Tag: Poeme Electronique

ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84

From Cherry Red Records, the makers of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy showcasing formative and experimental electronic music from the UK, Europe and North America, comes their most accessible electronic collection yet.

Subtitled ‘Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’, ‘Electrical Language’ is a lavish 4CD 80 track boxed set covering the post-punk period when all that synthesizer experimentation and noise terrorism morphed into pop.

Largely eschewing the guitar and the drum kit, this was a fresh movement which sprung from a generation haunted by the spectre of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction and closer to home, the Winter of Discontent.

As exemplified by known names like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, FAD GADGET, SECTION 25 and BLUE ZOO included in the set to draw in the more cautious consumer, this was pop in a very loose manner with melodies, riffs and danceable rhythms but hardly the stuff of ABBA or THE BEE GEES!

‘Red Frame/White Light’ by OMD was a chirpy ditty about the 632 3003 phone box which the band used as their office, while THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘Windpower’ was a rallying call for renewable energy sources. Then there was the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL based around two noisy notes and lyrically based on JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia.

While those acts’ stories have been rightly celebrated for putting the electronic avant pop art form into the mainstream, with any truly great compilation or collection, the joy is in finding the lesser known jewels.

Made primarily by the idealistic outsiders and independent experimenters from the lesser known side of Synth Britannia, ‘Electrical Language’ has plenty of synthetic material to rediscover or hear for the first time. Indeed, the more appealing tracks appear to fall into three categories; forgotten songs that should have been hits, oddball cover versions and largely unknown archive wonders.

Those forgotten gems include the exotic ‘Electrical Language’ title track by BE BOP DELUXE, documenting the moment Bill Nelson went electro. His production on the gloriously emotive ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by FIAT LUX is another welcome inclusion to the set.

But the two best tracks on ‘Electrical Language’ are coincidentally spoken word; ‘Touch’ by LORI & THE CHAMELEONS about a girl’s Japanese holiday romance is as enchanting and delightful as ever, while there is also THROBBING GRISTLE refugees CHRIS & COSEY’s wispy celebration of Autumnal neu romance ‘October (Love Song)’, later covered in the 21st Century in pure Hellectro style by MARSHEAUX.

Merseyside has always been a centre for creativity and this included synthpop back in the day. ‘I’m Thinking Of You Now’ from BOX OF TOYS was a superb angsty reflection of young manhood that included an oboe inflected twist which was released on the Inevitable label in 1983. From that same stable, FREEZE FRAME are represented by the atmospheric pop of ‘Your Voice’

Jayne Casey was considered the face of Liverpool post-punk fronting BIG IN JAPAN and PINK MILITARY; the lo-fi electronic offshoot PINK INDUSTRY released three albums but the superb ‘Taddy Up’ with its machine backbone to contrast the ethereal combination of voice and synths lay in the vaults until 2008 and is a welcome inclusion. The ‘other’ Wirral synth duo of note were DALEK I LOVE YOU whose ‘The World’ from 1980 remains eccentric and retro-futuristic.

Scotland was in on the action too despite many local musicians preferring THE BYRDS and STEELY DAN; although both ‘Mr Nobody’ from THOMAS LEER and ‘Time’ by PAUL HAIG were detached and electronic, they vocally expressed minor levels of Trans-Atlantic soul lilt compared with the more deadpan styles of the majority gathered on ‘Electrical Language’.

Under rated acts form a core of ‘Electrical Language’ and while THE MOBILES’ ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across like a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in 3/4 time!

NEW MUSIK’s ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ probably would have gone Top 20 if had been done by HOWARD JONES, although band leader Tony Mansfield had the last laugh when he later became a producer working with the likes of A-HA and NAKED EYES. The brassy arty synthpop of ‘XOYO’ from Dick Witts’ THE PASSAGE was immensely catchy with riffs galore, while POEME ELECTRONIQUE’s ‘She’s An Image’ offered stark European electro-cabaret.

Cut from a similar cloth, one-time ULTRAVOX support act EDDIE & SUNSHINE inventively (and some would say pretentiously) presented a Living TV art concept but they also possessed a few good songs. The quirkily charming ‘There’s Someone Following Me’ deserved greater recognition back in the day and its later single version was remixed by one Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, the 4AD label could always be counted on more esoteric output and COLOURBOX’s ‘Tarantula’ was from that lineage, but then a few years later perhaps unexpectedly, they became the instigators of M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

These days, modern synth artists think it is something an achievement to cover a synthpop classic, although it is rather pointless. But back in the day, as there were not really that many synthpop numbers to cover, the rock ‘n’ roll songbook was mined as a kind of post-modern statement. The synth was seen as the ultimate anti-institution instrument and the cover versions included on ‘Electrical Language’ are out-of-the-box and original, if not entirely successful.

Take TECHNO POP’s reinterpretation of ‘Paint It Black’ which comes over like Sci-Fi Arthur Brown while the brilliant ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES (which features half of HARD CORPS) is like PJ Proby with his characteristic pub singer warble fronting SILICON TEENS with a proto-GOLDFRAPP stomp.

Having contributed a T-REX cover for the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, THE FAST SET recorded another. Whereas ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ on the former was frantic electro-punk, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is far more sombre and almost funereal. Least desirable of the covers though is ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by HYBRID KIDS.

Of the obscurities worth checking out, the rousing standout is ‘Lying Next To You’ by Liverpool’s PASSION POLKA. A brilliant track akin to CHINA CRISIS ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ but with more synths and drum machine, it was recorded in 1983 but never actually saw the light of day until 2011 via a belated release on Anna Logue Records.

Delightfully odd, the VL Tone and organ infused ‘Bandwagon Tango’ from TESTCARD F is swathed with metallic rattles and possesses a suitably mechanical detachment. But with piercing pipey sounds and a hypnotic sequence, the metronomic ‘Destitution’ by cult minimal wavers CAMERA OBSCURA with its off key voice is one of the better productions of that type. Cut from a similar cloth, the perky ‘Videomatic’ by FINAL PROGRAM throws in some lovely string synths to close.

Swirlingly driven by Linn and her sisters, ‘Baby Won’t Phone’ by QUADRASCOPE comes from the Vince Clarke school of song with not only a great vocal, but also the surprise of a guitar solo in the vein of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!

‘The Secret Affair’ from JUPITER RED is a great ethereal midtempo synthpop song also using a Linn, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing club friendly instrumental that was largely the work of the late Martin Lloyd who later was part of OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

Produced by Daniel Miller, ALAN BURNHAM’s ‘Science Fiction’ from 1981 takes a leaf out of DALEK I LOVE YOU, while tightly sequenced and bursting with white noise in the intro, ‘Feel So Young’ by LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH has bubbling potential but is spoiled by some terribly flat vocals.

One of the weirder tracks is ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE’s filmic ‘It Happened Then’ which recalls Parisian art rockers ROCKETS; backed by a brilliant ensemble of synths, it sees the return of the cosmic voice from Sparky’s Magic Piano and remember in that story, it could play all by itself!

Of course, other tracks are available and may suit more leftfield tastes… packaged as a lavish hardback book, there are extensive sleeve notes including artist commentaries, archive photos and an introductory essay by journalist Dave Henderson who cut his teeth with ‘Noise’, a short-lived ‘Smash Hits’ rival that featured a regular ‘Electrobop’ column covering the latest developments in synth.

While worthy, the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy could at times be very challenging, but ‘Electrical Language’ provides some accessible balance, allowing tunes and beats in. It captures an important developmental phase in music, when technology got more sophisticated, cheaper and user friendly, that can be directly connected to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Yes, this story is the unlikely seed of the later dance revolution, like it or not! And at just less than twenty five quid, this really is an essential purchase.


‘Electrical Language’ is released as 4CD boxed set on 31st May 2019 and can be pre-ordered from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019

TWINS NATALIA The Destiny Room

TWINS NATALIA The Destiny RoomFollowing the outstanding debut single ‘When We Were Young’ b/w ‘Kleiner Satellit’ in 2008, TWINS NATALIA have finally released their first album ‘The Destiny Room’.

The Anglo-German electronic ensemble comprises Anna Logue Records supremo Marc Schaffer, graphic designer Steve Lippert, synth wizard Dave Hewson and vocalists Sharon Abbott and Julie Ruler, the latter three from cult combo POEME ELECTRONIQUE.

Using vintage synths, modern recording technology and “working together in order to create some beautiful, catchy yet melancholic and substantial electropop”, TWINS NATALIA have captured a pristine technostalgic journey through Europe of real life and postcard views. Touchingly melancholic with classic Weimar Cabaret melodies and vibrant Kling Klang interplay, the soundtrack conjures memories of holiday romances with pretty German Frauleins and flirty French mademoiselles.

With classic Roland drum machines, the metronomic structures of TWINS NATALIA’s songs are the backbone to a wonderfully emotive soundtrack of elegance and decadence.

Like with other dual female fronted combos such as PROPAGANDA, LADYTRON and MARSHEAUX, the combination of sweet wispy countenance together with the occasionally half spoken intonation makes things rather appealing. Sharon Abbott’s deeper, Dietrich-like vocals and Julie Ruler’s more ABBA-esque demeanour are complimented further by a two way counterpoint courtesy of Dave Hewson and vocoderizations by Marc Schaffer.

Previewed on ‘The Anna Logue Years 5th Anniversary Compilation’ in 2010, the gorgeously arpegiated opener ‘Destiny’ is beautifully melodic and simply outstanding.

Rich, vibrant soloing from Dave Hewson on a Roland Jupiter 6 acts as a wonderful dressing, as it does throughout the album. Second song ‘Into My Arms Again’ features the type of octave pulse familiar to lovers of ‘Rent’ and ‘Blue Savannah’ which will provide a pretty entry point into the classic style of synthpop on display.

‘I Avoid Strangers’ ups the tempo with a frantic HI-NRG romp. Featuring Dave Hewson on lead vocals and lyrics by Steve Lippert, you could be forgiven that this might be the CHVRCHES blokey moment of the album. But Herr Hewson possesses a voice that suits the song perfectly and the end result is not at all out of context.

Meanwhile ‘Scary Monster’ and its vocodered robots add a more mechanised outlook to proceedings. On ‘Don’t Fade Away’, the pace steadies before the glorious ‘Bear Me Up’. This one is not unlike GINA X PERFORMANCE reconstructed with a romantische Eurovisionary chorus… but don’t let that put you off; after all, the Belgian synth pioneers TELEX did Eurovision in their time. The United Europe theme continues with ‘C’est Le Weekend’ and would be what GRACE JONES would sound like if she represented Luxembourg. This is what being in the EU is all about… so stick that up your Nigel Farage!

TWINS NATALIA i avoid strangers‘My Little Battery Boy’ features some wonderful bouncy highs and electro-metallics coupled with some saucy innuendo; Abbott announces she has been having “so much pleasure, so much joy!”… mais oui!

Chugging sequences permeate ‘Freedom In Your Hand’ where another marvellous polyphonic solo run by Hewson adds to the fun before the PET SHOP BOYS styled neo-orchestrated statement of ‘Set Love Free’.

It climaxes like a pomped up ‘Rent’ and is a wonderful slice of joie de vivre to end ‘The Destiny Room’.

Now while the debut single is not featured on the vinyl LP, both sides come as welcome bonus tracks on the CD version. The appeal of ‘When We Were Young’ and ‘Kleiner Satellit’ are that they are endearingly familiar yet equally futuristic at the same time. TWINS NATALIA’s fiercer cover of MARSHEAUX’s ‘Radial Emotion’ is also included along with a Special Extended Night Version of ‘I Avoid Strangers’.

Overall as a CD package, ‘The Destiny Room’ and its rich textures will satisfy electronic music enthusiasts of a time when people actually played synths and explored the capabilities of their drum machines. It’s been a long time coming but the wait in ‘The Destiny Room’ has been worth it.


With special thanks to Anna Logue Records

TWINS NATALIA ‘The Destiny Room’ is released by Anna Logue Records on 1st March 2014. Please visit: http://annaloguerecords.blogspot.de/p/releases.html

Format variations include:

CD with 4 bonus tracks in glossy digipak, alternative artwork and 6-page booklet

10 track black vinyl LP in UV varnished full-colour outer sleeve, UV varnished lyrics inner sleeve, A3 poster and double-sided A6 postcard

‘The Original Demo Recordings’ Picture LP tracks in their rough instrumental demo glory, recorded in The Destiny Room home recording studio which can be sampled here: https://soundcloud.com/twins-natalia/the-destiny-room-the-original

Limited edition box set including silk-screened hardcover box, LP, CD, LP Picture Disc, exclusive T-shirt, exclusive full colour slipmat and exclusive badge

Digital download via iTunes

http://twinsnatalia.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Twins-Natalia/207356979275587

https://soundcloud.com/twins-natalia


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2014

Introducing TWINS NATALIA

TWINS NATALIA are an Anglo-German collective of creative minds from various artistic fields “working together in order to create some beautiful, catchy yet melancholic and substantial electropop”.

The brainchild of Steve Lippert, they also feature Marc Schaffer, Dave Hewson, Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott.

Incidentally, the latter three are also part of the cult synth act POEME ELECTRONIQUE who released a single ‘The Echoes Fade’ in 1982 which found a champion in the late John Peel.

Speaking about TWINS NATALIA, Dave Hewson told Burning Flame: “it’s a kind of electronic co-operative. Marc sends me a demo of a track – and I then transform this into a finished song with lyrics from Sharon, Sharon sings lead vocals and Julie sings backing, although this is never set in stone.”

In 2008, this ensemble issued a fabulous single ‘When We Were Young’ b/w ‘Kleiner Satellit’. Rich in vintage machinery and deep resigned female vocals with glorious Weimar overtones a la GINA X, the two tracks were weirdly technostalgic but mysteriously futuristic at the same time. Indeed, there were even echoes of TECHNO TWINS’ lost 1982 electro cover of ‘Falling In Love Again’ which was made famous by MARLENE DIETRICH. But then this was not wholly unsurprising as TECHNO TWINS’ instrumentalist and unpictured third member was Dave Hewson!

Composed using drum machines such as the Boss Doctor Rhythm, Roland TR-606 and TR-808 alongside synths like the wonderfully ‘swimmy’ Crumar Performer, Korg MS-20, Korg Poly-61 and Roland SH-2, the metronomic structures of TWINS NATALIA’s songs are the backbone to a strangely humanic sound brimming with neu romance.

Releasing their work on Marc Schaffer’s own Anna Logue Records who issued the lost POEME ELECTRONIQUE material as a collection entitled ‘The Echoes Fade’, TWINS NATALIA’s only other recording so far has been the gorgeously sequenced ‘Destiny’ on ‘The Anna Logue Years – Fifth Anniversary Compilation’ from 2010 which celebrated the label’s back catalogue and included cult acts such as CAMERA OBSCURA (the Minimal Wave duo, NOT the hipster Glaswegians!)

But all that is about to change thanks to a union with Greek synth maidens MARSHEAUX. Marianthi and Sophie declared ‘When We Were Young’ their favourite song of 2008 and have sweetly covered it for a special split ‘AA’ sided 7 inch single. In reciprocation, TWINS NATALIA have recorded ‘Radial Emotion’ from ‘Lumineux Noir’ in their own inimitable style, adding a more Teutonic demeanour and fiercer euro-rhythmics. Incidentally, another split ‘AA’ release ‘I Avoid Strangers’ on 12 inch is due for release in mid-August with (you’ve guessed it!) POEME ELECTRONIQUE who contribute  ‘I Wouldn’t Change Me For Anyone’.

TWINS NATALIA’s debut album, which provisionally features songs such as ‘C’est La Weekend’, ‘Freedom’, ‘In My Arms Again’ and ‘Scary Monster’, is expected to be completed later in the year. Based on what previews there have been so far, it’s all sounding very good!


With special thanks to Dave Hewson

TWINS NATALIA / MARSHEAUX ‘Radial Emotion’ / ‘When We Were Young’ is released as a 7 inch vinyl limited edition of 500 copies on 7th June 2012 by Anna Logue/Undo Records. It features a full colour outer sleeve with a printed embossed inner.

http://twinsnatalia.blogspot.de/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Twins-Natalia/207356979275587

http://soundcloud.com/twins-natalia

Meanwhile, POEME ELECTRONIQUE themselves have a new version of ‘She’s An Image’ available at: http://davehewson.bandcamp.com/album/shes-an-image

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

http://soundcloud.com/davepoemeelectronique

To purchase physical releases from the TWINS NATALIA and POEME ELECTRONIQUE catalogue, please visit: http://annaloguerecords.blogspot.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th August 2012