Tag: Spleen United

Ten Years Of TEC: ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE

Paul Boddy, freelance producer, musician and writer looks back on ten years of The Electricity Club.

I had known Chi Ming Lai previously via another now defunct website which I used to contribute a variety of bootleg remixes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE. Once we were on each other’s radars and had moved on, I was very flattered when Chi asked me to start contributing to The Electricity Club.

One of the first pieces I did was an interview with ADAMSKI in 2012. Looking back, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done and completely out of my comfort zone at the time. This was primarily because a) he was a bit of a musical hero of mine as a previous band I was in had covered ‘Killer’ and b) I was faced with the proposition of trying to interview the guy over the phone and then record it using a mobile digital recorder (untried technology for me).

Despite his mobile signal dipping in and out (as he was ambling around London at the time I interviewing him) and the batteries running out on my recorder half-way through, the interview went well and I got a huge sense of achievement once the piece had been transcribed and eventually published.

The main enjoyment I get from occasionally contributing to the site is the ability to interview bands and people within the scene, Chi has kindly put some interviews my way including WANG CHUNG, SHRIEKBACK, KOSHEEN, CHICANE, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW as well as two of my own personal favourites John Foxx and Ulrich Schnauss. Having the platform to interact with these kind of artists is mind-blowing for me, especially the ones who I have admired and in some places influenced my own musical development. My other approach and contribution to the site is tracking down (some may call this stalking!) artists via social media and approaching them with a view to TEC featuring them in its ‘Missing in Action’ series.

Although a bit hit and miss as some artists don’t always respond when messaged, it has borne fruit with many artists accepting and using the opportunity to reflect and look back on their tenure in the music industry.

In terms of the people I’m most proud of ‘snagging’ in this manner are Scott Simon (OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING), Dave ‘Dee’ Harris (FASHIØN), Jerome Froese (TANGERINE DREAM) and Rob Dean (JAPAN). Because of the big interviews already done on the site by Chi, I find that this gives a lot of traction when cold approaching these kind of artists.

However, the icing on the cake was when Chi and myself spent a glorious few hours in a Liverpool Street pub with Stephen Singleton and Mark White from ABC and VICE VERSA. Getting this interview was a long process which started when Stephen contacted me in 2015 with regards to reviewing the VICE VERSA box set; this led to linking up with Mark and after a long period of negotiation and Facebook messenger chats, a face to face interview in 2019 with lots of laughter.

For me this has definitely been my highlight of TEC and although the transcribing of the interview was one of the longest processes I’ve done (the guys LOVED to chat!), the sense of achievement upon completion was huge.

Moving away from the artists themselves and onto electronic synth music itself, Chi and myself have quite differing tastes in music, but with enough crossover that we can still happily work together. The material I favour tends to be male-fronted, often dance-inflected and also with elements of guitars thrown into the mix (see BATTLE TAPES, MAPS, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and SPLEEN UNITED).

If you are a reader of the site, you won’t be surprised to hear that along with the other TEC contributors, I continue to be disappointed with the lack of decent UK based synth acts and the exposure that so many second-rate bands continue to get. For a country that has such an amazing heritage of electronic music (like DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, EURYTHMICS, OMD… I can go on), why is it that there are so few acts of quality which are continuing the tradition of these incredible acts?

What grinds my gears the most is the complete lack of emphasis on quality vocals that some UK synth bands have; for many it appears that once a synth backing track has been made, the process of adding vocals is treated as an afterthought. Very little attention is paid to crucial things like tuning / character / lyrics, all traits which have made vocalists such as Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox titans in their field. Whether this will improve and we will get another CHVRCHES or MIRRORS is doubtful, but I live in hope!

Although the original music that I write and produce (J-Pop / K-Pop) isn’t the kind of thing that TEC would champion, it still features a lot of electronics and I have been fortunate to have had success with some major Japanese artists including ARASHI and E-GIRLS (who covered YMO’s ‘Rydeen’).

I continue to write and produce for this market which is great fun. I continue to enjoy performing live as well in various cover bands.

Signing off, TEC has been a wonderful platform for me and has enabled me to interact with many of my musical heroes and also review some of their work too, long may it continue…


Text by Paul Boddy
17th March 2020

Lost Albums: SPLEEN UNITED School of Euphoria

SPLEEN UNITED school_of_euphoriaDenmark’s SPLEEN UNITED somehow never quite managed to break through the glass ceiling of widespread electronic music popularity.

Being blessed with the kind of misrepresentative band name which conjured images of a third division UK punk band arguably didn’t help their cause either. Consistently producing music of an equal quality to their nearest counterparts RÖYKSOPP, the band produced three albums and although have not technically split up, ended up smashing all of their equipment at their final show at the Northside Festival in 2013.

‘School of Euphoria’ was the follow up to 2011’s ‘Neanderthal’, which in itself was the somewhat muted sequel to the sparkling electro-pop debut of ‘Godspeed Into The Mainstream’.

What sets ‘School of Euphoria’ apart from its two predecessors is the influence of Acid House – the Roland TB303 Bassline looms large across the whole album and most of the material is an adrenaline rush of electronic dance, with a wealth of other retro gear being deployed to give the work a retro but cohesive feel.

First track ‘Days of Thunder’ is a full-pelt statement of intent with its stabbing synth and vocal samples leading into an opening 303 and vocal attack of lead vocalist Bjarke Niemann – combining melancholic melodies and squelching analogue synths it very much sets the template for a good two thirds of the album.

If you unwrap the layers of ‘Misery’, featuring a surprising guest vocal appearance from Gitte Nielson, (better known as Sylvester Stallone’s ex Brigitte), you’ll find the DNA of ORBITAL, with Roland TR909 drums, more stabbing synths and some funky electronic Latin percussion.

A drum breakdown leads into what is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the album ‘Sunset to Sunset’, another melancholy-filled dance track, but with an unpredictable jerky/syncopated synth riff bouncing around the verse of song which is a hymn to club culture. Fans of the early works of HARDFLOOR and Chicago House pioneers such as MR. FINGERS will ADORE the way the track busts out into a fully-fledged Acid track which might just have you going through your wardrobe looking for that faded smiley t-shirt you used to wear down to Shoom.

Interestingly, ‘Sunset to Sunset’ formed an epic 24 hour live improvisational piece that the band performed at Roskilde Festival. SPLEEN UNITED rehearsed in Sydhavn, Copenhagen beforehand and the edited highlights featured in a video with a Parental Advisory for its vintage synth porn overload…

The last minute and a half of the track is a chilled comedown which leads into the first downtempo track of the album ‘Simplicity’ – hinging around a hypnotic ‘I want simplicity back, you can have simplicity back’ vocal, the omnipresent 303 is still there in the background, but overlayed with fierce monosynths. Following a similar format to its preceding track, ‘Simplicity’ breaks down to a beautiful floating out, with more cut-ups of the vocal helping wind the track down to its conclusion.

The structure of the next few tracks craftily template elements of the second side of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Computerworld’ album, where pieces blend into each other and themes reappear in an almost ‘megamix’ format. ‘Pi’ takes deconstructed snippets of ‘Days of Thunder’ and ‘Euphoria’ before flowing into ‘Bright Cities Keep Me Awake’, then ‘Groundspeed’ and the acidic ‘Mu’.

‘Loebner’ (named after music journalist Lars Löbner Jeppesen) is based around a large sample of THE FLAMING LIPS track ‘Do You Realize??’ with its “Everyone you know someday will die” hookline. The only track on the album to feature mainly live drums, the song breaks into another 303 workout before the FLAMING LIPS sample makes a reappearance at the end of the piece.

Spleen Utd‘Suburbia’ (not to be confused with the PET SHOP BOYS song) is all syncopated synth house riffs and returns to a welcome song format after the preceding primarily instrumental pieces. The mantra “Love is just a buzz, just a buzz you can’t get” is repeated throughout.

‘School of Euphoria’ was certainly the sign of a band with confidence to go full tilt and change direction with their sound. If you are the kind of person that likes their electronic music tinged with a throwback dance element, then it’s hard to go wrong with this album.

Because songs such as ‘Days of Thunder’ and ‘Sunset to Sunset’ utilise such a classic analogue synthesizer and drum aesthetic, they have a timeless feel to them and this work, alongside SPLEEN UNITED’s previous two albums, are certainly worthy of re-investigation.

Vocalist Bjarke and Kasper Nørlund have since gone on to pursue a different (lighter) direction with the band LIGHTWAVE EMPIRE with Bjarke being quoted as saying that gloomy and dark music “wasn’t his thing” and that he wanted to make “happy music”; if this is a permanent shift, then this is a significant loss to contemporary electronic music.

Bands that can perform synthetic music live in a challenging way utilising hardware effectively are few and far between and SPLEEN UNITED were one of the few (alongside SOULWAX and their contemporaries BATTLE TAPES) that made this type of sound a viable live proposition; for many they will be greatly missed.


‘School Of Euphoria’ was released by Copenhagen Records

http://www.spleenunited.dk/

https://www.facebook.com/spleenunited/


Text by Paul Boddy
14th November 2016