GEISTE is the musical vehicle of Marie Chabrelie from near St Tropez who probably would have been a product of JRR Tolkien had he manufactured pop stars.
Haunting, captivating and endearing, she invites you into her moody world of escapist pop on her debut EP ‘Utopia’.
Like something that could have come off the soundtrack ‘Killing Eve’, the haunting opener ‘Omen’ is simultaneously bewitching yet sinister, beautiful yet unsettling, built around a repeating ivory motif, sinister humming and the emotive air of Nordic songstress Susanne Sundfør.
Beginning in a layered neo-acapella fashion, ‘Dither’ becomes mighty once the majestic vocal refrains and multi-coloured percussive fervour kick in alongside the penetrating deep drone of synthbass. Capturing the cut and thrust of a city walk, it’s a determined train of thought that GEISTE expresses despite the inherent forlorn melancholy.
The expansive ‘Ocean’ is perhaps GEISTE’s signature song, an environmentally conscious battlecry that showcases her widescreen cinematics and impressive vocals that capture the angst of Zola Jesus within a melodic fantasia.
The angst takes a breather for the shorter but dreamier ‘Fetish’ which plays around with some glassy sound design. But GEISTE belts it all out again on ‘Anthems’, a dramatic number swathed in a building rhythmic drama that recalls NIKI & THE DOVE while also throwing in a swooping dubstep drop.
The hypnotic ‘Moonchild’ has perhaps the unifying essence of everything on this EP thrown into a singular track, providing not only the EP’s crystalline highlight but one that shows ‘Ocean’ was no fluke. It’s that progressive successor to the initial breakthrough which all aspiring artists need in their developing repertoire.
Painting pictures in light and shade, ‘Utopia’ has the French youngster articulating over a collage of rumbling bass, synthetic orchestrations and ritualistic rattles before a staccato virtual choir provides a wonderful textural statement to close.
For her opening body of work, GEISTE has impressed by collecting her best seven tracks to date to offer to a potentially wider audience. You only get to make a first impression once and her ‘Utopia’ makes a rather enthralling otherworldly one.
‘Utopia’ is available as digital EP via the usual online platforms
To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task, but The Electricity Club has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.
As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.
But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.
As per usual, The Electricity Club’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.
Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…
With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”
‘Synth Is Not Dead’ is a song close to the heart of The Electricity Club with its solidarity to the synth. A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.
‘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. 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” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!
BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)
BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones. “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.
Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.
CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.
RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.
The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…
Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.
‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.
With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.
Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records
John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ 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.
Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.
As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.
The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!
As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.
Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern
Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.
Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.
The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.
A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.
With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.
Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…
After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!
With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.
OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…
SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist 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. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…
Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”
The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.
First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who was perusing The Electricity Club and later invited VILE ELECTRODES to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.
Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music 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, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.
‘DSVII’ AKA ‘Digital Shades Volume Two’ is the 8th studio album by Anthony Gonzalez.
Originally a duo alongside Nicolas Fromageau, Gonzalez arguably peaked when his work ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ was nominated for a Grammy in 2011. Previous high profile support slots saw M83 touring with DEPECHE MODE (on the ‘Tour of the Universe’ set of dates), KINGS OF LEON and THE KILLERS.
‘DSVII’ primarily takes its inspiration from the soundtracks to classic adventure-based video games such as ‘Final Fantasy’, ‘Dragon Quest’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda’ and musically gives nods to ambient heavyweights TANGERINE DREAM and BRIAN ENO.
Gonzalez explained that the gestation of ‘DSVII’ started after some of the negative reaction to his album ‘Junk’: “I had a weird sensation that people didn’t fully understand the direction of the record. Despite a very successful tour all over the world, I couldn’t stop thinking that the fans were disappointed with ‘Junk’. And a feeling of failure stayed with me for a very long time…”
To help promote the new release, ‘DSVII’ is preceded by three ludicrously arty promo videos directed by Bertrand Mandinko. The one accompanying the album’s final track ‘Temple of Sorrow’ is a deliriously bonkers affair, with nothing musically happening for its first four minutes until the track eventually bursts into life at 4 minutes 45 seconds, coming across like classic AIR with visuals provided from a vintage BBC ‘Blakes 7’ episode.
‘Lune de Fiel’ is an interesting combo of latter day TANGERINE DREAM with live breakbeats and features characters from the previous promo and an equally surreal combination of yesterday’s sci-fi imagery.
The final part of the trilogy ‘Feelings’ takes its visual cues from Italian Giallo director Dario Argento and when it comes to summing it up, The Electricity Club can’t beat one of the YouTube commenters who states “I switched to Pornhub when my grandma walked in ‘cause it’s easier to explain…” (!)
Album opener ‘Hell Riders’ is an odd mixture of muzak, acoustic guitar and synths and struggles to sustain its 9 minute running time. ‘Goodbye Captain Lee’ takes its musical cues from ‘Forbidden Colours’ with an arpeggiated synth riff which is almost identical to the one in David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s classic piece from ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’.
Without a set of visuals to accompany them, many of the other tracks on ‘DSVII’ struggle to convince. With a running time of nearly an hour, this is an epic work but being completely instrumental (with occasional choral and wordless flourishes), it often struggles to hold the listener’s attention. When it comes to re-creating early synth works, there is a fine line to be trod between being lovingly inspired by the era or descending into a sizable vat of fromage… unfortunately ‘DSVII’ falls into the latter category too many times.
When listening to ‘DVSII’, The Electricity Club can’t help of thinking of the glorious ADULT SWIM pastiche ‘Live at the Necropolis: Lords of Synth’ which poked fun at the golden age of electronica with caricatures of WENDY CARLOS, GIORGIO MORODER and VANGELIS.
In places with ‘DSVII’, it’s hard to tell whether Gonzalez has his tongue in his cheek or is actually being serious, although The Electricity Club suspects it’s the latter…
If you are a fan of throwback muzak, you may find some of ‘DSVII’ enjoyable, but many listeners will surely be digging out their copies of ‘Moon Safari’ and ‘The Virgin Suicides’ instead. Both of these works provide a masterclass in how to do this kind of stuff reverentially without becoming overly bland.
Maybe ‘DSVII’ would have functioned better as a soundtrack album rather than a stand-alone one, which is a shame as all involved here (including an all-too brief appearance from Susanne Sundfør) have obviously committed to this whole-heartedly.
M83 have made the mistake here of overtly focusing on the past rather than simply referencing it and bringing something new to the vintage wavetable.
‘DSVII’ is released via Naïve in double pink candy floss vinyl LP, CD and digital formats
Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch need to watch out, there’s a new synth girl in town, she’s got a Moog Sub Phatty and she’s going to use it…
Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI is gifted with a most glorious soprano but not only that, she applies that and her love of analogue synths to an intelligent avant pop aesthetic.
Having opened for LET’S EAT GRANDMA, she has certainly made it clear which playground she prefers to be in. IMI’s recently released EP ‘Lines’ contains three dramatically layered electronic mood pieces that encapsulate the early cinematic ambition of GOLDFRAPP and the more recent esoteric adventures of I SPEAK MACHINE. But crucially like both of them, she does this within a song-based format.
Originally released as a single in 2018, ‘Margins’ synthetically rumbles while side-chained to a cascading train ride, cerebrally meshing brooding atmospherics with IMI’s hauntingly assured smoky high vocal, like an oddball amalgam of opera, trip hop and Synth Britannia.
‘Lines’ opener ‘The Fence’ drops incessant warbling vintage synth textures over a steadfast metronomic back beat as IMI offers a traditional folk laden topline not far off Susanne Sundfør. Building to a ritualistic percussive fervour that chillingly darkens the Northern sky, there however remains a stark beauty, marking a clear demarcation line in keeping with the EP’s theme.
Meanwhile, ‘I Feel Alright’ with its sharp melodic call and ethereal voices heads into something more threatening, with pulsing rumbles and squelches facing off against swirls and sweeps, although in this song about acceptance, it all rewardingly comes over with a strong sense of musicality.
IMI’s artistic promise was there from the off with her debut single ‘Born For What?’ in 2017, but what the ‘Lines’ EP showcases is an increased confidence and maturity.
With her Instagram indicating further experimentation with the Korg Mono/Poly, EDP Wasp and Moog Modular, there are certainly more artful adventures to come.
With her forthcoming second album ‘Pure-O’, Berlin-based Norwegian songstress FARAO brings a prog pop exposition on the dichotomy between beauty and destructiveness in sex and relationships.
The musical vehicle of Kari Jahnsen, what has particularly distinguished ‘Pure-O’ from its folk-tinged 2015 predecessor ‘Till It’s All Forgotten’ is an interest in analogue synthesizers, particularly from the former Soviet Union and vintage electronic disco from behind the Iron Curtain.
The album’s opening gambit ‘Marry Me’ is a case in point; its glorious PET SHOP BOYS flavour and romantic layers of vocals masks a deep scepticism of the institution of marriage, while the lush backing and chugging electronic backbone carries an air of her compatriot SUSANNE SUNDFØR and the ‘Ten Love Songs’ album in particular.
Kari Jahnsen took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about the genesis of the new FARAO album, Soviet synths and much more…
Prog pop, that’s a good way of describing your music…
Thanks! I like it too.
What particular influences have shaped your current sound?
The music that influenced me the most while writing the album is probably the Soviet electronic music I was discovering at the time. Light hearted melody lines combined with at times excessive arrangements, teaching me the importance of humour in music.
In addition I was listening to a lot of new age like LARAAJI and CLIFFORD WHITE. The incredible ‘Ecstatic Music’ of ALICE COLTRANE TURIYASANGITANANDA compilation was a big one. Disco like EnLIGHTment and B. B. & Q. BAND… R’n’B like TLC, JANET JACKSON, SZA… This amazing Norwegian band called BUILDING INSTRUMENT. And of course UKU KUUT! I could go on for a while.
Has the Soviet influence come from living in Berlin or what it something from growing up in Norway and learning about how your neighbours Sweden and Finland were literally facing The Bear next door?
No, I randomly stumbled upon it one night a few years ago while I was in a YouTube-hole. I came across this weird, eccentric, unearthly sounding stuff from the Soviet Union and I was immediately hooked. You can clearly hear that a lot of it is made my jazz musicians, like Aleksei Kozlov and Zigmars Liepiņš, and I love how rhythmically and melodically challenging it is at times. The complexity, the raw, absurd synthesizer sounds, it makes me feel so good.
Were these Soviet era synths that you use on ‘Pure-O’ easy to acquire? What do you like about them and which ones are your favourites?
I started collecting Soviet synths in 2014 when I got my Elektronika EM-25. It’s so gritty and harsh and I used it quite a lot on my first EP. Then I got my Kvintet a few years later and last year I got my Polivoks from this Russian guy who deals exclusively Soviet synths in Berlin.
There’s a secret Facebook group where he posts everything he brings with him from Russia and I want all of it!
There are also vintage synths like the Roland Juno 60, Yamaha CS15 and Korg Delta as well as more modern hardware like the Moog Sub-Phatty and Waldorf Blofeld, was it important for you to have an analogue electronic aesthetic for ‘Pure-O’?
Yes! I don’t really like working with software synths. They just don’t sound as good. The only ones that I like and use sometimes are U-He Diva and FM8. There is something special about analogue though, they are so much more alive, especially the Soviet ones. They behave differently every time I turn them on and certain parameters are quite unreliable. When you finally find the perfect sound, you probably won’t be able to recreate it later, which makes it so much more special.
Berlin is a fascinating city of contrasts; it has this modern hedonistic impression yet you can turn a corner and walk into a Cold War relic or evidence of the Second World War, what kind of an effect was that having on your psyche?
Berlin has certainly had a huge effect on me. It’s industrial and heavy at the same time as it is so open and warmer than any other place I’ve ever lived. The flourishing electronic music scene fits really well with the framework of this city, and the numerous disco / boogie parties I’ve been to has inspired me both musically and personally. There’s something about this place that makes me not worry so much about the feasibility of my ideas… I just go with them. This freedom is a truly special ingredient of the city and one of the main reasons I live here.
So ‘Marry Me’ is not quite about what it seems?
Depends what you think it is about. It’s not about me. I almost never write songs from my own point of view. I prefer to put myself in other people’s shoes. I think it’s the best way to approach life in general, trying your best to understand someone else’s perspective.
Despite first impressions, ‘Luster Of The Eyes’ and ‘Gabriel’ get quite synthy towards their conclusion, but not in an expected way…
Good! I don’t like to be predictable in my music.
The instrumental interlude ‘Melodiya’ sees you get all groovy with a Polivoks, like some urban crime film soundtrack where everyone wears flares?
I like that. It’s my favourite track on the album actually. It’s so groovy.
‘The Ghost Ship’ got radio play in the UK and with its rousing qualities, also has a tinge of R’n’B, how did that come into your musical equation?
I listened to a lot of R’n’B growing up, JANET JACKSON, TLC, DESTINY’S CHILD etc. This is how I thought myself to sing in front of the mirror in my bedroom growing up, and naturally this comes out in my own music. I completely lose myself when I sing in this way and I wanted to allow more space for that on this album than I have before.
Is ‘Triumph Over Me’ about dealing with anxiety?
No, it’s about sex addiction, based on the main character in the movie ‘Shame’. Or actually, it’s about the beauty of surrendering to it!
‘Pure-O’ has a good balance of electronics and acoustics that should have a wide appeal, what are your own hopes and fears for it?
I hope this album will make someone out there smile and dance, and hopefully that person will tell their friends about it. But I have to let the album go. It’s out of my hands and out in the ether. I need to look forward and concentrate on what’s next for me, instead of worrying about something I have no control over. If you like it and want to support it, show it to your friends!
The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to FARAO
Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity
‘Pure-O’ is released by Western Vinyl and Su Tissue Records on 19th October 2018 in CD, transparent vinyl LP and digital formats
FARAO plays The Sebright Arms in London on Wednesday 17th October 2018