‘Mauerstadt’ literally translated from German means “wall city” and it’s the title of the new album from renowned Berlin based remixer MARK REEDER.
Its release date set is on the day that the French Revolutionaries broke down the walls of the Bastille, so Reeder says the album title is significant “because my album’s title / theme is about breaking down the walls in your head and confronting the idea that building a wall to keep your enemies out or your own people in, is starting to become fashionable again and how it really isn’t such a good idea”.
Reeder adds “It’s not a concept album though, it’s basically an album full of tragic love songs”, but he readily admits “ok, it’s basically ‘Collaborator’ part 2” 🙂
‘Collaborator’ was Reeder’s previous compendium of remixes and of course, musical collaborations released on Factory Benelux in 2014. Featuring highly on the album with a number of vocals was his long standing friend Bernard Sumner on tracks by BAD LIEUTENANT, WESTBAM and BLANK & JONES.
Despite his association with Factory Records as their German representative in Berlin and NEW ORDER over the years, it was only until recently that Reeder got to work on material from his favourite band when they returned to the fold in 2015 with ‘Music Complete’. Invited to remix three of its tracks, two of them appear on ‘Mauerstadt’ as the centrepieces of the collection.
The ‘Akademix’ version of ‘Academic’ gives the primarily guitar driven anthem a superb sequenced makeover that improves on the original. But with the already quite electronic number ‘The Game’, Reeder takes a different approach on the ‘Spielt Mit Version’ by stripping it down and restructuring it with more orchestrated overtones.
Although both previously released on the ‘Remix’ download EP through Mute, these tracks now get a much requested physical release as part of ‘Mauerstadt’.
As well as NEW ORDER, Reeder is also known for his love of female fronted electronic pop with MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and QUEEN OF HEARTS among the notable inclusions on ‘Collaborator’. The latter contributes two songs on ‘Mauerstadt’, the best of which is a mighty extended ‘Bonded by Sadness Mix’ of ‘United’.
Effectively the song with a lengthened instrumental end section, after Queenie coos passionately in Bush-like banshee style, Reeder takes to his guitar for a short solo that is part-Sumner and part-Hooky. Meanwhile, the heart wrenching ‘Killer Queen Mix’ of ‘Suicide’ sees more strings added to the QUEEN OF HEARTS fan favourite from her album ‘Cocoon’.
But ‘Mauerstadt’ opens with British duo THE KVB and ‘In Sight’, their brooding collaboration with Reeder. More accessible than FACTORY FLOOR, this is danceable electro with mood and melody.
The album is also notable for featuring some of Reeder’s more recent solo work. There’s a tribal filmic quality to ‘Giant Mushrooms’, while his ‘RIAS Mix’ of the title track which was originally part of his ‘B-Movie – Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989’ soundtrack, is a cavernous swirl of hard electronics and big beats.
The frantically paced ‘Like A Sonic Tonic Remix’ of ‘You’re So Good For Me’ for INSPIRAL CARPETS is a fine tribute to their late drummer Craig Gill on one of his last recordings with the band, providing an enticing indie disco hybrid. Continuing the Mancunian theme, ‘Mmm Mmm Ahhh’ from electro wave duo MFU grooves along with some Cold War inspired drama and a gritty bass guitar line on Reeder’s ‘Umm & Arrggh Remix’.
Driven by a mighty Linn handclap and an imperial PET SHOP BOYS styled club vibe, the ‘Power Surge Mix’ of EKKOES’ ‘Electricity’ certainly delivers more bite than their original material on the ‘Elekktricity’ album, although the Italo House feel of ‘Heartbeat’ on Reeder’s ‘Heart Throb Mix’ is perhaps less appealing.
Thrusting with a synthetic bass triplet, ‘Broken Hearts’ is Reeder’s collaboration with Swedish songstress MAJA PIERRO and with its uplifting HI-NRG feel, blips away for the kind of hypnotic dance number that Our Man In Berlin is known and appreciated for. Perhaps coincidentally, the ‘Will Love You Tomorrow Remix’ of ‘If You Love Me Tonight’, also featuring Pierro, sounds like a female fronted EKKOES or could that be more that the Reeder sound is actually the identifying factor here?
So MARK REEDER does the trick again with ‘Mauerstadt’ and ably uses his punk, pop, disco and trance sensibilities to procure another fine collection of remixes that work at home, on headphones, in the car and on the dancefloor. That is no mean feat; as Reeder’s friend Rusty Egan once commented about the inane material contained within Beatport: “Name that tune, if you can hear one…”
Luckily, ‘Mauerstadt’ has the tunes and the beats.
The 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE had the bonus of a second MARK REEDER interview conducted by The Electricity Club’s Chi Ming Lai.
The scheduled speaker MARTYN WARE had unfortunately been taken ill, so Reeder kindly stepped in.
The day before, he had already spoken in his charmingly fluent Mancunian lilted German about ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound In West Berlin 1979 – 1989’, the insightful documentary which he narrates about the music, art and chaos of the divided city before its infamous wall came down.
Now best known as a remixer, MARK REEDER relocated to Berlin after he left Manchester in 1978 to explore his passion for German electronic music such as KRAFTWERK, NEU! and TANGERINE DREAM.
His enlightening hour long chat covered topics such as his time as Factory Records German representative, living in Berlin, his MFS trance label and working with acts such as JOHN FOXX, PET SHOP BOYS, DEPECHE MODE, MARSHEAUX, BLANK & JONES, QUEEN OF HEARTS and NEW ORDER.
The discussion formed part of the 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE’s weekend long programme of talks and live music to celebrate Düsseldorf’s electronic music legacy.
Also participating were DANIEL MILLER, CHRIS LIEBING, JOHN FOXX, STEVE D’AGOSTINO, RUSTY EGAN, CHRIS PAYNE, MARSHEAUX, ERIC RANDOM, JIMI TENOR and JORI HULKKONEN.
As a climax to the 2016 event, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE will be performing in the city on SATURDAY 22ND OCTOBER at the ISS Dome and giving a pre-show talk.
Mark Reeder has carved out an impressive reputation for his catalogue of fine remixes.
When Mark Reeder spoke to The Electricity Club in 2011 about his remixing style, he said: “I’m old school. I like to still be able to hear the song, but give it my own signature and atmosphere, while at the same time use as many of the original elements as possible”.
He had moved to West-Berlin from Manchester in 1978, having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was Factory Records representative in Germany between 1978 to 1982. He is credited with introducing Bernard Sumner to the world of electronically propelled dance music, thus being instrumental in the development of NEW ORDER’s influential hybrid sound.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Reeder had great success with his electronic dance music record label Masterminded For Success (MFS). For the last few years, Reeder has been heavily involved in a documentary film about his adopted home city:
“’B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’ is about the forgotten city of West-Berlin during the 80s. When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, not only did communist East Germany cease to exist, but the walled-in island of West-Berlin did too. Most people have forgotten, or have no idea how the city was back then. In ‘B-Movie’, I guide the viewer through this decade, but as the film is also about my life in this city too, I show you some of the things I saw and experienced during the 1980s, while participating in what has now become, the legendary subkultur of West Berlin.”
In a break from his hectic worldwide schedule promoting ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’, Mark Reeder kindly gave The Electricity Club an insightful commentary into the tracks that shaped his own musical career.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN Radio War (1981)
Reeder formed DIE UNBEKANNTEN with Alistair Gray when he settled in West-Berlin.
We were actually given the name DIE UNBEKANNTEN by a journalist, who saw our feeble first gig at the SO36. That gig was supposed to have been just a one-off, but he was surprisingly impressed and thought we were very avant-garde and apparently enjoyed our miserable performance.
In his magazine review of the event, he just called us two unknown Englishmen and from then on, people just called us DIE UNBEKANNTEN (“The Unknown”). A few weeks later, we played at the Genial Dilletanten Festival and were inadvertently presented as ‘Necropolis’, which was actually the title of our intro track. A while later, after Elisabeth Recker of Monogam Records witnessed what was probably our most chaotic performance – we were on acid – she believed we would fit perfectly with the abstract style of the rest of the artists on her record label.
Our Swiss friend Thomas Wydler became our drummer and we recorded a three track EP featuring ‘Radio War’, ‘Poseidon’ and ‘Casualties’.
The record not only sounded nothing like any of Monogam’s previous releases, but it also caused a lot of controversy because of my design for its front cover image (a photo depicting three East German border guards) and the striking Germanic style of type face which I had chosen.
Our second, and final DIE UNBEKANNTEN record, was much more electronic. By this time, Thomas had left us and joined DIE HAUT and we had gone back to using a drum machine and had also acquired some more electronic instruments. Our friend, Adrian Wright from THE HUMAN LEAGUE gave us a brand new drum computer to test for him.
He had actually been asked to try out a very early prototype Roland TR606, but couldn’t be bothered and so he gave it to us to trial for him, so along with the Transcendent 2000 (the very same one which Bernard Sumner had played in JOY DIVISION with) and a Moog that Klaus Schulze had also given us, we immediately went into the studio and recorded ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ for our ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ EP. This became the first record to feature a Roland TR606.
One of the bands who grabbed Reeder’s attention in West-Berlin were the uncompromising all-female combo MALARIA!
I already knew Bettina Koester and Gudrun Gut from their first band MANIA-D. Musically, their approach was so different from anything I had ever heard before, as the conventional rules of male dominated rock and roll didn’t apply to the way these girls made music at all and that was what made them so exciting.
They were no virtuosos, but that didn’t matter one bit, because it was exactly that ingredient which made their music so interesting. After Beate Bartel left MANIA-D to form LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, Gudrun and Bettina formed MALARIA! a five piece all-girl band and quite an international one too, being a mixture of German, American and Dutch.
Their striking, on-stage image, all dressed in black with bright red lips, is considered a Goth image nowadays; but back in the 80s, MALARIA! did it first, and after their debut appearance in London with THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, this image was obviously hi-jacked from them for the Robert Palmer video ‘Addicted To Love’, even to the point of making the emphasis that the girls in his video also couldn’t play their instruments.
At some point very early on, I became their manager. At that time, I was the only man allowed into their sphere, and because I knew what the band wanted to sound like live, I also became their sound engineer too and naturally, as I also had my own band, DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we became their support band.
The girls trusted me, they knew I understood their ideology and I liked their music and most importantly, I didn’t interfere.
Reeder’s own musical journey has to an extent, mirrored that of Bernard Sumner’s. DIE UNBEKANNTEN morphed into SHARK VEGAS to become a more electronic and disco friendly proposition.
After performing for nearly four years as DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we were asked by NEW ORDER if we would like to accompany them on their European tour after the success of ‘Blue Monday’.
We decided this would be a good moment to change our name and musical style, especially after adding two new members to our band. Besides, after our first disastrous London performance in the Barracuda Club, I thought DIE UNBEKANNTEN was much too difficult to pronounce outside of Germany, as people thought we were called DIE UNBEKANNTEN as in “Death Unbekannten” and so we urgently needed a new name and image.
Me and my partner-in-crime, Alistair Gray just threw a few ideas together one night and SHARK VEGAS became our name. I wanted something obscure sounding that didn’t actually mean anything apart from it being our band name.
Al and I were huge fans of pulsating electronic dance music – most probably since ‘I Feel Love’ – and the small Berlin underground gay-disco scene, which ran parallel to the abstract avant-garde scene, was the place to go and always a great way to spend a late Friday and Saturday night, before finally crashing and burning in the Risiko club.
Besides, musically, DIE UNBEKANNTEN had already been moving away from being depressive and miserable and had become much more electronic high energy disco too, so this tour proposal presented itself as a welcome opportunity to literally, regroup.
During a short break in the NEW ORDER tour, we went into Conny Plank’s studio with Bernard Sumner and recorded our first single ‘You Hurt Me’, but the session was a bit of a disaster, as the studio engineer had a slipped disc and was in terrible pain. He had to lie on a camp bed in front of the mixing desk and shout instructions up to us, while Conny Plank spent all his time playing table tennis in the yard outside. That single became FAC111.
‘Love Habit’ was one of the tracks we initially recorded during the session for the FacUS ‘Young, Popular & Sexy’ compilation. We were asked to perform ‘Love Habit’ for a video, for a special Berlin edition of ‘Music Box’, Britain’s first cable TV music show and using my US Army AFN contacts, I managed to get permission to make our video on the divided Glienickebrücke (the so-called ‘Bridge of Spies’). In the video, we appear as beaten up and tortured spies in raincoats, as if we had just been let out of an East German prison.
Unfortunately, the US army forgot to inform the Soviet Army that we were making a video on the bridge and so, on the East side there was a right flap on. They sent out East German patrol boats to find out what we were doing on the bridge. I guess they thought we were trying to provoke World War III. ‘Love Habit’ was intended to be an album track, but it became one of the last songs we recorded as SHARK VEGAS and it was never released, at least not until we included it on the recent ‘B-Movie’ soundtrack.
Released on East German state label AMIGA, DIE VISION’s ‘Torture’ was the last album to be recorded in communist East Berlin in 1989 and featured Reeder as producer.
I was invited by the band to be the producer for their debut album. At first it seemed incredible that they had actually managed to get the AMIGA to agree, as no-one from the West had ever been allowed in their state-run recording studio, let alone produce an album there.
It transpired that because the band were allowed officially to sing in English(ese), they agreed to let them have an English-speaking producer too. In reality, I later discovered, the STASI wanted to know what kind of subversive activity I was involved in, especially after helping to arrange two illegal and meanwhile legendary secret gigs with West German punk band DIE TOTEN HOSEN in East Berlin. So I guess this was their brilliant plan to keep a close watch on me.
DIE VISION’s singer Uwe, was studying English at the Humbolt University – to be able to do that, you had to speak fluent Russian too – and he was so very insistent that I come over and produce their album. So I did. What an opportunity. Now, forming a band in communist East Germany was very, very difficult. It was nothing like forming a band in the West.
You couldn’t just go into a shop and buy a guitar, bass and drums and bash away. Everything was controlled by the Communist state, especially music. Before you could play to the public, your ability was first considered, then your song lyrics scrutinised to see if there were any subversive hidden anti-state messages and even getting electric instruments was difficult, you needed permits to first buy and then one to play, an electric guitar in public.
Then as a band, you performed before a group of people, who would assess your proficiency. This determined if, when, or where you might be able to play, eg youth clubs and how much you would get paid. DIE VISION had quite a sudden rise in popularity in the East and rather than ban them, the Authorities decided to sign them, that way everything would be under control. That is, until I came along…
As we were making this album, the GDR was literally falling apart. It was very difficult making this album with a feeling of imminent doom hanging over the studio and with constant power fluctuations, people fleeing to the West and general grumbling unrest. I called the album ‘Torture’ because it was exactly that to make!
Available on the DIE VISION album ‘Torture’ via AMIGA / Zong & Vulture Records
PAUL VAN DYK Words – Original Version radio edit by Paul van Dyk, Wolfgang Ragwitz + Mark Reeder (1996)
In 1990, Reeder established MFS and discovered Trance DJ PAUL VAN DYK…
One of my first artists on MFS, COSMIC BABY made some great records, but DJs kept complaining that they couldn’t play them because he always had DJ-unfriendly intros. I suggested he find a DJ who could help him to construct DJ friendly intros to his tracks.
One night, Cosmic was performing live in the Turbine club. One of the warm up DJs was a young lad called PAUL VAN DYK. The two hit it off almost immediately and I suggested that Paul come to the office the following Monday to discuss working with Cosmic. Paul told me he was from Hamburg, but it later turned out he was originally from Eisenhuettenstadt in deepest East Germany, but had moved to East Berlin before applying to leave East Germany for Hamburg shortly before the wall came down.
I was actually very happy to hear he was from East Germany, because that was my initial intention with MFS to create a platform for young Eastie kids; he was my first. One night, he came to me while I was working in my bar and begged me to help him to become a professional DJ.
He was working as an apprentice carpenter at that time and absolutely hated it. I told him, if he would promise me that he would work hard to be the best DJ in the world, then I would help him to achieve his goal. I told him there were no prizes for second best.
I put him in the studio with Cosmic and they recorded two amazing singles together as THE VISIONS OF SHIVA. Then I let him remix HUMATES’s track ‘Love Stimulation’ and that remix attracted a lot of attention. I knew from the start that he could do it simply because he was ambitious enough. He didn’t know it at that time of course, because his talent had to be coaxed out of him. By giving him a platform and motivation and the help of Johnny Klimek’s studio, he was able to discover his own music making talent.
Of course, I believed absolutely in Paul and invested everything, love, creativity, all my time and effort and all I had in propelling him onto an international stage. I guided and advised him, compiled and mastered his records, designed his covers and basically created the legend of PAUL VAN DYK. I used my contacts and credibility to get him high profile remixes, such as ‘Spooky’ by NEW ORDER and even answered his interviews, anything which would enhance his credibility, profile and status.
Sadly, once he had reached the brink of DJ superstardom, he decided he no longer needed me and ditched me without a word of thanks.
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD & PET SHOP BOYS I’m In Love With A German Filmstar – Stuck In The 80s remix (2008)
The ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ film director recorded a number of covers with her favourite pop duo like ‘J T’aime… Moi Non Plus’, ‘Love To Love You Baby’ and this new wave classic…
Neil and Chris asked me to do this remix after hearing the mix I had made of ‘Miracle Cure’ featuring Bernard Sumner for BLANK & JONES. It was quite thrilling being asked to do this song, as I’ve always loved the original.
The PET SHOP BOYS / SAM TAYLOR-WOOD version was more minimalistic and techno sounding though, so I thought I would make mine more retro-modern-disco sounding.
I thought, as its going to be released on Kompakt, they are probably going to have banging techno remixes done anyway. I know they were completely surprized at the label to hear it, because they really expected me to make some sort of cheesy trance mix. It is such an iconic and mystical song though, and I was worried I would be able to do it justice as a dance track. I made three different versions, a long mix and two shorter mixes and all in 5.1 surround sound, which I put on ‘Five Point One’.
I was very pleased when Sam said she thought it was “wicked” and totally relieved that the Boys also liked it too. But when THE PASSIONS contacted me themselves, to tell me that they really loved it, well, that was like a stone being lifted from my heart.
BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER Manifesto – Save Yourself Mix (2009)
Reeder collaborated with popular German dance duo BLANK & JONES on a restyling project entitled ‘ReOrdered’ which featured Bernard Sumner, Robert Smith and Claudia Brücken. But one of the album’s highlights was ‘Manifesto’ featuring Vanessa Daou.
‘Manifesto’ was actually the third track of Vanessa’s that I reworked for ‘ReOrdered’. The first was ‘Consequences’.
I really liked her voice and her lyrics though and I asked BLANK & JONES if I could rework another track, that was ‘Heart Of Wax’. After that, the idea for ‘ReOrdered’ was born and I would go on to rework all BLANK & JONES’ vocal-dance tracks into songs, it was a bit like back engineering a remix. The first two tracks were quite soft, so I wanted ‘Manifesto’ to be a little tougher and sound more like a nu-beat track with trippy elements.
Available on the BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER album ‘ReOrdered’ via Soundcolours
BAD LIEUTENANT Sink Or Swim – Rettungstring Radio remix (2010)
Prior to the recent return of NEW ORDER sans Hooky, Bernard Sumner had an interim, guitar led project BAD LIEUTENANT. However, many followers of NEW ORDER missed the sound Sumner had become synonymous for.
After Hooky decided to leave NEW ORDER, I think Bernard needed some distance and formed BAD LIEUTENANT, together with Jake Evans and the remaining members of NEW ORDER.
Jake is such a talented person and a brilliant guitarist – he’s definitely one to watch in the future. I really liked the parent album ‘Never Cry Another Tear’, it’s a wonderful summer album and I think it is very underrated.
I was given the opportunity to do some remixes for them and decided to rework their guitar tracks into electronic dance versions. ‘Sink Or Swim’ was the first and I think I made about six different versions of this track, Bernard took the piss out of me for the amount of mixes we made. The song had been performed live and so the tempo varied within the song from the start to finish, which made it a bloody nightmare to mix into a 4/4 dance track.
To make it sound organic, we had to take all the instruments and slice them up and then carefully put them back together again by hand. It was a mammoth task and at the time, I thought “I never want to have to do that again”.
After ‘Sink Or Swim’, we mixed ‘Twist Of Fate’, which I also made about four or so mixes. The same time consuming slice and move ritual applied as with ‘Sink Or Swim’. As the remixes were only released digitally, I decided to include some of them on my ‘Five Point One’ album, and later, ‘Collaborator’.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
JOHN FOXX Underpass – Sinister Subway remix (2010)
Reeder’s reworking of JOHN FOXX’s calling card was mighty and he relished the challenge.
JOHN FOXX was putting together the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album and I was in contact with his manager about something different entirely. During our conversation, he told me about the compilation and I said jokingly that I could do a remix perhaps, as a bonus track.
Well, after they had listened to a few of my remixes, he called and asked me if I would like to remix ‘Underpass’. My studio partner Micha Adam and I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true. No-one had ever been allowed to remix this legendary song before and so it was such an honour. Then the reality set in. If I balls this up, the fans will lynch me.
Being a huge fan of the song myself, I decided I could only do it as I would want it to sound myself. Yet I didn’t want to drive too far away from the original though either and wanted to keep as many elements in there as possible.
I was sent the parts, eight tracks in all… but that iconic massive synth riff was missing. All I had been given was the riff, played by a small tinny sounding synth. Well, that was it. I realised, the huge reverb sound was added live, during the mix-down and so we had to reconstruct it.
I recalled what kind of instrumentation and effects they might have used back then and dug out my old Space Echo. Once we had reconstructed the original version, we made a 5.1 mix of it (it is a hidden Easter Egg on ‘Five Point One’). Then, I remixed it. I made three versions, a short radio mix in stereo and 5.1 plus a longer Sinister Subway mix for the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album.
Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metatronic’ via Metamatic Records
Cult goth icon ANNE CLARK is an English poet, who sets her poems to music and is probably more well-known outside of the UK.
Anne is truly a great artist. I first met her when she played in Berlin after recording ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ with David Harrow, who lived in Berlin at that time. This timeless track is one of my all-time favourite 80s songs and it became almost like an anthem to the divided city, especially so to the kids in the East.
She was (and still is) absolutely adored in the East, mainly because her dark and descriptive poetry set to music, clearly struck a chord with them and it was something they all could identify with. Side two of her first album was recorded with Vini Reilly of THE DURUTTI COLUMN.She kept with the electronic side and made her second album with JOHN FOXX. Over the years, she has cultivated her poetry with a wide variety of musical sounds from Synthetic to Rock to Classical.
After a chance meeting a few years ago, when she performed in the Russian embassy in Berlin, I reworked the track ‘The Hardest Heart’ she had made for BLANK & JONES for our ‘ReOrdered’ album and then I remixed two of her tracks ‘Full Moon’ and ‘If’ in 5.1 surround sound for my ‘Five Point One’ album,
DEPECHE MODE Sweetest Perfection – Sweetest Conception remix (2011)
Reeder was given the opportunity to rework a track from the iconic ‘Violator’ album by Daniel Miller.
Like ‘Underpass’, this was almost reverential territory. Depeche were putting together the ‘Remixes 2 81-11’ compilation and Daniel asked me if I would like to do a remix for it. By the time I had received the list of possible tracks to remix, all the most popular songs had been taken and so I was left with songs no-one dared to touch.
‘Sweetest Perfection’ was always one of my favourite tracks though and I thought it would be a real challenge to remix. Not only in terms of actually attempting to remix it, but with the thought that as a fan, how would I want it to sound and if I f*cked up, I would probably have to leave the planet.
We already had a really short deadline to finish the remix on and only three days into the mix, I got a call from my mother telling me that my dad had been rushed to hospital with a broken hip after being pushed over. The situation looked very serious, he was a very old man and the doctors didn’t give him much chance of survival. I had to down tools and fly over and consequently, I missed the deadline for submitting my remix for the DM album.
Fortunately, I was in the process of putting ‘Five Point One’ together and decided to finish the remix anyway and asked Daniel if I could license it for my album. He spoke with the band and they said I could (I was told it was the first time a previously unreleased DM song had ever appeared on another album) and as we were looking for images to accompany the 5.1 mixes, Anton Corbijn kindly gave me one of his old, unseen photos of the band for me to use.
I wanted my remix to retain as many of the original elements as possible, but I added extra strings, more swirling synths and a real bass guitar, as well as my own little riff with a broken piano which I hoped would make it sound a bit more Eastern European.
Reeder took a liking to stop / start Midlands duo ELECTROBELLE and delivered an edgier reimagining of ‘Falling’ before they belatedly got round to releasing it themselves officially in 2012!
I heard ‘Mirrorball’ by ELECTROBELLE on the 2009 ‘Electronically Yours’ compilation released by Undo Records. I really liked Charlotte’s vocal style and so I asked them if they would like to contribute a track to my ‘Five Point One’ album.
They sent me the parts of a demo track they had made and this became ‘Falling’. The idea for the ‘Five Point One’ album was to include remixes I had made for famous artists, coupled with lesser known ones and mix them all in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.
While busy remixing legends in synthesized pop, Reeder also kept an eye on newer acts that were emerging from Europe…
I had been a fan of Undo records, FOTONOVELA and MARSHEAUX for a while and after The Electricity Club posted a link to one of their tracks, I asked Chi if he could hook us up, as I thought that ‘So Close’ would fit in well on my ‘Five Point One’ album and asked them if I could remix it.
‘So Close’ had a melancholic element, but I wanted to give the song a more filmic feeling and make it even more melancholic, with sweeping strings and added bass guitar. Filmmaker Paul Morgens heard the track and immediately loved it. He made a great video for it made up of old footage he had found in his aunties archive.
Available on the MARSHEAUX deluxe album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records
Düsseldorf punk veterans DIE TOTEN HOSEN have maintained a long standing kinship with Mark Reeder.
I have a long, close connection with Die Hosen. I first met Campino in Bochum. MALARIA! were playing a gig there and he was allocated as my driver. He told me about his new band DIE TOTEN HOSEN and about their hideous, but hilarious high-waisted flared trousers, which they bought by the kilo.
A couple of months later, I became their live sound engineer, and together with my rebelliously minded Eastie friends, I managed to help organise a very secret gig with them in an East-Berlin Church. It was disguised as a religious church service, a so-called Blues Mass. Although heavily monitored, the East German clergy was seen as a passive resistance movement against the communist government and although not officially acknowledged, they were tolerated and thus had a certain amount of flexibility within the system. That way we could arrange our secret gig there using this loophole.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN went on tour with DIE TOTEN HOSEN and one of the highlights was performing in the Kogasz club, in the Karl-Marx-University in Budapest. It was supposed to have been a top secret gig in the Young Artists club to a few music lovers, organised by photographer Janos Veto, but so many people eventually wanted to see the gig, that it was moved to the University.
During this tour we had many problems with our car. DIE TOTEN HOSEN were so sceptical our car would even survive the trip, they bet us a crate of beer, that we wouldn’t make it to Budapest.
We did, but had such a horror trip trying to get there, as our car kept breaking down. Upon our arrival in the University, Janos told us we couldn’t play!
The authorities had decided the gig was illegal and it had officially been pulled, but we thought we have come all this way so f*ck them and we did the gig anyway. After we had performed, someone stole our drum computer. We were paid in beer vouchers (Hungarian Forints) and had so much of it, we invited everyone in the YAC for drinks, as we couldn’t take the cash out of the country… I don’t remember much about that night after that.
‘Disco’ was a track off the DIE TOTEN HOSEN album ‘In Alle Stille’ and I thought it would be fun to make an Italo disco sounding mix of this track. The original is a fast paced, rock song and when we received the parts, we discovered there were about 40 guitar tracks. We had to apply the same procedure as with BAD LIEUTENANT in slicing and moving all the elements so that they would fit into the new tempo and yet still sound organic.
KOISHII & HUSH featuring JOHN TAYLOR C’est Tout Est Noir – Black Night Remix (2013)
‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ was the DURAN DURAN bassist’s best lead vocal since his solo single ‘I Do What I Do’ in 1986.
KOISHII & HUSH had made a remix for BAD LIEUTENANT’s ‘Twist of Fate’ and after telling me how much they liked my version, they asked me if I would like to remix their track ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ which they had made together with DURAN DURAN bassist John Taylor.
At first, I thought he would be playing bass guitar on the track, but then to my surprise he was the vocalist. He has a great voice and I really liked the track. The original is quite trancey, so I wanted to make it more cinematic and add some guitar and extra bass. John loved it and immediately used my rough demo as his soundtrack to a vlog he’d made flying from Austria to LA.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
A stomping electro disco number produced by Reeder, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria were a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat!
I saw a piece posted on The Electricity Club about QUEEN OF HEARTS and I was curious. I really liked Elizabeth’s voice from the moment I heard the first couple of tracks.
Chi thought we might make a nice collaboration and so I got in touch with her to compliment her and she asked me to remix ‘Neon’ which eventually ended up on ‘Collaborator’. We then made a cover version together of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. I then wrote two songs ‘Suicide’ and ‘United’ for her debut album ‘Cocoon’.
Available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves
WESTBAM featuring BERNARD SUMNER She Wants – Old School remix (2013)
Techno legend WESTBAM made his return with the impressive ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Hugh Cornwell, Brian Molko and Lil Wayne. Naturally, Reeder reworked an excellent track featuring the vocals of Bernard Sumner.
My relationship with WESTBAM goes back to the early days when he was trying to establish himself as a DJ in Berlin. He played in the Metropol disco and towards the end of the 80s in the UFO club.
His involvement in the evolution of the Berlin Techno scene is reluctantly accepted, but arguably without his engagement, many things probably wouldn’t have happened. He was a vital participant in parties and events and was the first Berlin DJ to play in the Soviet Union.
While we were putting ideas for songs for ‘B-Movie’ together, he gave us a demo of ‘You Need The Drugs’ featuring Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS. It was a great track and we all immediately loved it. He said he was making a songs album and would love to make a track with Bernard Sumner on vocals. He sent Bernard the demo and he really liked the track and agreed to do it. As thanks, I was given the opportunity to remix it which was perfect timing, as I was in the process of putting together my ‘Collaborator’ compilation for Factory Benelux and we could therefore give it a physical release on CD.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
MODERN FAMILY UNIT Mmh Mmh Aahh – Eyy & Aarrgghh remix (2015)
Reeder went back to Manchester to rework the local electro wave duo MFU and added some Berlin Burlesque groove.
Dave Haslam told me about MFU and that they would like a remix. They sent me ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ and I loved it. I don’t know why, but it reminded me somehow of early ROXY MUSIC. I wanted to make it a bit dancier, but retain its overall atmosphere and add a little bit of Berlin mystique with the zither.
Available on the single ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ via GaS Records
From the soundtrack to Reeder’s film ‘B-Movie’, it enabled him to soundtrack his memories of the divided city with a 21st century outlook. Modern technology helped the process…
During the ‘B-Movie’ editing process, we wanted to use the DAF track ‘Kebab Träume’ for the burning of the Berlin Wall birthday sequence, but after long and rather unproductive negotiations, they wouldn’t let us have it.
So I decided I would write a track myself, using only a couple of analogue sequencers and synths to accompany this great piece of footage by the incredible Knut Hoffmeister.
When NEW ORDER made their recorded return with ‘Music Complete’, Reeder was given the opportunity to rework some tracks and indirectly became part of their new live show.
I was asked if I would like to remix a track from the latest NEW ORDER album so I chose one of my favourite songs ‘Academic’, as it seemed like it was up for the challenge, being mainly a traditional style guitar track.
But while I was in Bucharest with ‘B-Movie’ and hanging out with CROWD CONTROL, I got an urgent call asking if I would be able to make a quick remix of ‘Singularity’. I raced back home and immediately started work on it.
It’s a great track and I really enjoyed remixing it. Which is fitting, Bernard was also so impressed with my ‘B-Movie’, that he asked me if NEW ORDER could use some footage for their backdrop video in their live shows.
This was so well received, that it then became the promo video clip for the ‘Singularity’ single. The even faster-cut images and theme of the song work really well together with the music.
When NEW ORDER performed recently in Berlin, I was very pleased to have the honour of introducing the band.
When The Electricity Club became reality on 15th March 2010, it was on the back of a resurgence in electronic pop music.
New starlets such as LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX were acknowledging pioneers such as GARY NUMAN and HEAVEN 17, while the use of synthesizers for melodies as well as effects was becoming more common again and not just as a mocking gimmick.
TEC’s ‘Introducing…’ feature was a platform to showcase promising new talent within the genre and proved that electronic music had not been killed off by Britpop. Around 70 acts have been featured and from these, a number of worthy graduates from the Synth Britannia school and the like emerged. Meanwhile a number were just promising, their talent stifled by line-up changes, record company politics and even geography.
So here are TEC’s 25 favourite artist introductions, listed in the chronological order that they were originally featured on the site…
Electronic Pop Buenos Aires Style, SHH were the first act to be introduced by TEC. Led by the vivacious Diana Huarte, they had a sexy blissful optimism that made them a very entertaining live act. They say Latinas are fiery and there was certainly a provocative passion in her performance. Schooled in opera and brimming with charm, Diana’s vocals displayed a magnificent range that suited both uptempo sun-kissed pop like ‘Tiger’ and ERASURE-esque ballads such as ‘Sleepless’.
Their stand-out song was ‘Wonderful Night’ which was reminiscent of Greek power popsters MIKRO with its solid beat and rousing chorus. A third album has yet to be finished, but SHH still make occasional appearances on London’s live circuit, most recently supporting SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK.
MIRRORS were the second act to have an ‘Introducing…’ feature on The Electricity Club and are still very much the band that new synth acts are judged against. Their fans included Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Neil Arthur and Eddie Bengtsson. Qualitatively, many a band have been rejected at TEC HQ, simply because “they’re not MIRRORS”. Having delivered a magnificent album in ‘Lights & Offerings’, it is a travesty that MIRRORS’ electronic pop-noir was not embraced by the wider community.
Sadly after founder member Ally Young left in Autumn 2011 due to musical differences, the band appeared to wind down after two releases as a trio. And yet while MIRRORS seem to have been mothballed, far inferior synth acts go on and on and on…
Almost as soon as ARTHUR & MARTHA were the third act introduced on TEC, they disappeared! The duo comprised of, rather confusingly, Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley, described as “Gilbert & George, disguised as The Carpenters, stealing the hits of Kraftwerk and bashing them out on an old Moog in the style of SECTION 25”. Driven by a synthetic motorik beat, ‘Autovia’ was the superb highlight from their only album ‘Navigation’ which played with a variety of styles ranging from NEW ORDER to CRYSTAL CASTLES.
While ARTHUR & MARTHA are no more, Hubley formed indie act COSINES while Cresswell recently re-emerged as RODNEY CROMWELL.
Originally a duo consisting of David Woods and Russell Harris, THE VANITY CLAUSE‘s potential was blighted by endless line-up changes before a terminal blow. With a synth sound that was heavily influenced by early ULTRAVOX, LADYTRON and Mute Records, it involved big played synths over chunky sequences and urgent rhythm construction. The classic line-up included vocalist and synth girl Louisa Strachan, but never actually released a full length album. An album, appropriately titled ‘Fractured’, was issued after David Woods’ departure, but was disappointing.
The Woods sessions were released eventually as ‘Pre-Stress’ while THE VANITY CLAUSE soldiered on with Mk3 and Mk4 variants. The latter produced an excellent single ‘The Scream’ but the creative momentum could not be maintained. Russell Harris joined ELECTRO KILL MACHINE for a brief period but now makes music as GO YOKO.
The Electro Weimar Cabaret of KATJA VON KASSEL was a fine sultry presence on the independent music scene. Singing in both German and English, often within the same song in an alluring Marlene Dietrich tone, she had a number of cool elegant songs like ‘Goodbye Was Never Said’, ‘Riding The Horses’ and ‘Lili Marlene’ which were produced with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray. Her best song ‘Lies’ had strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano set to a template in a manner that recalled GRACE JONES’ ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’.
With her “1930s meets the future” twist, she supported ERASURE on their German dates in 2011 and as a result, was signed by a major label. Sadly as has been the case with several acts on the list, that partnership didn’t work out. While record company politics have so far prevented any releases, she intends to have material out soon.
THE SOUND OF ARROWS were Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, said by Popjustice to be “the HURTS you can dance to”. Their self-made CGI assisted visual imagery was described as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”! The duo garnered a lot of attention at the end of 2009 with the dreamy widescreen pop of ‘Into The Clouds’ and they were subsequently signed to Geffen Records. The label attempted to push them into a more Ibiza rave friendly sound but eventually, a parting of ways was agreed.
The debut album ‘Voyage’ was eventually released independently in 2011 and was wonderfully swathed in a beautiful Nordic melancholy. There was the poptimistic chant of ‘Magic’ as well as the vibrant Gallic disco number ‘My Shadow’ and the magnificent supreme synthpop of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. THE SOUND OF ARROWS went quiet after that, but Stefan Storm later did some terrific collaborations with QUEEN OF HEARTS
At the time a trio, VILE ELECTRODES had been making a good impression on the London club scene when they were featured on The Electricity Club in 2010. There are not many acts that could get away with an enigmatic video showcasing a seven and a half minute synth ballad, let alone a fledgling one… but get away with it they did with ‘Deep Red’. VILE ELECTRODES’ love of OMD, NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS and CLIENT combined to procure a fresh approach to a music form that many had dismissed as being 80s.
Some less worthy bands claim to have reinvigorated the 21st Century electronic music scene in the UK, but VILE ELECTRODES did exactly that. So it was not entirely surprising when they were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour and the journey began…
Quirky Texan synthesizer couple HYPERBUBBLE delivered a species of cartoonish synthpop that the duo themselves called “Bionic Bubblepunk”. With Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff being the obedient robotic version of John Steed, their mantra was “guitars are retro and sequencers are the key to the future”. Their third album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ was a tasty fairground ride that took in influences as diverse as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING to THE OHIO EXPRESS and THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE, all with a shiny sense of humour.
While a fourth album has not yet been forthcoming, a series of soundtrack and collaborative EPs have maintained HYPERBUBBLE’s profile while they played London for the first time in Autumn 2014.
Jade Williams got her stage name from a part time job she had in a pet shop where she was known simply as SUNDAY GIRL. With a raspy voice that appeared to have been shaped from smoking far too many Gauloises in a Paris café, she was signed to Geffen Records. Her first two singles, ‘Four Floors’ and a cover of Italo standard ‘Self Control’ were more ELLIE GOULDING in demeanour. But it was ‘Stop Hey!’ with its piercing MIRRORS meets MGMT template which showed her potential. The unreleased ‘24 Hours’ was wonderfully claustrophobic post-punk but best of all was ‘All The Songs’, a brilliant slice of avant pop powered by pulsing electronic bass and layers of vibrato synth.
However, Geffen Records had other ideas and pushed her into covers of songs made famous by STEPS and THE PIXIES! Once LANA DEL REY hit the airwaves internationally, it was all over bar the shouting and the debut album never came out. Today, Jade Williams is involved in a more conventional pop project under the less mysterious moniker of WHINNIE WILLIAMS.
In 2008, PARRALOX declared “We believe in electric love”! In 2011, “Synthpop’s alive!” was the MAISON VAGUE battlecry! Consisting of lone American-born German based keyboardist / programmer Clark Stiefel, the title track of MAISON VAGUE’s album was a musical reply to a YouTube video that proclaimed “Synthpop is dead”. With a template of GARY NUMAN meets DEVO, MAISON VAGUE combined aggression with eccentricity, but all the songs possessed a sly tongue-in-cheek irony as well as a gloriously vintage synth sound.
A second album has yet to appear but Clark Stiefel still continues with his day job in the classical music world.
QUEEN OF HEARTS is the talented Elizabeth Morphew who first came to public attention via RED BLOODED WOMEN, a girl group who sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD being produced by Daniel Miller. She once said “pop is not a dirty word” and this was reflected in her electro wonderland. Her debut EP ‘The Arrival’ contained enticing songs like the Moroder-esque throb of ‘Freestyle’ and a gorgeous cover of FOALS’ ‘Spanish Sahara’. But best of all was 2012’s ‘Neon’ with its deliciously wired glitterball sparkle that managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP.
Her work attracted interest from producers like Mark Reeder who reworked ‘Neon’ and collaborated on ‘United’, although the Stuart Price produced ‘Feel’ has still to officially see the light of day. Her well received debut album ‘Cocoon’ was released in 2014 and she is presently in the studio working on new songs.
KID KASIO is Nathan Cooper, one-time member of those once great white hopes THE MODERN aka MATINEE CLUB who in their time, supported HEAVEN 17 and released the excellent single ‘Jane Falls Down’ mixed by Stephen Hague. With a debut album ‘Kasiotone’ under his belt, KID KASIO’s vintage but modern flavoured sound updated the one man and his synth template pioneered by HOWARD JONES.
‘The Reason’, ‘Not For Turning’ and ‘Telephone Line’ were fine examples of his bouncy riff laden ditties with catchy choruses reminiscent of imperial phase DURAN DURAN. But the best KID KASIO number was ‘I Miss You’ which sounded like ‘Forbidden Colours’ reworked by LA ROUX. A second album is currently being finished.
CURXES have been continuing their development into a more aggressive post-punk template with wonderful songs such as the haunting staircase mystery of ‘Spectre’ and the CHVRCHES gone aggro stand point of ‘Avant-Guarded’. But when the Blitz Poppers first made a splash on the scene back in Summer 2011, they were “a decorative set of bones, channelling the ghosts of discothèques past” in a manner of DEPECHE MODE being eaten by SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. This material was released as a mini-album ‘Precurxor’ in 2014.
Where they are heading next may be less overtly synthy but is still technologically dynamic and inventive. Their debut album ‘Verxes’ has been a long time coming but if tracks such as ‘Valkyrie’ are anything to go by, it will have been worth the wait.
More immediate than XENO & OAKLANDER and much shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES, SOFT METALS took their arsenal of cool vintage synths into ORBITAL territory with a rugged squelch ‘n’ bleep framework driven by Roland Rhythm Composers. Comprising of Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the duo have proven their artistic worth with a hypnotic sound on their first self-titled album. The synthetically charged joy of ‘Voices’ was a great calling card while ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Eyes Closed’ showcased Patricia Hall’s flirtatious demeanour over a Detroit Techno influenced backbone.
The second album ‘Lenses’ was a natural development of the debut and tracks like ‘Tell Me’, ‘No Turning Back’ and ‘Hourglass’ have indicated there is still more great music to come in that delicious Métaux Mous vein.
Comprising of the seductively celestial voice of Sicca and the instrumentation of Jake Childs, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have an electronic dance sound that recalls a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Electroclash and the band BERLIN. Their impressive debut ‘Through The Veil’ showed subtle, crafted thinking within EDM as well as hypnotic hints of BOBBY O and GIORGIO MORODER.
With range of rhythmical dynamics on songs such as ‘Little White Lies’, ‘No Words’ and the brilliantly sparkling title track, ELEVEN: ELEVEN’s songs rarely clock in above four minutes, thus avoiding the death-by-four-to-the-floor syndrome that afflicts the majority of club music.
The Electricity Club took a punt at covering CHVRCHES after just one song, but it all turned out rather well. Introduced to the band by the wonderful CURXES, CHVRCHES’ brilliant opening gambit ‘Lies’ was ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ re-imagined by DEPECHE MODE but fronted by ROBYN. With electronic drum tattoos, meaty piercing synths and a great tune, the Glaswegian trio of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty certainly made an impression.
‘The Mother We Share’ proved it was not a fluke while ‘Now Is Not The Time’ showed CHVRCHES were in a position to regulate great songs to B-sides. Support slots with DEPECHE MODE, a never ending tour and a well-received debut album in ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ have been further evidence of CHVRCHES impact in the international arena.
Imagine if RAMMSTEIN were reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE but without the flame throwers? TITANS‘ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan crossed with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In a sub-genre known for its shouting, TITANS’ mighty calling card ‘It’s Dark’ was menacing but melodic. The parent album ‘For The Long Gone’ was an enjoyable listen too, energetic without being bombastic and tuneful without being twee.
The foreboding synth atmospheres of ‘All There Is’ were reminiscent of a doomy CAMOUFLAGE while the Olympian effort of the title track could have been ULTRAVOX meeting RAMMSTEIN for an electronic collaboration. While an EP ‘My Sorrow’ with new songs came out in 2013, a second album is eagerly awaited.
Stunning identical twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey have been labelled the female HURTS and certainly their second single ‘Julian’ is still one of their best songs, full of tension, angst and intrigue like a Nordic Noir mini-series compressed into a three minute pop song. Like HURTS, their music could do with a kick occasionally but numbers such as ‘Everything We Touch‘ are like a sophisticated Scandipop take on HEART, driven by a togetherness that can only come from two siblings.
The forthcoming release of their debut album ‘Lucid Dreaming’ will confirm whether SAY LOU LOU have been able to deliver on their brand of shimmering but accessible escapism.
Who are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS? Nobody really knows for sure, but this mysterious combo with their lo-fi noise and motorik beats have revealed a series of energetic singles over the past few years. There was the ‘Logan’s Run’ tribute ‘Jessica 6’, an eerie post-punk cacophony of sound laced with icy string machine sounding like THE PIPETTES fronting an OMD assisted JOY DIVISION while a winter of discontent overtone sat on the dysfunctional indie synthpop of ‘Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)’.
However in 2014, a much softer side was revealed on ‘No Longer Spellbound’. With its beautiful atmospheric quality smothered in icy synths and grainy vox samples, it would have been the theme tune to ‘Twins Peaks’ had the series been set in The Lake District.
Forming in 2011, vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and producer Mark Brooks began writing songs that combined the pure pop of PINK and BRITNEY SPEARS with the heavier spectre of SLAYER into a danceable, electronic underworld. They truly arrived on their second EP ‘Love Casualty’, with the highlight being ‘Poisonous’ which reimagined EURYTHMICS’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ fronted by Britney if she had gone Goth.
And with their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’, NIGHT CLUB delivered their best body of work yet. Featuring a dark disco cover of INXS ‘Need You Tonight’, it was trumped by the sinister yet playfully feline ‘She Wants To Play With Fire’ and the Electroclash flavoured ‘Cruel Devotion’. Based on the evidence trajectory so far, NIGHT CLUB’s fourth EP looks like it will be a blinder!
Could The Electricity Club have found another MIRRORS in QUIETER THAN SPIDERS? But whereas MIRRORS openly flaunted their Gilbert & George look, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have been totally anonymous. Their “Shanghai Synthpop …using home-made electronic sounds played by hand” has certainly made an impact with ‘Shanghai Metro’ recalling the obvious melodic elements of classic OMD.
Then there was the haunting dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ with its modern, processed twist while the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ glided with a glacial beauty that was not only appealing to the ear, but could be danced to as well. The long awaited debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ is to be released on Anna Logue Records sometime in 2015.
I AM SNOW ANGEL’s music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins but with a North American twist. Her self-titled debut EP introduced enticingly understated numbers like ‘Grey White December’ and ‘Let Me Go’, but it was her debut album ‘Crocodile’ that united a countrified twang with her dreamy, whispery world to produce a unique and quietly subversive sound within electronica.
There was the excellence of the title track while ‘Walking On Wires’ recalled THE POSTAL SERVICE. But just when you thought there could be no more surprises, there was her drum ‘n’ bass take on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’!
The Swedish pairing of John Lindqwister and Richard Flow have declared themselves “synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge” but MACHINISTA have shown themselves to be far weightier with songs such as the superb Brechtian drama of ‘Summersault’ and the midlife pondering ‘Pushing The Angels Astray’. Their debut album ‘Xenoglossy’ delivered on the promise already shown with their first EP ‘Arizona Lights’ and an appearance at ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’.
Combining the best elements of both ALPHAVILLE and THE CURE into an enjoyably well produced template of anthemic electro, they even had the bottle to do a cover of DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Heroes’ and did a pretty good job of it too.
FIFI RONG has been building her repertoire using a wide range of influences such as dubstep, trip hop and Chinese folk music while also name checking the likes of COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR. She also collaborated with TRICKY and her first album ‘Wrong’ came with a rework of her TRICKY track retitled as ‘Only If I Knew’ which was by far a more beautiful interpretation and fully exploited the song’s potential.
Her best number so far though has is ‘Next Pursuit’, which combines the vocal mystery of KELLI ALI and the quirkiness of MOLOKO. Adding rhythmical variation and avoiding clichés, FIFI RONG has manifested her own dream laden underground electronica. She is currently working with BORIS BLANK of YELLO fame.
PAWWS is what CHVRCHES would sound like if they were an all-female concern ie a blokey free zone. With some Scandipop influences and a dose of second hand Roland JX-8P, the end result is some sweet, sugary electronically driven pop. The coy, feline magnetism of ‘Slow Love’ showcased PAWWS aka Lucy Taylor’s brand of “upsetting disco” and ‘Give You Love’ from the following ‘Sugar’ EP also lived up to that template.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times described the EP title track “As if Kylie had worked with OMD”. If there is one lady who could fill the female fronted synthpop void that has been vacated by LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS, it is PAWWS. With the warm reception accorded to the first two releases, more music is on the way from Miss Taylor…
With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,
This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.
While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012. But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.
Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.
Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’ to which The Electricity Club contributed liner notes. CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.
And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.
MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014. Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder. MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.
Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.
Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.
Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’. He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.
After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.
CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material. Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.
Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER. Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.
It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.
In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.
The delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.
TEC commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition. By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.
In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.
One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY.
Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.
Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.
The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity.
The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.
Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015. KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.
From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.
In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered one of the best debut albums of the year in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE.
Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska. And all this while TEC bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!!
‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.
Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.
TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…
They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety.
Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach.
Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.
From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.
Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.
Possibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’. Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.
Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.
Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.
However, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, TEC found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!
Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!
As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out:“Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.
However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.
But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out to TEC: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”
The Electricity Club is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.
TEC’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.
As Client A put it frankly to TEC in the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”
Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”
So TEC considers what music it features very, very carefully. TEC may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.
THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2014
Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES Empire Of Wolves
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Jazz Café
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Not In Love
Most Promising New Act: EURASIANEYES
Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND
Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER
MONIKA IZABELA GOSS
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS
Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA
CHI MING LAI
Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE
Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS