SINESTAR were formed in January 2011 from the ashes of its predecessor, JAGGED.
Sharing their Bristol origins with the UK’s best kept secret MESH, the band quickly turned heads with their first synth outing in the form of ‘I Am The Rain’.
The debut track from the same titled EP, laden with a heavy synth hook and the catchiest of choruses, opened a few doors for the West Country combo. With such a grand entrance, the expectations for the first album were ample; the effect was disappointing, however.
While a few songs on ‘Singularis’ showed signs of potential, it was not realised, being blanketed with poor production, mixing and mastering. The following EP, ‘Running Home’ showed much needed signs of improvement, with no other than Richard Silverthorn of MESH being involved in its execution.
‘Evolve’ sees the keyboardist and programmer of the band, Mark Trueman taking the reins of charge, instantly achieving a more electronic template and promising a more grown-up, fuller sound. Incidentally, ‘Fortunes Faded’, ‘The Same Way’ and ‘Running Home’ from that previous Silverthorn produced EP, show up on the tracklisting, to append the album’s eleven Trueman steered songs.
‘Ready Set Go & Die’ opens with an unmistakable MESH shadow sound, canvassing a rather unoriginal vocal from Iain Brownlie. It is a catchy start, preparing the blueprint for what follows, with ‘The Madness Of Control’ and ‘The Same Way’; the latter, fully loaded with all the correct synth sounds over the disappointing flatness of the lead voice.
‘Stop The Clocks’ changes the landscape into an analogue ERASURE-esque melody, which suits the vocal perfectly on this occasion, while ‘Heart To The Fire’ pleasantly continues the Clarke-Bell formula. In this case, a big Eurovision worthy chorus dominates the production.
The surprising choice of the first single, ‘Fortunes Faded’ blandly fills the gap between the previous track and ‘Running Home’, which sonically repeats the MESH recipe, but with an added female vocal. ‘Falling’, ‘Avoiding the Silence’ and ‘Time Expired’ follow without a deeper lasting effect onto ‘The Mirror Song’, which is a melodious venture, probing deeper into the early works of the ‘Chorus’ masters, until it reaches a seemingly alien half rap, half talk bridge / ending.
‘Chemical Romance’, or is it ‘Love To Hate You’? It’s hard to determine. ‘My Perspective’ regains some originality, which SINESTAR are clearly capable of, with the production closing on ‘Sentinel’, a slower, less paced track, heralding gentler Numan connotations.
SINESTAR, now signed to Germany’s Conzoom Records, have certainly produced something much cleaner, less cluttered and more electronic than its predecessor. The songs are guaranteed to impact during live performances. A noted improvement on the last production, this album will probably be best enjoyed in a concert environment.
Judging by the obvious MESH and ERASURE connections, together with an Axl Rose resembling vocal, the long play may appeal to much a wider audience than the usual electronica die-hards.
Everyone knows that touring in a band is glamorous with a capital G. The sex, drugs, rock and roll, autograph sessions, adulation from the crowd and TV sets out of hotel windows… only it’s not! When the highlight of the day is finding the dressing room, or even if the venue has a functioning toilet and that the promoter has bought food that didn’t come from the remainder aisle in Asda (Hedgehog and Pickle sandwich anyone…?), it tends to tarnish the idea of a tour being a cross between the last days of Rome and a quiet Wednesday night round Keith Moon’s gaff.
What follows are my observations from the recent COVENANT UK tour where my band ANALOG ANGEL were main support. No names have been changed; it would be pointless as the perpetrators are fairly identifiable. After this you may heed Noel Coward’s words and not put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington…
Day 1 Minus 1
…And actually minus about a further 60 plus days of prep for the off. There are so many things to arrange and what appeared to be loads of time ended up nearly not being enough. Transport, hotels, merchandise (hey it’s a tour, folk would want T-shirts, right?), cables, lots and lots of cables, that thing that does the thing and a setlist all had to be agreed.
With all this in place it was the traditional pre-tour curry with the chaps from COVENANT and associated friends at our local Indian. Everyone was impressed by the paper dosa and the large quantities of beer provided by the ever convivial promoter Barry Douglas. So to bed to not sleep wondering if I had packed that cable and drumsticks….
Day 1 – Glasgow
Hometown show and all the pressure that brings from performing in front of assorted friends and family. The venue for the show, The Classic Grand, is one we are very familiar with having played here dozens of times over the years. Sound and lights are some of the best for a hall this size in the UK and we are confident of kicking off the tour on the right note (just usually played in the wrong key…)
Typically of an opening night on a tour both bands are a little slow setting up at soundcheck but once ready, the consensus is we are sounding good. We are joined tonight as a local support by ADVANCE who at check premiere a fantastic version of MADONNA’s ‘Frozen’, which garners much applause from those gathered. Then begins the first of many hours of waiting around. Derek goes for a walk, John rests his voice, I bugger around playing games on the iPad and Tracy buffs her latex.
The show goes well with the audience dancing away and few mistakes on my part, which is a rarity, The new song ‘Cradle To Grave’ is particularly well received with special mentions being given to the live drumming. Our post performance debrief concludes this tour is going to be fun!
Load out brings the realization we have more kit with us than ever before so will need careful management to ensure we don’t leave anything behind (We at some point leave something behind)
12 noon call for the bus tomorrow so to bed, I am sharing with our merch guy / photographer / tour monkey Mark Walker so manage to get ‘some’ sleep… As I said ‘Bin Boy’, if I wanted woken at 4am with a light in my face I would have slept in a nearby bush…
Day 2 – Manchester
One rule learnt by friends on a tour last year was DON’T leave your gear in the van over night, it’s too much of a magnet for n’er do wells and rapscallions, so the day, as will the rest on tour, begins with much up and down stairs in the hotel to load what is quickly christened The Turd Bus.
Safely on board, we begin the drive south to Manchester. Originally the 3rd show on the tour, it was swapped with Newcastle as PLACEBO are play there this evening which would have the inevitable impact on ticket sales.
We have played The Academy 3 before, but this doesn’t mean we forget how the service lift worked when loading in with the associated hilarity this brought. The stage is pretty tight for 4 bands but as always, we make it work and the show goes down well.
Having almost shown my not unsubstantial bottom to the crowd whilst taking the equipment off stage, it was decided that I would probably not wear the kilt for the rest of the tour, there are many sensitive souls present after all.
We say hi to a load of folk at the merch stand and we catch a fair bit of COVENANT’s set for the first time on the tour. They are on fire. Eskil prowls the stage whilst Daniel and Andreas throw out some of the hardest hitting live electronics I have ever heard.
Over a beer afterwards, it is agreed both bands are quickly hitting their stride. So off to bed, which provides more issues as the hotel has put us in double rooms! AA are a close knit group but not that close! By the time we resolve this glitch, it’s almost 01:30; exhausted we crash…
Day 3 – Newcastle
We head slighty back north today to the Student Union at Newcastle University. The venue is massive with an equally large sound and light rig. Rico, COVENANT’s ‘lampy’ is in his element and lights up the stage at soundcheck like the end scene from ‘Close Encounters…’
We have the luxury of our own dressing room with a nice selection of beers. After struggling with the in house wi-fi, we settle down to wait for show time by basically messing around on Facebook. Archie, our good friend who is acting as both driver and crew is a little thrown when asked to help Tracy into her latex outfit for the night, we tell him we all have to take turns and he suggests auctioning this role off on subsequent trips. He is quickly promoted to manager…
The set goes well tonight with the crowd really getting into the swing of things by the 2nd number, and it’s good to see so many familiar local friends in the audience.
Paul Russell from EURASIANEYES pops along for a beer and a natter and we all take turns manning the merch which is, we are happy to say, flying off the tables. None of us can really get over the fact folk ask for us to sign something that isn’t a confession, but we spend a good 30 minutes at the end of the evening doing this and posing for pics. Then its back to the routine of load the Turd Bus, unload the Turd Bus at the hotel and bed.
Day 4 – Birmingham
The day dawns with us just missing breakfast by 2 minutes and to enforce the fact we can’t come in, the waiter closes the door on us with Derek and Archie in the dining room eating away. Ours is the last laugh however as we decamp to a local pub for Fat Boy Breakfasts which put the smile back on Tracy’s face…
Once all aboard the TB, it’s a short jaunt down the motorway to Birmingham. En route we meet another band at the service, MARMOZETS, and we have burgers and share tales of venues we are both playing on our respective tours. There is a weird camaraderie between bands on tour when paths cross, the same thing happened with the metal band DEATH in Manchester where their tour manager, a very large and heavily tattooed American gent, even asked to buy a T-shirt whilst we compared parking and toilet paper at stops around the UK.
The venue is what estate agents call compact and bijou, and it becomes quite apparent that logistically it’s going to be a challenge getting off stage safely as we need to drop gear off stage and outside the ladies toilet! We work out a guarding strategy and the set goes well. The hall itself heats up very, very quickly and it is an extremely sweaty set. We finish with the whole crowd bouncing along to some vigorous JB dancing and even calls for an encore.
We decamp to the entrance foyer of the downstairs hall’s balcony which has been put aside as our dressing room… see I told you, its all glamour, where we do a couple of interviews, again something we still cant get used to being asked to do.
At the end of the evening, this area becomes an impromptu club when Eskil appears with the remains of both bands’ riders and a boombox, and holds a party. The sight of about 20 folk dancing in what we named Eskil’s Cupboard (the most exclusive nightclub in Birmingham that night or really any other) is one that I won’t forget in a hurry, no matter how hard I try. This continues on the bus, with the music of choice being Stockholm Swedish Black Metal, Archie isn’t a fan…
We continue the ‘party’ back in a room at our hotel with beers and tales of the old days and its then off to bed. Tomorrow is the big one we have been told, London…
Day 5 – London
The Islington Academy is the biggest venue we will play on the tour and also the closest to selling out. There are a few fragile members of the gang today; some may have peaked a bit early perhaps?
We arrive at the venue in good time only to discover the details given for load-in are wrong, so have to hang around for an hour before we can get the gear in.
Bizarrely it transpires Tom, tonight’s engineer is from Glasgow so we work out who are mutual acquaintances from back in the day and swap updates on what they are doing these days. A top guy and good giver of sound! My girlfriend Helen is joining us for the last 2 dates on the tour so I pop to the station to meet her, it’s all very brief encounter, and we join Tracy and some friends for some very tasty Vietnamese pre show food.
It’s a big stage and hall and JB in particular takes advantage of the room during our set and especially the empty drum riser, though he gets a bit of a shock I think when Rico triggers the dry ice up his left trouser leg!
The room has a load of friends in it which drives us on to the best performance of the tour so far. As a happy birthday to our favourite online electronic music publication, Del and I wear TEC T-shirts and I thank both Chi and The Electricity Club for the support they give us and the scene. Even that gets a round of applause!
Sadly some friends got stuck in traffic so missed us, but we play with Martin and Anais from the VILE ELECTRODES later this year so resolve to make amends with much beer at that point.
A trip to Mark on the Merch stand brings the news that we have sold out of all the CDs we took on the tour, thanks to all who bought one, we are still in shock! We repair to the dressing room to celebrate with some very potent digestif supplied by photographer extraordinaire Andreas Lechleiter which goes down a little too well.
Once again kit back to the hotel and bed… is it almost all over already…?!?!
Day 6 – Bristol
The last day of the tour dawns with the sad realization this is the last day. Both bands resolve to go out on a high.
Tonight, we are joined by our friends SINESTAR as local support at The Fleece, a proper old school venue. You can tell this by how sticky the floor is! That it’s under threat of closure from a developer of nearby flats is a disgrace as there are all too few places like this to play in the UK nowadays. I would encourage everyone to sign the petition to Save The Fleece.
All bands soundcheck quickly and we get ready for showtime by having a beer and a chat with assorted members of MESH and also the ever supportive Deb Danahay and Martin Mann who joined us on the Turd Bus from London. Much of the day is spent remembering and then forgetting the code for the dressing room door until Archie suggests taking a photo. See, management potential…
SINESTAR kick proceedings of with a storming set. I have seen the chaps play many times and they just get better and better, great band and mates.
Again we play well; sadly we are really hitting our groove just as the tour ends. With the last drum beats of ‘Cradle To Grave’, it’s over, all too quickly. No-one seems to notice John almost falling off stage or that I play completely the wrong thing on one solo being put off by both Tracy and Mr Brown.
We have beers and perform some very dodgy dancing with all the wonderful friends that have turned up to the gig, even being joined by Eskil at the end of the ever excellent COVENANT set.
We expect to be able to have an end of tour drink at the hotel, but sadly it’s Sunday and the bar is closed. So various bottles etc appear in the foyer along with Eskil’s famous boombox and a DIY party is held. I head to bed with my girlfriend Helen who has been making sure I have been misbehaving, and I have work in the morning…
The Day After The 6 Nights Before
Tracy isn’t well, I have to go to London and everyone else has to head back to Scotland or, in COVENANT’s case, the airport. We part with sadness but also a fair sense of pride at a tour well played.
ANALOG ANGEL would like to thank COVENANT for their gracious invitation onto the tour, Archie Lining for driving all over and back, Mark ‘Binny Boy’ Walker for merch duties and photos, Frank Drake, Barry Douglas and Kev Morris for promoting such fabulous shows and all our friends, old and new, who turned up to support us, sing and dance and buy a T-shirt…
It was a weak year musically overall, but a number of acts with great potential emerged.
So here are The Electricity Club’s 30 Songs of 2012, listed in alphabetical order. All have been released either in physical formats or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year. However, the list is limited to one song per artist
It also does not include tracks which are exclusive to streams and videos or DJs only promos like the remix of REPUBLICA’s ‘Christiana Obey’… so maybe next year perhaps?
AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
Consisting of the Merrick Brothers, AUTOMATIC WRITING are the angry OMD if you can imagine that! Their sombre, ENO influenced template is like Wirral’s finest have been given a contemporary anthemic facelift by having WHITE LIES Harry McVeigh recruited as lead vocalist! ‘Continuous’ whirs and spins while driven by mutant motorik beats and dysfunctional claustrophobia. The flip ‘Falling’ is a more mid-tempo cousin and is another worthy addition to the duo’s developing sound.
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT is Welsh songwriter/producer Rod Thomas who adopted his ‘Gremlins’ referencing moniker to prevent being mistaken for an acoustic act which he clearly now is not, despite his folkie roots. As the opener to the long awaited album ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’, ‘Immature’ is a great start as it rhythmically percolates in the manner of THE POSTAL SERVICE before a terrific synth section unexpectedly lifts the whole piece several notches. This is a superbly emotive and sensitive piece of pop.
Available on the album ‘Make Me Believe in Hope’ via The Blue Team/Aztec Records
From ‘The Lost Are Found’ album produced by Stephen Hague which also features versions of songs originally by PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR and STINA NORDENSTRAM among others, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN’s lively reinterpretation of Bowie’s ‘Everyone Says Hi’ from ‘Heathen’ unveils a previously hidden heartfelt connection, a call for contact like Major Tom in ‘Space Oddity’. Dressed with catchy synth riffs and fuzzy shades, it combines ice maiden chill and organic warmth for an artful sound.
Available on the album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)
ROBYN doing an electro cover of ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ may not sound immediately appealing in concept but that’s how this punchy number starts before elevating into a rousing, spirited synth anthem. CHVRCHES could become the next electro combo to shake up the mainstream pop world since LA ROUX. A great song with great melodies and weird noises, herein ‘Lies’ the bridge between leftfield and bubblegum pop. The follow-up ‘The Mothers We Share’ underlines this promising Glaswegian trio’s capability.
VINCE CLARKE Featuring ANE BRUN Fly On The Windscreen
Novelist Tonya Hurley commissioned her brother-in-law VINCE CLARKE to record a stark cover of his former band’s ‘Fly On The Windscreen’ with vocalist ANE BRUN as part of promotion for her literary trilogy ‘The Blessed’. While the guitar-like textures appear to have been borrowed from the original in an act of artistic continuity, the rest of the arrangement is quite different as the vulnerable feminine twist acts as the ‘Twilight’ Generation’s perfect introduction to DEPECHE MODE.
Available as a download single via iTunes and Amazon
COMPUTE is Ulrika Mild, a Gothenburg girl who discovered synthpop via DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak and Spell’. ‘Light As a Feather’ is a bouncy but melancholic ditty which suggests a snow mountain of vulnerability. That is certainly apparent in Ulrika’s sweet, fragile voice. It’s beautifully sequenced with layers of eerie string machine for that distinctive Nordic chill.
Available on download album ‘The Distance’ via iTunes and Amazon
Roberta Fidora shows yet another fine turn of aggressive resignation like SIOUXSIE SIOUX in a padded cell while instrumentalist Macaulay Hopwood picks out his unsettling bass notes to full effect. While this CURXES tune is perhaps more guitar driven than what would normally be expected of most electronica, ‘Spectre’ is positively Spartan with symphonic synth stabs and industrial beat snaps…it’s the sound of the overground or Goth ‘n’ Bass…or even Gotham Bass; geddit? Simply exhilarating!
Available as a download single via Amazon and iTunes
DIVINE KNIGHTS Clouds (THE SANFERNANDO SOUND remix)
Goth laden PET SHOP BOYS from the theatrical Aussie duo dreamily remixed by THE SANFERNANDO SOUND. This is richly synthesized with lashings of atmosphere and accessible melancholy. The extrovertly camp pair have even subverted the realm of the talent show by getting into the semi-finals of ‘Australia’s Got Talent’. Dannii Minogue said: “I think DIVINE KNIGHTS are brave for coming on a show like this because not everybody is going to get them…but I really hope they do well!”
Available as a download single via Amazon and iTunes
Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN comprise the feline vocals of Sicca with the instrumentation of Jake Childs and throw in a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG and Electroclash. ‘No Words’ recalls MISS KITTEN & THE HACKER, capturing a tense nightlife seediness. Short but sweet with a swirling middle section, who needs an extended dance mix when the point is made in two and a half minutes? ELEVEN:ELEVEN have proved danceable electronic pop music can be made that’s syncopated and subtle.
GAZELLE TWIN Changelings (JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix)
Stark and mysterious, the living art of GAZELLE TWIN is the moniker of Elizabeth Walling, the Brighton based songstress whose brooding, unsettling Hauntronica has impressed in all the right circles. JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ version of one of her best tracks ‘Changelings’ sees Mr Foxx adding his own Cathedral Oceans sweeps to Benge’s Mathematical solutions. In an productive year profile wise, her music was used in the promotion for the film ‘Prometheus’.
Available on the album ‘The Entire City Remixed’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records
GRIMES is the kooky Montreal sensation that is Clare Boucher and this LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK tune is sumptuously infectious. Despite almost unintelligible vocals, ‘Oblivion’ is probably the most immediate track on the ‘Visions’ album although other tracks like ‘Genesis’ and ‘Be A Body’ explore similarly accessible synthesized avenues. ‘Oblivion’ is ideal for those looking for subtler percussive colours and synthesized tapestries in a leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion.
HUSKI first came to public attention on the trendy Shoreditch electro scene back in 2007 with ‘Take Me Your Picture’. The late lamented Word magazine described ‘Close To The Edge’ as sounding “not unlike how Clare Grogan might if she took a guest slot with THE HUMAN LEAGUE”. As both THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ALTERED IMAGES worked with the late Martin Rushent, that is not as peculiar as it first sounds and it brims with a cutesy allure.
IAMAMIWHOIAMI is the enigmatic electronic multimedia project fronted by Jonna Lee. From her first full length album ‘Kin’, ‘Drops’ is uptempo but almost trancelike. The beats are subtle with just layers of ice and chill to compliment. The clattering fits of noise and metallic textures add to the hypnotism. Jonna Lee’s piercing larynx will polarise listeners but this is Nordic weirdness in all its wonderful glory.
Available on the album ‘Kin’ via Co-Operative Music/To Whom It May Concern
Hailing from Belgrade and featuring the nucleus of vocalist Jelena Miletić and instrumentalist Jovan Vesić, INJE have had the pleasure of supporting HURTS and FAITHLESS in their home country. Their chromatic East European charge will almost certainly please followers of LADYTRON. The excellent ‘Kofein I CO2’ from their EP ‘Protok’ is sort of DUBSTAR in Serbo-Croat meets DAVID LYNCH soundtrack, possessing an aural magnetism that is gorgeously layered with an air of wispy innocence.
‘Killer Boots’ is cooing new wave electropop with an immediately catchy Italo vibe…think ‘Self Control’ or even ‘Touch Me’! Appropriately decadent and sexy, this catchy song is produced by GARY NUMAN collaborator Andy Gray. Colourful, energetic and glamourous, KOVAK are like BLONDIE meeting DRAGONETTE and GWEN STEFANI through a TUBEWAY ARMY voltage controlled filter.
Is it dubstep or is it electro? ‘Keep On Dreaming’ actually sounds more like the latter. When the half beat/two step influences kick in, luckily they do so without the irritating, skipping CD nightmares that devilishly plague most dubstep. But like with all crossover songs, it is the flavour rather than the full blown experience that often wins favour. Confused? Just enjoy… this number by young Stockholm songstress Josefine Jinder features lots of lovely synths!
From the creative minds of former MIRRORS man Ally Young and Lee Newell from one-time indie darlings VIVA BROTHER, ‘Braveface’ is a chilling but uplifting piece of mood music which comes over like OMD fronted by HARD FI! With its Cool Britannia meets Synth Britannia fusion via the Big Apple, LOVELIFE’s genre blend may be confusing indie and electronic music fans alike but at least it’s different.
Since slimming down to a trio, MIRRORS have been heading for a sparser, textural direction which is perhaps less immediate than their debut album ‘Lights & Offerings’ but nevertheless rewarding with further listens. The beautifully stark drama of ‘Between Four Walls’ is sublime and full of post 3am drama. With echoes of OMD, CHINA CRISIS and THE BLUE NILE, it is high end atmospheric electronic balladry at its best. “Do you ever wonder how you’ll ever get there when you never turn back around?”
Comprising of Glen Wisbey on synths and the suave persona of Christopher Beecham on vocals, MODOVAR’s most immediate number is the emotively rousing ‘Clearly’. Beecham is a man with a self-confessed admiration of ALISON MOYET so ‘Clearly’ connects as a song of love in the first degree. It is just one of their “melodic, anthemic, chorus led songs, lyrically focused on the undercurrents of love and the human condition”. Also check out their cover of ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Same Old Scene’.
Available on the download EP ‘Clearly’ via Amazon and iTunes
MOTOR’s electro stomper ‘Man Made Machine’ features vocals by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration that sounds not unlike a camp IGGY POP being backed by an angry GOLDFRAPP. In the absence of DM material in 2012, this has been a worthy substitute with Gore luring nervously over the duo’s brand of harder edged techno electro. Incidentally, the same titled parent album also features guest such as GARY NUMAN and NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy.
New York domiciled Anglophile duo THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND’s make “pop songs for the disenchanted, disillusioned and disenfranchised”. Featuring Vladimir Valette on vocals and Benedetto Socci on keyboards, their “life…set to a dance beat” touches a nerve and now more so than the NEW ORDER influenced ‘Remember Me’. An emotive guitar assisted number in the vein of ‘Leave Me Alone’, it is slightly mournful and despaired but melodically secure.
Available on the download EP ‘Dreamers & Lovers’ via Stereosonic Recordings
BJÖRK goes synthy via THE KNIFE on ‘Thousand Loaded Guns’, a danceable tune that provides a degree of accessibility into the world of darker Nordic climes. Hailing from the forests of Djura in Sweden, KARIN PARK is yet another child of Drejer-Andersson, straddling between electropop and artier aspirations. Her sound is sonically awkward, albeit in a liberating artistic way. Scandinavia is a great place to be musically at the moment.
Available on the album ‘Highwire Poetry’ via State Of The Eye Recordings
Following her Arrival in 2011, QUEEN OF HEARTS graced the music world with a glitzy slice of electro schaffel appropriately entitled ‘Neon’. On first hearing this live, The Electricity Club gleefully pronounced that this managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP. While this had the obvious hallmarks of Lady Alison’s glam stomp, Queenie added her own cooing poptastic flavour, recalling RACHEL STEVENS’ under rated and great lost album ‘Come & Get It’.
Available on the download EP ‘Neon’ via All Things Go Records
Hailing from downtown Los Angeles, RITUALS comprise vocalist Neil Popkin and electronic producer Julian Denis. ‘James’ is rousing neo-NEW ORDER meets THE BRAVERY (remember them?) stomper which is only slightly short of being outstanding due to its demo-ish production…but the song resonates with an appealing doom. ‘Walk Away’ from their 2011 debut EP is another fine example of their potential.
SIN COS TAN Trust SIN COS TAN is the new mathematically charged project of ace producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa, “a synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”. They have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. This is subtle, hypnotic dance music with layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, it is one of the songs of the year.
Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina (Europe) and Sugarcane Recordings (Rest of World)
Bristol’s SINESTAR are a full blown five-piece band with drums, bass and guitar as well as synths and their MESH derived synthesized rock has the potential to crossover into several electronic sub-genres. With a so far small but impressive body of work as showcased on the ‘I Am The Rain’ EP, the terrific ‘Hurricane’ is like FAITHLESS gone rock! Catchy, tuneful and anthemic, they just need to work on the production.
Available on the download EP ‘I Am The Rain’ via Dead Rat Recordings.
STRANGERS have been perilously close to COLDPLAY territory on occasions. But on ‘Safe/Pain’, a moody slice of sweeping synth noir with a lonely piano intro, the big surprise comes when a series of rave stabs cut in for the ultimate euphoric lift, crossed with a bit of dubstep! The BBC loved ‘Safe/Pain’ and used it for a clip compiling Team GB’s immense cycling achievements at the end of the London 2012 Olympics. Following prestigious support slots with BLANCMANGE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN under their belt, David Maddox-Jones, Raife Hacking and Piers Sherwood Roberts are well on their way!
‘It’s Dark’ could be RAMMSTEIN reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE with fewer the flame throwers! TITANS’ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan winning a fight with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In an electronic sub-genre known for its shouting, ‘It’s Dark’ manages to sound menacing without forcing the aggression. The edgy electronic backing from Fredrik Mattsson and Jimmy Svensson blends marvellously with the band’s doompop manifesto.
Available on the download album ‘For The Long Gone’ via Progress Productions
There were so many songs that could have been chosen but with this opener from their err… Brilliant comeback album was ULTRAVOX’s optimistic message of intent. Musically, ‘Live’ is ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ without the imminent nuclear holocaust! The instrumental breakdown, which drops to a magnificent pulsing sequence, piano and lone bass drum before the climax, is pure LA DÜSSELDORF and really is something to be savoured.
Available on the album ‘Brilliant’ via Eden Recordings/EMI Records
While recording their long awaited new album ‘Inhale’, MARSHEAUX added to their remix portfolio with a terrific reworking of a track dating back to 1969 by Japanese classic singer SAORI YUKI. Adding incessant beats, infectious pulsing synth and melancholic washes of sound to the more organic re-recording with PINK MARTINI from 2011, this brings Kayokyoku (a style of Japanese music thatabsorbs various Western styles) into the electro age with a Melody For a New Dawn.
Bristol-based five piece SINESTAR first came to the attention of The Electricity Club back in January with their debut EP ‘I Am The Rain’.
This three track debut showcased their distinctive sound, featuring soaring synths, powerful vocals and driving live bass and drums. ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Lived For’ both served well to introduce their edgy sonic template.
However, it is the title track, ‘I Am The Rain’ with its catchy chorus and massive synth hook, which has been making waves throughout the electro community and beyond.
SINESTAR was formed from the ashes of a previous band, JAGGED, with whom four of the five SINESTAR members had also played. As lead singer Iain Brownlie explains,“Although pretty successful within our own right, ultimately the band imploded when the majority pulled in the direction of music with a broader sound and greater mass appeal. SINESTAR was born In January 2011.”
Iain describes SINESTAR’s sound as “fairly unique, in that the band members come from totally different musical backgrounds. Influences are vast and varied, from early DEPECHE MODE, MUSE, ULTRAVOX, GREEN DAY and GARY NUMAN to NEW ORDER, NINE INCH NAILS, MESH and VNV NATION. It’s all in there somewhere and to be honest it’s difficult to pin point any one over another that we could say are the biggest influence on our sound. We simply make the music that we want to hear.”
SINESTAR proved their live credentials when they recently played a set at the BAS II festival in Essex. Their afternoon slot at the James Hornsby school, with an audience in varying stages of recuperation from the excesses of the night before, might have proved challenging for a lesser band!
However, SINESTAR used this to their advantage, delivering a punchy set that simply demanded one’s attention.
The live guitar and drums, bolstered by Iain’s engaging stage presence, provided a welcome diversion from the purely electronic palette of the festival. Culminating with a triumphant rendition of ‘I Am The Rain’, theirs became one of the most talked about sets of the weekend.
The band is now busy working on a new album for release in late August and, as Iain reports, progress is “coming thick and fast. We have been inspired by the initial feedback from the debut release and have around 17 tracks that we are in the process of shaping. Not all will make the cut and we are going to be the biggest critics of our own material”
‘I Am The Rain’ EP is available from iTunes and other digital outlets
Several cities have a special place in the heart of the heart of electronic music lover; Düsseldorf, Sheffield, Berlin, but none has more resonance than Basildon.
This new town in Essex was the birthplace of the world’s biggest electronic band DEPECHE MODE, as well as YAZOO and a host of related acts. Given this remarkable musical legacy, it is surprising that Basildon has done little to celebrate its most famous sons. That is, until now…
Deb Danahay was at the heart of this thriving music scene during these Synth Britannia years. She was a close friend of DEPECHE MODE and co-ran their fan club in the early days. Deb has stayed living in the Basildon area and always maintained her enthusiasm for the scene.
In 2011 she put on her first live event – A Very Special Weekend in Bas – and was overwhelmed at the response of DM fans who travelled from far and wide to celebrate in the hometown of their idols. Buoyed by the success of this inaugural event, Deb planned something altogether more ambitious for BAS II.
BAS II, whilst retaining its primary focus as a gathering for Devotees, grew to become a fully-fledged two-day festival of electronic music featuring some the best new talent alongside heritage synth acts. Inside the venue at Basildon’s Bowers Club, it was clear that the same attention to detail had gone into everything from the professional lighting and visuals. MODOVAR delivered a polished performance showcasing material from their debut album, ‘The Sea Of Unspoken Words’, which is due for release soon.
Frontman Christopher Beecham’s impressive vocal range has shades of Andy Bell and Alison Moyet, and their closing number, fittingly a cover of YAZOO’s ‘Situation’, had the crowd on its feet.
Local hero ROBERT MARLOW was welcomed warmly and the audience were greatly appreciative when he dug out his Vince Clarke produced cult classics, ‘The Face Of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Calling All Destroyers’.
Next up was TENEK, who delivered a blistering set including recent single ‘What Do You Want’, and crowd pleasers from their two albums ‘Stateless’ and ‘On The Wire’. Their set culminated with a roof-raising rendition of ‘No Time For Fighting’,which delighted diehard fans and newcomers alike.
The final live act of the evening was BLANCMANGE, who played a well received set of material from recent album ‘Blanc Burn’ alongside their earlier hits and album cuts. Neil Arthur’s superbly down-to-earth deameanor would put him in good stead as a stand-up comedian.
Closing the Friday night was a DJ set by none other than The Electricity Club, who played to the DM faithful and were joined on the decks by the fabulous Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR and CLIENT fame.
Sarah had a very special surprise for the crowd when she sang a cover version of DM’s ‘A Question Of Time’, followed by an exquisite rendition of DUBSTAR’s ‘Not So Manic Now’ and finally CLIENT’s ‘The Price Of Love’. The surprise was returned at the end of the evening when Deb Danahay led a crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday to Sarah”!
BAS II aside, as a visitor to Basildon you’d be hard pressed to find any clue as to its rich musical heritage. However, at the James Hornsby School, where a young Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher studied all those years ago (and subsequently played their very first gig as DEPECHE MODE), a plaque in the school hall commemorates their achievements.
This was the venue for Saturday afternoon’s proceedings at BAS II, where visitors were treated to an exhibition of memorabilia from the early days of DM and YAZOO, featuring press cuttings, gold discs and personal photo albums of those closest to the bands.
There was also a chance for the live bands of the weekend to meet & greet those present, all in an affable atmosphere over a cup of tea. For those who had over indulged on the Friday night, this friendly afternoon get-together provided the perfect therapy!
Two bands provided the live entertainment; first up were PROTÉGÉ REIGN, who showcased their neo-TENEK brand of electro.
Bringing the afternoon to a close was SINESTAR, who delivered a punchy set featuring live drums and guitar alongside the ubiquitous synths. Their set culminated with the anthemic ‘I Am The Rain’ from their recent EP, which received an enthusiastic reception and became one of the talking points of the weekend.
On the Saturday night it was back to the Bowers Club for a DM-themed line-up featuring no fewer than six bands. The opening act was BA5IC, featuring Martin Gore’s nephew. ELECTRO KILL MACHINE, SHINY DARKNESS and SPACEBUOY followed in close succession, each delivering crowd-pleasing synthpop sets with the DM sound very much part of their template. SPACEBUOY’s performance in particular was noted for the sea of their trademark day-glo orange in the venue as their fanbase ventured their way to the front of the stage.
Meanwhile, DJ Atmo provided an enjoyable set of cult synth tunes for the cognoscenti which included YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s ‘Neue Tanz’ and SECTION 25’s seminal ‘Looking From A Hilltop’. The penultimate act of the night was STRANGERS, who were featured on TEC back in February. Their sonic template was somewhat different from the other bands featured, and as such they provided a welcome diversion. They were another band being talked about as their filmic qualities shone through.
The final act of the night was, appropriately, the DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL. They provided a fitting climax to the weekend with their faithful renditions of the DM back catalogue, from ‘Photographic’ right through to 2009’s ‘Wrong’. There was great attention to detail; for example ‘Martin Gore’ aka Joe Beaumont fronting a couple of songs; the obligatory hand waving during ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ and even a cry of “See you next time!” at the end of the set.
Frontman Paul Christian Wood makes a convincing Dave Gahan, and with the general euphoria of the weekend, it felt just like the real thing! At the end of SPEAK & SPELL’s set, the newly-crowned ‘Queen of Basildon’ Deb Danahay was presented with a bouquet for all her hard work in organising BAS II. The DM tunes continued on the dancefloor into the early hours courtesy of DJ Dan Martin from Barcelona for an aftershow party that was greatly appreciated by The Masses.
Deb’s energy and enthusiasm for the BAS II project was infectious from the outset, and together with the whole of the BAS team, their tireless efforts resulted in a memorable weekend for all concerned.
So what made BAS II so special? Was it the live acts? The DJ sets? The school exhibition? Maybe, but the whole event was greater than the sum of its parts. It was a chance for DEPECHE MODE fans – as well as the wider synth community – to meet up and celebrate the genre together. Many new friendships were made, and numerous people have since commented on the event’s positive atmosphere. There was no negativity; no aggression; just The Masses coming together for a black celebration. Long live BAS!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Bas Productions
The Electricity Club and Sarah Blackwood DJ Setlist
CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment
LANA DEL REY Video Games (Nikonn remix)
SIMPLE MINDS Theme For Great Cities
CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (Health remix)
MARILYN MANSON Personal Jesus
YAZOO State Farm (Madhouse remix)
HURTS Wonderful Life (Freemasons remix)
MIRRORS Falls By Another Name
FAD GADGET Life On The Line
SLOK New Cage
DEPECHE MODE Photographic (Rex The Dog Dubb mix)
DEPECHE MODE Route 66 (Beatmasters remix)
SARAH BLACKWOOD A Question Of Time (Live vocal)
OMD vs THE TING TINGS That’s Not Gay
MARSHEAUX Dream Of A Disco
DEPECHE MODE Personal Jesus (Pump mix)
YAZOO Nobody’s Diary
SARAH BLACKWOOD Not So Manic Now (Live vocal)
VISAGE Fade To Grey (Rusty Egan Soundfly remix)
ALISON MOYET Whispering Your Name
ERASURE Who Needs Love Like That?
DEPECHE MODE Behind The Wheel (Vince Clarke remix)
DEPECHE MODE Nothing (Headcleanr Rock Mix)
SARAH BLACKWOOD The Price Of Love (Live vocal)
Text by Steve Gray
Photos by Richard Price, Steve Gray and Chi Ming Lai
11th May 2012