Along with artists such as GRAFTON PRIMARY, CUT COPY and VAN SHE, THE PRESETS were part of the first wave of early millennial Antipodean electronic artists to start having global success.
Formed of Julian Hamilton (vocals and synths) and Kim Moyes (drums and synths), their earlier material combined a stripped back synth-punk aesthetic with rousing anthemic songs such as ‘Are You The One?’ and ‘Down, Down, Down’, but also counterpointed with more introspective-sounding tracks such as the NEW ORDER-inspired ‘Girl & The Sea’.
However, the debut 2005 album ‘Beams’ which featured those aforementioned songs was a hit and miss affair, relying on the singles and the band’s growing live reputation to carry it.
The follow-up ‘Apocalypso’ was a far more consistent-sounding work and arguably their strongest to date; featuring the melodic synthpop of ‘This Boy’s In Love’ and the surprisingly politically-charged ‘All My People’, it showed that the duo’s songs could work over an entire album. Further UK dates with acts such as LADYHAWKE, HEARTBREAK and SOULWAX helped to solidify the acts’ momentum and reputation as an electronic band to be reckoned with.
After a four year hiatus, the band returned with ‘Pacifica’ which was preceded by the UNDERWORLD-inspired ‘Youth In Trouble’ and the quirky, almost sea-shanty electro-singalong ‘Ghosts’. The album revealed itself as a softer maturer piece of work, with most of the spikier edges of its predecessors rounded off on tracks such as ‘Cool’ and ‘Fall’.
The 2014 stop-gap singles ‘Goodbye Future’ and ‘No Fun’ saw a partial return to their earlier sound, but also introduced more of a House Music slant, especially the latter with its almost early Acid House-style pitched down vocal effects.
Activity in THE PRESETS camp started to ramp up again at the end of 2017 with the release of a trilogy of singles which all feature on the new album ‘Hi Viz’. Opener ‘Knuckles’ (named after Sonic The Hedgehog’s brother) starts off in a similar bleepy 8 bit fashion to YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s iconic ‘Computer Game’. Throwing a hell of a lot of styles into the mix, from live horns to half-time R’n’B drums, ‘Knuckles’ is not really representative of ‘Hi Viz’ as a whole, but provides an intriguing overture to it.
First single ‘Do What You Want’ is potentially classic-sounding material, but is partially let down by its over-repetitive vocal hook which makes you wish for a more instrumental-based re-edit without the title in it so much. This is a real shame as the song itself is excellent and showcases a return to the band’s earlier driving synthpunk sound. ‘Martini’ and ‘Beethoven’ are uptempo, and initially throwaway-sounding tracks, the latter which oddly has you wondering whether it is going to morph into the EURYTHMICS song of the same name.
Both identical in tempo, they segue into each other, the former has a square wave House bass with vocal samples and a blippy lead riff with Hamilton intoning the virtues of said drink. At 2’40 secs a gorgeous PSBs-style chord change arrives and saves the track from being overly repetitive and monophonic sounding. ‘Beethoven’ (which amusingly ends with a Mozart sample) conceptually owes a debt to EURYTHMICS, but is ultimately is its own entity revolving around a tough electronic bass riff, it’s one of the filler tracks here.
‘Downtown Shutdown’ completely throws out THE PRESETS rulebook; featuring guitars, live bass and vocals from The St Paul’s Lutheran Church Choir (which comprises of refugees and young people from places like Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan who are now living in Victoria). A feel-good hybrid of BLONDIE’s ‘Rapture’, TALKING HEADS and splashes of KRAFTWERK, ‘Downtown Shutdown’ is the kind of track which if put out by BRUNO MARS or PHARRELL WILLIAMS would undoubtedly be a huge multi-million selling global smash. Present here in a more extended format than the single, it showcases more of the electronic elements of the track and is a definite highlight of ‘Hi Viz’.
In a new move for THE PRESETS, there are several other collaborations on ‘Hi Viz’; ‘Out of Your Mind’ features the vocals of Sydney’s ALISON WONDERLAND (who THE PRESETS remixed earlier this year). It’s a killer hybrid of Acid House and Hip Hop with a side-serving of THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS plus some wicked drum programming thrown in for good measure.
‘Tools Down’ which features Jake Shears from THE SCISSOR SISTERS is a bit of a go-nowhere track that again segues into the subsequent one ‘Feel Alone’. Thankfully ‘Feel Alone’ harks back to the sound of ‘Apocalypso’ whilst lyrically recalling 90s dance (in that it only has a single vocal hook); ‘Feel Alone’ brings a welcome dose of melody and chord changes to the ‘Hi Viz’ party.
‘Brains’ provides a short percussive bridging piece, its Afro-vibe takes its cues from LEFTFIELD’s classic ‘Leftism’ album and leads into ‘Are You Here?’ which features Britpop revivalists DMA’s. Revolving around the kick/snare pattern from ‘Trans Europe Express’, DMA’s singer Tommy O’Dell provides a wonderfully rhythmic vocal which takes him out of his musical comfort zone in a similar way to when Noel Gallagher guested with THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS on ‘Let Forever Be’.
Second single ‘14U&14ME’ is a bit of a curveball, starting off with some Trance-style arpeggiator and VANGELIS synth in its moody intro. The song then revisits the hard FM bass sound from ‘My People’ to great effect and only misses a second use of the intro to help (again) make the track feel a little less repetitive.
Rather than finishing the album in introspective mode, ‘Hi Viz’ finishes with a real banger in the form of ‘Until The Dark’ which shows that a one finger synth bass line can really work. After being joined by a multi-layered sequencer riff and splashy 909 open hats, the track has a monumental breakdown half-way through with ‘Ghosts n Stuff’ style organ and glitch treated live drums before kicking back in again.
This is undoubtedly THE PRESETS’ party album, it’s shamelessly unafraid to take risks and try out new sonic territories and in the main succeeds brilliantly.
There are a couple of fillers here, but the overall mash-up of classic clubby dance, heavy influence of THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and a modern twist has provided the band with what is arguably their strongest work yet.
‘Hi Viz’ grabs you by the scruff of your neck, drags you onto the dancefloor and rarely lets go over its 52 minutes – highly recommended.
‘Hi Viz’ is released by Modular Recordings as a CD, vinyl LP and download
Like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER collaborated with other artists from quite an early stage in their career, as well as later working on their own various projects during the band’s recurring hiatuses.
Even in the JOY DIVISION era, Ian Curtis, together with manager Rob Gretton produced ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25 in 1979.
Following the passing of the charismatic front man, NEW ORDER underwent a well-documented musical transformation, aided by the advancements in music technology.
While NEW ORDER began with electronic instruments such as the Doctor Rhythm DR-55 drum machine, ARP Quadra and Sequential Pro-One, their synth armoury would expand to a Moog Source, Emulator, several Prophet 5s and an Oberheim DMX.
Bernard Sumner in particular relished the opportunity to further his craft by recording with other artists. Although more naturally inclined to the live environment, Peter Hook did bring his experience into the studio as well, while Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert primarily found an outlet for their knowhow within television. The compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ released on Factory Benelux gathered many of these works.
Photo by Donald Christie
But there are still a significant number of tracks which featured the artistic input and involvement of a NEW ORDER member that are worthy of discovery and recognition.
So here are 20 tracks which encapsulate the spirit of NEW ORDER through the medium of collaboration and joint working, restricted to one track per project and presented in chronological order.
MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)
Martha Ladly was already part of the NEW ORDER family having produced the paintings for the Peter Saville Associates artwork of ‘Temptation’ and the ‘1981-1982’ EP. Formally of MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye. The promo video was directed by Midge Ure and Chris Cross of ULTRAVOX.
Originally released as a single on Island Records, currently unavailable
While the trailblazing electro of ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Bernard Sumner contributed the synth basslines which were from a Moog Source run from a Powertran 1024 sequencer; it was to become the trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER front man’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul courtesy of Beverley McDonald’s vocals and New York urban influences was unsurprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic.
One of Bernard Sumner’s productions for Factory with Donald Johnson, ‘Reach For Love’ featured the late Marcel King who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. With its distinctive Moog bassline programming, this was a vibrant electro disco tune that couldn’t have been more different. Shaun Ryder of HAPPY MONDAYS remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory Records, it would have been a hit!
Despite Peter Hook’s more rock inclined sympathies and productions for acts like STOCKHOLM MONSTERS and THE STONE ROSES, he showed that he knew his way around the dancefloor as well with this Moroder-esque offering by Hull combo NYAM NYAM which he produced. Featuring a Roland TR808 plus NEW ORDER’s Emulator and Prophet 5 amongst its instrumentation, ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly today deserves to be as lauded as SECTION 25’s ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.
SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop – Restructure (1984)
In a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson, the clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations dominated what was to become a much revered cult club classic.
Possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded, although ex-JOSEF K front man Paul Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, when as Haig told The Electricity Club: “Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson started adding more to it like extra guitar, bass and percussion. We spent a long time on the sound of the percussion” . ‘The Only Truth’ was like a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and the 12 inch version was almost as long!
Available on the PAUL HAIG album ‘At Twilight’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule
Mark Reeder moved from Manchester to Berlin in 1978 having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was for a time Factory Records’ representative in Germany. Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes around the world. His own Deutsche musical journey started with DIE UNBEKANNTEN, who mutated into SHARK VEGAS; the sequencer heavy ‘You Hurt Me’ was produced by Sumner at Conny Plank’s studios near Cologne.
The aptly named REVENGE was Peter Hook’s response to Bernard Sumner’s ELECTRONIC. Comprising of Hook, Dave Hicks and Chris Jones, the single ‘Seven Reasons’ backed with the edgy gothique of ‘Jesus I Love You’ got in the shops a few weeks before ‘Getting Away With It’. Coming over like early SISTERS OF MERCY with some extra raw power, it was a promising calling card. However, as things progressed, the output of REVENGE was not particularly well-received by the music press.
Miami duo THE BEAT CLUB were the husband and wife team of producer Ony Rodriguez and singer Mireya Valls. The Bernard Sumner remix of ‘Security’ was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of Rob Gretton. Sumner’s creative additions saw an overhaul of the original version with the crucial addition of his own vocal contribution, giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.
808 STATE Spanish Heart featuring BERNARD SUMNER (1991)
Having been largely instrumental and sample based on their debut ‘90’, the Manchester dance collective used guest vocalists on their more melodic second long player ‘Ex:El’; while Björk contributed to ‘Ooops’, Bernard Sumner added his voice to the dreamy Balearic of ‘Spanish Heart. A less frantic cousin of ‘Mr Disco’ from ‘Technique’ with its holiday romance subject matter, ‘Spanish Heart’ had a blissful feel not too distantly related to ELECTRONIC’s ‘Some Distant Memory’.
Available on the 808 STATE album ‘Ex:El’ via ZTT Records
Frustrated with the conflicts and confines within NEW ORDER, Bernard Sumner had planned a solo album. But on bumping into Johnny Marr who had just departed THE SMITHS, it was turned into a collaborative project with the occasional guests including Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe and later Karl Bartos. It was ELECTRONIC not just in name but also in nature. The beautiful closing section of ‘Some Distant Memory’ featuring the oboe of Helen Powell enhanced the string synth melancholy.
Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via EMI Records
Having done the music for the BBC shows including ‘Making Out’ and ‘Reportage’, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris began turning their stockpile of unused material into songs when NEW ORDER went into hiatus. The original singer slated as the vehicle for these tunes was Kim Wilde, but when this fell through, Gilbert took over on lead vocals. Amusingly titled after a fish and chip shop near Stockport, ‘Tasty Fish’ was a catchy electropop single that should have been a big hit.
Available on THE OTHER TWO album ‘And You’ via LTM Recordings
Smoother, tighter, speedier and dancier plus more ELECTRONIC in both name and nature, A CERTAIN RATIO reconfigured and re-recorded their 1980 signature cover with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr at the production controls, all as part of a 1994 updates retrospective for Creation Records. Originally a rare groove track by BANBARRA from 1975, this new version was popular with those who had not previously enjoyed the Mancunian band’s earlier industrial funk exploits.
Available on the A CERTAIN RATIO album ‘Looking For…’ via Creation Records
With the demise of REVENGE and seemingly NEW ORDER, Peter Hook regrouped with guitarist David Potts to form MONACO, a combo very much in the mould of the latter. Proudly embracing his signature melodic bass sound, the first single ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ sounded like it could have come off ‘Technique’, with Hook’s Curtis-like baritone and Potts’ Sumner-esque refrain enabling a prompt audience acceptance for the duo.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS featuring BERNARD SUMNER Out Of Control (1999)
‘Out Of Control’ was THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ sonic template actually fulfilling its potential within a song based format with Bernard Sumner as the willing conspirator. With echoes of NEW ORDER’s 12 inch only excursions like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves like Us’, ‘Out Of Control’ had everything from a bombastic backbeat, cerebral sequences and bizarre lyrics, especially when Sumner resigned to the fact that “Maybe my moustache is too much…”
Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Singles 93-03’ via Virgin Records
BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure (2008)
Having worked with Robert Smith of THE CURE, German trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner high on their list of singers for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The track managed to fill the electronic dance gap that had opened up with NEW ORDER’s more rock focused albums ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Waiting For The Siren’s Call’, while the single release came with excellent remixes from Mark Reeder and Paul Humphreys from OMD.
FACTORY FLOOR A Wooden Box – STEPHEN MORRIS remix (2010)
Some say the music of FACTORY FLOOR is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat. Stephen Morris was a fan, hearing kindred spirits in their use of sequencers next to live drums and guitars, sometimes on the brink of post-industrial noise chaos. With his remix of ‘Wooden Box’, Morris brought out its more tuneful elements and added some vocoder processing. He continued to work with the band as the producer of 2011’s ‘(Real Love)’.
Available on the FACTORY FLOOR single ‘A Wooden Box’ via Blast First Petite
Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Brian Molko and Hugh Cornwall as guest vocalists. ‘She Wants’ saw the return of Bernard Sumner on a new electronic recording. With the guitar driven BAD LIEUTENANT having been his main vehicle over the intervening years, it was great to hear him on something approaching the classic sound of synth-centred NEW ORDER again.
NEW ORDER featuring BRANDON FLOWERS Superheated (2015)
Brandon Flowers named THE KILLERS after a fictional band in the ‘Crystal’ video while his own combo covered the JOY DIVISION standard ‘Shadowplay’ for the ‘Control’ film. So a collaboration was not totally unexpected in this union of the sorcerer and the apprentice. A Stuart Price production featuring Flowers on the chorus, ‘Superheated’ was a slice of supreme pop which despite the frantic drum ‘n’ bass elements, sounded more like THE KILLERS than it did NEW ORDER.
Simon Langford and Alex Sowyrda are the British-Canadian duo KOISHII & HUSH whose tracks have featured unusual vocalists ranging from DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor to actress Joanne Whalley. Gillian Gilbert lent her voice to ‘Lifetime’, sounding not unlike Sarah Blackwood who incidentally sang on their 2015 offering ‘Rules & Lies’. The remix from FM ATTACK aka Canadian synthwave exponent Shawn Ward added a serene crystalline quality to proceedings.
Available on the KOISHII & HUSH single ‘Lifetime’ via Grammaton Recordings
RUSTY EGAN featuring PETER HOOK The Other Side (2017)
With the opening salvo ‘The Otherside’ featuring Peter Hook on Rusty Egan’s debut solo album, sonic comparisons with NEW ORDER were inevitable and the song’s melodic basslines showed how much his sound was a vital part of the band. The Bass Viking’s vocals also exuded a vulnerability that listeners could empathise with. But with Hooky touring the JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER back catalogue, new material from him has been rare.
FREEBASS You Don’t Know This About Me – Remix Instrumental (2017)
A Mancunian supergroup of three bassists Hooky, Mani and Andy Rourke that spent five years in gestation before imploding. Producer Derek Miller aka OUTERNATIONALE was a fan and told The Electricity Club: “Really liked this song despite Hooky’s project falling apart on him! As you know, I’ve started and thought it deserved a proper release, albeit belatedly! So, I’ve been back in the studio with it and totally overhauled it sonically. There’s also a surprisingly punchy instrumental mix now”
Artist collaborations can be seen in several ways.
They are either a chance to take the best elements of great bands to form an even greater supergroup, or as has happened in many cases, there is a watering down of prime concepts which results in a fragmented mess of little interest to anyone.
So here are 25 artist collaborations that actually worked; the list is restricted to one song per main act, defined as being the one who released the parent album.
That means PET SHOP BOYS, who have been among the most ubiquitous and willing of conspirators, get to appear as themselves and as guests of ELECTRONIC and DAVID BOWIE while NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner appears as part ELECTRONIC as well as also moonlighting for THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and Philip Oakey of THE HUMAN LEAGUE gets in there twice as a guest.
Over more recent years, there appears to have much more freedom for artists to collaborate, notably with SPARKS recently unveiled collaboration with Glasgow based art rockers FRANZ FERDINAND, named rather straightforwardly FFS. And this is reflected by this list here which has a bias towards new millennium recordings, although The Electricity Club is pleased to say, this is a CALVIN HARRIS free zone 😉
SYLVIAN SAKAMOTO Bamboo Houses (1982)
Both David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto were beginning to make their artistic presence felt outside of JAPAN and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, and having collaborated on ‘Taking Islands in Africa’, another project was always on the cards. ‘Bamboo Houses’ expanded on the electro-acoustic textures of ‘Tin Drum’ over a catchy percussive framework courtesy of Steve Jansen. Sylvian delivered his usual mournful vocal but Sakamoto’s monologue and marimba gave the track that extra ethnic authenticity.
‘After A Fashion’ was a blistering sonic salvo that crossed the best of JAPAN’s rhythmical art muzak with ULTRAVOX’s ‘The Thin Wall’. However, it stalled at No39 in the UK singles charts and sadly, there was to be no album. But Karn later played on Ure’s ‘Remembrance Day’ in 1988 and Ure briefly joined JBK, the band formally known as JAPAN sans David Sylvian for an aborted project in 1992 that resulted in two songs ‘Cry’ and ‘Get A Life’. Sadly Karn passed away in 2011 after losing his battle against cancer.
Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘No Regrets’ via Music Club Deluxe
Very much seen as the odd couple, the duo’s promotional photos captured the curly haired jazz funk aficionado with The Iceman! Bill Sharpe was pianist with jazz fusion group SHAKATAK. Together with their drummer Roger Odell, they had written a piece of computerised electrofunk that needed a vocal. Engineered by Nick Smith who had also been working with GARY NUMAN, he suggested that the former Mr Webb would be ideally suited to the futuristic backing. ‘Change Your Mind’ reached No17 in the UK.
Available on the SHARPE & NUMAN album ‘Automatic’ via Cherry Pop
LES RITA MITSOUKO & SPARKS Singing In The Shower (1990)
In France, LES RITA MITSOUKO became unlikely pop stars thanks to danceable hit singles such as ‘Marcia Baïla’ and ‘C’est Comme Ça’. Vivacious singer Catherine Ringer and oddball instrumentalist Fred Chichin were influenced by the eccentric overtures of SPARKS and with a moniker in a similar vein to the Mael Brothers’ breakthrough LP ‘Kimono My House’, an artistic union was inevitable. With the two duos “feeling dirty and feeling clean”, the catchy ‘Singing In The Shower’ was a hit in Europe.
ELECTRONIC featuring PET SHOP BOYS The Patience Of A Saint (1991)
‘The Patience Of A Saint’ from ELECTRONIC’s debut was undoubtedly the highlight of that album. Featuring the involvement of both PET SHOP BOYS, the witty exchange between Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant was accompanied by a gorgeous backing track of drum machine, swimmy string synth and minimal guitar. Incidentally, the song was premiered in front of 60,000 people when ELECTRONIC, with Tennant and Lowe in tow, supported DEPECHE MODE at Dodger Stadium in August 1990.
Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via Warner Music
Following the departure of founder member Martin Price, ‘Gorgeous’ was 808 STATE’s first album as a three piece. Featuring early mash-up experiments based around UB40, THE JAM and JOY DIVISION, one of the wholly original compositions though was ‘Moses’, a rare electronically backed outing by ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN’s Ian McCulloch. Sounding like NEW ORDER with a Scouse snarl, the unusual but enjoyable partnership was the highlight of the album.
Available on the 808 STATE album ‘Gorgeous’ via ZTT Records
ELEKTRIC MUSIC featuring ANDY McCLUSKEY Kissing The Machine (1993)
Recorded for his ELEKTRIC MUSIC project after leaving KRAFTWERK, Karl Bartos’ collaboration with OMD’s Andy McCluskey featured one of his best melodies synth melodies. Bartos told The Electricity Club: “He suggested we do something together and I was up for it… We picked some cassettes and finally I found the opening notes of ‘Kissing The Machine’. A month later he sent me a demo”. With fabulously surreal lyrics about a love affair with a sexy robot, it became a cult favourite. OMD resurrected the song in 2013.
Available on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’ via SPV Records
John Lydon had shown himself to be open to collaboration following 1984’s ‘World Destruction’ as TIME ZONE with electro rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. But ‘Open Up’ with the then relatively unknown dance duo LEFTFIELD came as something of a surprise. Lydon was suitably angry as he reflected on the tensions of his adopted home with a screaming “Burn Hollywood, burn!” over an intense electronic soundtrack. LEFTFILELD would later work with Afrika Bambaataa themselves on ‘Afrika Shox’ in 1999.
DAVID BOWIE featuring PET SHOP BOYS Hallo Spaceboy (1996)
BLUR’s Alex James once remarked that having a PET SHOP BOYS remix was like having your dog being taken for a walk, but then, when it came back, it was a different dog! PET SHOP BOYS certainly re-produced this Bowie/Eno composition from ‘1.Outside’ into a much more commercial proposition, even utilising the cut-up technique to decide which words Neil Tennant would sing. Reaching No12, ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ became Da Dame’s biggest UK hit since ‘Jump They Say’ in 1990!
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS featuring BERNARD SUMNER Out Of Control (1999)
‘Out Of Control’ was THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ sonic template actually fulfilling its potential within a song based format with Bernard Sumner as the willing conspirator. ‘Out Of Control’ had everything from a bombastic backbeat and cerebral sequences to bizarre lyrics, especially when Sumner resigned that “maybe my moustache is too much…”. The association with Sumner continued when they produced NEW ORDER’s terrific ‘Here To Stay’ for Factory Records biopic ’24 Hour Party People’.
Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Singles 93-03’ via Virgin Records
SYSTEM F featuring MARC ALMOND Soul On Soul (2001)
Ferry Corsten had a huge international hit in 1999 with ‘Out Of The Blue’ under his SYSTEM F moniker. It highlighted the spiritual connection between synthpop and trance so to substantiate the link further, the Rotterdam based producer recruited MARC ALMOND to guest on the blinding ‘Soul On Soul’ for a spirited, club friendly workout. This all tied in nicely with SOFT CELL’s comeback album ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ which finally arrived in Autumn 2002.
The Dumbarton born TALKING HEADS frontman was back in the mainstream limelight for the first time since the band disbanded in 1991 with this superb online collaboration with British DJ duo X-PRESS2. David Byrne gave his best afflicted ‘Psycho Killer’ meets ‘Once In A Lifetime’ warble for what became a No2 UK chart hit. He later reworked ‘Lazy’ with orchestral embellishments for his 2004 solo long player ‘Grown Backwards’.
Available on the X-PRESS2 album ‘Muzikizum’ via Skint Records
‘Reload’ was a welcome relief after DEPECHE MODE’s paradoxically titled ‘Exciter’. The brief sojourn with Dutch producer Tom Holkenborg aka JUNKIE XL proved once and for all how well Dave Gahan’s voice worked on uptempo electronic dance tracks. He may be more interested in MUMFORD & SONS these days, but frankly, over a lively synth laden backbone is where he sounds best. The ‘Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin’ album also featured guest vocals from GARY NUMAN!
Ms Lauper was heading towards a career renaissance with her excellent ‘Bring Ya To The Brink’ album in 2008 so her collaboration with ERASURE in 2007 was quite timely. A soulful slice of Trans-Atlantic synthpop, ‘Early Bird’ was an enjoyable duet between her and Andy Bell that turned out to be the one of the more memorable tracks that emerged from ERASURE’s rather lukewarm ‘Light At The End Of The World’ sessions.
LITTLE BOOTS featuring PHILIP OAKEY Symmetry (2009)
At the time ‘Symmetry’ was unveiled, THE HUMAN LEAGUE had not released any new material since 2001. With a fabulous chorus, this was the nearest thing to a new HUMAN LEAGUE track with Victoria Hesketh doing her best Susanne Sulley impression. So when it was Phil talking, it was magic. “Tell me your dreams and I’ll tell you all my fears” he announced, as they complimented each other in a way that had not really even been heard on a League record before.
Available on the LITTLE BOOTS album ‘Hands’ via 679 Recordings
MY ROBOT FRIEND featuring ALISON MOYET Waiting (2009)
MY ROBOT FRIEND aka Howard Rigberg famously created the song ‘We’re The Pet Shop Boys’ in honour of Messrs Tennant and Lowe, who subsequently covered it by way of a reverse compliment. Rigberg went recruited ALISON MOYET for her first purely electronic adventure since the YAZOO days on ‘Waiting’. This welcome union with its off-kilter synth sounds alongside her voice no doubt helped ignite her interest in working within the genre again, the result of which was 2013’s ‘the minutes’.
Available on the MY ROBOT FRIEND album ‘Soft-Core’ via Double Feature/Worried Rainbow
PET SHOP BOYS featuring PHILIP OAKEY This Used To Be The Future (2009)
‘This Used To Be The Future’ was a dream trioet, exclusive to ‘Yes etc’, that featured Neil Tennant, Philip Oakey and Chris Lowe. With Lowe actually singing as opposed to just speaking, this triumphant celebration of yesterday’s tomorrow saw Oakey deadpan in that classic disappointed tone that things didn’t quite turn out how Raymond Baxter predicted on ‘Tomorrow’s World’! In that much loved HUMAN LEAGUE style, he finally resigns himself and at grunts“AMEN!”.
RÖYKSOPP featuring ROBYN The Girl & The Robot (2009)
The centrepiece of RÖYKSOPP’s third album ‘The Girl & The Robot’ was perhaps the culmination of ROBYN’s steady rise as a truly independent female artist. Despite having gained success in 1997 with the R’n’B tinged ‘Show Me Love’, ROBYN’s superiors at BMG reacted negatively to her new electropop aspirations inspired by fellow Swedes THE KNIFE. Frustrated, ROBYN bought herself out of her contract and set up her own Konichiwa Records, giving her the freedom to work with whoever she wanted.
Available on the RÖYKSOPP album ‘Junior’ via Wall Of Sound / PIAS
BLANK & JONES featuring CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Don’t Stop (2010)
The German dance duo had previously worked with Miss Brücken on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeous electrobeat ballad from 2003. ‘Don’t Stop’ was a progression on that but with a wider texture pallet and more abstract electronic overtones. Despite being less song based, vocally it is classic Claudia with its spoken verse and sexy ice maiden delivery in chorus.
CRYSTAL CASTLES featuring ROBERT SMITH Not In Love (2010)
Re-recorded for single release, Alice Beer took a breather to allow guest Robert Smith from THE CURE to take lead vocals on ‘Not In Love’, a dark but accessible number from CRYSTAL CASTLES’ second album. Smith more than fitted in with the Canadian duo’s aggressive and occasionally chaotic electronic template on this frantic uncovering of a song originally recorded by obscure Toronto new wave combo PLATINUM BLONDE.
Available on the CRYSTAL CASTLES featuring ROBERT SMITH single ‘Not In Love’ via Last Gang/Fiction Records
MOTOR featuring MARTIN L GORE Man Made Machine (2012)
MOTOR’s electro stomper ‘Man Made Machine’ featured vocals by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration which came over a bit like a camp IGGY POP. Gore certainly sounded a touch nervous and uneasy, luring over the duo’s brand of harder edged schaffel techno which only enhanced its appeal. Incidentally, the same titled parent album also featured guests such as GARY NUMAN, BILLIE RAY MARTIN and NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy.
Not content with producing MARSHEAUX and collaborating with OMD on ‘Helen Of Troy’, Greek duo FOTONOVELA released a more song based second album featuring a number of prominent international vocalists entitled ‘A Ton Of Love’. One of the numbers ‘Our Sorrow’ featured James New from the much missed MIRRORS. In the vein of classic OMD, New’s majestic vocal touching the heartstrings, the wonderful melancholy was perfect, soulful electronic pop.
Foxx and Hulkkonen had worked together previously on various one-off songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’ but had never before attempted a body of work with a conceptual theme. When the two finally found some collaborative time together, he result was ‘European Splendour’, an EP with a grainier downtempo template than before. The lead track ‘Evangeline’ was full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of overworldly character throughout.
SIN COS TAN featuring CASEY SPOONER Avant Garde (2013)
SIN COS TAN’s Jori Hulkkonen first found fame as part of TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS back in 2001 at the height of the Electroclash movement. Partly recalling that era, ‘Avant Garde’ saw Casey Spooner from the scene’s flag bearers FISCHERSPOONER make a guest appearance on the duo’s second long player ‘Afterlife’. The track itself though was more like THE CURE produced by PET SHOP BOYS with Spooner providing a suitably cynical snarl to contrast Juho Paalosmaa’s impassioned lost boy cry.
Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records
iEUROPEAN featuring WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound (2014)
Although Wolfgang Flür ’s last full album project was as YAMO with ‘Time Pie’ back in 1997, there was this marvellous electronic number entitled ‘Activity Of Sound’, recorded in collaboration with iEUROPEAN. The project of Dublin based artist Sean Barron, the additional female monologue was provided by Barron’s wife, Izabella. The track sees Herr Flür quoting an archive interview with the late avant garde composer John Cage to a soundtrack of hypnotic synthetic bliss.
Available on the iEUROPEAN featuring WOLFGANG FLÜR download single ‘Activity Of Sound’ via Subculture Records