italo Disco as well so this song always reminds me of that influence.

‘Shadow Hearts’ is cut from not too dissimilar a cloth but one thing that is noticeable on that and ‘Ultralight’ is that the album manages to capture a lively percussive template in amongst all the synths and sequencers, not always an easy thing to do in a studio environment?

The live drums definitely add an edge to it, and a more human energy. Cam was a drummer so it was sort of a given. The demos were usually made with programmed drums and then we had recorded live drums for the final album versions. We kept certain elements of the programmed drums if it fit the song – like ‘Reservoir’ has a programmed kick and some hi-hat, and ‘Ultralight’ a bit of drum machine percussion. But yeah, ‘Visionaries’ doesn’t have a super polished sound which I prefer anyway – it was all about performing as tight as we could.

In what way do you think your voice has changed over the years in the way you use it?

I’ve definitely become more confident and found more fulfilment in singing; I was always insecure about my voice so I used to double track it. But I don’t really do that anymore – after years of soul searching and embracing what I have to offer… telling my inner-critic to go away ha. Singing started to become a sanctuary for me when I was recording the ‘Metropolis’ record.

How do you look back on ‘Visionaries’, what are your favourite songs and are there any you would do differently in hindsight?

It was such a formative time, and a whirlwind! It was the first time that people really listened to my music, so I’m so grateful for that. It’s hard to pick a favourite from the album but I think my favourites are ‘Counterparts’, ‘Reservoir’ and ‘City Of Stars’. And no I wouldn’t do anything differently, everything happened how it was supposed to 🙂

The new remixes you have commissioned to accompany this remaster appear to be from The Synthwave All-Stars, do you feel you have now found “your people” after ten years?

Agreed! I’m so grateful that they were a part of it – I envisioned it to be a compilation of artists who have somehow factored into this musical journey, both old and new friends… from the VALERIE COLLECTIVE to MORGAN WILLIS, who I just recently collaborated with. I finally connected with BETAMAXX in real life last year but it felt like we had known each other forever. And yeah I think it does take time to make friends in this music world because a lot of people come and go and everyone is doing their own thing. But it does feel like there’s a greater sense of community these days, it’s amazing how small the music world really is.

‘XII’ came after ‘Visionaries’, what were the most valuable experiences that came from recording your debut that you were able to put into the second PARALLELS album?

Giving yourself room to grow, inviting inspiration find you, staying curious and letting the magic happen. That’s ultimately why I felt called to evolve PARALLELS and keep it going.

I think a lot of artists get too precious about the first thing they create and in my opinion, the first record is the easiest in some ways.

It’s been nearly four years since the third PARALLELS album ‘Metropolis’ but you have been collaborating with FUTURECOP! and RADIO WOLF, so how have these experiences been for you in terms of your continued musical development?

It’s definitely helped me get some perspective and it feels like coming home now that I’m working on a new PARALLELS record. It felt like the right time to collaborate because I felt like I needed a break from ‘myself’ haha. Working with other artists helps bring inspiration out of you that you didn’t know you had. I also worked with MORGAN WILLIS, DIGITAL SHADES and CHRIS HUGGETT during that time.

Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with?

To be honest, I’ve done so much collaborating in the past while it feels right to just get in my little world again. But if Kate called…

What are your future plans, obviously depending on the world situation?

Oh right – the world situation! Haha…well we had tour plans for RADIO WOLF and I’s ‘Proximity’ soundtrack that have been put on the back burner, and another tour with MECHA MAIKO and BETAMAXX, some EU/UK dates… but alas. I’m cautiously hopeful we’ll be able to make up for it next year. So right now I’m back in my little world knee deep in writing a new record and building a Patreon community to share the progress with and stay connected.

Thanks so much for the chat – love to all in The Electricity Club!


The Electricity Club give its warmest thanks to The Electricity Club

‘Visionaries’ is reissued as a new remaster and remix album by NewRetroWave, the limited edition clear dark blue with white marble effect double vinyl LP will despatch around 20th December 2020 while the digital version is available now; both formats can be purchased direct from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/visionaries-10th-anniversary-edition

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th October 2020

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS Proximity

“A young NASA JPL scientist is abducted by extra-terrestrials, but when no one believes his story, he becomes obsessed with finding proof, which leads him on a journey of discovery.”

That is the tagline for Sci-Fi thriller ‘Proximity’, the directorial debut of Emmy Award-winning visual effects artist Eric Demeusy, best known for his work on ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Tron Legacy’ and ‘Game Of Thrones’.

The film stars Ryan Masson who was in another Sci-Fi thriller ‘Involution’ and its cast also includes Highdee Kuan, Shaw Jones, Christian Prentice and Don Scribner.

While the main orchestral soundtrack is scored by Jermaine Stegall, the songs have been provided by RADIO WOLF and PARALLELS, respectively the musical vehicles of Canadians Oliver Blair and Holly Dodson.

While Dodson has already released three albums as PARALLELS, Blair’s CV has included a stint with British New Wave trio HOTEL MOTEL (Italians Do It better signing Jorja Chalmers was a bandmate), guesting as a guitarist with CLIENT under his KINDLE moniker and playing keyboards with PARALLELS.

The debut RADIO WOLF EP ‘Rock N Roll Forever’ came out in 2017 and featured an illustrious cast of vocalists including Sarah Blackwood, Kelli Ali and HOTEL MOTEL singer Marika Gauci as well as Dodson herself. So developing the creative union between them was only natural.

Commissioned by Demeusy to come up with some sinister otherworldly songs counterpointed by a romantic celestial air for ‘Proximity’, Blair looked to Dodson to be their voice. “We fused celestial sounding electronica with the intimacy of the human voice and organic live guitar, having faith that our music would cohere to the film’s dual sense of otherworldliness and humanity” said Blair.

With both musicians heavily influenced by classic synthpop and new wave, it is perhaps not surprising that the resultant seven songs are being released by Lakeshore Records, home to the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack and the recent offering by KID MOXIE for the Greek film ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’.

Opener ‘Break The Silence’ does what it says on the tin and comes over like ELECTRIC YOUTH but with much more bite thanks to its use of Holly Dodson’s more power diva capabilities and Oliver Blair’s guitar; it all stays on the right side of an AOR electronica hybrid if very close to its border.

Meanwhile ‘Pure Lies’ adopts the atmospheres of the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme ‘Falling’ and makes good use of lush vocal samples for its eerie dream-like state while reimagining it being covered by CHVRCHES. Speaking of the Glaswegian trio, ‘Let Me In’ could be Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty with a sense of gothic foreboding rather than their usual Taylor Swift gone electro approach.

“Scored to picture”, the mini-album’s lead single ‘Lost Angel’ tells of a “Dark vision of Paradise” and lyrically captures the spirit of the ‘Proximity’ story while accompanied by some beautifully ringing synthetic chimes doubled with bursts of pitch shifted vocals. Hauntingly compelling, ‘Contact’ is a superbly widescreen ballad and if it wasn’t in a Sci-Fi film, it could so easily have been in chosen for a love scene in a Brat Pack movie from back in the day.

‘Journeys End’ is a rather fine tribute to ‘Space Oddity’ with Dodson sounding particularly angelic while fabulous synth melodies and complimentary live drumming by Nick Dodson enhance what is probably the mini-album’s highlight. Concluding Proximity’, ‘Homecoming’ adds some scratchy funk with a new wave twist to proceedings to provide a sparkly optimistic ending.

More than happy with these seven songs, Eric Demeusy said: “Oliver and Holly were a joy to work with; totally fresh and collaborative in spirit. Their songcraft talents and sophisticated production values created just the right sonic emotion for various sequences of the movie. I’d work with them again in a minute.”

‘Proximity’ will be embraced by the synthwave fraternity thanks to its association with Lakeshore Records, but its pop sensibilities and accompanying narratives will appeal to a wider audience.

These are heartfelt songs possessing musicality and atmosphere that will certainly appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the previous releases by PARALLELS or RADIO WOLF.


‘Proximity (Music from the Original Motion Picture)’ is released by Lakeshore Records, available direct from https://radiowolfandparallels.bandcamp.com/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2020

NINA: The Synthian Interview

From her early single ‘My Mistake’ and its use on an advertisement for Mercedes-Benz to support slots with DE/VISION and ERASURE to her own joint headlining tours of North America with Canada’s PARALLELS, the rise of NINA to become The Queen Of Synthwave has been remarkable.

The German-born songstress has successfully straddled the line between synthwave and synthpop, thanks to her exquisite retro-fusion of New Wave and electronic pop

As with her debut album ‘Sleepwalking’, NINA has created its eagerly awaited follow-up ‘Synthian’ with silent partner Laura Fares aka LAU, while producers Oscillian, Richard X, Till Wild and Ricky Wilde have also put their stamp on a number of tracks.

Although NINA’s popwave is still more than evident, this new record unveils a darker aesthetic and an air of cyber-expressionism. NINA spoke to The Electricity Club from her home city of Berlin about her continuing musical adventures.

Guessing by the title ‘Synthian’, it doesn’t sound like you’ve gone rockabilly or anything, how would you describe the album? It is a natural progression from ‘Sleepwalking’?

I see ‘Synthian’ as the bigger and bolder sister of ‘Sleepwalking’. It’s more mature and daring.

‘Synthian’ also explores the depths of love, desire, spirituality, the duality of the human condition. Unity vs Isolation.

‘Sleepwalking’ was a long time coming for many reasons but if you include the touring you’ve been doing, ‘Synthian’ has been a comparatively swift follow-up?

Yes, we’ve been super busy touring the US and Canada twice and playing shows all over the world, so I guess two years isn’t all that long. We actually wanted to release ‘Synthian’ early in 2020, but had to keep pushing it back for various reasons, which was a little frustrating but we’re finally getting it out there.

They often say that a debut album documents a whole life while a second album is sometimes a snapshot of less than a year?

I feel like ‘Sleepwalking’ was definitely a reflection of a lot experiences I’ve made in my younger years, while ‘Synthian’ took all those memories, shook hands with it and created a new Universe.

‘The Calm Before The Storm’ could be described as being quintessential NINA, the title almost seems to be capturing your anxieties before the making of a new album, was it like that for you?

Yes, it’s like I knew what was coming before it happened. ‘The Calm Before The Storm’ is about feeling lost. Wanting to start over. ‘Synthian’ is definitely the beginning of new ‘uncharted’ ideas.

What is the creative dynamic with Laura Fares aka LAU when you are writing?

We usually listen to a beat (mostly by the incredibly talented Oscillian) and throw out some ideas. It’s usually a lot of “blah blah’s” and “bluh bluh’s” before words start to unfold 😉

We often take words from my poems and turn them into lyrics. I then start recording the idea. I feel like something magical happens when you first record a song.

It’s that fresh and undeniable emotional connection with a song you sometimes have; it can never be replicated. So we often stick with the original vocal takes.

You’re working with Oscillian and Richard X again, how do their methods differ for you that provide enough creative incentive while also being comfortable in their environment?

Working with Richard X is super inspiring. He’s so focussed and I’ve always been a fan of his well-known collaborations with ERASURE, GOLDFRAPP, PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER etc. I have huge respect for him and his “Black Melody”. He works very fast and is very easy to work with. I’ve written ‘Unnoticed’ with him in his home studio in London.

With Oscillian, I feel like I’ve found a friend. We really get each other. It’s like we circle around the same Celestial sphere. So writing and recording ‘Synthian’, ‘The Wire’ and ‘The Distance’ in his home studio in Sweden was comfortable and familiar.

How did Ricky Wilde become interested in working with you? Are you pleased with the end result?

This is actually a very sweet story. I was at THE MIDNIGHT’s gig in London and Ricky’s friend Lee approached me and said “You’re NINA right. My friend Ricky is a producer and loves your music. I think you should get together and write songs”. That’s it! We met up for a writing session just a few days after our first encounter.

Ricky comes up with the most beautiful melodies and harmonies. I loved working with him. He’s humble and patient. I’m very proud of the two songs we’ve written together with LAU, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Gave Up On Us’. They’re very catchy and uplifting. I’d love to meet his sister Kim one day and tell her what a huge inspiration she’s been for me growing up.

The opening title song has a real widescreen atmosphere that sets the scene, what is the song about?

‘Synthian’ is a love note to my fans for being so incredibly supportive. I gave them the nickname a while back and mentioned to Oscillian that we should write a song about / for them.

‘Automatic Call’ is a great uptempo tune that has got a lot of positive reaction?

Yes, ‘Automatic Call’ has been a very popular track. I really enjoy performing it live. I like how upbeat it is while the lyrics are rather gloomy in contrary.

‘The Distance’ is quite an apt title in these strange times?

‘The Distance’ is about a long distance relationship and how true love can span miles and beyond. It has a more cinematic approach; heavily inspired by the likes of M83 and WOODKID. It’s a very personal song. A lot of people are being apart from their loved ones right now and can probably relate.

What are your own favourite songs on the album?

It’s impossible to choose! I love them equally. I will say that there are standout moments. ‘The Distance’ is clearly very romantic, while ‘Synthian’ has a joyous spirit to it.

‘The Wire’ touches a darker side. It’s about feeling disconnected from the world. Losing a sense of being human and having a deep desire for the human touch. I really enjoy the darker synthwave vibes.

You’ve opted to make a bonus instrumental version of the album available again like you did with ‘Sleepwalking’? Are they reworked or the backing tracks that you vocalised over?

They’re the original instrumentals without my vocals.

Do you feel aggrieved that some listeners want your music but not necessarily your vocals?

Well, it’s all part of my creativity. All aspects of the songs honour my musical cosmos. It’s a mood thing. Either way, you’re hearing me. I love instrumental music and am particularly proud of the producers I work with. So, it’s cool to shed light on the intricate details of their arrangements. There’s allot of teamwork going on.

You’ve continued your collaborations with other artists like FUTURECOP! and MOONRUNNER83, are there any more on the way you can tell us about? Is there less pressure for these productions or more?

I’m working with a few different producers and artists right now, all to be revealed soon. And I’ve recently started to collaborate with RADIO WOLF, who I became friends with while on tour with PARALLELS in 2018 and 2019. He’s a very talented producer, songwriter and musician and I’m so excited to share our creation with everyone soon. It’s very New Wave / Rock ’n’ Roll.

I’m always exploring new territories in music, I like thinking big and beyond. Collaborations are definitely something I really enjoy. I am also working on material that is very personal and individual. There may be a ‘lone wolf’ NINA record down the road. Anything is possible, that’s how I roll!

At this point in time, you are due to open for OLLIE WRIDE in London, surely you two are destined to duet together sometime in the future? 😉

How do you know we haven’t already? 😉

Ollie is great! I have so much respect for him. Truly a one of a kind artist and all around human being.

So has the lockdown made you more creative or more reflective? What are your hopes for the future?

It’s made me both! I’m making use of the time I have and being very productive. My heart goes out to everyone who is going through a tough time. I hope I can make people feel better through music and offer some kind of hope. Uncertainty is always scary, but we will prevail if we stick together in spirit. Until then, we have ‘The Distance’. We’ll make it through and it won’t break our hearts!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to NINA

‘Synthian’ is released by Aztec Records on 5th June 2020 in CD, magenta neon vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-order direct from https://ninasounduk.bandcamp.com/

NINA opens for OLLIE WRIDE at London Lafayette on Saturday 13th March 2021 – tickets available now from https://rockfeedback.seetickets.com/event/ollie-wride/lafayette/1467713

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th May 2020, updated 14th August 2020

MORGAN WILLIS Dreamer

French musician MORGAN WILLIS is something of a synthwave veteran. He’s been extremely prolific since his 2012 debut long playing release ‘Science Fiction’ and the 2015 electro-funk flavoured ‘Night Rider’ to become a respected exponent of the sub-genre.

His latest offering ‘Dreamer’ has been called a “synthpop fairy-tale” and certainly this primarily instrumental set has been bolstered by the sweet feminine magic of PARALLELS, NINA and KEL to continue a tradition that has been a key part of MORGAN WILLIS releases since 2016 with JJ Mist on ‘Behind The Mask’.

One of the not undeserved criticisms of instrumental synthwave is that its hazy soundscapes emphasise texture and feel, rather than tunes and dynamics. So when The Electricity Club’s idea of a synth instrumental is ‘Theme For Great Cities’ by SIMPLE MINDS and ‘Astradyne’ by ULTRAVOX, then the comparison bar is always going to be set quite high.

‘Dreamer’ contains songs and these prove to be the highlights of the album. Best of all is ‘Rabbit Hole Chasing You’ featuring regular collaborator KEL who compliments the throbbing electronics with an airy lift, while a number of more sparkling upper octave sounds get to gently penetrate through the incumbent aural wash. ‘Back to the Start’ sees NINA making good use of her natural range of vocal capabilities. Her higher notes offset the musical middle ground inhabited by the bed of synths.

And this is why the deep male voiced ‘Invisible’ doesn’t make as much of an impression as it mushes in with the backdrop. However, the syncopated funky stance and whirring synths of the single ‘C.O.M.A’ with a similar deep male vocal is much more satisfying.

Holly Dodson of PARALLELS makes another of her synthwave guest vocal appearances on ‘Dark Before the Dream’ and with guitar-derived arpeggios at the start, the Canadian songstress provides an almost Country & Western demeanour before the electronic drums kick in for some of the classic new wave tinged synthpop that her own band is known for.

However, a couple of the instrumentals do the trick. The lengthy closer ‘Forever’ is a beautifully expanding epic with luscious melodic hooks and pulsing arpeggios, while ‘Teenager’ captures the energy and exuberance of youth with a hint of ‘St Elmo’s Fire’.

But with slow fades and steady builds, the album and a few of its tracks are maybe too long.

Now while the point of many synthwave concepts is soundtracks for imaginary films, this can be challenging for some listeners to imagine amongst the aural hue without visuals, while also waiting for a vocal.

‘Dreamer’ probably requires an immersion of full relaxation for it to be effective and to that end, the title track and ‘Daydream’ do what they say on the tin. So if you are into the idea of a reconfigured soundtrack for a Brat Pack film coated in magenta pink, then ‘Dreamer’ will be for you.


‘Dreamer’ is released by Outland as a magenta pink double vinyl LP and download, available from https://morganwillisofficial.bandcamp.com/album/dreamer-2

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th January 2020

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Johnny Jewel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

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

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

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

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


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

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


IAN FERGUSON

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


SIMON HELM

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


CHI MING LAI

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


RICHARD PRICE

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


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

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


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

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