With two high profile European tours coming up this autumn opening for MIDGE URE and OMD, TINY MAGNETIC PETS are back with a new EP ‘Girl In A White Dress’ out on Happy Robots Records.
Although moving away from the Cold War themes of their previous EPs, ‘Girl in a White Dress’ does though continue their different Germany adventure as seen from the Emerald Isle.
Based around a re-recording of the title song which originally featured on their 2010 debut album, it sees the Dublin trio of Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn and Eugene Somers explore the realities of modern life.
The now Mellotron heavy take on ‘Girl In A White Dress’ fits in with its lyrical theme of a nostalgic re-connection to a past carefree existence. With a more punchy rhythmic backbone compared to the version originale, it recalls ‘On An Inter-City Train’ from the ‘Stalingrad’ EP.
A sublime slice of Motorik with its vintage aesthetics and swathed in an uplifting understated energy, the song is sure to become a live favourite in the future.
Meanwhile, winning the award for song title of the year if nothing else, the superb ‘Kicked Off In Ikea’ takes its cue from indie-pop NEW ORDER with a good use of synths, bass guitar and live drums like ‘Age Of Consent’ meeting ‘Love Vigilantes’.
Inspired by a real incident in London where a Black Friday sale turned into a riot, Paula Gilmer attacks crass out-of-control consumerism as she feistily pushes her vocals out in a way that is strangely alluring, yet away from the airier delivery that many listeners may be more used to.
That airy vocal styling though shapes the more ambient art piece ‘All The Mad Things’ which despite the SAINT ETIENNE feel, pushes perceptions by featuring a predominately spoken vocal and some unexpected a trumpet passages.
The neo-instrumental ‘Above & Overture’ sees Paula Gilmer do her gorgeous Sarah Cracknell inspired ad-libs, while caked in Mellotron with smatterings of guitar and a reverbed Roland TR77, the drum machine used by Warren Cann on ULTRAVOX’s ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’. As Eugene Somers augments with reggae-inflected offbeats, it evokes a sinister alienated feel that appropriately ends the short collection. Showcasing further facets within the TINY MAGNETIC PETS canon, it will be interesting to see where the long awaited third album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ actually heads.
“A humanistic document of our ever-changing world”, ‘Losing, Linda’ follows up Melbourne-based experimental electronic musician and performance artist SUI ZHEN’s ‘Secretly Susan’ album from 2015.
“It’s an album about missing people after they are gone and trying to pre-empt loss – not only loss of life, but memory and information”SUI ZHEN explained, “I see it mirrored in our increasing need for data storage. Why are we collecting and documenting so much, anyway? It’s also a simple ghost story about being haunted by our other versions and our past selves…”
‘Losing, Linda’ is understandably an introspective listen, the genesis of it came under the trauma of her mother’s critical illness and eventual passing. Opening with ‘Another Life’, the ghostly track is held around a melancholic electric piano and unsettling eerie vocal chants; these elements loom heavily in the realisation that “all I see are things I could be missing, all I know are things from another life”.
The effectively spoken word ‘Natural Progression’ exploits the use of drum machines and haunting voice treatments as sombre detuned synths in the vein of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ soundtrack evoke isolation. But ‘Matsudo City Life’ offers more classic synthpop in its throbbing electronic bass synths before bringing NEW ORDER styled guitar into play, coming together like SAINT ETIENNE with an Antipodean twist.
Talking a diversion for a night out at Ronnie Scott’s, the jazzier moods of Astrud Gilberto make themselves heard on ‘I Could Be There’, mixing synths and brass. Continuing the theme, ‘Mountain Song’ brings the bedsit jazz-inflected resignation of EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL into the room. ‘Being A Woman’ furthers those jazzy inclinations, but that odyssey comes to a halt with the space reggae of ‘Different Places’.
While that quartet might confuse electronic music enthusiasts, the album’s best two tracks are saved until last. The best and most immediately accessible song is ‘Perfect Place’, a delightfully odd but wonderful slice of pentatonic avant pop, with eerie spoken passages and bursts of delightful melodica offset by hypnotic arpeggios and danceable rhythms.
Closing proceedings and not dissimilar in vein, ‘Night River Rider’ is a superbly quirky instrumental with beautiful whistling passages and exotic textures that offer lighter relief to end ‘Losing, Linda’ on a more optimistic note.
‘Losing, Linda’ is not an easy listen and a dedicated focussed mood is a must to appreciate its very personal craft.
But it is a thoughtful art pop record with enough synthy elements to sustain its surreal melodic quality to provoke existential questions on the human condition in the modern world.
‘Losing, Linda’ is released by Cascine in North America and Dot Dash in Australia / New Zealand on 27th September 2019 in the usual formats
Ever bought an album on the strength of a single, only to find that “this is not the single I am looking for”??
As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work. Sometimes it is to improve an album track for single release by remixing or even re-recording it. Or it is vice-versa to create a new vision for a song or just to make it sound more like the material on a latterly recorded long player. But in many cases, it’s the version that was made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved.
This list celebrates the frustration of being stuck with the wrong version and the dilemma of whether to shell out extra cash to go out and buy the proper version.
Restricted to one single per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions…
JOHN FOXX No-One Driving (1980)
While ‘Metamatic’ is an iconic long player and includes ‘Underpass’, its second single opted for a reworking of ‘No-One Driving’, rather than the more obvious ‘A New Kind Of Man’. Much busier and expansive than the comparatively tame album version, it provided JOHN FOXX with another Top40 hit, something which had eluded him in ULTRAVOX who interestingly also produced a better single version with ‘Quiet Man’ from ‘Systems Of Romance’ while he was in the band.
Available on the JOHN FOXX boxed set ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records
On OMD’s debut self-titled album, ‘Messages’ just a song with potential as a single. Utilising a pulsing repeat function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, it was decided to re-record ‘Messages’ for its single release. Produced by Mike Howlett, the new version included the addition of separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap alongside the basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a magnificent UK chart hit that reached No13.
Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a Top40 chart entry with the poignant magnificence of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success coupled with internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. Finally releasing an album in 1985 on Sire Records entitled ‘Forever Running’, it featured an inferior re-recording of ‘Remembrance Day’.
The combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit. Produced by the late Martin Rushent, bursts of Roland System 700 white noise were trigged from an MC8 Micro-composer for the rhythm track. But for the subsequent ‘Dare’ album, ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ was reworked with a Linn Drum and with the chant also pushed back, it lost much of its dystopian tension.
More muscular and dynamic, ‘The Art Of Parties’ explored a funkier template was a move away from the mannered Roxy muzak that JAPAN had been associated with. Originally produced by John Punter, when it came to the album ‘Tin Drum’, new producer Steve Nye smoothed off some of the track’s tribal weirdness and muted its brassy punch. While the end result was tighter, synthier and had more melody, the band preferred to play the original single version live…
The first track on side two of the last two JEAN-MICHEL JARRE albums provided the trailer singles for radio and ‘Magnetic Fields’ was no different. But in a new approach, the French Maestro offered up a toughed up remix where the klanky lightweight tones of the Korg Rhythm KR55 were replaced by bangier drum samples while the synth stabs on the bridge were turned up. But as Jarre’s audience preferred albums, this superior remix got lost over the years and missed inclusion on his many compilations.
Everyone knows the wonderful hit single version of this Northern Soul cover with its hypnotic Roland Compurhythm running all the way through it. But for the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album, ‘Tainted Love’ was shortened by 2 seconds while the second phrase became the first, thus strangely muting the emotive impact of the original single. Annoyingly, this inferior version crept onto the first SOFT CELL compilation ‘The Singles’ and the more recent ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ collection.
With its iconic honky tonk piano line, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection, while the longer album remix with its ambient intro and stop ending lost some of the magic.
The original ‘Height Of The Fighting’ from the second side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was sonically an extension of ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware’s last album as a member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The more commercial single version took the funkier approach of the first side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, adding synthetic drums and a meatier bass synth attack. Also featuring the BEGGAR & CO brass section who had already played on records by SPANDAU BALLET, it was a glorious electronic soul hybrid.
Led by Iva Davies, the song which got Australian combo ICEHOUSE noticed by a wider audience in the UK during their tenure opening for SIMPLE MINDS was a slight reworking of the chilling synth laden ‘Icehouse’, the title track of their debut album from when the band were called FLOWERS. Featuring a strange offbeat and the mannerisms of GARY NUMAN before blitzing out for the song’s flanged guitar climax, ‘Icehouse’ was easily as good as anything on VISAGE’s eponymous debut.
Having been outflanked by DURAN DURAN in the New Romantic debut album stakes, SPANDAU BALLET explored Britfunk with ‘Chant No1′, but then took a strange about turn with their next album ‘Diamond’ featuring a number of ethnic art pieces. Fresh from working with ABC, Trevor Horn reworked Richard James Burgess’ understated production of ‘Instinction’ from the album. Throwing in extra synths played by Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it effectively saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career.
Still Matt Johnson’s finest five minutes as THE THE, ‘Uncertain Smile’ on its single release featured a wonderfully rigid TR808 pattern, lovely layers of synths and a variety of woodwinds including flute and sax. Produced by Mike Thorne, this fuller sounding and more emotive take far outstripped the bland and overlong ‘Soul Mining’ album cut produced by Paul Hardiman which included the extended boogie-woogie piano of Jools Holland tagged onto the end…
Inspired by the burgeoning New York club scene, Rusty Egan brought in John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’ from ‘The Anvil’ album much to Midge Ure’s dismay; it lead to the diminutive Glaswegian ending his tenure with VISAGE. But Luongo’s rework was sharper and more rigid, pushing forward the female backing vocals to soulful effect in particular and replacing the clumpier snare sounds of the original album version with cleaner AMS samples.
Extended version available on the compilation boxed set ’12”/80s – Volume 2′ (V/A) via Family Recordings
At over eight and a half minutes, the album version of ‘Sister Surprise’ on the ‘Mad Max’ inspired ‘Warriors’ was far too long, plus something was missing. For its single release, this slice of synthetic funk rock was shortened and sharpened, while a new vocal hook was added over Numan’s now ubiquitous “woah-oh-oh” refrains which provided a much better chorus. Despite this improvement and an appearance of ‘Top Of The Pops’, it was the lowest charting GARY NUMAN single to date…
“Somebody’s fooling around…” – the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ album sessions had not been a happy experience for DURAN DURAN with the prolonged mixing leading to a fall out between bassist John Taylor and producer Alex Sadkin. ‘The Reflex’ had potential but this was not fully realised. Enter Nile Rodgers who gave the track a rhythmic lift and played around with the then-new innovation of sampling, using various vocals to create new hooks and phrases for a monster international hit.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records
Comedian Lenny Henry summed things up best in a sketch where he entered a record shop to buy a single and was then offered a plethora of versions by the assistant:”I JUST WANT THE VERSION THEY GOT RIGHT!” – ZTT’s marketing exploits with 12 inch mixes are well known, but they played around with album versions too and with the version of ‘Two Tribes’ on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’, they got it wrong and took out the piper call middle eight!
Available on the FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square
There once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA but BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, a song many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, the more compact single version produced by Peter Collins considered improved on the ‘Mange Tout’ album version helmed by John Luongo and made more of Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics.
The collective strength of A-HA over the years has been to produce great melancholic pop in that classic Nordic tradition, but also add a contrasting glorious optimism. The photogenic trio have offered many great ballads over the years such as ‘Stay On These Roads’ and ‘Summer Moved On’, but their best known one is ‘Hunting High & Low’. Originally produced by Tony Mansfield, it was dramatically remixed for single release by Alan Tarney with the addition of orchestrations by Anne Dudley.
Originally produced by Stephen Hague, ‘Suburbia’ was a good if slightly underwhelming album track from ‘Please’ that got transformed into a more fully realised epic in a re-recording produced by Sarm West graduate Julian Mendelson. Complete with barking dogs, widescreen synths and thundering rhythms, the more aggressive overtones in the single version of PET SHOP BOYS‘ clever social commentary made ‘Suburbia’ a big hit, particularly in West Germany.
With DEPECHE MODE’s Trans-Atlantic breakthrough album ‘Music For The Masses’, the good but meandering track heading side two never realised its potential. But with PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, ERASURE and MADONNA remixer Shep Pettibone ‘Behind The Wheel’, a funkier bassline and syncopated rhythms were added to the much better single version, giving the song a far more accessible groove that could fill alternative club dancefloors in America.
‘Republic’ produced by Stephen Hague was not the finest hour of NEW ORDER, so it was something of a surprise when London Records chose to release the underwhelming ‘Spooky’ as the fourth single from it. But it was remixed by FLUKE, a house dance trio who had already worked with BJÖRK and were influenced by CABARET VOLTAIRE and GIORGIO MORODER. Rhythmically more spacious, this superior ‘Minimix’ allowed the best elements of the song to shine.
Available on the NEW ORDER single ‘Spooky’ via London Records
Listen to the ‘So Tough’ album version of ‘You’re In A Bad Way’ and it is far too understated. With a brighter punchier recording helmed by A-HA producer Alan Tarney for the single version, the acoustic guitar was pushed back while vintage synths and a lovely ‘Telstar’ motif was added for a vastly superior rendition of the song. Sometimes more can mean more and this slice of HERMAN’S HERMITS inspired pop brilliance gave SAINT ETIENNE a well-deserved No12 hit single.
Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. But trance enthusiasts who loved Dutch producer Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Sounding not unlike JEAN-MICHEL JARRE set to a 4/4 dance beat, this single version actually reached No4 in the UK charts.
In a poor period for Andy and Vince, the ‘Loveboat’ album’s problem wasn’t just the emphasis on guitar driven dynamics, but it also lacked the usual ERASURE charm despite production by Flood. Even the album’s one potentially great song ‘The Moon & The Sky’ was missing an uplifting chorus, something which was only fixed with the Heaven Scent Radio Rework version by Jason Creasey that was later released as an extended play single.
With vocals by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE vocalist Erlend Øye, ‘Remind Me’ was one of the highlights of RÖYKSOPP’s excellent debut album ‘Melody AM’ which fitted in with dance music culture’s penchant for chill-out. But for single release, the track was given a more rhythmic KRAFTWERK styled feel via ‘Someone Else’s Radio Remix’ by Marisa Jade Marks. The track drew in new listeners, although they would have had a major shock to the system on hearing the album original…
Available on the RÖYKSOPP download single ‘Remind Me’ via Wall Of Sound
Producer and remixer Richard Philips, better known as Richard X, began his musical career creating bootlegs or mash-ups, an illegal creative practice of combining two existing records to make an entirely new track.
The fusion of disparate elements, where often the vocals of one recording from a particular genre were placed over the instrumental backing from another, became a fashionable practice in clubs, with Belgium’s 2 Many DJs being among one of the more notable exponents alongside Richard X.
Influenced by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and KRAFTWERK in particular, Richard X’s first notable mash-up under the name GIRLS ON TOP was ‘I Wanna Dance With Numbers’ in 2001; it dropped Whitney Houston over KRAFTWERK and inspired by the apparent elitism of the electronica scene at the start of the 21st Century.
But it was when he placed ‘Freak Like Me’ by R ‘n’ B artist Adina Howard over TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for a bootleg entitled ‘We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends’ that figures within the music business realised Richard X’s Frankenstein vision might have commercial potential.
Ironically, one person who didn’t was Adina Howard herself who refused permission for her vocal to be used on an officially sanctioned release. Instead, the British female pop trio recorded a cover version of the mash-up produced by Richard X and the rest is history.
Since then, Richard X has been approached to work with many artists, but remains selective, declining most of what he is offered and often only working on individual tracks, thanks to his own artistic assertion that “I’ve always been about singles…”
Richard X created his own production umbrella Black Melody to oversee his work and even released a collection of demos by THE HUMAN LEAGUE as ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ which had been shelved by Virgin Records back in 1981. Meanwhile as well as ERASURE, NINE INCH NAILS, GOLDFRAPP, MIRRORS, SAY LOU LOU and NEW ORDER, his productions and remixes have encompassed artists such varied as Will Young, Roísín Murphy, Rachel Stevens, Sam Sparro, Tiga, Jarvis Cocker and Lana Del Rey.
As a result of often working on just singular tracks with artists, Richard X has a large and diverse portfolio; The Electricity Club lists eighteen of his most notable tracks, with a limit of one track per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…
SUGABABES Freak Like Me (2002)
Richard X dropped ‘Freak Like Me’ over ‘Are Friends Electric?’ as a GIRLS ON TOP bootleg, a crossover hit was just waiting to be unleashed… enter SUGABABES, modern pop’s equivalent of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. This was a period when Gary Numan was being sampled left, right and centre by the likes of BASEMENT JAXX and DJ Armand Van Helden, so this Diabolus In Musica urban hybrid no doubt helped bring him to a curious new young audience.
A huge fan of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Richard X continued his mash-up magic, albeit in a more reproductive manner. When the appropriately monikered LIBERTY X came knocking, he took inspiration from the various versions of ‘Being Boiled’ and put RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN’s funk classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ over the top, helped by the fact that both tunes ran at a very similar BPM of 103/104.
RICHARD X in collaboration with DEBORAH STRICKLAND-EVANS Lemon / Lime (2003)
Deborah Evans-Strickland was best known for her deadpan vocal on THE FLYING LIZARDS’ very unusual cover of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’. For his debut solo album, Richard X dragged her out of retirement for a bizarre reinterpretation of ‘Walk On By’ as well as the Trans-Commuter Express job spec art piece ‘Lemon / Lime’. Stern but strangely alluring in her posh Essex accent, Evans-Strickland came over like the scary Human Resources Manager who everyone is secretly attracted to.
Co-written with Hannah Robinson and based on some real-life music industry anecdotes, Richard X’s GOLDFRAPP-styled production on ‘Some Girls’ saw Rachel Stevens playing a wannabe who ends up on pop’s casting couch. Driven apparently by having his GOLDFRAPP remixes rejected, it was ‘Some Girls’ that first put the icy glam electro sound into the mainstream consciousness before GOLDFRAPP themselves.
“There is no you, there is only ME!” exclaimed an angry and provocative Trent Reznor on ‘Only’, but Richard X smoothed things down, brought forward the chorus and took it down the discotheque, albeit a dark gothic one! With a frantic marimba line added and an increased dance tempo, this was one of Richard X’s best crossover reworkings that still retained the original’s heavy spirit of frustration expressed as part of Reznor’s battle with alcoholism and substance abuse.
LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)
Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ declared that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved far more to be nominated for that title! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.
PET SHOP BOYS Fugitive – Richard X Extended Mix (2006)
Although the ‘Fundamental’ album was produced by Trevor Horn, Richard X worked on and powerfully extended ‘Fugitive’ as a limited edition exclusive for the fittingly titled ‘Fundamentalism’ bonus album. PET SHOP BOYS’ own post-9/11 song, Neil Tennant recently revealed in the extensive ‘Fundamental: Further Listening 2005–2007’ booklet notes:“It’s about a terrorist, a terrorist whose ideology is that he believes that by killing the enemy he’s going to go to heaven”.
Richard X has worked on-and off with Anne Lilia Berge Strand since 2004 including her breakthrough song ‘Chewing Gum’; ‘Songs Remind Me Of You’ was another fabulous tune from the X / Hannah Robinson songbook. Filled with high octane electronic dance flavours, “How does it feel…to hear your songs on the radio?” asked the Norwegian songstress wispily with an exquisite devenir a gris lilt over a classic chord structure inside a spiky synthesized mix.
Available on the ANNIE album ‘Don’t Stop’ via Smalltown Supersound
As a jokey publicity stunt for the Italo disco flavoured ANNIE single ‘Anthonio’, Richard X used its backing track and a new lyric by Hannah Robinson to create a brilliant tongue-in-cheek response to her tale of broken holiday romance. As a modern exponent of Italo, HEARTBREAK’s charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik amiably played the role of the disimpassioned Latin lover.
Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters
With some slight structural similarities to Kylie Minogue’s ‘The One’ and recorded by SAINT ETIENNE for an updated singles compilation, ‘Method Of Modern Love’ was again written by Richard X with Hannah Robinson alongside Matt Prime. A long-time fan of the trio, it had only been intended for Richard X to remix the track ‘This Is Tomorrow’, but he ended up producing them as they opted for ‘Method Of Modern Love’ as a new single after hearing the demo.
‘Overpowered’ was the second solo album from one-time MOLOKO frontwoman Roísín Murphy and a superb collection of soulful 21st century electronic disco. The Richard X helmed ‘Parallel Lives’ penetrated with some steady and deep sub-bass, providing a nice bonus to an album where Murphy had gloriously sounded not unlike Lisa Stansfield fronting PET SHOP BOYS on outstanding songs such as ‘Primitive’ and Cry Baby’.
Available on the ROÍSÍN MURPHY album ‘Overpowered’ via EMI Records
DRAGONETTE Pick Up The Phone – Richard X Remix (2010)
While ‘Pick Up The Phone’ from Canadian popsters DRAGONETTE was a summery upbeat tune, their usual Euro-leaning sound took a breather with electric guitars subbing for the usual synths. But this made things perfect for a superior Richard X remix to stick back in all the electronic dance elements that the band were actually best known for.
From ‘Head First’, the poppiest album in the GOLDFRAPP catalogue, the Richard X assisted ‘Alive’ allowed Alison Goldfrapp to explore her Olivia Newton-John fixation with a tune that recalled ‘I’m Alive’, the latter’s collaboration with ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA for the film ‘Xanadu’. The synth solo was big and fat with power chords plus a great middle eight to boot. With references to Billy Joel as well, ‘Alive’ sounded slightly more Oberheim than Korg…
Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records
THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS Young Aren’t Young (2010)
Hailing from Brooklyn, THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS possessed a sultry new wave fusion with occasional gothic overtones. Despite the girl / boy duo having aspirations to be more like Warp Records label mates BROADCAST, Richard X produced a number of key songs from their self-titled debut album, adding a more accessible sheen. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ was a dreamy NEW ORDER influenced number layered with the sort of frenetic guitar playing that would have made Bernard Sumner proud.
It’s strange to think now but before she became a pop princess, Sophie Ellis-Bextor once fronted an indie rock band called THEAUDIENCE. Yet another Richard X and Hannah Robinson co-composition, the glitterball sparkle of ‘Starlight’ utilised a Linn Drum led rhythm section and sweeping synth strings for a dreamy electronic pop concoction. Alluringly finding “heaven in the dark”, it was one of those catchy summer holiday disco anthems that Kylie Minogue wouldn’t have objected to recording herself.
MIRRORS Into The Heart – Richard X Radio Mix (2011)
With a determined art for art’s sake concept for their eventual ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, the original sessions with Richard X were abandoned when MIRRORS chose to produce themselves, although he did contribute a Radio Mix for the reissued single ‘Into The Heart’; less intense and claustrophobic than the quartet’s album version, the majestic singalong proved that Synth Britannia influences were and still are nothing to be ashamed of.
THE SOUND OF ARROWS are Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, a Swedish duo described by one observer as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”. Like PET SHOP BOYS fed with Fox’s Glacier Mints, the Richard X produced widescreen instrumental ‘Lost City’ was fittingly dramatic, although its main melodic theme may have been a bit too ‘Top Gun’ with synths for some listeners…
Available on THE SOUND OF ARROWS album ‘Voyage’ via Skies Above
Produced by Richard X, ‘The Violet Flame’ saw ERASURE return to form with their fourteenth album after the disappointment of its predecessor ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and express an infectious zest for the future with songs seeded via Vince Clarke’s pre-recorded dance grooves. With ‘Sacred’, this was another classic ERASURE pop tune, although the bizarre phrasal spectre of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by GUNS N ROSES could be found in the verse of Andy Bell’s vocal topline!
For the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number in the vein of Giorgio Moroder, solidly mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of NEW ORDER’s own ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality in relationships, it declared “you’re like plastic, you’re artificial…”
Produced by Richard X and Sunglasses Kid, a nocturnal warmth exuded from the hypnotic drifts of ‘Beyond Memory’, demonstrating how German songstress NINA’s brand of pulsating electronic pop acted as a bridge between the sub-genres of synthwave and synthpop. With her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus, ‘Beyond Memory’ reflected on the personal lifelong impact of past relationships.
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.