Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records are to release a 2CD compilation compiled by The Electricity Club.
Capturing its ethos to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music, this compilation is the culmination of a period which has seen the resurgence of the genre. Over the years, The Electricity Club appears to have reflected the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music seeded from that ilk.
Little did The Electricity Club know when it launched on 15th March 2010, it would go on to interview many of the key players in Synth Britannia, get granted an audience with two former members of KRAFTWERK and be influential in helping some of the best new synthesizer talents gain a profile within a reinvigorated scene. So it is highly apt that WOLFGANG FLÜR should make an appearance on this collection.
The Electricity Club is pleased to showcase its ethos in the form of this tangible audio artefact. Among the impressive cast, there are prime movers from the classic era like PAUL HUMPHREYS and VINCE CLARKE. Without the influence of the bands they respectively co-founded, OMD and DEPECHE MODE, electronic pop as The Electricity Club likes it would not exist.
Meanwhile the next generation are represented by acts such as KID MOXIE, NIGHT CLUB, RODNEY CROMWELL and VILE ELECTRODES. Incidentally, the latter were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour following ANDY McCLUSKEY’s discovery of the duo while perusing The Electricity Club’s virtual pages. The bloodline from ‘Radio-Activity’ to ‘Romance Of The Telescope’ and then to ‘Deep Red’ is easily traceable and deeply omnipresent.
The Electricity Club has always relished its diverse taste credentials. It doesn’t do retro or contemporary, just good music. No other compendium could dare to include the spiky post-punk of GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS and the rousing electro-rock of MESH alongside pop princesses such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or KATY PERRY. Be it Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL and MARNIE, Manchester veterans SECTION 25 or Essex boys TENEK, it all fits into The Electricity Club’s avant pop playground.
With international representation also from Gothenburg’s DAYBEHAVIOR and 047, Shanghai synthpoppers QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, Texan dance duo ELEVEN: ELEVEN, Belgium’s own passengers METROLAND and the self-explanatory KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS, the tracks gathered capture a special moment in time where innovative musical aspirations and good tunes have again manifested themselves in the same context.
The collection features a number of covers including MESH’s take on YAZOO’s ‘Tuesday’ and MARSHEAUX’s reinterpretation of TEARS FOR FEARS’ first single ‘Suffer The Children’. In addition, tracks such as MARSHEAUX’s stomping remix of KATY PERRY’s ‘Hot ‘N’ Cold’ and MIRRORS’ ‘Between Four Walls’ make their premiere in CD format.
The tracklisting is:
01 MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive
02 KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
03 ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout
04 DAYBEHAVIOR It’s A Game (Marsheaux remix)
05 MARNIE The Hunter
06 ELEVEN:ELEVEN Through The Veil
07 NIGHT CLUB Cruel Devotion
08 QUEEN OF HEARTS United
09 KATY PERRY Hot ‘N’ Cold (Marsheaux remix)
10 ERASURE Be The One (Paul Humphreys remix)
11 KID MOXIE The Bailor
12 KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS Oostende
13 FOTONOVELA featuring JAMES NEW Our Sorrow (Original mix)
14 GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica 6
15 AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
16 METROLAND Thalys (London Edit)
17 RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog
01 SIN COS TAN Trust
02 POLLY SCATTERGOOD Other Too Endless (Vince Clarke remix)
03 TENEK What Do You Want? (Alternate TEC version)
04 ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away
05 ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia
06 MARSHEAUX Suffer The Children
07 SECTION 25 My Outrage
08 047 featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine
09 TAXX Is It Love?
10 LIEBE I Believe In You
11 QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Shanghai Metro
12 iEUROPEAN featuring WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound
13 TWINS NATALIA Destiny
14 MESH Tuesday
15 MIRRORS Between Four Walls
16 OMD Time Burns (Fotonovela rework)
17 VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red
‘The Electricity Club’ is released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records as a 34 track 2CD set in a deluxe 6 panel digipak with track-by-track commentary and ‘O’ card; the compilation be purchased from the following retailers:
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
Little is known about the mysterious combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS who have caught the ears of The Electricity Club, other than they are to have their debut album released by Anna Logue Records, home to the Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA, and that VILE ELECTRODES have done a remix of a forthcoming single release.
Further investigation has uncovered that QUIETER THAN SPIDERS appears to be the project of Leon Robinson-Zhang. Piloting a brand of “Shanghai Synthpop… using home-made electronic sounds played by hand”, the first track unveiled back in 2013 was ‘Shanghai Metro’.
TEC reader Si Wooldridge remarked “You could put this on the last OMD album and no one would notice it was by QTS…”, but while the obvious melodic elements recall Messrs Humphreys and McCluskey’s recent return to form, the beautiful electronics certainly come with a fresh, dynamic slant on the station announcer sample laden tune.
The dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ merges the sounds of FOTONOVELA, SOLVENT and MICHAEL ROTHER while a modern, processed masculine twist is proof that male vocals on electronic songs do not have to be off-key monotone whines and snarls. Another positive that sets QUIETER THAN SPIDERS apart in male fronted electro is that Dave Gahan impersonations, both vocally and physically, are absent.
The simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ just glides with a glacial beauty that not only is appealing to the ear, but can be danced to as well. ‘No Illusion’ keeps up the standard but has a harsher, robotic tone that is at times, reminiscent of Jyoti Mishra’s WHITETOWN.
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS are a prime example of how to get things right when starting out… compose a body of work, record the songs as well as possible, edit together some accompanying videos and let the music do the talking without spamming Facebook with some grandiose manifesto and poorly designed artwork.
A few bands could learn from this process… how can you be taken seriously if you shout like you are the best thing since sliced bread after just one song and have never played live? Funnily enough, the title ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ seems to sums things up 😉
With thanks to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records