East London’s Hannah Lucy aka GAPTOOTH, first emerged onto the indie / electro scene in 2013, releasing her debut album ‘Connections-Departures’.
The single heralding the production, ‘Ladykillers’, was full of girl attitude and feisty feminist power, and it received an ample airplay on BBC 6 Music, as well as being featured on numerous compilations.
2016 sees the return of the strong minded artist with ‘Pillow Fort’ EP, mixed by Oli Horton, who was previously involved on ‘Connections-Departures’, duetting with Ms Lucy on ‘Enduring Freedom’.
Horton was a core member of a great synth hope TRADEMARK, who not only supported Human League and Chicks On Speed, but also remixed various artists, such as THE MODERN (aka MATINEE CLUB featuring Nathan Cooper aka KID KASIO), GOLDRUSH, KISH MAUVE, BOY KILL BOY and CAS FOX.
Nowadays Horton is an artist and producer under the pseudonym Dreamtrak, being involved in various projects, including QUEEN OF HEARTS and further remixes such as ‘No Pressure’ for LITTLE BOOTS.
‘Pillow Fort’ minimalistically sees only four tracks, with Stay Away From Me’ as the opening gambit. It’s a song written to celebrate the “final unfriending of a toxic ex”, where GAPTOOTH feels that she “must erase you”. Rough vocals over a synth melody fortified with harsh guitar continue the feminist themes, and can be compared to those of Saffron of REPUBLICA. The video accompanying the title has been directed by Bristol based singer/songwriter Laura Kidd aka SHE MAKES WAR.
‘Good Guys’ sounds punky and rugged and describes dating mishaps, angrily wrapped up into a synthy piece, while ‘Such A Girl’ slows the tempo somewhat at first, describing the harshness of the modern world and the roles imposed on both men and women.
The closing track, ‘I Built A Fort’, with its minimalist sounds, depicts a child-like solution to the issues of the world of today. Every problem can be seemingly sorted, when one builds a fort made out of duvets and sings a grown up version of ‘If You’re Happy And You Know It’.
While the debut album bore heavier guitar and louder sounds, the EP, while still being angry, raw and in-your-face, deploys more electronic tones and is rather tongue-in-cheek.
The readiness of the sound of GAPTOOTH will probably appeal more to the younger electronica fans, or to those who enjoy the matters of importance being tackled using quirky sarcasm and light-heartedness, SUDDEN CREATION style.
In the five years since its formation, The Electricity Club has reviewed over a hundred gigs and witnessed some fabulous live performances as well as some not so great ones… one was so bad in fact, TEC declined to submit a review in the end!
There have been sell-out concerts and also ones where literally one man and their dog have been attendance, until the dog realised it was at the wrong gig and left!
Despite the downturn in music sales overall, the live scene has been vibrant with gigs and events sympathetic to electronic music springing up all over Europe. Again, the quality of these has been variable, but at least acts using synthesizers no longer have to necessarily perform on incongruous bills alongside indie bands, folkies and rapper MCs.
Listed in chronological order with a restriction of one headline gig per artist, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 favourite gigs from the period between 2010 to 2014… modesty prevents The Electricity Club from listing its own TEC001, TEC002 and TEC003 events 😉
LA ROUX + HEAVEN 17 at BBC Maida Vale (2010)
In a performance for BBC6 Music, when Glenn Gregory took the lead on the verses of ‘In For The Kill’, any scepticism lingering about the connection between LA ROUX, HEAVEN 17 and early HUMAN LEAGUE was quashed. Before ‘Temptation’, Martyn Ware gleefully told everyone that Gregory only got 78% doing it on ‘SingStar’. While Elly Jackson might not have a natural soul voice, she certainly hit those high notes. An uptempo cover of TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY’s ‘Sign Your Name’ finished a unique evening.
Part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of gigs, rumours that DEPECHE MODE had something special up their sleeves were spreading like wild fire among The Devoted as they gathered from all over the world in South Kensington. And it came in the shape of the much missed Alan Wilder appearing with DM for the first time since 1994 to accompany Martin Gore on a rendition of ‘Somebody’ during the encore. “A proud moment for me knowing that most people were so happy about it” Wilder said.
Following their triumphant reunion in 2009, ULTRAVOX returned for a second leg with an expanded setlist. The line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure were much more relaxed and with a stripped down lightshow, it was all about the music. Highlights included an even more Kraftwerkian rendition of ‘Mr X’, ‘I Remember (Death In the Afternoon)’ where Currie opted to do the closing piano motif one-handed and the effervescent quadruple drum action climax to ‘The Voice’.
French songstress EMILIE SIMON is an embodiment of the truly independent female artist. And as in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, she really did study at the Sorbonne. Her one woman performance at The Jazz Café showcased her range of musical devices such as a Yamaha Tenorion, an amazing ‘effects’ gauntlet and a futuristic Casio guitar synth alongside her faithful keyboards. The brilliant avant pop of ‘Dreamland’ wonderfully highlighted her inventive use of electronics.
With some eccentric Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis was possibly the nearest thing to SPARKS meeting LENE LOVICH. She arrived on the stage like Aphrodite, the Olympian Goddess of Love and Beauty, all dressed up to the nines in a most elegant full length black gown. Fabulously quirky songs like ‘I Am Not A Robot’, ‘Oh No!’ and her attack on WAG culture ‘Girls’ showed she was no poppet. ‘Shampain’ and the so far unreleased ‘Jealousy’ proved she could do classic synthpop too.
On a cold Autumn evening, something unusual was happening; Alison Goldfrapp was having fun! It was if the thigh booted ice queen of yore had melted and turned into Olivia Newton-John. The ‘Head First’ album dominated the middle part of this show and was tailor made for the dynamics of live performance. The bouncy FM synth rock numbers ‘Alive’, ‘Believer ‘and ‘Rocket’ had that punch the air feeling and sat well alongside the Schaffel stomps of ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Train’ and ‘Strict Machine’.
It says something about a band’s standing when the song that gets the biggest applause is a new one, and the one that everyone thinks should have been played is also new… A-HA’s ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ was a true return to form for the Norwegian trio and its title track was the best received moment of the show at Wembley. Sadly, ‘Nothing Is Keeping You Here’ wasn’t played, but with so many great songs in their catalogue, that didn’t matter in a glorious live celebration of their career before disbanding.
CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN gathered a number of friends to celebrate her career. As well as Paul Humphreys, Andy Bell, Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, there was the wonderful 3/4 reunion of PROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper on ‘Dr Mabuse’ and ‘P Machinery’. There was also a surprise performance of HEAVEN 17’s demo version of ‘Temptation’ where a suitably detached vocal from Ms Brücken enhanced the song’s more electronic origins, along with material from her projects ONETWO and ACT.
DURAN DURAN proved they could recapture the performing zest of their glory days, but now thanks to the ‘All You Need Is Now’ album, they had the new material to back it up too. Beginning in true DURAN DURAN style with a Bond Theme overture delivered by a string quartet of blonde, brunette, red and raven haired beauties, the band launched into a glorious set of hits and highlights from the new long player. And best of all, they didn’t bother with their horrendous cover of ‘White Lies (Don’t Do It)’ 😉
IAMX have captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combines the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency which have appealed more in Europe than at home. So it was appropriate that the contradiction theme of ‘Think Of England’ was a live centrepiece that evening in Cologne. Delivering a mechanical cabaret with a deluge of haunting East European scales and neo-classical flourishes, the disturbingly militaristic cinematic waltz of ‘President’ was a great finish.
Pop Noir quartet MIRRORS were an outstanding live act with their powerful synthetic sound resonating alongside their grainy impressionistic film projections and stark lighting. On their first headlining tour of Germany, the extra setlist time allowed for the premiere of the neo-electro disco of ‘Toe The Line’ and their 10 minute epic ‘Secrets’. New’s majestic vocal style took a backseat in the song’s third movement as he adopted a sub-Ian Curtis persona and screamed out during the screeching military tattoo of its climax.
Short Circuit Presents Mute at The Roundhouse (2011)
This two day celebration of Mute Records had everything except DEPECHE MODE themselves. Alan Wilder appeared as RECOIL with Doug McCarthy of NITZER EBB joining him for a performance of ‘Personal Jesus’, while Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore each did DJ sets. The live centrepiece was a special set featuring ERASURE, YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY, although one memorable moment of the day was non-musical with Flood’s lecture on the making of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and his goofy mimicking of Martin Gore!
Korg is a four letter word…but then so is love. LADYTRON pulled off that rare feat of being an electronic based act that appealed to rockers, emos, indie kids and synthpopsters alike. Their only UK gig of 2011 was drawn from all of their albums. Mira Aroyo’s distinctive Bulgarian over the mechanical buzz of ‘True Mathematics’, a fabulously frantic cover of DEATH IN JUNE’s ‘Little Black Angel’ and old favourite ‘Discotraxx’ with its repeated claptrap fill were key show highlights.
The Electronic Phuture Revue at Royal Festival Hall (2011)
‘The Electronic Phuture Revue’ curated by Martyn Ware and Mark Jones featured a stupendous line-up of HEAVEN 17, ONE TWO, THOMAS DOLBY, MIRRORS, ONETWO, RECOIL and MOTOR. And although not there, the musical legacy of Martin Gore lingered in the sets of the latter three. But the event was clouded by a poor attendance, caused by the high ticket price from hosts The Vintage Festival charging gig goers a compulsory extra £50 to enter a clothing fayre that they were never going to attend…
Featuring Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Kim Wilde, Green Gartside, Polly Scattergood, Midge Ure and of course, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware’s ambitious BEF covers project became a live entity for the first time. As well as the great and varied music on offer, one of the highlights was Boy George’s unsurprisingly camp take of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. His onstage tale about going with Martyn Ware to see Gary Glitter in concert and getting the convicted felon’s autograph was priceless: “…I don’t think it’s worth much now” he quipped!
Foxx and Mathematical partner Benge took to the road on a national tour and in the backing band were the glamourous duo of Hannah Peel and Serafina Steer handling synths among several other conventional instruments. With ‘Interplay’ being Foxx’s most complete body of work since ‘Metamatic’, material from both albums sat comfortably side-by-side within the set. But it was Hannah Peel’s eerie violin contributions on the ‘Metamatic’ era songs like ‘Burning Car’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ that were probably the show’s biggest revelation.
Ja Ja Ja 3rd Birthday Party at The Lexington (2012)
London based Nordic music night ‘Ja Ja Ja’ celebrated its third birthday where the beautiful and the bearded mingled alongside musical figures from different generations such as KARIN PARK and RUSTY EGAN. It featured the first live performance outside Finland of SIN COS TAN. The highlight of SIN COS TAN’s set was marvellous extended workout of ‘Trust’. A cold dark evening and synthesizers… it was a concoction made in heaven. Concluding the evening, headliner MØ was impressive too, coming across like LANA DEL REY trapped in a frozen Fjord.
REPUBLICA’s gig at London’s Garage had a superb line-up of supporting players. There was the enjoyable disco pop of KOVAK fronted by the very sexy Annelies Van de Velde and the electro rock fusion of the almost equally sexy TENEK. Like two parts Toyah: one part Siouxsie at a warehouse party, Saffron provided the feisty focus while Tim Dorney and Jonny Glue acted as complimentary foil to recreate the punchy REPUBLICA sound. With luminaries like SAMANTHA FOX and RUSTY EGAN also in the audience, it was a fun filled occasion for all.
KARIN PARK’s fourth album ‘Highwire Poetry’ was a steady burner embraced through word of mouth, but its embracement couldn’t have prepared audiences for the spectacle of her live show. With an obviously towering presence, her animated stares and jerky movements had the crowd transfixed. In an unusual set-up featuring her heavy metal loving brother David primarily on drums, the siblings showed themselves to be impressive multitaskers with David even venturing onto keyboards while Karin dabbled with a Korg MS20 and keytar.
MESH, DE/VISION + TORUL at Islington O2 Academy (2013)
Bristolian electro-rock duo MESH ended their successful European tour in style with a rousing show at the O2 Academy in London’s Islington district. Supporting an excellent bill were TORUL, a promising trio hailing from Slovenia and German veterans DE/VISION. But MESH’s set sprang into technological life as screens and projections set the scene for a live presentation of their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. With songs such as ‘Born To Lie’, ‘Adjust Your Set’ and ‘Taken For Granted’, MESH were at the height of their powers.
Tickets for CHVRCHES gigs were exchanging hands at ridiculous prices but it was easy to see why as there was an endearing charm about them. Pulling out the stops with a huge laser display at Village Underground, singer Lauren Mayberry surreally remarked that it would have been cruel for anyone to have brought their cat to the show!! ‘Lies’, ‘Science & Vision’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ showcased what was to come with their debut LP while PRINCE’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ was a good choice in the “we haven’t got enough songs, let’s do a cover” conundrum that haunts new acts.
VILE ELECTRODES got to play their most OMD derived number ‘Deep Red’ on the final night of their German tour supporting their heroes. Meanwhile, new OMD material such as ‘Dresden’ and ‘Kissing The Machine’ satisfied the crowd alongside the usual OMD favourites. Live duds ‘So In Love’ and ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ were also dropped for the welcome, good natured surprise (due to audience demand) of ‘Secret’. The almost frightening Teutonic shout of “ZU-GA-BE” by the audience in time to the closing drum machine of ‘Enola Gay’ was another unforgettable moment.
For Virgin Records 40th Anniversary, THE HUMAN LEAGUE were invited to play a special concert but declined. Instead, founder member Martyn Ware stepped into the breach. Loaded with surprises such as a ‘Marianne’, ‘Circus Of Death’ and ‘WXJL Tonight’, Glenn Gregory relished the vocal challenge while Ware took to the mic himself for a new rendition of IGGY POP’s ‘Nightclubbing’. HEAVEN 17’s hits satisfied members of the audience who still weren’t quite sure of the connection and with support provided by SCRITTI POLITTI, it was an unforgettable evening.
Numan’s shows in last ten or so years have been frustrating, often with great highs but then spoiled by severe lows, thanks to the one dimension nature of numbers from the ‘Jagged’ album. But with the ‘Splinter’ album and tour, Numan got it right. Free of the ballast from ‘Jagged’ and incorporating the best elements of ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, ‘Telekon’, ‘Pure’ and ‘Dead Son Rising’, The Roundhouse show was back to Numan at his formidable best. The dynamic and tempo variation plus the return to more electronics appeared to have done the trick…
KARL BARTOS’ ‘Off The Record’ show was a perfect multi-media history of electronic pop that celebrated the innovation of the past while moving forward musically. While the sounds are meatier, the technology more versatile and the tools much simpler to operate, what remains are the melodies, the traditions and the soul. It may be an unusual way to describe things related to Kling Klang, but with an evening of solo and KRAFTWERK material that coincided with Ralf Hütter receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of the Düsseldorf quartet, this couldn’t have been truer.
A little basement studio in Hoxton houses one of biggest collections of vintage synths and within it, the delightful Miss Peel launched her marvellous ‘Fabricstate’ EP with an intimate performance using primarily just synths and samplers. On the title track, Peel launched into an amazing whirring synth solo on a DS Mopho x4 while with the haunting award winning ‘Chloe’, she showed her sensitivity. There was also a treat in a music box driven cover of PAUL BUCHANAN’s ‘Cars In The Garden’ with the said antique sequencer operated by a member of the audience.
An Evening With The Swedish Synth at 93 Feet East (2014)
Featuring synth veterans PAGE alongside comparative newcomers MACHINISTA and TRAIN TO SPAIN, Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life’s ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ proved what could be achieved when a genuine electronic music enthusiast curated an electronic event. A fair number of Swedes and Norwegians were in attendance so with the added cocktail of that Scandinavian sense of enjoyment and their insatiable appetite for liquid refreshment, it was a fun, good natured occasion that captured the spirit of how great music can unite people.
DIE KRUPPS are rightly cited as a huge influence on the likes of NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, DEPECHE MODE and most significantly RAMMSTEIN. Vocalist and founder member Jürgen Engler is still a great front man, playing up to Teutonic clichés and bashing metal with aplomb, particularly on a frenzied cover of VISAGE’s ‘The Anvil’ with special guest Sarah Blackwood. With big, sequenced basslines from Ralf Dörper, Marcel Zürcher’s crushing guitars and powerful drumming by Bradley Bills, it was a strangely joyful mechanised experience that was indeed, metal machine music.
MUS_IIC Festival.01 at Shoreditch Red Gallery (2014)
MemeTune, the acclaimed London studio and label curated its first festival featuring WRANGLER, GAZELLE TWIN and MINNY POPS. While MINNY POPS’ provocative art school antics divided opinion, the sheer anonymity of GAZELLE TWIN combined with some unsettling put powerful music made her voyeuristically enticing. But it was WRANGLER led by ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE man Stephen Mallinder who most had come to see. And he delighted his followers with reworked versions of ‘Sensoria’ and ‘Crackdown’ alongside great new dystopian material such as ‘Lava Land’.
‘The Violet Flame’ was ERASURE’s return to more uptempo material with a reinvigorated energetic zest within the duo. A number of hits were reprogrammed into a more disco format, but this was balanced with preserving the integrity of the original songs. It didn’t spoil the fun as a guessing game element was added to proceedings. In tour programme foreword, Mute supreme Daniel Miller quoted Seymour Stein of Sire Records who said “the reason ERASURE are so great is because they make people feel good about themselves”.
In one of the most productive years ever for electronic pop music, The Electricity Club has found it extremely difficult to whittle down the list to 30 songs.
The standard has been extremely high and songs which would have made the listing in previous years have been left off. This has meant the controversial omission of DEPECHE MODE.
Despite being as popular as ever, grossing over $99 million during the ‘Delta Machine’ tour, once a shortlist for 2013 was drawn, the competition was so stiff that nothing from the album even scraped in!
Yes, 2013 has been that good and wonderful songs by the likes of KELLI ALI, ELEVEN:ELEVEN, GAZELLE TWIN, GHOST CAPSULES, GOLDFRAPP, HANNAH PEEL, IAMX, KOVAK, MOBY, NIGHT ENGINE, NINE INCH NAILS, SAY LOU LOU, and SOFT METALS have just missed inclusion too!
So the songs on this alphabetical list have been released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year with a limit of one song per artist moniker. Thus, the glorious doom fest of ‘Gloryhole’ by TR/ST (which has been on regular rotation at TEC HQ in 2013) has also been excluded as it came out in early 2012!! Despite TEC’s efforts to bring the best in new electronic pop, occasionally we rather embarrassingly miss the boat 😉
ADULT. Idle (Second Thoughts)
The new ADULT. album ‘The Way Things Fall’ was fittingly described by one observer as “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell”. The fears of relationships and the outside world have very much fuelled the dystopian demeanour of ADULT. While still retaining their distinctive edge, their mutant love songs have a magnetic charm. This was particularly evident on the fabulous single ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’, a vibrant electro hybrid of GINA X PERFORMANCE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES which showcased a strange blend of menace and melody.
Available on the album ‘The Way Things Fall’ via Ghostly International
Moving away from the industrial battleground in which they made their name, ANALOG ANGEL began the year with the enjoyably immediate ‘We Won’t Walk Away’, a laudable tribute to OMD’s classic ‘Organisation’ era. Complete with primary chord structures, one-fingered melodies and motorik rhythm programming, there was even a hint of the dulcet tones of Andy McCluskey in John Brown’s vocal. But just one thing though… Paul Humphreys wants his Prophet 5 back 😉
Available on the download EP ‘Pride’ via Carbon 12 Records
‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw KARL BARTOS conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. The most straightforward pop song on the ‘Off The Record’ album, its autobiographical resignation was not unlike ‘Life’ from ‘Communication’. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat”, a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him to madness and out of Kling Klang!
Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B
The concept of BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ is dark interpretations of perceivably upbeat songs using a variety of guest vocalists. One of the beauties of this type of project is how seemingly incongruous elements are fused together for a blissful whole. Here, melodramatic Sheffield singer/songwriter DAVID J ROCH tackles BILL WITHERS’ ‘Same Love’ via Martyn Ware’s wonderful arrangement blending a neo-acapella intro into a meaty electro-disco tune with spacey whistles and haunting invader games like GIORGIO MORODER producing SPACE’s ‘Magic Fly’.
Available on the album ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ via Wall Of Sound
Co-written by Swedish electro songstress KARIN PARK, Norway’s Eurovision Song Contest 2013 entry came fourth. ‘I Feed You My Love’ was like ROBYN and KELLY CLARKSON fronting ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ era DEPECHE MODE. In fact, its performer MARGARET BERGER came second in the 2004 series of Norwegian Idol so the description was quite apt. The on-paper incongruous outcome was leftfield by Eurovision standards but perhaps not entirely shockingly, it got nul points from the United Kingdom; it summed up mainstream tastes in the UK and the country’s general Euro scepticism if nothing else!
The saviours of synthpop had an amazing year with sold out club shows and five dates supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe. CHVRCHES‘ most accessible track ‘The Mother We Share’ was synthpop perfection with the concept of TAYLOR SWIFT gone electro having uprooted to Berlin. It deservedly scooped Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Music Prize for best UK single. Despite its wonderfully catchy chorus, it was not wholly bubblegum with its plethora of futuristic sounds and strange noises! Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty delivered on their promise with an impressive debut album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, save the two incongruous indie synth numbers sung by Doherty!
Available on the album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ via Virgin Records
ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are led by Chris Payne, the keyboard and viola virtuoso who was a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979 to 89 and featured prominently on the Top10 single ‘Complex’. He notably co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ which became a huge international hit for VISAGE. With his adopted home surroundings very much the backbone of ‘Roundabout’, the track itself possessed a sexy and authentic Gallic charm, courtesy of Chris’ wife Dominique. The exquisite, almost naïve vocals over the most incessant synth riff either had listeners dancing with delight or irritated to the point of submission… the seemingly banal words were actually a very clever metaphor for midlife!
Available as a download single via Coverdrive Records
It had to happen and the world found its female DEPECHE MODE! Led by vocalist / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, the sound was probably more like post-apocalyptic BANGLES or BELINDA CARLISLE with gothic overtones in hindsight. The first single ‘Land Of The Innocent’ was a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ and driven by a hard incessant beat. Possessing an industrial gloom with an enlightening pop sensibility, it was what LADYTRON would have sounded like if they had formed in a Texan desert rather than spectre of Merseyside!!
Not content with producing MARSHEAUX and collaborating with OMD on ‘Helen Of Troy’, Greek production duo FOTONOVELA unveiled a new sophomore opus which was more song based using a number of prominent international vocalists. One of the numbers ‘Our Sorrow’ featured the majestic voice of James New from the missing-in-action MIRRORS. The string synth laden ditty was in the vein of classic OMD and with the South Coast combo calling it a day in 2013, this was a fitting way to depart The Hall Of Mirrors.
Available on the album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records
JOHN FOXX and JORI HULKKONEN had worked together previously but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their latest collaboration took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly. The title of the parent EP said it all…
Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records
Nobody really knows for sure who are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS but names like Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner and Bruce LeeFax are commensurate with their manifesto “to thrive on causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. ‘Jessica 6’ is a tribute to the cult Sci-Fi favourite ‘Logan’s Run’. The eerie post-punk cacophony laced with icy Yamaha string machine makes it the perfect belated choice for the soundtrack. Add in a frantic reverbed backbeat and it all comes over like THE PIPETTES fronting collaboration between JOY DIVISION and OMD.
Available as a download single via Squirrel Records
From a long player with distinctly orchestrated and acoustic overtones, ‘Thea’ was the most overtly electronic song on ‘Tales Of Us’. Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal soared angelically, surrounded by very subtle synthetic dance textures and layers of percussive craft. While the beat was mechanical, it didn’t sound out of place on the very organic parent album.
Available on the album ‘Tales Of Us’ via Mute Records
KID MOXIE is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles based Elena Charbila. Her first full length album ‘Selector’ was bolstered by a MARSHEAUX remix of its best song ‘Medium Pleasure’. Always sounding her best when adopting a breathy continental vocal style, Elena Charbila recorded possibly her best song yet as KID MOXIE with ‘The Bailor’, a dreamy and sexy tunes that glistened in the Aegean Sea. The Wayfarer remix of the song was also issued later in the year in aid of The David Lynch Foundation .
LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her long awaited debut solo album ‘Crystal World’ in the summer. Recorded in Iceland, it suitably captured the island’s beautifully relaxed but volatile atmosphere. Its opening track ‘The Hunter’ was a tremendous calling card and the vibrant electropop single that LADYTRON never quite got round to releasing. Very pretty and delectably glacial, the tune was vocally and musically expansive like an Arctic escapist fantasy, melancholic but free of doom.
Available on the album ‘Crystal World’ via Les Disques Du Crespuscle
MARSHEAUX’s fourth album ‘Inhale’ had been a long time coming. And it appeared as though the Greek financial crisis had loomed heavy over its making, resulting in moodier, midtempo numbers taking centre stage. ‘August Day’ though was a grower, developing on the maturer outlook apparent on the album’s concept, with a hint of CHVRCHES’ steadier paced output. Less immediate but overwhelmingly dreamy, it captured the senses after multiple listens.
MESH’s founders Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn know their audience so the lattice of danceable electro-rock continued on their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. But the beautiful ‘The Way I Feel’ showed a more sensitive side with hints of Ennio Morricone. Shaped by acoustic guitar and string machine washes, the atmospheric maturity that MESH were now showcasing was a welcome surprise.
Available on the album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent
MONARCHY’s ‘Disintegration’ featured the sexy burlesque queen DITA VON TEESE on vocals. With its vampish disco crashing into elements of GIORGIO MORODER, it sounded like the SCISSOR SISTERS gone right and even threw in a few VISAGE frequency warbles! ‘Disintegration’ was a rather excellent, stomping floor filler of the first degree with some hook laden energy and cooing feline appeal.
GIORGIO MORODER is now 73 years old but is as vital as ever having produced the dance track of the year! Commissioned by Google Chrome for their online game ‘Racer’, the piano line was like ULTRAVOX reworked for Studio 54 while the whirring synths and trancey elements made it come over like history of modern electronic dance music squashed into 4 minutes. But as these ideas were mostly borrowed from Da Maestro himself, it was now his time to grab it all back. Moroder easily rivalled any young hopeful with a set of double decks and a laptop.
ALISON MOYET made a return to the electronic experimentation that made her famous as one half of YAZOO on her new album ‘the minutes’. With contemporary synthesized backing over a powerful rhythm construction and stuttering guitar textures courtesy of new collaborator Guy Sigsworth, Moyet’s deep emotional vocal resonated on ‘Changeling’ with a confidence and energy that dispelled the public’s perception of her as just a jazz singer!
Available on the album ‘the minutes’ via Cooking Vinyl.
Positively feline but dysfunctionally dark like Britney gone emo, NIGHT CLUB‘s cutely subversive ‘Poisonous’ based itself, like STEFY’s lost 2007 single ‘Chelsea’, around the riff of ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. This superb slice of catchy electronic pop from the LA combo of Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks roused with a huge crossover potential while possessing a sinister edge.
Available on the download EP ‘Love Casualty’ via Gato Blanco
NOBLESSE OBLIGE are French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp who specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. NOBLESSE OBLIGE’s lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlights the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer interpretation of the original song’s iconic twin guitar solo will either be seen as total genius or sacrilege!
Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records
‘Who Are You?’ is one of those great uptempo anthemic songs in the vein of ‘Listen To My Voice’ from 2000’s ‘Pure’ that confirms when GARY NUMAN hits the target, he hits bulls-eye! Written for a film about a musician with schizophrenic personality, it fitted well with the parent album ‘Splinter’ and its ‘Songs From A Broken Mind’. The album wasn’t just one-dimensional riff monsters and the varied material was some of Numan’s best work for years.
Available on the album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ via Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl
The standard of ‘English Electric’ was so high that any one of its song based tracks could have made the list. But ‘Stay With Me’ just gets the nod as the album’s hidden gem. The first Paul Humphreys lead vocal for OMD since 1986’s ‘Forever Live & Die’, the song was originally demoed as ‘Idea 3’ and voiced by Andy McCluskey. Ever the master of melody and inspired by events around him, Humphreys reworked it into a more straightforward love song but added a beautiful cinematic resonance. Indeed, it comes over a bit like ‘Love Theme From St Elmo’s Fire’ meets ‘Souvenir’ with subtle lashings of white noise!
“Incandescent…”; yes the hypnotic ‘Fluorescent’ was basically a buzzy dancefloor makeover of ‘Fade To Grey’ with the chilling Polymoog string preset from VISAGE’s original remaining in the mix while waves of synth sirens attacked it like a Martian invasion. The parent album was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature, and easily the PET SHOP BOYS‘ best body of work since ‘Very’. It more than made up for 2012’s lame duck ‘Elysium’…
Available on the album ‘Electric’ via X2 / Kobalt Records
A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder who previously has remixed JOHN FOXX, DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS, QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provides the heat! Yet ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side of the less satisfactory ‘Secret’. However, if songs like this are being seen as outtakes, this is all a good sign for her debut album in 2014 which is eagerly awaited…
Available on the download EP ‘Secret’ via Night Moves
Originally, written by Saffron with noted producer Andy Gray, ‘Christiana Obey’ had been doing the airplay rounds in 2012 but finally secured a formal release to coincide with REPUBLICA’s touring comeback this year. With its suitably big chorus, Saffron was on good anthemic form while a meaty remix from TENEK enhanced the song even further and made it ready to go!
Available on the EP ‘Christiana Obey’ via Republica Music
POLLY SCATTERGOOD made her debut in 2009 with a self-titled album released on the iconic Mute Records. With key influences such as BJORK and KATE BUSH, it combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. From her second album ‘Arrows’, ‘Wanderlust’ realised her potential with a slice of deliciously wired avant pop in the GOLDFRAPP vein, although closer scrutiny revealed it to be more like electronic COCTEAU TWINS with that rousing air of fragility.
The Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen swiftly followed up their acclaimed eponymous debut of 2012 with ‘Afterlife’. Hulkkonen told The Electricity Club back in 2011 that it was being a fan of PET SHOP BOYS that inspired him to make music. ‘Moonstruck’ is a fine melancholic beat ballad in the Tennant/Lowe tradition where Paalosmaa’s emotive lost boy demeanour blends wonderfully with the sweeping drifts and building swathes of synth strings. It is also possibly the best song of its type that Neil and Chris never recorded.
Available on the album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records
Like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ORBITAL, ‘Damaged Software’ was an enticing piece of electro from Anais Neon and Martin Swan which affirmed their status as Britain’s premiere independent synth duo. With a tour supporting OMD in Germany where they encountered the likes of Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür backstage, their vile adventure of meeting former KRAFTWERK members continued when they shared the bill with Michael Rother at Elektrofest. Three years in the making, the parent album ‘The future through a lens’ was well worth the wait.
Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, the album’s magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ was not actually a celebration of illicit substance use. Voiced brilliantly by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler, WESTBAM himself said it was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. From a brilliant album that also featured vocalists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Bernard Sumner, Brian Molko, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, ‘Götterstrasse’ was the surprise electronic release of the year.
Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music Germany
REPUBLICA began their tour at London’s Garage with a superb line-up of supporting players in TENEK and KOVAK who provided a wonderful evening of entertainment.
Since reforming with the original nucleus of Saffron, Tim Dorney and Jonny Glue back in 2009, REPUBLICA have been steadily rebuilding their profile with live shows and have been working on new material.
The first fruit of their labours ‘Christiana Obey’ has just been released as an EP and has recaptured the feisty techno-rock aesthetic that was first showcased worldwide with the massive hit ‘Ready To Go’.
Certainly, Saffron was looking forward to being out on the road again and told The Electricity Club: “If you don’t have fun being in a band, there’s no point doing it!”
Opening proceedings were Brighton’s KOVAK. With their singles ‘Killer Boots’ and ‘Radiate’ being playlisted on Radio2, there has been the perception of them being a just straightforward electropop act.
But tonight, they caused a surprise by launching into two numbers which saw the quartet rocking out with minimal synth dressing. Sexy singer Annelies Van De Velde was a rock chick in her previous incarnations so this energy suited her well.
It snapped back into pop mode with the wonderful Italo groove of ‘Killer Boots’. The glitzy ‘Radiate’ received some extra six string bite while ‘Catchy Monkey’ displayed an impressive blend of pop, rock, synth and funky disco. Previous single ‘Living The Dream’ even came over like a great ABBA meets DURAN DURAN hybrid and possessed an energy that wasn’t apparent in the studio version. With Annelies making a great, charismatic front woman, KOVAK are definitely a name to look out for in the future.
Essex duo TENEK are on the cusp of reaching the next level, what with their song ‘Blinded By You’ being interpolated by Rusty Egan (who was in the audience to witness proceedings) for an upcoming vocodered stomper entitled ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.
Tonight saw the pair initiate new bassist into the fold and premiere the two new songs from their just released ‘Another Day’ EP.
The title track hinted towards a maturer, almost American FM rock friendly direction while ‘A New Foundation’ took a few risks and even dared to go a bit dubstep. The neo-NEW ORDER ‘Elusive’ had people dancing while crowd pleasers ‘Submission’ and ‘Higher Ground’ kept the momentum going. However, their best song ‘What Do You Want?’ was sadly missing from the short, but well performed set.
As REPUBLICA took to The Garage stage, they got a rapturous welcome but just as ‘Bloke’ got started, there was a power failure. Saffron grinned thorough the commotion and bantered with the crowd but as soon as the sequences fired up, it was back to business with Saffron’s feisty persona. ‘From Rush Hour With Love’ followed and considering Saffron only had a knee operation a few months before, she was happily bouncing away and engaging the audience.
Like two parts Toyah : one part Siouxsie at a warehouse party, Saffron provided the focus while Dorney and Glue acted as complimentary foil to recreate the punchy REPUBLICA sound. Mention must be made of the band’s new young 20 year old drummer Conor Lawrence who did very well syncopating along to the trademark sequences and basslines.
While ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ obviously tore the house down, new songs such as ‘Suck Baby Suck’ and ‘Christiana Obey’ showed that REPUBLICA still have plenty of spark and vitality in them.
Certainly Saffron’s friend, model / singer SAMANTHA FOX and her pals thought so as they bopped away at the front with everyone else. The more sedate ‘Picture Me’ allowed Saffron to take a breather so that the show wasn’t entirely in-yer-face.
And ‘Ready To Go’ was saved until the penultimate number of the evening, still retaining the zest and power that took it to the sports stadia of the world. But Saffron wasn’t done yet and returning for the encore ‘Pub Pusher’, she even strapped on a guitar to finish.
Full of fun and sounding good for the new ‘Millenium’, REPUBLICA are back with a vengeance.
The ‘Christina Obey’ EP featuring TENEK’s remix is released as download on 22nd April 2013 but is available as a CD at the remaining dates of REPUBLICA’s 2013 UK tour which include:
Leeds Brudenell Social Club (Tuesday 19th March), Glasgow Classic Grand (Wednesday 20th March), Nottingham Bodega Social Club (Thursday 21st March), Bristol Thekla (Friday 22nd March), Winchester Railway Inn (Saturday 23rd March)
Trending on BBC Radio 2 no less is KOVAK’s brand new single ‘Radiate’…
KOVAK have only been the second unsigned band to be playlisted on BBC Radio 2 and this accolade is a clear indication of their crossover potential.
The Brighton-based foursome relaunched in 2012 with the brilliant ‘Killer Boots’ and have been touted in some quarters as the British answer to SCISSOR SISTERS. But they are far better than that and much less irritating.
The SAINT ETIENNE meets BLONDIE and GIORGIO MORODER fusion of ‘Radiate’ may party like it’s 1979 but its crisp production adds a modern discothèque sheen to the fun, catchy ditty. It is simply syncopated heaven.
Driven by a tingling metallic sequence and sweetened by Annelies Van de Velde’s angelic vocals, ‘Radiate’ does what it says on the tin and puts in the shade most of the competition whose idea of an electronic dance song is to cut a mindless, repetitive house excursion with no tune! Along with TEXAN duo ELEVEN: ELEVEN, KOVAK know how to make people dance while adding a great tune and NOT cranking the beat to 12! Yes, it’s a great time to be an electropop act right now.
‘Radiate’ is released digitally on 11th February 2013 by 74 Music
KOVAK will also be supporting REPUBLICA at Highbury’s The Garage in London on Thursday 14th March 2013.