Mancunian producer Manzur Iqbal is the man behind FUTURECOP!
Since 2006, the project has grown in popularity, having gained audiences across the globe, sitting comfortably in the niche of synthwave and synth revival circles.
Iqbal, despite having had no previous musical experience, started experimenting with sound to bring back the charm of his youth and FUTURECOP! was born. Known for his collaborations, FUTURECOP! is back with his brand new album ‘Voltrana’, where more synthwave household names are present.
From ambient to spiritual, the album is full of surprises, all cinematically realigned to achieve a shiny retro gem which is bound to bring in the long awaited Spring.
Canada’s PARALLELS delight the album with Holly Dodson’s charming vocals and this opus welcomes back the synthwave princess copiously, starting with the sweet notions of ‘We Belong’. With a thoroughly modern approach interwoven with retro beats and scrumptious arpeggios, the track is a perfect intro to the colourful world of ‘Voltrana’.
Canada is followed the US with the clever changes of texture on ‘Star’, which welcomes COMPUTER MAGIC. New Yorker Danielle Johnson, the sole brains behind COMPUTER MAGIC has made it “big in Japan” thanks to her ethereal approach to vintage pop, often described as “cosmic”. And here, with FUTURECOP! she enters the realms of the otherworldly once again.
PARALLELS chase back again with the delicious ‘Leslie Cheung’, a tribute to the late much loved Cantopop star and actor. Dodson’s candied vocals bring an aura of childhood reminiscence over sugar coated melodies created as a fine example of modern dance music.
Going East, will Iqbal succeed in ‘Finding Shaolin’? Seemingly so, accompanied by heavier synth arpeggios and Moroder-esque templates, while ‘Breeze (Behind Waterfalls)’ eases the journey with the drum extravaganza leading the way further into the unknown.
PARALLELS return with the previously released single ‘Edge Of The Universe’.
“Inspired by a mix of 80s Japanese pop culture, eighties American Teen movies and Retro Space Adventure Japanese-Western cartoons” as described by Iqbal, the track is yet another easy listening beauty, inspiring peace and hope all the way “at the edge of the universe”.
Going back to the tender years of youth, ‘Forgotten Summer’ brings back the sounds and smells of the pivotal formative era, while Ayumi Sasaki joins FUTURECOP! on ‘Shinjinmei’; ‘信心銘’ is a sweet acoustic flavoured ballad, filled with nostalgic emotion that weaves in and out of J-Pop awareness.
Continuing the nod to eastern cultures ‘Zen 4040’, ‘Whispers of Tao’ and ‘Only From Mud (Can A Flower Bloom)’ enter the higher consciousness of pictorial qualities.
PARALLELS feature one more time on the delightful ‘This Moment Forever’, before the German princess of pop NINA finds herself as one of the family on ‘Fade Away’.
Grandiose arpeggios, “perfectly planned”, canvas the fresh sounding vocals from the alluring London-based songstress.
Comfortably at home alongside PARALLELS with whom she toured the US last year, NINA brings a calmer quality into the mix, not too dissimilar from the “mellow Magic” on Magic Radio.
The final collaboration comes from SIAMESE YOUTH, a synthwave duo from Berlin, also in form of a more demure offering, calming the senses and smoothing the rough with delicate melodies and soothing vocals.
The return of FUTURECOP! is a grand one. Twinning with the cream of synthwave artists from around the globe, this Eastern-inspired proposition helps to bring back the days of youth with charm, poise and melancholy.
Not all happy go lucky, yet uplifting and hopeful, ‘Voltrana’ is the perfect easy listening positive affirmation. Namaste.
Featuring the delightful vocals of Holly Dodson from Canadian synthpop trio PARALLELS, ‘Edge Of The Universe’ is the new single by FUTURECOP!
The project of Mancunian Manzur Iqbal and his first new material since 2014, ‘Edge Of The Universe’ is a synthetic burst of Manga colour not far off the catchy sweetly flavoured ‘Metropolis’ album which gained PARALLELS some well-deserved momentum internationally.
Iqbal says ‘Edge Of The Universe’ was “inspired by a mix of 80s Japanese pop culture, eighties American Teen movies and Retro Space Adventure Japanese-Western cartoons” and probably wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the soundtrack of an Anime remake ‘Pretty In Pink’ or ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’.
A new album is pencilled in for 2019 to follow-up 2014 ‘Fairy Tales’, although The Electricity Club sincerely hopes that the FUTURECOP! declaration of Bruce Hornby as an influence is just an idle threat…
Meanwhile, the tune comes suitably dressed in a soft-focus visual presentation filmed in Osaka, Japan which is directed by Anise Mariko who has previously given her mikineko productions video treatment to the likes of COMPUTER MAGIC and SHOOK.
“Manzur first approached me about a year ago about co-writing some of their tracks. I’ve been a big fan of FUTURECOP! for so long so it was really cool to get to join our worlds. I feel like we both share similar influences, so the lyrical themes came through quite clearly for the instrumentals he sent.” Holly Dodson told The Electricity Club, “We worked over email, Manzur sent me demos, I recorded the vocals at my studio here in Toronto then he finished the productions in the UK”.
She continued, “Luckily we had some great synergy happening, when I heard the instrumentals I basically knew what I wanted to write upon first listen and Manzur was totally on board. I felt completely comfortable going dreamy and adventurous with them, a bit spiritual as well… even so far as to the edge of the universe 🙂 “
For PARALLELS, the RADIO WOLF remix of ‘The Last Man’ and the enjoyable ‘Golden’ recorded with Chris Huggett (not the WASP synth designer!) had been their only releases in 2018 so far.
But following a superb debut at Zigfrid Von Underbelly in London at Easter, their live double billing with German songstress NINA has just recently completed its American leg to great success and acclaim.
London’s Zigfrid Von Underbelly played host to two of the best acts currently bridging synthpop and synthwave, PARALLELS and NINA.
For Toronto trio PARALLELS, this was their first UK gig as part of a short European jaunt also taking in Sweden and France. Meanwhile for NINA, it was her first full live performance since the release of her acclaimed debut album ‘Sleepwalking’.
Accompanied by her ever faithful electronic percussionist and backing vocalist Laura Fares, NINA came on stage alluringly cosplaying as Charlie Blackwood from ‘Top Gun’ and opened proceedings on her Roland Gaia with ‘Don’t You Give Up’, her vibrant collaboration with Swedish producer Oscillian who worked his studio magic on the majority of ‘Sleepwalking’.
With a good turnout for the evening, the enthusiastic crowd welcomed the marvellous moonlit triumph of ‘Beyond Memory’ and its sister song, ‘My Mistake’. While the latter was picked up by Mercedes-Benz back in 2014, the former showcased the strength of NINA’s development since that first burst of praise and recognition.
Continuing with the driven pop of ‘Empire Of Love’, NINA’s poignant delivery of her anti-bullying anthem ‘One Of Us’ captivated all those present.
The mighty ‘Your Truth’ allowed Laura Fares to shine energetically on her Roland percussion pad, adding pertinent dynamics next to NINA’s devoted assurance that “I’ll be there for you”.
But the best was saved to last with the neon-lit thrust of ‘80s Girl’, NINA’s touching song dedicated to her mother. Embroiled in passion and positivity like a missing theme tune from ‘Mannequin’, all Laura could do was crouch down in awe as she observed NINA’s neo-acapella conclusion to the song’s fading synths.
During the interlude, DJ She-Ra pulled off the impressive feat of playing a set of synthwave and Italo that, while largely unknown to the wider public, was immediate and enjoyable without having to resort to the same old – same old. Other music anchors should follow her example while her inclusion of ‘Let Me In’, the KLEERUP collaboration with SUSANNE SUNDFØR, showed she also had impeccable taste.
Accompanied by her bother Nick on drums and Oliver Blair on synths, Holly Dodson led PARALLELS through an enticing performance that proved their worth as an engaging live band, a more than welcome sight when a number of noted synthwave acts’ live presentation comprises of just one man and his laptop, with some visuals if you are lucky.
With her big auburn hair and wearing a striking sequinned black jacket, Holly had that inherent onstage confidence having grown up in the music business after her father Rich found fame as the singer and guitarist of Canadian AOR combo THE STAMPEDERS with his song ‘Sweet City Woman’, a domestic No1 in 1973. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking Holly was the lead singer of a band like HEART, rather than an electronic pop group.
Opening with the playful ‘Find The Fire’ which appeared on ‘Kitsuné Maison Compilation 8’ back in 2009 alongside CHEW LIPS and DELPHIC, Holly was a natural at connecting with the audience, all while moving around singing and occasionally veering over to play keyboards.
There was a delightful synth-off between Holly and Oliver on ‘Dry Blood’ before she sweetly dedicated the CHVRCHES influenced ‘Metropolis’ to The Electricity Club, while the bouncy electropop of ‘Tell The World’ from the ‘Metropolis’ album maintained momentum. On the gorgeous ‘Runaway Girl’, a brilliant track written by Oliver Blair for his RADIO WOLF project, she gave a marvellously candied performance that was powerful too.
Breezy with ‘Electrimotion’, as an introduction to ‘IRL’ (a commentary on internet dating), Holly encouraged the audience to hug each other, before the percussive ‘Ultralight’ allowed Nick Dodson to indulge briefly in a drum solo during a middle section respite from the song’s pulsing electronics.
PARALLELS’ most recent single ‘The Last Man’ arrived in its more frenetic RADIO WOLF variant with Oliver Blair clearly relishing the opportunity to present his neo-gothic handy work. Closing with the synthy New Wave drama of ‘Counterparts’, this was an accessible and lively set with no lulls that was enjoyed by the appreciative crowd, no doubt buoyed along by Holly’s sparkling personality.
In a live marketplace where there are far too many mismatched billings, PARALLELS and NINA made a perfect pairing, more than complimenting each other in style, mood and sound while both being different in their presentation and approaches. With great tunes, lots of synths and insistent groovy rhythms, this evening was exactly what modern electronic pop music should be all about.
‘Sleepwalking’ is the long-awaited debut album from the classically trained German songstress NINA.
With a musical palette shaped by a love of QUEEN, DEPECHE MODE, DAVID BOWIE, ALPHAVILLE, KRAFTWERK, NENA, CHROMATICS and LADYHAWKE, it contains some of her most personal work yet; “I think it’s important to keep your work personal and evolve as an artist” she told The Electricity Club.
Since her second single ‘We Are The Wild Ones’ in 2013, Berlin-born songstress NINA has grown in profile and stature.
Support slots with ERASURE and DE/VISION followed in 2014 but it was her third single ‘My Mistake’ that became her breakthrough song.
Beginning the long player, nocturnal warmth exudes from ‘Beyond Memory’, demonstrating how NINA’s own brand of pulsating electronic pop acts as a bridge between synthwave and synthpop. With her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus, ‘Beyond Memory’ is about past relationships. A close relative of the Mercedes-Benz endorsing ‘My Mistake’, ‘Beyond Memory’ more than makes up for its absence on the album.
Meanwhile, ‘Born To Live’ is embroiled in confidence with a soaring chorus recalling AVEC SANS, sweetened with a highly alluring almost spoken middle eight à la KID MOXIE, while the synth line recalls the rather obscure ‘There Goes the Cure’ by ONE DOVE.
Full of arpeggiators and pulsating synths, ‘Sleepwalking’ is a vibrant number that paces the mood to a gallop, with a delightful keyboard cascade finish. Bubbling electronics over a sparse intro lead into the nocturnal synth AOR of ‘It Kills Me’. With piano also entering the fray, it’s not unlike Toronto’s very own electronic pop combo PARALLELS.
The previously issued B-side ‘Purple Sun’ does what it says on the tin, is it a love letter to PRINCE or something else entirely? The layers of backing vocals might provide a clue…
The drive-friendly ‘Empire Of Love’ lifts the tempo again with a glorious whirring ULTRAVOX-styled synth solo to buoy up proceedings, but at the opposite end of the album’s colourful spectrum, ‘Diamonds In The Rough’ is a perfect Brat Pack movie ballad, while also emulating some of the best in Scandinavian pop overtures and allowing NINA’s soprano to shine. And although “everybody’s here, they’re having fun”, a forlorn NINA reflects on not fitting in… cut from a similar cloth, the cinematic Nordic pop of One Of Us’ is heartfelt, Fraulein Boldt’s musical catharsis about school bullying.
And when she is ‘Counting Stars’, the song utilises vintage synth sounds to the max, both rich and retro-futuristic with “a mission on our own” like classic PET SHOP BOYS. ‘Your Truth’ is more compelling neon-lit synth AOR, with another rousing chorus and some guitar inflections combining with those vintage love theme Emulator voices as she confirms “I’ll be there for you”.
For a fabulously optimistic conclusion to the album, ‘80s Girl’ comes beaming over like the missing theme song from the film ‘Mannequin’. With big Simmons drums, sampled orchestra stabs and driving synthbass triplets, it is however delivered with subtlety and restraint so that it doesn’t turn into a HEART or STARSHIP pastiche. Dedicated to her mother, it’s great song that sums up the best in NINA. And in a telling message to everyone, she declares “don’t let the past hold you back”.
Yes, it all does sound like a John Hughes film soundtrack but that’s not a bad thing. A highly enjoyable musical journey that’s strong on melody, Richard X, Oscillian and Sunglasses Kid have each done a very good job working with NINA to produce a cohesive body of work.
A positive album for outsiders and individuals, NINA is a songstress who speaks for the lonely and disenchanted without going all Emo. It’s been many years in the making, but NINA’s ‘Sleepwalking’ has been well worth the wait.
Canadian synthpop trio PARALLELS rode on some well-deserved international momentum in 2017 following the release of their third album ‘Metropolis’.
Championed by the likes of Rusty Egan, the Toronto combo formed in 2008 and released the 2010 debut long player ‘Visionaries’.
However, PARALLELS went through some personnel changes prior to the recording of their sophomore offering ‘XII’.
In 2018, the line-up comprises of Holly Dodson, her brother Nick and one-time CLIENT collaborator Oliver Blair. With their catchy sweetly flavoured songs like the ‘Metropolis’ title song, ‘Catch’ and ‘Heart Of The Wild’, PARALLELS’ third long player was an audio document of how “we travelled… fell in and out of love… rediscovered the places we call home…”, with the end result sitting down well alongside the likes of PURITY RING, CHVRCHES and AVEC SANS.
Singer, songwriter and synthesist Holly Dodson took time out from rehearsals to chat about the continuing progression of PARALLELS and their first live appearance in London which is happening alongside German songstress NINA in March…
Canada appears to have become a centre for modern electronic pop with the likes of PURITY RING, ELECTRIC YOUTH, GRIMES, AUSTRA and TR/ST. What inspired you to head in this direction as PARALLELS?
Starting out, we were very inspired by Italo disco and synthpop from the 80s. Piano was my first instrument, so synthesizers were sort of the next step for me when I got more into production. I love the colour that synths add. And we wanted to make upbeat dance music with pop vocals… plus we didn’t know how to play guitar so it was partly a matter of circumstance 🙂
Your third album ‘Metropolis’ appears to have been your breakthrough internationally, how has the reception looked from your end?
I’m really truly grateful for the reaction it’s gotten so far! I’m usually most nervous to find out what our long-time fans think of new stuff… I really just want them to be happy and excited from the getgo.
Thankfully it *seems* like it was well received. It’s been an introduction for new fans as well, which is wonderful. As long as it’s connecting on some level… any level… I’m thrilled.
How have you viewed the band’s progression over the years since your 2010 debut ‘Visionaries’?
Seems like yesterday! I’ve sort of ended up being the thread that’s tying it together – which I didn’t anticipate. We went through some line-up changes that at the time were pretty emotionally challenging, but so many bands do. For me, it’s always been about making music and playing shows… so I wanted to keep focus on that. The seeds were planted so let’s grow the garden. It’s been truly rewarding on many levels, creatively, and I’m really looking forward to going deeper.
Your lovely version of ‘Moonlight Desires’ on your second long player ‘XII’ points to perhaps a youth possibly spent watching John Hughes and Brat Pack movies?
So happy you like it! I’m a child of the 80s, so naturally, yeah… plus GOWAN is Canadian. We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia 🙂
I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha… you never know.
Do you feel any affinity with North America’s current interest in the Synthwave sub-genre?
It definitely seems to be having a moment right now – it feels very buzzy and grassroots which is wonderful. It also seems like a bit of a gateway for new listeners to get into synth music and an excuse for long-time listeners to get re-excited. I love knowing these communities are forming and have some dear friends involved in the scene – so it’s inspiring to see it coming together.
Photo by Sarah Llewylen
The ‘Metropolis’ title track does have a CHVRCHES vibe, has the success of Glaswegians been an indicator that a potential worldwide audience is out there?
I’m definitely a big fan of CHVRCHES – it’s so cool to see synthpop rise to that level! I’d love to write with them one day. Yes, I’m a firm believer that synthpop is for everyone whether or not they know it 😉
In 2016 – the year everyone wants to forget – I had a big binge on PRINCE’s music, which inspired ‘Metropolis’.
Actually, until the last minute, it didn’t have bass on it because ‘When Doves Cry’ doesn’t, but I realized I was just grieving and so recorded the bass… it brought a bit closure 🙂
There’s a hint of ‘Running Up That Hill’ in ‘Catch’, how important has KATE BUSH been in shaping your take on music?
‘Running Up That Hill’ is one of my absolute favourite songs of all time – KATE BUSH is my home for inspiration. If I have insecurities or self-doubt, I put on her records. When I first played my demos to a family friend of ours, when I was 17 or so, he said my voice reminded him of KATE BUSH… and at that time I had no idea who she was. So I went and listened to the ‘Hounds Of Love’ album and, I’m not joking, everything made sense.
She changed how I understood creativity and represents freedom of expression in its truest form. Some people spend so much time trying to fit in that they forget to find their own voice. With KATE BUSH, it seems like she knew – and wasn’t afraid to experiment and take risks, push boundaries with grace. And I love and admire that so much. I could talk about this for hours… obviously.
You’re releasing a great new RADIO WOLF remix of ‘The Last Man’ as the new PARALLELS single. It’s quite different from the album version, what was the thinking behind having the track reworked?
Our good friend (turned band mate) Oliver Blair had wanted to do a remix – he said he wanted to speed it up and “paint it red”. I love what he did with the remix. He really brought out the edge in that song. The song is about holding ourselves accountable for our actions toward the earth and each other… which is becoming more and more urgent. So I think he really picked up on that with his interpretation.
So which have been your own favourite songs on ‘Metropolis’ and why?
Well in case the songs are listening, I love them all equally. But… Isadora’ is one of my favourites – it’s sort of a séance song. I’ve never been a part of one but would love to at some point.
‘Tell The World’ and ‘Metropolis’ are ones that mean a lot to me. They remind me of home, my family and friends. ‘Tell The World’ is about story-telling, learning from the past and how stories connect us. It makes me emotional when I hear it, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Photo by Sarah Llewylen
PARALLELS covered NEW ORDER’s ‘Age Of Consent’ for the ‘Civilisation’ EP in 2015, what made you choose that and do you have any other songs you would be interested in reinterpreting?
There’s a list! I’m working on one now but want to keep it a surprise. We used to jam to ‘Age Of Consent’ during practises and it’s one of my favourite NEW ORDER songs… it reminds me of being a teenager and not having the words to express my emotions. I’d just say… listen to this song… this is how I feel.
Electronic music appears to have more sister / brother combinations eg THE KNIFE, XYLO, FAKE TEAK than say in rock, why do you think that might be and how is your creative relationship with your sibling Nick?
True, I never realized that. Nick joined in 2011… I said “I’m looking for a drummer… want to join PARALLELS?” and he said “well, I play metal but I guess I could play your stuff” 🙂
He’s a true talent and one of my best friends – always there for a critical critique, and I trust his opinion.
PARALLELS are coming to London in March 2018; as well as the gig with NINA, what else are you hoping to do while you’re here?
We are! It’s our UK debut – we’re so thrilled to be playing with NINA. Would love to see Abbey Road, Soho… our band mate Oliver lived in London for years, so we’re hoping he will be our tour guide. Any insider advice?
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to PARALLELS