ZIMBRU are an intriguing synth assisted Romanian art pop four-piece comprising of Teodora Retegan, Paul Bucovesan, Andrei Bobiș and Oana Pop, their songs characterised by Retegan’s deep forlorn expression.
The title of their debut EP ‘Little Creatures’ suggests a TALKING HEADS influence, reinforced by the band’s moniker being a near namesake to ‘I Zimbra’, although “Zimbru” is actually the Romanian word for the European bison.
However, ‘Terejo’ does play with the quirky sound of David Bryne and chums, its rhythmical neo-funk motif imagining what TALKING HEADS might have sounded like as a more electronic band and not unsurprisingly coming over like a female fronted LCD SOUNDSYSTEM.
The bounce of ‘Dyo’ takes this eclectic template further with the bass synth driven groove augmented by cowbells interrupted with a booming dystopian doom reminiscent of Gary Numan.
By comparison, the EP’s lead track ‘Divination’ appears comparatively straightforward but plays with a dominant laser attack and adopts playful time signature changes alongside spacey synths and new wave guitars. The excellent accompanying video certainly reflects their artful poise and that stranger things might be afoot.
The ‘Little Creatures’ title song itself takes on a moodier pace, utilising a prominent off-beat and an incessant electronic pulse to drive it along, showcasing the varied musical facets ZIMBRU. In all, this is a promising debut EP release that offers haunting vocals, synthy hooks, art school sensibilities and intriguing rhythmic backdrops for the dancefloor.
FAKE TEAK were actually first name checked on The Electricity Club by VILE ELECTRODES back in 2011.
With diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica, the band has since evolved and it would be fair to say they have a unusual hybrid sound that falls neither into exclusively synth or alternative music circles.
After a long gestation period, the London-based quartet of Andrew Wyld (bass, synthesizer + vocals), Alastair Nicholls (guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals), Joanna Wyld (synthesizer, flute + vocals) and Andrea Adriano (drums, production + vocals) finally get to release their self-titled debut long player.
As an opening statement of intent with hand-driven organic synth sounds galore, the spectre of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM looms heavily on ‘Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ while on the frantic seize the day mantra of ‘Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount’, early TALKING HEADS enter the mix via a groovy rhythmic backbone. Meanwhile, ‘Post Office Tower’ is a quirky ode to that London monument with the revolving restaurant, traditional yet slightly off-the-wall.
The new wave flavour of ‘Solid-State’ makes good use of an ARP Odyssey Mk1 as FAKE TEAK sing of “going electronic again” while the unwavering art funk of ‘Recall A Thought’ explores an inner Byrne.
‘Whole Lot O’ Grief’ throws offbeats and flute into the equation alongside a bassy synth rumble, but ‘Lagos 82’ takes on a great energetic FRANZ FERDINAND feel and codas with a wonderfully glorious chant. Meanwhile, ‘101’ is not a tribute to DEPECHE MODE but actually comes over bizarrely like DR HOOK backed by AZTEC CAMERA and when the Roland Juno 60 strings kick in, it sounds even weirder!
But the best is saved until almost last; an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP’s ‘Ready For The Floor’, ‘No Shame’ is a delightfully odd but catchy disco tune about that strange moment when people with nothing in common come together on the dancefloor.
With plenty of synth action, there’s a rousing church-like middle section in which each band member contributes vocals to provide a rather fabulous harmonious effect, recalling the Alex Kapranos produced CITIZENS! Closing with the eerily filmic ‘Breathless’, the syncopated rhythmics are offset by layers of synths and eccentric vocals.
What stands out about FAKE TEAK is how they don’t stylistically pander to any musical fashions.
And despite their use of vintage synthesizers, the synths are not the excuse for the song, but neither are they for pose or just part of the background to fill out the odd chord here or there.
If you like the idea of a distinctly English take on LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and TALKING HEADS, topped with a dash of HOT CHIP and FRANZ FERDINAND too, FAKE TEAK may be right up your country lane.
‘Fake Teak’ is available on the usual digital platforms
When Andy Pandy and Teddy were “waving goodbye” at the end of each episode, what was actually going on once the box was shut? Was it really “time to go home” or were the pair partying the night away?
London-based combo FAKE TEAK with their brilliant new video ‘Bears Always Party The Right Amount’ show that like girls, bears just wanna have fun. Cleverly filmed around the city and on the London Underground with seemingly no strings attached, Bear joins his pals Monkey, Giraffe, Dolphin and FAKE TEAK themselves for a night of disco revelry.
Self-directed by the band themselves, their puppetry skills have certainly not been in vain and the end result is one of the best independent low-budget music videos to have been made in recent years.
Giving away some of their trade secrets, singer and instrumentalist Andrew Wyld recalled: “We used broom handles with fishing line on them—since the breaking strain on fishing line is quite high, it was enough for the weight of the stuffed animals, but it’s also very fine and mostly doesn’t show! For close up work, we also used coathanger wire, which we slid inside the stuffed animals’ arms, for example, as in the scene where they share a drink…guitarist Alastair Nicholls came up with the concept for the video, I storyboarded it and then between us we figured out the shooting script and how we were going to move the stuffed animals”
It’s proof that once a band puts their mind towards some inventive visual representation to accompany their music, anything is possible. The song itself is an appealing quirky mix of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and TALKING HEADS, driven by synth-derived organ sounds and a groovy rhythmic backbone from Andrea Adriano.
The second single from FAKE TEAK’s upcoming debut album, the band’s ARP Odyssey Goddess Joanna Wyld said: “’Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount’ is about everyone being welcome to be exactly who they are and to party exactly how they want. It’s about seizing the day and not caring how you look or whether you made a mistake. However much you want to dance: that’s the right amount. However we just played it: that was the right way”
Just a quick note that the Bear was not hurt during filming and even if he was, IT’S A PUPPET! 😉
‘Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount’ will be available as a download single from the usual digital platforms
FAKE TEAK launch the single with a gig at The Finsbury, 336 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1BY on Friday 29th June 2018 – nearest tube is Manor House on the Piccadilly Line
FAKE TEAK was founded by singer, bass player and synthesist Andrew Wyld back in 2011.
First name checked on The Electricity Club by Martin Swan of VILE ELECTRODES, the band has since evolved into a group of musicians whose ideas draw on diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica for a distinctive sound to soundtrack a dystopian present.
Completing the line-up of the London-based quartet are Alastair Nicholls on guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals plus Joanna Wyld on synthesizer + vocals and Andrea Adriano on drums, production + vocals.
With a love of vintage hardware and a quirky new single ‘Post Office Tower’ b/w ‘Breathless’ just out, it was natural that FAKE TEAK would relish an opportunity for a round of Vintage Synth Trumps with The Electricity Club…
OK, first card, we have an Oberheim 8 Voice, does that spark any thoughts?
Joanna: There’s one in the Horniman Museum… I always ogle it even though it’s behind glass!
Alastair: They let you go into a side room where there are various instruments you can play, they have a thumb piano and some kind of tubes where you can whack them with flip-flops.
Andrea: My initial reaction was more notes, bigger chords!
Andrew: With the 8 Voice, it’s really hard to get it to do exactly what you want it to do because if you want to repatch, you have to do it eight times! It takes ages to do but it sounds amazing!
Andrea: Seven grand back in the day!!
Alastair: Isn’t there a HOT CHIP link here, because you played me ‘Flutes’ by them and you said it reminded you of the Oberheim?
Andrew: Yes, there’s a one line where an entire chord follows that line and it reminded me of what happened you play it set-up like a 16 oscillator synthesizer with 8 filters and 8 envelopes, or a chord using one note.
My first impression of FAKE TEAK as a band was that you were influenced by HOT CHIP?
Joanna: HOT CHIP is definitely one element, I actually prefer them live to their recordings.
Andrew: I think we have two strands, there’s the synthesizer sound from HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and CAN plus TALKING HEADS in the writing strand.
Alastair: I’d like to add THE CHEEKY GIRLS as well! *laughs*
Another card then, Gleemen Pentaphonic… even I don’t know what that is!
Alastair: My head is a blank!
Andrew: That sounds like something you would make up, if you were making up synthesizers!! *laughs*
OK, moving on… the next card is an ARP Axxe! *everyone cheers*
Alastair: We know a lot about ARP!
Andrew: This one is like the cut-down Odyssey… we have a full-sized Odyssey.
Joanna: Ours is the 1972 model…
Andrew: It’s the Mk1 before proportional pitch control came in and with the two pole filter. So seemingly it’s less desirable but I really like it.
KRAFTWERK used a Mk1 Odyssey, how did you acquire it?
Andrew: I’d been after one for a long time and a friend said there was one in Bedford, so I got the train up. There were keen on a quick sale and I mentioned that as it was a Mk1, could they sell it for a lower price and they gave me this figure… it was like the worst negotiation in the history of haggling! I took it home in a blanket that smelt of air freshener! *laughs*
Alastair: I don’t get to use it in the band but it can make some fantastic sounds, but it can sound horrendous too! And that’s the great thing about it, it can be beautiful and it can be horrific, you have to learn how to control it and I cannot!
Andrea: It’s like if someone took the autopilot out of a jumbo jet…
Andrew: I have a mathematical background so I got the hang of it after a while but there’s a lot of different things to it and quite complicated.
Joanna: It is key, especially with the Odyssey, that we have a good sound engineer because if the balance is wrong, it can sound really bad.
Alastair: We actually use a compressor live with the Odyssey to try and mitigate that problem so we try and make life easier for engineers.
Andrew: What I’ve found in the past is some engineers think the synths are used for decoration rather than a main part of the sound and that can be a problem. But music has changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, people are more used to the idea of synths as part of the backbone.
How did each of you first hear electronic sounds in music?
Andrew: When I was 6, a teacher of mine Miss Wickes played us ‘Autobahn’, this noise that I’d never heard before and I thought it was really cool. Then she played us ‘Numbers’!
Alastair: I don’t I’ve got anything as cool or fringe, but the first time I noticed electronics in music was ‘Bad’ by MICHAEL JACKSON, I was given a Walkman and a tape of the album.
Andrea: ‘Blade Runner’ and VANGELIS with the CS80, that was it for me. I’d always liked synths but Mellotrons were really cool for me and after my teens, I got heavily into APHEX TWIN and then later SQUAREPUSHER.
Joanna: It would be ‘Doctor Who’ and DELIA DERBYSHIRE, we went to see the talk and concert of THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at the Science Museum but also, my dad’s collection of the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, on the back of one of these albums was the letters M-O-O-G and I became fascinated with Moogs and thinking “what is that?”
Andrew: VANGELIS and ELO used the CS80, so we just ordered a Deckard’s Dream which is a CS80 replicant, but we’ve since discovered we got to buy £1100 of components to build the thing!
Next card, it’s Roland Juno 106…
Andrea: We have a Juno 60 and I’m about to buy a 106… the Juno 6 didn’t have a memory patch pack, so the 60 had presets and when the 106 came out, they changed the output stage.
Why do you think the Juno, out of all the vintage synths, is still so robust?
Andrew: Because of the way it’s laid out, if you have a basic knowledge of analogue synths, it’s straightforward to use compared to the Odyssey. A lot of people say the Juno is not an analogue machine because of its digital control, but the way that the voices work, the actual oscillators are very similar to those in a Moog. The 106 was one of the first synths to have MIDI, so you have can have those wonderful warm sounds but controllable and easy to use.
Joanna: For me, it is straightforward to use and versatile, the practicality of playing on stage, you want to make it easier, not more difficult. On a Juno, the same voice will work in different contexts really well, there’s a ‘Chariots Of Fire’ sound I use…
Alastair: Oh, Patch 42? Every time you play something on Patch 42, it makes you kind of weepy! It’s got that quality of the Meaning Of Life!
Andrea: It goes very well with the Scottish Highlands!
When’s the FAKE TEAK album out?
Andrew: It’s recorded and Andrea did a wonderful job…
Joanna: It’s gone to Abbey Road for mastering…
Alastair: The band has been going a good while and the line-up has changed over the years, sometimes it takes a while to bring things together. With the four of us, we have the focus and found a sound and recording style that works for us. We’re releasing a few singles first and then the album should be out in 2018.
Your first single is ‘Post Office Tower’, why is this structure still so iconic?
Andrew: The Post Office Tower is an iconic part of the North London skyline and was bombed by the IRA in 1972, they were trying to destroy a publically visible monument… so my inspiration was the thought of “what if they had succeeded?”, would that have changed society in the way 9/11 did? The Post Office Tower is a brutalist piece of architecture and very idealistic, coming at the time of new towns and new motorways… of course, that was a very flawed ideal. What I wanted to do with the song was express admiration for the ideal of society as something you can improve, whilst saying it’s possible to make a mistake about the specific direction you’re at, and come back from that to move into a better direction, which is something I think we’ve lost sight of.
Alastair: Yeah, I went to an exhibition about the utopian ambitions of the 60s and how great the world might be able to be, that’s fallen away slightly and now people are just trying to figure out good solutions to problems, rather than great ideas and big pictures.
Joanna: It also had a revolving restaurant which was just amazing, why has it not reopened? People would flock to it! *everyone laughs*
How did ‘Post Office Tower’ come together musically?
Andrew: I wrote it in Durham and started with a fairly specific skeleton but it’s evolved.
Joanna: Right at the beginning, I do some ‘sample and hold’ which creates the atmosphere and all the connections with the Post Office Tower.
How did you go about producing your drum sounds?
Andrea: When it came to the album, we wanted to record the drums live. I wanted to use a particular interface because it had better converters etc but just 8 inputs, so we were restricted to 4 tracks with 2 overhead mics for stereo drums which got the toms, plus a snare and a kick mic. I don’t think we’d have got away with it using more modern pre-amps, they don’t sound big. Everything sounds bigger on the old ones plus we had the luxury of recording onto tape.
Alastair: There are great drum samples these days but the important thing was to get the whole sound of the band breathing, not to be locked down to a metronome. To have that little bit of breathing just makes the whole track feel natural and exciting.
Andrea: In the original incarnation of the band, there was this view that everything should be to ‘click’, and I strongly disagreed with that! It was only when we started playing together and I recorded the rehearsals, I was like “can we concentrate a bit more?”
OK, another card, it’s a Roland SH3a…
Andrew: We were in a studio with one once…
Tell us about the track ‘No Shame’ which got a good response online in its demo form…
Joanna: It started as an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP; I came up with a few lines and Andrew said it was quite catchy and that I should try and do something with it. The start was quite sarcastic, but I built it from there with influences from ‘Ready For The Floor’ and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Us V Them’ and that disco feel. The lyrics evolved from that slightly odd beginning to about when people pretend to socialise together so that they don’t look like they’re on their own. But then, there’s that strange unity where you come together on the dancefloor.
Alastair: Yes, you’re having a good time whether you’re going to speak to them again, it’s that moment.
Joanna: People do seem to quite like ‘No Shame’ because it’s catchy, we did a wedding and they did a conga to it, which was a sort of peak for me.
That’s why I said on Twitter that it was “delightfully odd”, it was weird but it was nice and fun to listen to…
Joanna: …“weird but nice and fun”, I’m going to put that on a T-shirt! *laughs*
The next card is an Elka Synthex, much loved by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE…
Joanna: We listened to ‘Oxygene’ a lot at home, and along with our younger brother, we used to pretend we were space people!
Andrew: Didn’t we do a radio play? We had a reel-to-reel tape recorder that we speeded up and slowed down to use for sound effects! *laughs*
Joanna: I don’t know Elka stuff, I have to admit
Andrew: Elka did great strings machines and we have a Roland RS-202, that’s like the Rhapsody…
Alastair: …yes, it’s a string machine that inexplicably has a brass mode! That inspired ‘101’ on our album! *laughs*
Joanna: So was that inspired by the 202 divided by 2, because that would be amazing!
Alastair: I wish it was… you know in America, you do a class for the basics of something, like ‘English Language 101’? So the song ‘101’ is like learning the basics… of relationships!
Joanna: So deep! Why did I ever ask? *laughs*
One last card… yes, it’s a Roland Jupiter 8!
Andrew: Yes please, but I don’t have £8000 spare! *laughs*
Alastair: Originally, they were only £4000!
One of the members of the DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL has Alan Wilder’s old Jupiter 8…
Joanna: …I sometimes wonder about our Odyssey that because they’re so rare now, when I see things like a photo of Brian Wilson with one… could it be the same one? I get really excited at the idea! *laughs*
You’re a bit of a Brian Wilson fan aren’t you?
Joanna: Yes, I love Brian Wilson, I think he’s a genius… I under rated him at first like a lot of people, because the harmonies are apparently so simplistic and cheery and nice. But you go a bit deeper and realise that he’s touching on more emotion… in fact, there’s times when I have to take a break from listening to it because it’s so powerful. Also structurally, what he’s doing, his layers are so sophisticated yet it appears so effortless and not contrived in any way. There’s something so spontaneous and sincere in his character and that comes across in his music.
So what would you like to achieve as a band?
Joanna: Realistically, we understand it’s a very competitive field but we’d like to go as far as we can… we love to make it and tour, but it’s taking one step at a time and building on that. All joking aside, we really believe in the songs and the sound we create. I think the album sounds amazing so I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Andrew: It’s something we take very seriously, we think it’s really worth listening to… it’s been a complex road to get to that so we’re taking it one step at a time, we really do believe in it.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to FAKE TEAK
James Murphy has never been afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve.
In the past, DAVID BOWIE, BRIAN ENO, TALKING HEADS, JOY DIVISION, KRAFTWERK and DAFT PUNK have been mined for LCD SOUNDSYSTEM.
Seven years after the acclaimed album ‘This Is Happening’ which featured the wonderful ERASURE meets ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN electronic pop of ‘I Can Change’, the Brooklyn new romantic with an industrial edge continues his magpie ways with a new long player ‘American Dream’.
The title song previewed earlier this year is possibly a musical statement reflecting on the political situation in the US. But Murphy also glances across the Atlantic and back to the Winter Of Discontent and this widescreen 3/4 synth laden tune that has more than a passing resemblance to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Circus Of Death’.
So did ‘The Clown’ referred to in that song remind Murphy of someone in particular? Older viewers will be half expecting London Weekend Television’s Peter Lewis to quip in with his “In just a few moments, we’re off to Hawaii to join Steve McGarrett and the team for tonight’s adventure…” introduction.
After a long gestation period and questions as to whether LCD SOUNDSYSTEM were actually out of hiatus, the fourth studio album is finally out with Murphy’s desire for the it to be available on vinyl on the same day as the digital format being one of the reasons stated for this delay. He said: “I insist that there is vinyl on the day it’s released (because… well… because I’m an old person)”
It’s this aged anxiety and a fraught midlife headspace that colours this whole album; “I promise you this; you’re getting older” he exclaims on ‘Tonite’ over a squiggly bassline laden tune that mixes NEW ORDER with JOHN GRANT, before adding ”You’ve lost your internet and we’ve lost our memory”.
But it all begins with ‘Oh Baby’, a dreamy blip and buzz fest to an obscure offbeat and pretty synth shades, with echoes of Ian McCulloch in Murphy’s vocal phrasing before the album’s first highlight.
‘Other Voices’ borrows heavily from TALKING HEADS ‘Remain In Light’ opus as Murphy acts like a preacher chanting “You’re still like a baby” over some hypnotic rhythmic backing modulating around a single chord. With some brilliant infinite guitar soloing along for the ride, Nancy Whang counterpoints with an assured rap to finish this superb slice of cerebral art funk. Meanwhile ‘Change Yr Mind’ has as much talk as it does head although at a much steadier pace, with some choppy guitar as well as the spectre of Eno’s ‘No-One Receiving’ looming.
Taking things in a more post-punk direction, ‘I Used To’ is in the vein of THE CURE with the scratchy minimal guitar and resonant bass cocoon penetrated by lashings of icy synth. This mood continues via the 9 minute Gothic gloom of ‘How Do You Sleep?’; shaped by a brooding percussive mantra and aggressive synth wobbles, it explodes with a live drum track as the claustrophobic grandeur of PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED makes its presence felt with Murphy shouting to a newly crowned foe: “I remember when we were friends, I remember calling you friend…”
‘Call The Police’ also looks towards post-punk and although more guitar oriented, comes over like the lost NEW ORDER single ‘Procession’ gone Motorik.
The frantic ‘Emotional Haircut’ is the most live of the all tracks, with full band thrash out JOY DIVISION style, complimented by some impressive drumming by Pat Mahoney.
Concluding with the very long and grief ridden ‘Black Screen’, it is almost like OMD with its detuned abstract melodies and mournful harmonic air of Eno. Murphy’s musical farewell to Bowie, he turned down the production role for ‘Blackstar’ and his sadness is expressed with a forlorn declaration that “I had fear in the room, so I stopped turning up but I should have tried more” – it beautifully progresses into a treated piano section reminiscent of appropriately ‘Lebwohl’ by NEU! to end on a solemn note.
Like OMD’s ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, ‘American Dream’ is LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s most electronic album yet. It will surprise some and disappoint others, but after the mixed promises of ‘Sound Of Silver’ and ‘This Is Happening’, James Murphy and his ensemble have finally delivered on that ‘synth heavy’ album that many have been longing for.
‘American Dream’ is released by Columbia Records / Sony Music in vinyl, CD and digital formats
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM UK 2017 live dates include:
Manchester Warehouse Project (16th-17th September), Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom (19th-20th September), London Alexandra Palace (22nd-23rd September)