REPUBLICA began their tour at London’s Garage with a superb line-up of supporting players in TENEK and KOVAK who provided a wonderful evening of entertainment.
Since reforming with the original nucleus of Saffron, Tim Dorney and Jonny Glue back in 2009, REPUBLICA have been steadily rebuilding their profile with live shows and have been working on new material.
The first fruit of their labours ‘Christiana Obey’ has just been released as an EP and has recaptured the feisty techno-rock aesthetic that was first showcased worldwide with the massive hit ‘Ready To Go’.
Certainly, Saffron was looking forward to being out on the road again and told The Electricity Club: “If you don’t have fun being in a band, there’s no point doing it!”
Opening proceedings were Brighton’s KOVAK. With their singles ‘Killer Boots’ and ‘Radiate’ being playlisted on Radio2, there has been the perception of them being a just straightforward electropop act.
But tonight, they caused a surprise by launching into two numbers which saw the quartet rocking out with minimal synth dressing. Sexy singer Annelies Van De Velde was a rock chick in her previous incarnations so this energy suited her well.
It snapped back into pop mode with the wonderful Italo groove of ‘Killer Boots’. The glitzy ‘Radiate’ received some extra six string bite while ‘Catchy Monkey’ displayed an impressive blend of pop, rock, synth and funky disco. Previous single ‘Living The Dream’ even came over like a great ABBA meets DURAN DURAN hybrid and possessed an energy that wasn’t apparent in the studio version. With Annelies making a great, charismatic front woman, KOVAK are definitely a name to look out for in the future.
Essex duo TENEK are on the cusp of reaching the next level, what with their song ‘Blinded By You’ being interpolated by Rusty Egan (who was in the audience to witness proceedings) for an upcoming vocodered stomper entitled ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.
Tonight saw the pair initiate new bassist into the fold and premiere the two new songs from their just released ‘Another Day’ EP.
The title track hinted towards a maturer, almost American FM rock friendly direction while ‘A New Foundation’ took a few risks and even dared to go a bit dubstep. The neo-NEW ORDER ‘Elusive’ had people dancing while crowd pleasers ‘Submission’ and ‘Higher Ground’ kept the momentum going. However, their best song ‘What Do You Want?’ was sadly missing from the short, but well performed set.
As REPUBLICA took to The Garage stage, they got a rapturous welcome but just as ‘Bloke’ got started, there was a power failure. Saffron grinned thorough the commotion and bantered with the crowd but as soon as the sequences fired up, it was back to business with Saffron’s feisty persona. ‘From Rush Hour With Love’ followed and considering Saffron only had a knee operation a few months before, she was happily bouncing away and engaging the audience.
Like two parts Toyah : one part Siouxsie at a warehouse party, Saffron provided the focus while Dorney and Glue acted as complimentary foil to recreate the punchy REPUBLICA sound. Mention must be made of the band’s new young 20 year old drummer Conor Lawrence who did very well syncopating along to the trademark sequences and basslines.
While ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ obviously tore the house down, new songs such as ‘Suck Baby Suck’ and ‘Christiana Obey’ showed that REPUBLICA still have plenty of spark and vitality in them.
Certainly Saffron’s friend, model / singer SAMANTHA FOX and her pals thought so as they bopped away at the front with everyone else. The more sedate ‘Picture Me’ allowed Saffron to take a breather so that the show wasn’t entirely in-yer-face.
And ‘Ready To Go’ was saved until the penultimate number of the evening, still retaining the zest and power that took it to the sports stadia of the world. But Saffron wasn’t done yet and returning for the encore ‘Pub Pusher’, she even strapped on a guitar to finish.
Full of fun and sounding good for the new ‘Millenium’, REPUBLICA are back with a vengeance.
The ‘Christina Obey’ EP featuring TENEK’s remix is released as download on 22nd April 2013 but is available as a CD at the remaining dates of REPUBLICA’s 2013 UK tour which include:
Leeds Brudenell Social Club (Tuesday 19th March), Glasgow Classic Grand (Wednesday 20th March), Nottingham Bodega Social Club (Thursday 21st March), Bristol Thekla (Friday 22nd March), Winchester Railway Inn (Saturday 23rd March)
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
So what did The Electricity Club think was hot back in 2011?
It featured a day in March when THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JOHN FOXX and DURAN DURAN all released new albums, while VILE ELECTRODES launched their debut EP. In a year when the synth pioneers were finally recognised for their valuable contribution to popular culture, here is The Electricity Club’s Top 30 songs of 2011 in alphabetical order by artist:
AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of electronica fuelled by sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blends light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrow the tones of classic DEPECHE MODE and cross it with THE KNIFE for this, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album. The B-side ‘Indentity’ is a worthy listen too.
Available on the CD ‘Feel It Break’ via Domino/Paper Bag Records
A charity single for The Bob Moog Foundation, if you’ve ever wanted to hear that bizarre sonic other worldiness of GOLDFRAPP’s first album Felt Mountain again, it’s right here on ‘Rocket Wife’. With hints of the eerie classic Star Trek theme, this is really does sound like THE CARPENTERS in outer space! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft, across the universe indeed!
Available on the download EP ‘Rocket Wife’ via The Bob Moog Foundation
CURXES are Brighton duo Macaulay Hopwood and Roberta Fidora. Describing themselves as “a decorative set of bones, channelling the ghosts of discothèques past”, their haunting neo-gothique flavour is quite unique as far as Eurocentric electronic pop music is concerned. This is a fine example of a synth friendly SIOUXSIE SIOUX going on a mutant staccato journey via La Nouvelle Vague crossed with DEPECHE MODE.
Available as a download single via iTunes and Amazon
With wonderful riffs and an uplifting chorus, this is delicious electronic pop from the cult Swedish trio of Paulinda Crescentini, Tommy Arell and Carl Hammar. Remixed by Athens synth maidens MARSHEAUX, this has the best of both worlds and could easily be mistaken for Sophie and Marianthi. Paulinda’s Italo Nordic charm gives ‘It’s A Game’ a distinct Mediterranean flavour.
Available on the download EP ‘It’s A Game’ via Graplur Records
BETH DITTO would probably be the Alison Moyet of modern electro if she didn’t prefer the funky punk of her band GOSSIP. ‘Do You Need Someone?’ sees Ms Ditto’s powerful and passionate yearning adding soul to the sparkling electronic dance groove. With production from SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO, KRAFTWERK’s ‘Computer World’ tones towards the song’s coda are a marvellous touch. A future career as an alternative disco diva beckons.
Available on the CD EP ‘Beth Ditto’ via Deconstruction Records/Sony Music
While Dolby’s album return was largely organic with hints of bluegrass and Americana, its token synthpop offering was the wonderful ‘Spice Train’. Over its hypnotic, squelchy sequence and mechanised dance beat, it gets strangely humanised by a Mariachi horn section. With the kitchen sink and a host of exotic influences thrown in via Bollywood and the Middle East, ‘Spice Train’ does exactly what it says on the tin.
Available on the CD ‘A Map Of The Floating City’ via Lost Toy People.
‘All You Need Is Now’ saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two albums. ‘Being Followed’ is one of its many highlights. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, touches of THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ and Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine capture the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gives it his all and while he is technically one of the most chronic singers of his generation, he is unique AND untouchable… just try doing any DD song at karaoke to find that one out for yourself!!
Available on the CD ‘All You Need Is Now’ via Tape Modern
NIKONN’s brand new album ‘Instamatic’ is suitably Mediterranean so add that instrumentation to the voice of raspy New Yorker LANA DEL REY and the end result is a glorious sun-kissed dancefloor moment. Somehow, you end up feeling much happier after dancing to, what is essentially in its original form, a quite stark, heartfelt minor key ballad.
Originally issued as a free download but currently unavailable.
From her under rated album ‘Make A Scene’ which includes contributions from Richard X and Armand Van Buuren, the appropriately titled Synchronised is a synthpop tune with a distinct YAZOO flavour to it. All highly appropriate as she supported ERASURE during their forests tour this year. This superbly cements her electro kinship which has been apparent since ‘China Heart’ from her ‘Tripping The Light Fantastic’ in 2007 and more recently on ‘Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer’ with FREEMASONS.
Available on the CD ‘Make A Scene’ via Douglas Valentine Limited
The best track on the ‘Interplay’ album is a co-written duet with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON. ‘Watching A Building On Fire’, with its chattering drum machine and accessible Trans- European melodies, oozes a synthetic smokiness. Aroyo’s counterpoint is almost playfully feline although Foxx’s inherent dystopianism gives it his stamp, making this a second cousin of ‘Burning Car’. The Andy Gray remix is also a worthy acquisition on the second JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS double CD package ‘The Shape of Things’.
Available on the CD ‘Interplay’ via Metamatic Records
JOY DIVISION’s original on ‘Closer’ was one of the most fragile, funereal collages of beauty ever committed to vinyl but Elizabeth Walling has covered this cult classic and made it even more haunting! Replacing the piano motif with eerily chilling synth and holding it together within an echoing sonic cathedral, she pays due respect while adding her own understated operatic stylings. PAUL YOUNG’s interpretation of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ this most certainly ain’t… you should hear her version of ‘Louie Louie’!
Available on the download EP ‘I Am Shell I Am Bone’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records
Susanne Sulley does her best LITTLE BOOTS impression with this opener to ‘Credo’, the long awaited comeback album from THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Sounding like ‘Crash’ gone right, it is also auto-tuned to the hilt as Da League go all contemporary with this marvellous slice of electronic funk. Let’s hope it’s not another ten years before there’s new material!
‘Clump’ could be the sound of the drums on OMD’s ‘History Of Modern Part 1’ but it’s actually this kooky little number by IAMAMIWHOAMI aka Jonna Lee. A synthetically charged amalgam with vintage sounds and even a toy piano thrown in, this is a bit brighter than some her contemporaries if still delightfully odd and mysterious. It’s musically more BJORK than FEVER RAY although she does share the same management company with the latter.
Available on the download single ‘Clump’ via iTunes and Amazon
IAMX have captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combines the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency in the best tradition of DEPECHE MODE and NINE INCH NAILS. Despite the lyrical and aural fervor, Corner’s songs are strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. The superb lead single ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ from new album ‘Volatile Times’ has instant appeal with its exhilarating mechanical drive and electrickery. His scream of “this is psychosis” is wholly believable! Dance in the dark!
Available on the CD ‘Volatile Times’ via Republic of Music/BMG
Flautist textures dominate the more sedate pace of ‘Mirage’ almost as a reaction to the loudness war of previous album ‘Velocifero’. Helen Marnie’s voice beautifully suits the synthetic atmospherics while the widescreen, spacious mix compliments a catchy tune that has hints of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Although confusing some of their fans, given room to explore, ‘Gravity The Seducer’ is that under rated album which will be hailed as a classic in years to come.
Available on the CD ‘Gravity The Seducer’ via Nettwerk Productions
Living in a dream since 1983 and as a homage to ‘The Pleasure Principle’, MAISON VAGUE mainman Clark Stiefel responded musically to a YouTube video entitled ‘Synthpop Is Dead’. The opening salvo is brilliant and the lyric of “Everyone’s entitled to opinion, you have yours and well I have mine” hits home. But it’s the retort of “And though it seems that our opinions differ, you’ll agree in time!” that says it all. This could be the sound of PLACEBO gone electro. This post-Synth Britannia battlecry has heart, soul and humour.
Available on the download album ‘Synthpop’s Alive’ via Amazon
Closing MIRRORS’ outstanding ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, ‘Secrets’ shifting phat bass riff across two octaves is pure Kling Klang, driven by an intense percussive march. An epic at over ten minutes in length and split into three movements, the ambient interlude of the second section consists of an aural sculpture that plays with the mind. It then suddenly reprises with a piercing military tattoo for its finale with unsettling voices in your head for some added claustrophobic edge.
Available on the CD ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Skint Entertainment
Yes, MOBY has settled into a formula but he does it well. One of the more immediate tracks from the excellent ‘Destroyed’ album, ‘Be The One’ is full of rich layered synth strings with moody chordial sweeps over a motorik beat and textured vocoder. Despite the simplistic robotic couplet “I was the hell that you needed – I was the one when you needed love”, it strangely exudes warmth and emotion.
Available on the CD ‘Destroyed’ via Little Idiot Records
From their second EP Radio, Darin Rajabian and Caroline Myrick met at a party in Michigan and soon developed their interest in dreamy danceable synthpop. With Caroline’s soft vocals attached to Darin’s classic electro disco inspired backing, ‘On The Run’ could be described as ELLIE GOULDING gone right and is free of folkisms. Caroline nicely summed up the escapist feel of the song with: “I want back the soft quiet days of ever, when there was lemonade and sand, and rainy screen doors and sad movies; when the minutes were no one else’s but ours”.
Available on the download EP ‘Radio’ via their website
Anthemic gothic rock is what the former Gary Webb deals in these days but ‘The Fall’ is a lot less heavier and one-dimensional than the offerings on previous album ‘Jagged’. With a fair smattering of synths too, this achieves a much better sonic balance and GARY NUMAN’s most accessible number in years.
Available on the CD ‘Dead Son Rising’ via Mortal Records
This mysterious young royal with her assorted headgear and couture is modern electropop’s own Queen Amidala. From a galaxy far, far away and light years ahead of the poptastic competition, this moody, pulsing cover of indie rockers THE FOALS is transformed by a hypnotism textured with spacious synths to give our Queenie room for some sexy breathiness.
Best known for their seminal electro classic ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ in 1984, the song’s husband and wife vocalists Larry Cassidy and Jenny Ross have sadly since passed away. So it was highly appropriate that for SECTION 25’s recorded return, fronting the former punks would be Larry and Jenny’s daughter Bethany. She does a fine job with this danceable synth led ditty which captures that classic hedonistic Manchester vibe that recalls THE OTHER TWO’s ‘Tasty Fish’ while also placing itself in contemporary club culture.
Available on the download EP ‘Invicta’ via Fac 51 The Hacienda
SOFT METALS are a newish electro duo comprising Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks. Now resident in Los Angeles, they have an accessibly minimal sound with Hall’s pretty vocals being a particular delight and reminiscent of DOT ALLISON’s flirtatious aura. ‘Eyes Closed’ is probably the highlight from their very promising debut album, elements of ORBITAL creeping into the danceable bleep fest.
Available on the CD ‘Soft Metals’ via Captured Tracks
Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand hail from Gavle in Sweden. Both filmic and musical elements are important factors in THE SOUND OF ARROWS. Produced by Richard X and featuring a sweet guest vocal from ACTION BIKER aka Sarah Nyberg Pergament, the choral patches and the symphonic templates are just so reminiscent of OMD. Coupled to some fantastically optimistic ambition, Longest Ever Dream is a panoramic joy!
Featuring violin by Chris Payne from The GARY NUMAN Experience, ‘What Do You Want?’ is the first TENEK track that could be described as possessing a degree of beauty. The Brtish duo’s more rousing anthemic style takes a breather here and although this has more in common with their other ballad track ‘The Art Of Evasion’, the subtlety and strings add a new sonic dimension to the developing TENEK sound.
TIGER BABY are a Copehagen trio led by Pernille Pang with Benjamin Teglbjærg and Nikolaj Tarp Gregersen in synthetic support. They released their debut album ‘Noise Around Me’ in 2007. Stylistically, this has all the unmistakeable melodic sensibility that Scandinavian pop acts seem to naturally possess as pretty arpeggios and wispy vocals combine for some dream laden electro.
Available on the CD ‘Open Windows Open Hills’ via Gunhero records
VILE ELECTRODES are a colourful beat combo who combine analogue synths with fetish fashion. Their sound could be described as THE SMITHS reincarnated as CLIENT but ‘My Sanctuary’, the closing track on their debut EP is a sweeping moody epic that recalls imperial phase ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK. Anais resigned melancholic vocal gives that ice maiden demeanour over glorious symphonic synth strings and deep sombre tones. It’s magnificence embroiled.
They’re the 21st Century equivalent of THE TEARDOP EXPLODES but with no brass. WHITE LIES however are much more bombastic with synths carrying melodies and assorted effects. Driven by a sweeping theme and deep bass thud before leading to a sense of urgency in the verse, a thoroughly anthemic chorus doesn’t appear until halfway to increase tension. This is possibly what TX could have sounded like if Julian Cope hadn’t gone to live under a tortoise shell!
Available on the CD ‘Ritual’ via Fiction/Polydor Records
Chugging arpeggios, clattering primitive drum machines and slightly unorthodox vocals, minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER give a brilliantly vibrant offering of vintage futurism. ‘The Staircase’ is their most immediate offering yet. Based in Brooklyn, part of their authentic Europeanism comes from Liz Wendelbo’s wispy French / Norwegian charm. Writing with partner Sean McBride since 2004, they successfully supported JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in October where they were warmly received for their stark electronic sound.
Available on the CD ‘Sets & Lights’ via Wierd Records
Those dark Nordic nights certainly have their effect as this cynical tune from this Finnish duo indicates. Comprising helpfully of two friends Tapio and Matti, ZEBRA & SNAKE fuse vintage electronics with a touch of ambient dexterity as an “artistic form of therapy”. ‘Empty Love Song’ is suitably bittersweet and sounds a bit like MGMT’s ‘Time To Pretend’ after six months in deep freeze! However, despite its lyrical stance, it possesses a grand anthemic quality.
Four years on from their debut EP release, edgy synth duo TENEK return with ‘EP2’, which features two brand new tracks and reworked album material.
Geoff Pinckney and Peter Steer, who together make up TENEK, have built a loyal following since the band’s inception in 2007. Their debut album, ‘Stateless’ (2009) showcased their distinctive sound, featuring hard electro grooves and stabs of guitar.
Follow-up album, 2010’s ‘On The Wire’, was a powerhouse of anthemic tunes, including the single ‘Blinded By You’ and live favourite ‘No Time for Fighting’. The album was widely acclaimed, and scooped an Album of the Year in TEC’s Contributor Listings of 2010.
TENEK have also built a reputation as a compelling live act, and recently received a great reception when they played to a 4000 capacity crowd at Croxfest, near Watford. They will shortly be supporting Toyah on several dates throughout the country.
The lead track from ‘EP2’, ‘What Do You Want?’ is a fine example of TENEK’s infectious songwriting, and features none other than Chris Payne on violin. Chris is best known for his part in the original line-up of the GARY NUMAN band from 1979-1989, and his innovative violin parts feature on a number of seminal Numan tracks including ‘Complex’ and ‘Cold Warning’.
Second new track, ‘Elusive’, is made for the dancefloor and shows how TENEK incorporate influences from the last three decades of electronic music. ‘Elusive’ owes as much to the likes of FLUKE and ORBITAL as it does to the classic acts of Synth Britannia. Also included on ‘EP2’ are reworked versions of ‘On The Wire’ album tracks, ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘The Art of Evasion’.
Geoff Pinckney talked to The Electricity Club about the new EP and the band’s future plans.
How did the Chris Payne collaboration come about? Was it enjoyable to work with him?
Pete met Chris a while back at a Numan gig and they exchanged e-mail addresses.
Whilst writing ‘What Do You Want?’ we used samples of violins and cellos but we both felt that we wanted them to feature more so they’d have to be real instruments.
That’s when Chris popped into our heads and we thought we’d take a gamble and ask him if he was up for recording the violin parts for us. Like a gentleman he said, in his own words, “Yes I’d be happy to play some crappy violin on your track”! He sent us what he recorded via email (as he now resides in France) and we picked out the bits we liked… great! All we then needed him to do was the two main riffs, so we asked him nicely to record those too and he did. Thanks Chris!
The cello parts were played by a guy called Phil Jones from a band called REDWOOD FALLS, whose album Geoff recently produced.
We think it makes the track sound more organic and takes it up a level from what it would have been had we just used the samples. Plus its an honour for us to have one of our musical heroes contribute to our work.
Would you like to see any further musical collaborations taking place in the future?
We’re very much up for that! Its nice to throw different things into the mix and see where it goes. Were not control freaks where every idea has to be ours alone. Thats a good way of putting pressure on yourself and then the creativity suffers in the process. We’ve recently been joined by Roger Millington on bass and keyboards and were keen to get him to contribute to the new album. It’s great to have so many sources of ideas to work with and it keeps things sounding fresh and spontaneous.
Can you give us an insight into the making of the ‘Higher Ground’ video?
It was filmed at Coalhouse Fort in Tilbury, where they filmed the Bhutanese Prison scenes for ‘Batman Begins’. It was a great choice of location as there was so much of it that was usable for the shoot.
Simone Harris of Sim Films already had the day planned and the storyline had been worked on and decided by all those involved. It was cool as Simone knew exactly what she wanted. It was a little strange at first having to act as such, but as the day went on we felt more comfortable with the idea. We filmed most of the boy/girl shots first thing and I did my bit outside overlooking the fort and running around etc, then Pete joined us for the tunnel shots. It was bloody cold in there! Whilst filming with the lights flashing in the tunnels there were moments of uncontrolled laughter for various reasons!
We then moved on to the room where we filmed the unplugged, live band stuff. Lots of messing around with lights and moving objects and stuff. It was great fun. Were looking forward to the next one. Thanks to Simone Harris, Will Franklin, Chris Plant, Amanda Borgerhoff and Simon Whitehead for making it all happen.
It’s been a busy year for live shows. Can you recall any highlights?
Yes, we played at a festival in Bucharest in January and that was a lot of fun as it was the last gig at that venue and it got demolished the next day! We were very well looked after too, thanks to Viviana Ball and Viva Music for that!
Our gig with ASSEMBLAGE 23 in London was also a great night and was Roger’s first gig with us, although you would never have guessed. We think that Croxfest was also fantastic as we played to over 4000 people in the sunshine and it was broadcast live on local radio. We gained a lot of new fans that day! We are very much looking forward to the shows with TOYAH too.
Your live third musician, Roger Millington seems to have been embraced by the fanbase! How do you see Roger’s role developing?
Yes, Roger fits in very well personality and musician wise. We’re very pleased at the fans reaction toward him. Hes a welcome addition to the line-up. Were looking forward to getting him involved in the writing of the new album which we think will add the necessary edge and musicianship required to make it stand out from ‘On The Wire’ and ‘Stateless’. The forthcoming months are going to be very exciting for us!
For now the focus is on ‘EP2’. What’s next for TENEK?
Indeed, ‘EP2’ is the main focus at the moment and will bridge the gap until the release of the remix album, Re-wired which will be solely remixed by Shaun Brooks of Toffeetones. His approach will be like that of THE HUMAN LEAGUE (among others) producer Martin Rushent’s approach on the ‘Love & Dancing’ album.
We all love the 80s style of remixing, the way the tracks were stripped down and built up again, revealing their component parts. Proper anorak stuff that makes us tick! As well as working on the new album well be looking at some more European dates for 2012.
The Electricity Club gives grateful thanks to Geoff Pinckney
Brighton-based duo TENEK first came to our attention with their debut album ‘Stateless’ in 2009. Their distinctive sound, combining hard-edged electro with catchy synth pop hooks won them a legion of admirers.
Geoff Pinckney and Peter Steer, who together make up TENEK, are themselves massive fans of the genre, and their influences past and present shine through in their music. Now they return with a brand new album ‘On the Wire’.
At The Electricity Club, we adore great album artwork and the first thing that struck us about ‘On the Wire’ was its brilliant cover. Stylish, sexy and subversive, it gives a pretty good indication of what lies inside. For the first half on the album, TENEK take up from where they left off with ‘Stateless’. Tracks like ‘Losing Something’ and ‘Higher Ground’ have an immediate appeal and will translate well to the live environment. Highlights include ‘No Time For Fighting’ with its pounding rhythm and anthemic synths.
Recent single ‘Blinded By You’ demonstrates TENEK’s knack for combining dark lyrical themes with a killer chorus. Incidentally, the single release of ‘Blinded By You’ includes a show-stopping B-side, ‘Synchronise’. This track, with its clattering synths and shouted refrains sounds something like THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s cover of ‘Rock N Roll’ for a new era! ‘Synchronise’ is not included on the album, but anyone considering parting with some cash for ‘On the Wire’ should consider stretching to the single release too. An extended remix of ‘Blinded By You’ is also included.
Back to the album, and it’s the second half that really showcases TENEK’s versatility. ‘Visions’ is superb, blending Peter and Geoff’s vocal harmonies with an infectious melody and meticulous production.
Then comes a subtle change of gear for future single ‘The Art of Evasion’, a reflective song which is surprisingly reminiscent of TEARS FOR FEARS.
The album’s title track ‘On the Wire’ is another album highlight; a wonderfully dark and emotive song which demands to be played at high volume!
With their debut album, TENEK showed great promise. ‘On the Wire’ delivers on that promise, with a more powerful sound and some inspired songwriting. The punchy electro stompers are still there, but what makes this album so engaging is the variety of textures and tempos on offer. TENEK are pushing the boundaries, and with songs this good they are poised to bring their music to the masses.
‘On the Wire’ is released on 6 September 2010 through Toffeetones. The ‘Blinded By You’ CD single is available now.