Tag: The Sound Of Arrows (Page 1 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide To RICHARD X

Producer and remixer Richard Philips, better known as Richard X, began his musical career creating bootlegs or mash-ups.

This was an illegal creative practice of combining two existing records to make an entirely new track.

The fusion of disparate elements, where often the vocals of one recording from a particular genre were placed over the instrumental backing from another, became a fashionable practice in clubs; Belgium’s 2 Many DJs were among one of the more notable exponents alongside Richard X.

Influenced by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and KRAFTWERK in particular, Richard X’s first notable mash-up under the name GIRLS ON TOP was ‘I Wanna Dance With Numbers’ in 2001; it dropped Whitney Houston over KRAFTWERK and inspired by the apparent elitism of the electronica scene at the start of the 21st Century.

But it was when he placed ‘Freak Like Me’ by R ‘n’ B artist Adina Howard over TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for a bootleg entitled ‘We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends’ that figures within the music business realised Richard X’s Frankenstein vision might have commercial potential.

Ironically, one person who didn’t was Adina Howard herself who refused permission for her vocal to be used on an officially sanctioned release.

Instead, the British female pop trio recorded a cover version of the mash-up produced by Richard X and the rest is history.

Since then, Richard X has been approached to work with many artists, but remains selective, declining most of what he is offered and often only working on individual tracks, thanks to his own artistic assertion that “I’ve always been about singles…”

Richard X created his own production umbrella Black Melody to oversee his work and even released a collection of demos by THE HUMAN LEAGUE as ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ which had been shelved by Virgin Records back in 1981. Meanwhile as well as ERASURE, NINE INCH NAILS, GOLDFRAPP, MIRRORS, SAY LOU LOU and NEW ORDER, his productions and remixes have encompassed artists such varied as Will Young, Roísín Murphy, Rachel Stevens, Sam Sparro, Tiga, Jarvis Cocker and Lana Del Rey.

As a result of often working on just singular tracks with artists, Richard X has a large and diverse portfolio; The Electricity Club lists eighteen of his most notable tracks, with a limit of one track per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…


SUGABABES Freak Like Me (2002)

Richard X dropped ‘Freak Like Me’ over ‘Are Friends Electric?’ as a GIRLS ON TOP bootleg, a crossover hit was just waiting to be unleashed… enter SUGABABES, modern pop’s equivalent of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. This was a period when Gary Numan was being sampled left, right and centre by the likes of BASEMENT JAXX and DJ Armand Van Helden, so this Diabolus In Musica urban hybrid no doubt helped bring him to a curious new young audience.

Available on the SUGABABES album ‘Overloaded: The Singles Collection’ via Universal Music

http://sugababesmusic.com


RICHARD X vs LIBERTY X Being Nobody (2003)

A huge fan of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Richard X continued his mash-up magic, albeit in a more reproductive manner. When the appropriately monikered LIBERTY X came knocking, he took inspiration from the various versions of ‘Being Boiled’ and put RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN’s funk classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ over the top, helped by the fact that both tunes ran at a very similar BPM of 103/104.

Available on the LIBERTY X album ‘Being Somebody’ via V2 Records

https://www.facebook.com/libertyxofficial/


RICHARD X in collaboration with DEBORAH STRICKLAND-EVANS Lemon / Lime (2003)

Deborah Evans-Strickland was best known for her deadpan vocal on THE FLYING LIZARDS’ very unusual cover of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’. For his debut solo album, Richard X dragged her out of retirement for a bizarre reinterpretation of ‘Walk On By’ as well as the Trans-Commuter Express job spec art piece ‘Lemon / Lime’. Stern but strangely alluring in her posh Essex accent, Evans-Strickland came over like the scary Human Resources Manager who everyone is secretly attracted to.

Available on the RICHARD X album ‘Presents His X Factor Vol1’ via Virgin Records

http://blackmelody.com


RACHEL STEVENS Some Girls (2004)

Co-written with Hannah Robinson and based on some real-life music industry anecdotes, Richard X’s GOLDFRAPP-styled production on ‘Some Girls’ saw Rachel Stevens playing a wannabe who ends up on pop’s casting couch. Driven apparently by having his GOLDFRAPP remixes rejected, it was ‘Some Girls’ that first put the icy glam electro sound into the mainstream consciousness before GOLDFRAPP themselves.

Available on the RACHEL STEVENS album ‘Come & Get It’ via Polydor Records

http://www.rachelstevensofficial.com


NINE INCH NAILS Only – Richard X Remix (2005)

“There is no you, there is only ME!” exclaimed an angry and provocative Trent Reznor on ‘Only’, but Richard X smoothed things down, brought forward the chorus and took it down the discotheque, albeit a dark gothic one! With a frantic marimba line added and an increased dance tempo, this was one of Richard X’s best crossover reworkings that still retained the original’s heavy spirit of frustration expressed as part of Reznor’s battle with alcoholism and substance abuse.

Available on the NINE INCH NAILS EP ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’ via Nothing Records

http://www.nin.com


LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)

Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ declared that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved far more to be nominated for that title! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.

Available on the LUKE HAINES album ‘Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop’ via Fantastic Plastic

http://www.lukehaines.co.uk


PET SHOP BOYS Fugitive – Richard X Extended Mix (2006)

Although the ‘Fundamental’ album was produced by Trevor Horn, Richard X worked on and powerfully extended ‘Fugitive’ as a limited edition exclusive for the fittingly titled ‘Fundamentalism’ bonus album. PET SHOP BOYS’ own post-9/11 songNeil Tennant recently revealed in the extensive ‘Fundamental: Further Listening 2005–2007’ booklet notes:“It’s about a terrorist, a terrorist whose ideology is that he believes that by killing the enemy he’s going to go to heaven”.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Fundamental: Further Listening 2005 – 2007’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk


ANNIE Songs Remind Me Of You (2009)

Richard X has worked on-and off with Anne Lilia Berge Strand since 2004 including her breakthrough song ‘Chewing Gum’; ‘Songs Remind Me Of You’ was another fabulous tune from the X / Hannah Robinson songbook. Filled with high octane electronic dance flavours, “How does it feel…to hear your songs on the radio?” asked the Norwegian songstress wispily with an exquisite devenir a gris lilt over a classic chord structure inside a spiky synthesized mix.

Available on the ANNIE album ‘Don’t Stop’ via Smalltown Supersound

https://www.facebook.com/anniemelodymusic/


ANTHONIO Annie (2009)

As a jokey publicity stunt for the Italo disco flavoured ANNIE single ‘Anthonio’, Richard X used its backing track and a new lyric by Hannah Robinson to create a brilliant tongue-in-cheek response to her tale of broken holiday romance. As a modern exponent of Italo, HEARTBREAK’s charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik amiably played the role of the disimpassioned Latin lover.

Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters

http://lexprojects.com/sebastian-is-anthonio/


SAINT ETIENNE Method Of Modern Love (2009)

With some slight structural similarities to Kylie Minogue’s ‘The One’ and recorded by SAINT ETIENNE for an updated singles compilation, ‘Method Of Modern Love’ was again written by Richard X with Hannah Robinson alongside Matt Prime. A long-time fan of the trio, it had only been intended for Richard X to remix the track ‘This Is Tomorrow’, but he ended up producing them as they opted for ‘Method Of Modern Love’ as a new single after hearing the demo.

Available on the SAINT ETIENNE album ‘London Conversations: The Best Of’ via Heavenly Records

http://www.saintetienne.com


ROÍSÍN MURPHY Parallel Lives (2009)

‘Overpowered’ was the second solo album from one-time MOLOKO frontwoman Roísín Murphy and a superb collection of soulful 21st century electronic disco. The Richard X helmed ‘Parallel Lives’ penetrated with some steady and deep sub-bass, providing a nice bonus to an album where Murphy had gloriously sounded not unlike Lisa Stansfield fronting PET SHOP BOYS on outstanding songs such as ‘Primitive’ and Cry Baby’.

Available on the ROÍSÍN MURPHY album ‘Overpowered’ via EMI Records

https://www.roisinmurphyofficial.com


DRAGONETTE Pick Up The Phone – Richard X Remix (2010)

While ‘Pick Up The Phone’ from Canadian popsters DRAGONETTE was a summery upbeat tune, their usual Euro-leaning sound took a breather with electric guitars subbing for the usual synths. But this made things perfect for a superior Richard X remix to stick back in all the electronic dance elements that the band were actually best known for.

Available on the DRAGONETTE album ‘Mixin To Thrill’ via Dragonette Inc

http://www.dragonetteonline.com


GOLDFRAPP Alive (2010)

From ‘Head First’, the poppiest album in the GOLDFRAPP catalogue, the Richard X assisted ‘Alive’ allowed Alison Goldfrapp to explore her Olivia Newton-John fixation with a tune that recalled ‘I’m Alive’, the latter’s collaboration with ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA for the film ‘Xanadu’. The synth solo was big and fat with power chords plus a great middle eight to boot. With references to Billy Joel as well, ‘Alive’ sounded slightly more Oberheim than Korg…

Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com


THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS Young Aren’t Young (2010)

Hailing from Brooklyn, THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS possessed a sultry new wave fusion with occasional gothic overtones. Despite the girl / boy duo having aspirations to be more like Warp Records label mates BROADCAST, Richard X produced a number of key songs from their self-titled debut album, adding a more accessible sheen. ‘Young Aren’t Young’ was a dreamy NEW ORDER influenced number layered with the sort of frenetic guitar playing that would have made Bernard Sumner proud.

Available on THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS album ‘The Hundred In The Hands’ via Warp Records

https://www.facebook.com/thehundredinthehands/


SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR Starlight (2011)

It’s strange to think now but before she became a pop princess, Sophie Ellis-Bextor once fronted an indie rock band called THEAUDIENCE. Yet another Richard X and Hannah Robinson co-composition, the glitterball sparkle of ‘Starlight’ utilised a Linn Drum led rhythm section and sweeping synth strings for a dreamy electronic pop concoction. Alluringly finding “heaven in the dark”, it was one of those catchy summer holiday disco anthems that Kylie Minogue wouldn’t have objected to recording herself.

Available on SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR album ‘Make A Scene’ via EBGB’s

http://sophieellisbextor.net


MIRRORS Into The Heart – Richard X Radio Mix (2011)

With a determined art for art’s sake concept for their eventual ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, the original sessions with Richard X were abandoned when MIRRORS chose to produce themselves, although he did contribute a Radio Mix for the reissued single ‘Into The Heart’; less intense and claustrophobic than the quartet’s album version, the majestic singalong proved that Synth Britannia influences were and still are nothing to be ashamed of.

Available on the MIRRORS single ‘Into the Heart’ via Skint Records

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


THE SOUND OF ARROWS Lost City (2011)

THE SOUND OF ARROWS are Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, a Swedish duo described by one observer as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”. Like PET SHOP BOYS fed with Fox’s Glacier Mints, the Richard X produced widescreen instrumental ‘Lost City’ was fittingly dramatic, although its main melodic theme may have been a bit too ‘Top Gun’ with synths for some listeners…

Available on THE SOUND OF ARROWS album ‘Voyage’ via Skies Above

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


ERASURE Sacred (2014)

Produced by Richard X, ‘The Violet Flame’ saw ERASURE return to form with their fourteenth album after the disappointment of its predecessor ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and express an infectious zest for the future with songs seeded via Vince Clarke’s pre-recorded dance grooves. With ‘Sacred’, this was another classic ERASURE pop tune, although the bizarre phrasal spectre of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by GUNS N ROSES could be found in the verse of Andy Bell’s vocal topline!

Available on the ERASURE album ‘The Violet Flame’ via Mute Artists

http://www.erasureinfo.com


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

For the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number in the vein of Giorgio Moroder, solidly mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of NEW ORDER’s own ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality in relationships, it declared “you’re like plastic, you’re artificial…”

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com


NINA Beyond Memory (2016)

Produced by Richard X and Sunglasses Kid, a nocturnal warmth exuded from the hypnotic drifts of ‘Beyond Memory’, demonstrating how German songstress NINA’s brand of pulsating electronic pop acted as a bridge between the sub-genres of synthwave and synthpop. With her vocals deliciously slicing the moonlit atmosphere with a superbly breathy chorus, ‘Beyond Memory’ reflected on the personal lifelong impact of past relationships.

Available on the NINA album ‘Sleepwalking’ via Aztec Records

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th May 2018

Five Years of TEC: 25 Favourite Artist Introductions 2010 – 2014

TEC 5 years-02When The Electricity Club became reality on 15th March 2010, it was on the back of a resurgence in electronic pop music.

New starlets such as LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX were acknowledging pioneers such as GARY NUMAN and HEAVEN 17, while the use of synthesizers for melodies as well as effects was becoming more common again and not just as a mocking gimmick.

TEC’s ‘Introducing…’ feature was a platform to showcase promising new talent within the genre and proved that electronic music had not been killed off by Britpop. Around 70 acts have been featured and from these, a number of worthy graduates from the Synth Britannia school and the like emerged. Meanwhile a number were just promising, their talent stifled by line-up changes, record company politics and even geography.

So here are TEC’s 25 favourite artist introductions, listed in the chronological order that they were originally featured on the site…


SHH (2010)

shh_bed1Electronic Pop Buenos Aires Style, SHH were the first act to be introduced by TEC. Led by the vivacious Diana Huarte, they had a sexy blissful optimism that made them a very entertaining live act. They say Latinas are fiery and there was certainly a provocative passion in her performance. Schooled in opera and brimming with charm, Diana’s vocals displayed a magnificent range that suited both uptempo sun-kissed pop like ‘Tiger’ and ERASURE-esque ballads such as ‘Sleepless’.

Their stand-out song was ‘Wonderful Night’ which was reminiscent of Greek power popsters MIKRO with its solid beat and rousing chorus. A third album has yet to be finished, but SHH still make occasional appearances on London’s live circuit, most recently supporting SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK.

https://www.facebook.com/Shhsounds


MIRRORS (2010)

Mirrors-also-boxMIRRORS were the second act to have an ‘Introducing…’ feature on The Electricity Club and are still very much the band that new synth acts are judged against. Their fans included Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Neil Arthur and Eddie Bengtsson. Qualitatively, many a band have been rejected at TEC HQ, simply because “they’re not MIRRORS”. Having delivered a magnificent album in ‘Lights & Offerings’, it is a travesty that MIRRORS’ electronic pop-noir was not embraced by the wider community.

Sadly after founder member Ally Young left in Autumn 2011 due to musical differences, the band appeared to wind down after two releases as a trio. And yet while MIRRORS seem to have been mothballed, far inferior synth acts go on and on and on…

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


ARTHUR & MARTHA (2010)

Almost as soon as ARTHUR & MARTHA were the third act introduced on TEC, they disappeared! The duo comprised of, rather confusingly, Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley, described as “Gilbert & George, disguised as The Carpenters, stealing the hits of Kraftwerk and bashing them out on an old Moog in the style of SECTION 25”. Driven by a synthetic motorik beat, ‘Autovia’ was the superb highlight from their only album ‘Navigation’ which played with a variety of styles ranging from NEW ORDER to CRYSTAL CASTLES.

While ARTHUR & MARTHA are no more, Hubley formed indie act COSINES while Cresswell recently re-emerged as RODNEY CROMWELL.

https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-and-Martha-6821029194/


THE VANITY CLAUSE (2010)

vanityOriginally a duo consisting of David Woods and Russell Harris, THE VANITY CLAUSE‘s potential was blighted by endless line-up changes before a terminal blow. With a synth sound that was heavily influenced by early ULTRAVOX, LADYTRON and Mute Records, it involved big played synths over chunky sequences and urgent rhythm construction. The classic line-up included vocalist and synth girl Louisa Strachan, but never actually released a full length album. An album, appropriately titled ‘Fractured’, was issued after David Woods’ departure, but was disappointing.

The Woods sessions were released eventually as ‘Pre-Stress’ while THE VANITY CLAUSE soldiered on with Mk3 and Mk4 variants. The latter produced an excellent single ‘The Scream’ but the creative momentum could not be maintained. Russell Harris joined ELECTRO KILL MACHINE for a brief period but now makes music as GO YOKO.

https://www.facebook.com/thevanityclauseofficial


KATJA VON KASSEL (2010)

katja1The Electro Weimar Cabaret of KATJA VON KASSEL was a fine sultry presence on the independent music scene. Singing in both German and English, often within the same song in an alluring Marlene Dietrich tone, she had a number of cool elegant songs like ‘Goodbye Was Never Said’, ‘Riding The Horses’ and ‘Lili Marlene’ which were produced with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray. Her best song ‘Lies’ had strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano set to a template in a manner that recalled GRACE JONES’ ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’.

With her “1930s meets the future” twist, she supported ERASURE on their German dates in 2011 and as a result, was signed by a major label. Sadly as has been the case with several acts on the list, that partnership didn’t work out. While record company politics have so far prevented any releases, she intends to have material out soon.

http://www.myspace.com/katjamusic


THE SOUND OF ARROWS (2010)

sound of arrows with dogTHE SOUND OF ARROWS were Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, said by Popjustice to be “the HURTS you can dance to”. Their self-made CGI assisted visual imagery was described as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”! The duo garnered a lot of attention at the end of 2009 with the dreamy widescreen pop of ‘Into The Clouds’ and they were subsequently signed to Geffen Records. The label attempted to push them into a more Ibiza rave friendly sound but eventually, a parting of ways was agreed.

The debut album ‘Voyage’ was eventually released independently in 2011 and was wonderfully swathed in a beautiful Nordic melancholy. There was the poptimistic chant of ‘Magic’ as well as the vibrant Gallic disco number ‘My Shadow’ and the magnificent supreme synthpop of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. THE SOUND OF ARROWS went quiet after that, but Stefan Storm later did some terrific collaborations with QUEEN OF HEARTS

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


VILE ELECTRODES (2010)

vileint1At the time a trio, VILE ELECTRODES had been making a good impression on the London club scene when they were featured on The Electricity Club in 2010. There are not many acts that could get away with an enigmatic video showcasing a seven and a half minute synth ballad, let alone a fledgling one… but get away with it they did with ‘Deep Red’. VILE ELECTRODES’ love of OMD, NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS and CLIENT combined to procure a fresh approach to a music form that many had dismissed as being 80s.

Some less worthy bands claim to have reinvigorated the 21st Century electronic music scene in the UK, but VILE ELECTRODES did exactly that. So it was not entirely surprising when they were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour and the journey began…

https://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


HYPERBUBBLE (2010)

Quirky Texan synthesizer couple HYPERBUBBLE delivered a species of cartoonish synthpop that the duo themselves called “Bionic Bubblepunk”. With Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff being the obedient robotic version of John Steed, their mantra was “guitars are retro and sequencers are the key to the future”. Their third album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ was a tasty fairground ride that took in influences as diverse as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING to THE OHIO EXPRESS and THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE, all with a shiny sense of humour.

While a fourth album has not yet been forthcoming, a series of soundtrack and collaborative EPs have maintained HYPERBUBBLE’s profile while they played London for the first time in Autumn 2014.

http://www.hyperbubble.net


SUNDAY GIRL (2010)

sunday4Jade Williams got her stage name from a part time job she had in a pet shop where she was known simply as SUNDAY GIRL. With a raspy voice that appeared to have been shaped from smoking far too many Gauloises in a Paris café, she was signed to Geffen Records. Her first two singles, ‘Four Floors’ and a cover of Italo standard ‘Self Control’ were more ELLIE GOULDING in demeanour. But it was ‘Stop Hey!’ with its piercing MIRRORS meets MGMT template which showed her potential. The unreleased ‘24 Hours’ was wonderfully claustrophobic post-punk but best of all was ‘All The Songs’, a brilliant slice of avant pop powered by pulsing electronic bass and layers of vibrato synth.

However, Geffen Records had other ideas and pushed her into covers of songs made famous by STEPS and THE PIXIES! Once LANA DEL REY hit the airwaves internationally, it was all over bar the shouting and the debut album never came out. Today, Jade Williams is involved in a more conventional pop project under the less mysterious moniker of WHINNIE WILLIAMS.

http://www.wearesundaygirl.com


MAISON VAGUE (2011)

maisonIn 2008, PARRALOX declared “We believe in electric love”! In 2011, “Synthpop’s alive!” was the MAISON VAGUE battlecry! Consisting of lone American-born German based keyboardist / programmer Clark Stiefel, the title track of MAISON VAGUE’s album was a musical reply to a YouTube video that proclaimed “Synthpop is dead”. With a template of GARY NUMAN meets DEVO, MAISON VAGUE combined aggression with eccentricity, but all the songs possessed a sly tongue-in-cheek irony as well as a gloriously vintage synth sound.

A second album has yet to appear but Clark Stiefel still continues with his day job in the classical music world.

http://www.maisonvague.com


QUEEN OF HEARTS (2011)

queenQUEEN OF HEARTS is the talented Elizabeth Morphew who first came to public attention via RED BLOODED WOMEN, a girl group who sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD being produced by Daniel Miller. She once said “pop is not a dirty word” and this was reflected in her electro wonderland. Her debut EP ‘The Arrival’ contained enticing songs like the Moroder-esque throb of ‘Freestyle’ and a gorgeous cover of FOALS’ ‘Spanish Sahara’. But best of all was 2012’s ‘Neon’ with its deliciously wired glitterball sparkle that managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP.

Her work attracted interest from producers like Mark Reeder who reworked ‘Neon’ and collaborated on ‘United’, although the Stuart Price produced ‘Feel’ has still to officially see the light of day. Her well received debut album ‘Cocoon’ was released in 2014 and she is presently in the studio working on new songs.

http://www.iamqueenofhearts.com/


KID KASIO (2011)

kid kasio-4-700x1024KID KASIO is Nathan Cooper, one-time member of those once great white hopes THE MODERN aka MATINEE CLUB who in their time, supported HEAVEN 17 and released the excellent single ‘Jane Falls Down’ mixed by Stephen Hague. With a debut album ‘Kasiotone’ under his belt, KID KASIO’s vintage but modern flavoured sound updated the one man and his synth template pioneered by HOWARD JONES.

‘The Reason’, ‘Not For Turning’ and ‘Telephone Line’ were fine examples of his bouncy riff laden ditties with catchy choruses reminiscent of imperial phase DURAN DURAN. But the best KID KASIO number was ‘I Miss You’ which sounded like ‘Forbidden Colours’ reworked by LA ROUX. A second album is currently being finished.

http://www.kidkasio.com


CURXES (2011)

Curxes-Lucy-GoodaleCURXES have been continuing their development into a more aggressive post-punk template with wonderful songs such as the haunting staircase mystery of ‘Spectre’ and the CHVRCHES gone aggro stand point of ‘Avant-Guarded’. But when the Blitz Poppers first made a splash on the scene back in Summer 2011, they were “a decorative set of bones, channelling the ghosts of discothèques past” in a manner of DEPECHE MODE being eaten by SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. This material was released as a mini-album ‘Precurxor’ in 2014.

Where they are heading next may be less overtly synthy but is still technologically dynamic and inventive. Their debut album ‘Verxes’ has been a long time coming but if tracks such as ‘Valkyrie’ are anything to go by, it will have been worth the wait.

http://www.curxes.com/


SOFT METALS (2011)

SOFT METALS colourMore immediate than XENO & OAKLANDER and much shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES, SOFT METALS took their arsenal of cool vintage synths into ORBITAL territory with a rugged squelch ‘n’ bleep framework driven by Roland Rhythm Composers. Comprising of Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the duo have proven their artistic worth with a hypnotic sound on their first self-titled album. The synthetically charged joy of ‘Voices’ was a great calling card while ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Eyes Closed’ showcased Patricia Hall’s flirtatious demeanour over a Detroit Techno influenced backbone.

The second album ‘Lenses’ was a natural development of the debut and tracks like ‘Tell Me’, ‘No Turning Back’ and ‘Hourglass’ have indicated there is still more great music to come in that delicious Métaux Mous vein.

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals


ELEVEN: ELEVEN (2012)

111-Sicca-thumbComprising of the seductively celestial voice of Sicca and the instrumentation of Jake Childs, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have an electronic dance sound that recalls a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Electroclash and the band BERLIN. Their impressive debut ‘Through The Veil’ showed subtle, crafted thinking within EDM as well as hypnotic hints of BOBBY O and GIORGIO MORODER.

With range of rhythmical dynamics on songs such as ‘Little White Lies’, ‘No Words’ and the brilliantly sparkling title track, ELEVEN: ELEVEN’s songs rarely clock in above four minutes, thus avoiding the death-by-four-to-the-floor syndrome that afflicts the majority of club music.

http://weare1111.com/


CHVRCHES (2012)

CHVRCHES-in-fieldThe Electricity Club took a punt at covering CHVRCHES after just one song, but it all turned out rather well. Introduced to the band by the wonderful CURXES, CHVRCHES’ brilliant opening gambit ‘Lies’ was ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ re-imagined by DEPECHE MODE but fronted by ROBYN. With electronic drum tattoos, meaty piercing synths and a great tune, the Glaswegian trio of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty certainly made an impression.

‘The Mother We Share’ proved it was not a fluke while ‘Now Is Not The Time’ showed CHVRCHES were in a position to regulate great songs to B-sides. Support slots with DEPECHE MODE, a never ending tour and a well-received debut album in ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ have been further evidence of CHVRCHES impact in the international arena.

http://www.chvrch.es/


TITANS (2012)

TITANSImagine if RAMMSTEIN were reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE but without the flame throwers? TITANS‘ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan crossed with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In a sub-genre known for its shouting, TITANS’ mighty calling card ‘It’s Dark’ was menacing but melodic. The parent album ‘For The Long Gone’ was an enjoyable listen too, energetic without being bombastic and tuneful without being twee.

The foreboding synth atmospheres of ‘All There Is’ were reminiscent of a doomy CAMOUFLAGE while the Olympian effort of the title track could have been ULTRAVOX meeting RAMMSTEIN for an electronic collaboration. While an EP ‘My Sorrow’ with new songs came out in 2013, a second album is eagerly awaited.

http://www.facebook.com/TitansOfficial


SAY LOU LOU (2013)

say lou lou4Stunning identical twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey have been labelled the female HURTS and certainly their second single ‘Julian’ is still one of their best songs, full of tension, angst and intrigue like a Nordic Noir mini-series compressed into a three minute pop song. Like HURTS, their music could do with a kick occasionally but numbers such as ‘Everything We Touch‘ are like a sophisticated Scandipop take on HEART, driven by a togetherness that can only come from two siblings.

The forthcoming release of their debut album ‘Lucid Dreaming’ will confirm whether SAY LOU LOU have been able to deliver on their brand of shimmering but accessible escapism.

http://www.sayloulou.com/


GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS (2013)

GIRL ONE GREASE GUNS PHOTOWho are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS? Nobody really knows for sure, but this mysterious combo with their lo-fi noise and motorik beats have revealed a series of energetic singles over the past few years. There was the ‘Logan’s Run’ tribute ‘Jessica 6’, an eerie post-punk cacophony of sound laced with icy string machine sounding like THE PIPETTES fronting an OMD assisted JOY DIVISION while a winter of discontent overtone sat on the dysfunctional indie synthpop of ‘Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)’.

However in 2014, a much softer side was revealed on ‘No Longer Spellbound’. With its beautiful atmospheric quality smothered in icy synths and grainy vox samples, it would have been the theme tune to ‘Twins Peaks’ had the series been set in The Lake District.

http://www.squirrelrecords.co.uk/girl-one-and-the-grease-guns/


NIGHT CLUB (2013)

NIGHT CLUBForming in 2011, vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and producer Mark Brooks began writing songs that combined the pure pop of PINK and BRITNEY SPEARS with the heavier spectre of SLAYER into a danceable, electronic underworld. They truly arrived on their second EP ‘Love Casualty’, with the highlight being ‘Poisonous’ which reimagined EURYTHMICS’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ fronted by Britney if she had gone Goth.

And with their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’, NIGHT CLUB delivered their best body of work yet. Featuring a dark disco cover of INXS ‘Need You Tonight’, it was trumped by the sinister yet playfully feline ‘She Wants To Play With Fire’ and the Electroclash flavoured ‘Cruel Devotion’. Based on the evidence trajectory so far, NIGHT CLUB’s fourth EP looks like it will be a blinder!

http://nightclubband.com/


QUIETER THAN SPIDERS (2013)

quieter than spidersCould The Electricity Club have found another MIRRORS in QUIETER THAN SPIDERS? But whereas MIRRORS openly flaunted their Gilbert & George look, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have been totally anonymous. Their “Shanghai Synthpop …using home-made electronic sounds played by hand” has certainly made an impact with ‘Shanghai Metro’ recalling the obvious melodic elements of classic OMD.

Then there was the haunting dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ with its modern, processed twist while the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ glided with a glacial beauty that was not only appealing to the ear, but could be danced to as well. The long awaited debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ is to be released on Anna Logue Records sometime in 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders


I AM SNOW ANGEL (2014)

i am snow angel -julieI AM SNOW ANGEL’s music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins but with a North American twist. Her self-titled debut EP introduced enticingly understated numbers like ‘Grey White December’ and ‘Let Me Go’, but it was her debut album ‘Crocodile’ that united a countrified twang with her dreamy, whispery world to produce a unique and quietly subversive sound within electronica.

There was the excellence of the title track while ‘Walking On Wires’ recalled THE POSTAL SERVICE. But just when you thought there could be no more surprises, there was her drum ‘n’ bass take on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’!

http://iamsnowangel.com/


MACHINISTA (2014)

Machinista_bandThe Swedish pairing of John Lindqwister and Richard Flow have declared themselves “synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge” but MACHINISTA have shown themselves to be far weightier with songs such as the superb Brechtian drama of ‘Summersault’ and the midlife pondering ‘Pushing The Angels Astray’. Their debut album ‘Xenoglossy’ delivered on the promise already shown with their first EP ‘Arizona Lights’ and an appearance at ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’.

Combining the best elements of both ALPHAVILLE and THE CURE into an enjoyably well produced template of anthemic electro, they even had the bottle to do a cover of DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Heroes’ and did a pretty good job of it too.

http://www.machinistamusic.com/


FIFI RONG (2014)

FifiRong-01FIFI RONG has been building her repertoire using a wide range of influences such as dubstep, trip hop and Chinese folk music while also name checking the likes of COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR. She also collaborated with TRICKY and her first album ‘Wrong’ came with a rework of her TRICKY track retitled as ‘Only If I Knew’ which was by far a more beautiful interpretation and fully exploited the song’s potential.

Her best number so far though has is ‘Next Pursuit’, which combines the vocal mystery of KELLI ALI and the quirkiness of MOLOKO. Adding rhythmical variation and avoiding clichés, FIFI RONG has manifested her own dream laden underground electronica. She is currently working with BORIS BLANK of YELLO fame.

http://www.fifirong.com


PAWWS (2014)

Pawws2PAWWS is what CHVRCHES would sound like if they were an all-female concern ie a blokey free zone. With some Scandipop influences and a dose of second hand Roland JX-8P, the end result is some sweet, sugary electronically driven pop. The coy, feline magnetism of ‘Slow Love’ showcased PAWWS aka Lucy Taylor’s brand of “upsetting disco” and ‘Give You Love’ from the following ‘Sugar’ EP also lived up to that template.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times described the EP title track “As if Kylie had worked with OMD”. If there is one lady who could fill the female fronted synthpop void that has been vacated by LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS, it is PAWWS. With the warm reception accorded to the first two releases, more music is on the way from Miss Taylor…

https://www.pawwsmusic.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th March 2015, updated 22nd May 2016

BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT Make Me Believe In Hope

BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT is Welsh songwriter/producer Rod Thomas who adopted his ‘Gremlins’ referencing moniker to prevent being mistaken for an acoustic act which he clearly now is not, despite his folkie roots.

First spotted by The Electricity Club supporting fellow synth friendly duo THE SOUND OF ARROWS in 2010, more recently he has opened for ELLIE GOULDING and AUSTRA. But his highest profile spot to date has been with ERASURE who have been one of Thomas’ biggest influences. With emotive electronically based pop being given a recent reawkening by HURTS, this album (which has been a long time in the making) has made a timely entrance, especially with acts such as EKKOES and MODOVAR waiting in the queue to join the neon lit party.

As the album opener, ‘Immature’ is a great start as it rhythmically percolates in the manner of THE POSTAL SERVICE before a terrific synth section unexpectedly lifts the whole piece several notches. ‘A New Word To Say’ touches on melodic electronic soul with hints of ABC and YAZOO while the brilliant debut single ‘Love Part II’ gives NEW ORDER’s disco for football hooligans a New Man makeover.

Continuing the uptempo vibrancy, ‘Moves’ and ‘Disco Moment’ both pulse in a club friendly manner but with the beats never overbearing in the way they had been on say MARINA & THE DIAMONDS’ ‘Electra Heart’. The pretty duet ‘Cry at Films’ with SCISSOR SISTERS’ Del Marquis adds a sensitive point of reflection but best of all is ‘How To Make A Heart’, a superbly optimistic love song that sounds like a dance enhanced HURTS. It all ends with a dramatic synth and strings laden drum ‘n’ ballad ‘Grace’ which could be ROBBIE WILLIAMS produced by Stuart Price…hang on, that’s sort of happened!

Classic PET SHOP BOYS synth string pads  permeate throughout the album but the most important aspect of Rod Thomas’ songs are his emotive toplines and rousing chorus. Collaborating with Boom Bip, one half of NEON NEON who released an excellent under rated long player ‘Stainless Style’ in 2008, and Andy Chatterley who has worked with KYLIE MINOGUE, the whole of ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’ has a pleasantly widescreen sound that connects with the ears, feet and heart.

Free of the deliberate distortion that marred LADYHAWKE’s ‘Anxiety’, this is a promising debut which despite the melancholy is, as the title suggests, full of hope for the future.

And in this time of adversity, everyone needs it. Rod Thomas speaks more about what it’s really like for real people than many a so-called indie poet…


‘Make Me Believe In Hope’ is released by The Blue Team/Aztec Records

www.brightlightx2.com

www.facebook.com/brightlightx2


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th June 2012

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2011

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 Spellwork

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

http://www.austramusic.com


TARA BUSCH Rocket Wife

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

http://tarabusch.com/


CURXES The Constructor

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

http://www.curxes.com


DAYBEHAVIOR It’s A Game (MARSHEAUX Remix)

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

http://www.daybehavior.com


BETH DITTO Do You Need Someone?

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

http://www.gossipyouth.com

http://www.simianmobiledisco.co.ukk


THOMAS DOLBY Spice Train

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.

http://www.thomasdolby.com


DURAN DURAN Being Followed

‘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

www.duranduran.com


LANA DEL REY Blue Jeans (NIKONN remix)

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.

http://www.lanadelrey.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/nikonn/7193878082


SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR Synchronised

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

www.sophieellisbextor.net


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS Watching A Building On Fire

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

http://blog.johnfoxxandthemaths.com/

www.metamatic.com


GAZELLE TWIN The Eternal

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

www.gazelletwin.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Never Let Me Go

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!

Available on the CD ‘Credo’ via Wall Of Sound

www.thehumanleague.co.uk


IAMAMIWHOAMI Clump

‘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

http://www.facebook.com/pages/iamamiwhoami/270417754335


IAMX Ghosts Of Utopia

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

http://iamxmusic.com/


LADYTRON Mirage

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

http://www.ladytron.com


MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive

Maison Vague-SynthpopsAlive-cover

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

http://www.maisonvague.com


MIRRORS Secrets

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

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


MOBY Be The One

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

http://www.moby.com


NIGHTLIFE On The Run

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

http://nightlifepop.com/


GARY NUMAN The Fall

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

www.numan.co.uk


QUEEN OF HEARTS Spanish Sahara

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.

Available on the download EP ‘The Arrival’

www.iamqueenofhearts.com


SECTION 25 Colour, Movement, Sex & Violence

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

www.section25.com


SOFT METALS Eyes Closed

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

www.facebook.com/softmetals


THE SOUND OF ARROWS Longest Ever Dream

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!

Available on the CD ‘Voyage’ via Skies Above

www.thesoundofarrows.com


TENEK What Do You Want?

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.

Available on the CD ‘EP2’ via Toffeetones Records

www.tenek.info


TIGER BABY Landscapes

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

http://www.tigerbaby.dk


VILE ELECTRODES My Sanctuary

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.

Available on the CD EP ‘Vile Electrodes’

www.facebook/vileelectrodes


WHITE LIES Strangers

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

www.whitelies.com


XENO & OAKLANDER The Staircase

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

http://xenoandoaklander.com/


ZEBRA & SNAKE Empty Love Song

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.

Available as a free download from http://soundcloud.com/freeman-pr/zebra-snake-empty-love-song

www.zebraandsnake.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2011, updated 14th March 2017

THE SOUND OF ARROWS Voyage

THE SOUND OF ARROWS are Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, a duo said by the influential website Popjustice to be “the HURTS you can dance to”.

Their self made CGI assisted visual imagery has been described by Citylife as resembling “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”! They hail from Gävle in Sweden, a town once named the most boring town in Sweden. Boredom can be an amazing motivator and ‘Into the Clouds’ opening lines “I’m going to work my way out of this town, I’m going to be someone and know who I am” are quite a mission statement.

Following the accolade of Popjustice Single of 2009 for ‘Into the Clouds’, things went a bit quiet with THE SOUND OF ARROWS as they disappeared into London to record their debut album. Although signed to LA ROUX’s management Big Life, a major reorganisation at Geffen Records minimised promotion of their 2011 singles ‘Nova’ and ‘Magic’. Meanwhile the album was delayed even though promo copies had been sent to a select few. Anticipating further problems on the way, THE SOUND OF ARROWS have taken an honourable plunge of releasing the album themselves. Within a corporate pop industry that still does not seem to know quality from quantity, this has been the smart move.

Slightly remixed by Richard X, the evergreen ‘Into the Clouds’ is still dreamy widescreen synthpop swathed in that beautiful Nordic melancholy. Indeed, Richard X makes his presence felt on five of the album’s recordings. Also reworked by X is the poptimistic child-like chant of ‘Magic’, which was originally released on Stockholm indie label Labrador Records in 2008 and unexpectedly chosen by Geffen as a single.

However, it’s the new material that reinforces THE SOUND OF ARROWS much vaunted reputation. So on the glorious ‘Wonders’, it sparkles with rave-like stabs and keeps a foot on the Pan-European dancefloor like while ‘My Shadow’ is a vibrant Gallic disco number with a beautiful melody that is exactly the type of killer song that was so absent from ERASURE’s recent album ‘Tomorrow’s World’.

‘Ruins Of Rome’ starts like ‘Vienna’ for one of the album’s more sensitive moments before a full fat Richard X production comes in with the magnificence of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. Featuring a sweet guest vocal by ACTION BIKER aka Sarah Nyberg Pergament, this is the kind of modern electropop tune Andy McCluskey could have written for ‘History Of Modern’ had he been more honest with himself; the choral patches and the melodic templates are just so reminiscent of OMD.

One thing that stands out about ‘Voyage’ is its overall aural concept. Gorgeous interludes segue many of the tracks together like a Northern Lights update of ‘Love Theme From Midnight Express’ touched with VANGELIS’ progressive sweeps. It’s clear that Oskar Gullstrand understands his synths with a Korg MS20, Minimoog, Yamaha SK20 and Roland Juno 60 among them. Throughout, Stefan Storm has a whimsical quality to his vocal which suits the boyish sense of adventure. It’s like PET SHOP BOYS fed with Fox’s Glacier Mints.

The palette of the more down tempo ‘Hurting All The Way’ is impressive with military tattoo drums complimenting the bubbling synths and autotune, but as seems to be a regular occurrence these days, there is a mid-album lull.

‘Conquest’ is perhaps too much stereotypical mid-paced Europop while ‘Nova’ is the disappointment of the bunch. Underwhelming when released as a single earlier this year, it pales in comparison with the other tracks on ‘Voyage’ as it tries to please the club crowd. It’s a shame that bearing this situation in mind, the more impressive After The Sun has been dropped.

‘There Is Still Hope’ kisses with more of those VANGELIS moves but adds deep drones to recall ENO’s ‘The Big Ship’ but at 121 BPM. Spread over eight minutes, as it builds, it even starts to turn into U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ with 100% extra electro free. Instrumental closer ‘Lost City’ is fittingly thematic, maybe a bit too ‘Top Gun’ with synths for some but THE SOUND OF ARROWS do have a knack for these wordless wonders.

‘Dark Sun’, a gorgeous composition in the ‘A Broken Frame’ Mode proves this. Originally a free download, it is now one of the bonuses in the iTunes version of the package. Speaking of extras, the deluxe CD edition comes in a double disc package with an instrumental version of the album. This superbly stands up on its own with all the complex musical elements given a chance to shine.

Each sound has its own voicing with great air synth possibilities opened up. Even ‘Nova’ has more listening potential in this form. And the lengthy treat ‘Longest Ever Dream’ shows THE SOUND OF ARROWS at their most ambient, music for dreams… but this won’t please the often impatient pop crowd.

Rather like with HURTS this time last year, THE SOUND OF ARROWS have shown that their musical subtlety and melodic textures are an essential and enlightening listen. But the elements with a slight pandering towards club culture are perhaps the less enjoyable parts of ‘Voyage’. With the bonus tracks and ‘After The Silence’ plus lovely esoteric B sides such as ‘And Beyond’ available in their catalogue, ‘Voyage’ could have been an even more complete album experience.

Storm and Gullstrand shouldn’t be afraid to exploit some of their more expansive soundtrack qualities rather than feeling the need to be pure pop. Over time and with experience, this intelligent electronic boy duo will learn and be able to refine their art further.


‘Voyage’ is available as a 2CD deluxe package including an instrumental version of the album and is released by Skies Above

www.thesoundofarrows.com

www.facebook.com/thesoundofarrows


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th November 2011

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