After three albums fronted by the charismatic Jan Jenko, it was all change in 2016 for TORUL on the appropriately titled ‘Reset’, with the introduction of new vocalist Maj Valerij.
To trail a new album coming later this year, the Slovenian combo are back with a brand new single ‘Explain’ which showcases some grouchy bass guitar syncopating off a solid beat.
Over smatterings of weeping electronics, Valerij explains to his listeners that “She’s coming again in my dream”.
In the mysterious visual accompaniment directed by Aleš Bravničar, a disused airfield is used as a backdrop for its leading lady Tina Kopušar to roam in search of life, or is it?
Valerij smokes a pipe intently and stares her out; is he a ghost from a bygone conflict or disaster? The aeronautical relics from The Cold War rusting from abandonment might be a clue… but as bandmates Torul Torulsson and Borut Dolenec make cameos, it’s difficult to fathom! Explain!
With Valerij now fully ensconced into the fold, it would appear that TORUL have survived the departure of Jan Jenko, with ‘Explain’ capturing the intensity of their previous work, a template that was inspired by the likes of THE CURE and TEARS FOR FEARS who the band have covered on previous albums.
The download bundle comes with three remixes, the best of which comes from Germany synthpop trio BEBORN BETON who add a rather wonderful pulsating electronic disco feel to proceedings.
For PET SHOP BOYS, their thirteenth album was lucky. ‘Super’ was, indeed, super. Now, here comes Berlin based duo DE/VISION, with their own number thirteen, and high hopes that theirs will, too, be a lucky one.
Having been making music since 1988, Thomas Adam and Steffen Keth, have fought DEPECHE MODE comparisons throughout their musical adventure, developing a unique sound and recognisable tonality. Adam describes their auras as homogeneous, at the same time as having the need to “reinvent ourselves every once in a while…”
Writing new material and gigging it extensively as part of their day job routines, the duo also decided to start their own label, Popgefahr Records. The album ‘Popgefahr’ still sits on top of everything the band have achieved so far, but the label doesn’t exclusively release DE/VISION. Artists like GARRETT MILES and BEYOND OBSESSION have benefitted from Popgefahr’s help in their recordings.
The Adam / Keth enterprise has always stayed on the safe side of synthpop, with the exception of ‘Void’ and ‘Two’; both albums having introduced a rockier, symbiotic sound. The melancholy and nostalgia soon made their way back into the output, and that path has been frequented since. With ’13’, DE/VISION have followed the route of Pledge Music, successfully committing their hardcore fans to following the album’s progress and allowing for early downloads.
Kicking off with ‘Who Am I’, with the ominously sounding opening lyric “stuck in constant repetition, I won’t take it any more”, the signal is to expect a sudden drift from the typical D/V sound.
This bouncy, free-floating track with gritty, stained synth sounds, fulfils its role as a worthy intro, leading onto ‘Essence’.
A more familiar rendition, even more so when Keth’s vocals come in, there’s plenty of drum and guitar here, but the core is still indistinguishable from any other DE/VISION recipe, repeating the earlier trodden paths.
‘Starchild’ resembles the beautiful melodies from ‘6 Feet Underground’, while ‘Where’s The Light’ could possibly be the best track on the long player. The hidden ERASURE influences shine through in the mesmerising chorus; the capable melody pairs with poignant lyrics, trying to deduce the meaning of human actions, hoping for a positive change.
‘Synchronise’ marks a rawer, courser sound, hardly processed and untreated, while ‘Prisoner’ and ‘Read Your Mind’ are the slow comas in form of ballads, both lamenting fading relationships. ‘Their World’ brings in a faster tempo, reminiscent of ‘Stargazer’ from ‘Rockets & Swords’.
The minimal synth of ‘Gasoline’ resembles THE NORMAL with its crude originality, before the album is closed with ‘The Firing Line’; a hopeful, delicate electronic melody with scantily layered digital gems, slightly similar to the latest works of TORUL, providing background to Keth’s distinctive voice.
If one expects a total change of sound into the innovative and progressive, then ’13’ isn’t either of those. The production is habitually mature and thought through, with an adequate dose of melancholy and gloom, in keeping with existing DE/VISION releases.
There’s however an urgent roughness and readiness to the sound manipulation, providing freshness and hidden drama, even if only apparent to a weathered fan of the duo. The UK has been historically less than ready to understand and receive DE/VISION and this opus is unlikely to fix that issue, even with more wholesome arrangements and the continuing use of stacked up digital synths.
However, the rest of the world is bound to bow down again to the brilliance of the German wizards, and deservedly so.
Earlier this year The Electricity Club reviewed ‘The Measure’, the newest production from the Slovenian trio TORUL.
Their debut album ‘Dark Matters’ was released in 2010 but it was their third album ‘Tonight We Dream Fiercely’ from 2013 that was their breakthrough; featuring the single ‘Glow’ and a menacing cover of TEARS FOR FEARS’s ‘Mad World’, it reached No3 on the Deutsche Alternative Charts. A tour supporting Bristol’s very own MESH that year also cemented their reputation as an exhilarating live act.
Their rather good fourth album ‘The Measure’ is still being THE played record. Eclectic, loaded with quality alternative tunes and superb production, it is all layered competently to create the canvas for Jan Jenko’s gripping vocals. It doesn’t disappoint and with the songs like ‘Difficult To Kill’ having been featured on a number of influential radio shows, the band is continuing to grow its popularity in the UK and Europe.
TEC’s Monika Izabela Goss spoke to Torul Torulsson, Borut Dolenec and Jan Jenko about the album and all things TORUL.
What prompted the title of ‘The Measure’?
Torulsson: The simple idea came from the lyrics of ‘The Balance’, which is asking “What’s the level of your happiness, what do you need, what you’re giving — simple questions, hard to answer, where’s the balance, what’s the measure?” I liked the title for being so open, and maybe listeners will get something more about it from the rest of the lyrics. As a band, we are always trying to figure it all out – where to go next, what’s there for us, who will listen to us; I think once one stops being curious and excited, the magic may be gone.
You use a variety of approaches and techniques in songwriting. What’s the main inspiration?
Torulsson: Well, there is no pressure in between the albums, we try to mark each period of our existence with a new album. So there’s always a clean sheet before we start working on a new album, even though there haven’t been any longer breaks in between. I’m glad to see there is still interest for albums as a complete art form, especially in alternative music genres.
The main inspiration… well, I could say that having a blank sheet in front of you before creating something is still very intriguing, very exciting, as you can go wherever you want or feel. All the options basically lay in front of you… you just have to dive into it and of course, try to enjoy the process.
What makes this album different from its predecessor?
Torulsson: People say ‘The Measure’ is more compact, the sound fuller, maybe it’s easier to dance to… a lot of songs have that kinetic element. The melancholy stays, well that’s who we are, but it’s not too sad or a depressed album, it’s longing for a new hope, for love, understanding and symbiosis. Even inside the band, we are always learning how to function, as we are three different people, with different skills and different backgrounds.
Which have been the particular favourite songs from ‘The Measure’ for you?
Jan: The first encounters with ‘Discrepancy’, ‘Hearts’, ‘Difficult To Kill’ and ‘All’ were memorable on a different scale than others. Not to rate songs with numbers, there was just a different pleasant emotional chemistry.
Dolenec: ‘All’, because it makes me feel the things that life in this unfair era mostly tries to supress.
Torulsson: As an author and producer of the album, I find this really hard to answer. There were also some other songs that didn’t make it to the album, which means that I must have liked all of them in some personal way and they brought up some happy moments when I was working on them.
Many artists clearly inspire TORUL and that is audible on your recordings. Who has influenced you most and why?
Torulsson: The variety of the inspirations is quite vast. Besides listening to various music genres, I was (and still am) also much into techno /electro / tech-house scene and also IDM, so more clubbish vibes. So here’s where the love for the beats and bass comes from. I love music that has a strong rhythmical impact, although this is not the rule of a thumb.
To name some music that had influence on me, without any order: early stuff from THE CURE, THE XX, IRIS, THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN, SIOUXSIE, DEPECHE MODE, GLASS CANDY, KRAFTWERK, DREXCIYA, Detroit stuff, some early ANTHONY ROTHER, SUUNS, TORTOISE, PIXIES, APHEX TWIN, DJ HELL, DMX KREW, PLASTIKMAN, some rare Italo disco stuff, M500, LADYTRON, THE YOUNG GODS, MASSIVE ATTACK, NYPC, COCTEAU TWINS… some Gigolo records stuff… and so on 🙂
The tour with MESH must have been something to behold, how did that come about?
Torulsson: Well there was an idea that we could be a perfect match, it came from our booking agencies. And so it was. We were very well accepted as an opening band, but also our chemistry was right – we had a lot of fun on the tour together! We’ve made nice friendships, laughed a lot, MESH also let us extend our performance for ten minutes whenever that was possible! So, yeah, it was an excellent match in that way.
Did you feel at home while in the UK?
Torulsson: I personally was a tad insecure about it. Having had some great gigs in Germany, we hadn’t really expected much in the UK, because we knew almost no-one would know about us there! But to our surprise, it was much better than that – while it was true most of the crowd never heard of us then, we got some attention and met some really nice people, who we still see following us and spreading the word! This is really cool. I hope we can play in the UK again anytime soon, but we’ll see.
Dolenec: The sushi was better than at home and there was actually more sun in UK than back at home 🙂 We learned a lot about what it means to be prepared well for the gigs, because our soundchecks in the UK were a totally opposite experience then the soundchecks in Germany or at home. It was fun to realise that we were actually able to perform a proper gig, with a good energy and without a proper soundcheck. We somehow anticipated that the venue crew would be late 2 to 3 hours, so in Manchester and in Newcastle, we had just a few minutes for a line-check and then we already had to start the concert. We needed this experience, it is how we grow and we would love to come back to UK as soon as possible.
Jan: Yes. Home is where the energy sums up to a pleasant experience. The shared emotions were uplifting and memorable.
The new single is ‘The Balance’. What is that one about and how did you conceive the video?
Torulsson: I think it has quite simple and self-explanatory lyrics, so we’re not really into explaining them further on top of that. But in short, it’s about searching for one’s own balance all the time, looking for a good combo of things in our lives that could make us happy and… well, balanced. It’s these times of chaotic events and imbalance of everything in the world, we are asking ourselves, how one finds his own happiness, reduces stress and co-existence in this world. Dolenec and I came up with many ideas for the video, but the one that you can see now has turned out to be the best…
Dolenec: Producing our own videos within our DIY Initziative production group is an important part of TORUL project. We always take time and do a lot of brainstorming when creating the story for the next video. For most of the videos, we usually come up with at least a few different scenarios but then we choose one that suits the song best and is somehow compatible with our current production capabilities. We still have a handful of scenarios in stock. With ‘The Balance’, I have to admit that it was not an easy process because we had a very limited time available for the whole production. In the English language I think there is an expression: “belling the cat” ie to perform a very dangerous or very difficult task. It’s taken metaphorically from a fable about a mouse who proposes to put a bell on a cat, so as to be able to hear the cat coming; ‘The Balance’ was all about “belling the cat”. In the middle of the process, we had 4 or 5 different scenarios but the whole production would be too difficult to create a proper video within DIY Initziative.
Torulsson and I knew that we have to invest a lot of time in the pre-production process in order for it to be well thought of and well organised. We didn’t have time to complicate. It was really some kind of symbiosis between the two of us and later on we also included Darko Štante – the director, Iztok Medja, the DOP and all the others. The only time we could rent a slot at the Daktari club in Ljubljana was on March 1st from 3 am to 11 am. All of the crew was great, almost everything was in balance and the energy during shooting was just beautiful. We couldn’t do it the way we did if there was a single person missing. The challenge was also to book all of the crew for 5 days before the day we had the video-shooting, and to shoot the whole video material in only 6-8 hours we had to use 4 cameras at a time. So you can imagine that the editing process was also all about “belling the cat”.
Other than LAIBACH, Slovenia doesn’t strike the UK electronica fan as your common synth breeding place, what is the music scene like there?
Torulsson: Slovenia might be too small to form the real ‘scene’, some real global movements. Well, there are some small scenes, I’m mostly talking about the alternative scene and some club scenes, mostly DJ and event-based. But the opening and closing of clubs and other venues happens really often here – it’s hard for a venue to keep up with a constant program as there may be not enough visitors for every event. However, there are many individuals who are trying to pave their way to the international scene, which isn’t a very easy thing nowadays. So yeah, there is a creative force, but who and when will see the light is impossible to predict now. But there already are or have been some big bands or individuals from Slovenia, such as BORGHESIA and UMEK.
Any plans on trying to conquer the US?
Torulsson: Um, well not at the moment, but that could change in the future. We can’t do it alone, but we are looking for options. I really can’t say much about that, but we will be exploring this in the future probably.
The German electronic scene is the one of the most celebrated in Europe, is that a statement you’d be in agreement with?
Torulsson: It’s kind of a fact. Germany is quite open to a vast amount of music genres, lots of them based on electronica. I’d say there is enough of a critical mass and interest from people so that many artists have a chance to introduce their work. Nowhere is perfect really, but I think that Germany is close to it, hosting artists from all over the world all the time. If there’s another UK in Europe regarding the size of the scene, it must be Germany.
In the era of soft, digital synths, do you still reach for analogue, the real thing?
Torulsson: Of course, whenever there’s a need and a chance. We’ve worked with synths such as the MS-20, ARP Odyssey, Teisco, Roland TR and TB series, Junos and Jupiters, Yamaha CSs and many others. But also a lot of soft synths and other plug-ins have become very very good in the last seven years. I am very fond of Diva, for example, and Korg Legacy collection, but also use a variety of other, sometimes strange and interesting free plugins. Also, the plugin sound processors have improved; for example I love the Elysa stuff, it’s amongst my favourites. I’m coming from the all-hardware background, having started with Atari ST + synths and samplers and an analogue console, but I’ve embraced the possibilities of a digital environment quite fondly.
What next for TORUL?
Torulsson: We are not rushing. Although we’ve been quite productive in the last years, we want our music to spread constantly, but slowly, at the right pace, only wishing for people to really dig into it and feel our story, our specific sound, and we would like to continue exploring, what we can do and where else we can go. Certainly there’s much more to come.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to TORUL
‘The Measure’ is released by Infacted Recordings, available in CD and download formats
After TORUL’s acclaimed albums ‘Dark Matters’, ‘In Whole’ and ‘Tonight We Dream Fiercely’, with the latter seeing the Slovenian trio supporting MESH on their 2013 European tour, electronic audiences are now treated to their latest offering, ‘The Measure’.
Torul Torulsson’s musical involvement over many years in the industry is clearly palpable on this publication, with his influences as wide as THE CURE and MASSIVE ATTACK to THE PIXIES and DEAD CAN DANCE. A rather eclectic selection of tunes, wrapped around gripping and ever-changeable vocals of Jan Jenko, it delivers exactly what it says on the tin. It is a measured album, which no doubt will be of interest to any weathered TORUL fan and connoisseurs of anything that’s different, interesting and unique.
‘Lonely Night’, the opening track, hits the unprepared ear as a matter of instance, with beefy synth lines and Borut Dolenec’s rough guitar riff, resembling THE CURE at their best, and of course, charismatic vocals over an atmospheric sound of electronically charged and self-regulating melody. Undeniably, it’s a full on “measure” to start the record.
The sequenced opening to ‘The Balance’, resembles LADYTRON, yet the song continues to flow like a mirror image of ‘Mad World’ by TEARS FOR FEARS, which has been covered, with considerable success, by TORUL already. The similarities are actually so obvious, one could question the infringement of publishing rights, no matter how decent the song naturally is, or how skilfully it has been produced and performed. Orzabal and Smith’s opinion could prove to be like gold dust here.
Moving on, ‘Higher’ sounds strong, decisive and carefree, yet melancholic and nostalgic, the songs by Texan duo IRIS come to mind at this stage, yet, unlike the previous track, this one sounds original and fresh; it restores the faith in TORUL’s own ability to turn out a rounded track.
The fabulous intro to ‘Difficult To Kill’ promises great things to come; a magnificently experimental sound and vocals by Jan resembling AND ONE’s Steve Naghavi at first, transitioning into higher tones of pure lushness and sophistication. A superb track and, indeed, fully representing the uniqueness of this bunch and the competence of Torulsson’s instrumentation. Invigorating, yet soothing; it is empowering yet easy listening and magnificent.
The scantily titled ‘All’ floats in with vocals bearing the impact of TEARS FOR FEARS again; yet this time, the track is uncommon and unprecedented. Still, the influences of PET SHOP BOYS, and even SCOOTER can be picked out. A proof that the production on this album is based on wide musical tastes, which can be so lacking in the electronic offerings of today. Short and sweet, and an uncomplicated tune, it is as worthy as its predecessor.
The synthy, NEW ORDER-like ‘Hearts’ follows, with its guitar riffs that Martin Gore wouldn’t be ashamed of. With a longer opening before Jan comes in, the full-bodied vocals do not seem to lend themselves to the over produced feel of this song however, making it instantly forgettable and disposable.
The AND ONE vocals return in the opening section of ‘We Grow’. An “atmospheric meets progressive” tune, but this one has a clear floating quality. Not over complicated, its simplicity is phenomenal and Jan modulates his voice from deep to levelled, lending to the track’s exclusivity and rarity. ‘Lost For You’ invites one in with a piercing synth line and the exquisite skills of the vocalist. Slower, fully atmospheric, ethereal and of a dream-like quality, it is like bare feet in the meadow of a love affair in itself.
The dreaminess is cut through, however, with the sword of heavy, ear ringing synths and church bells on ‘The More We Are’. Another solid, almost mechanical tune, due to the combo of vocals and variable electronic elements, it leads inadvertently to the last song on the album ‘Discrepancy’.
Experimental sounding again, with Vlad The Impaler vocals, which no doubt will ring well with the Goths of this world, its vampiric simplicity of scarce sounds give this tune its own genre almost, the vocal leading the flow of the production in a rather superb manner. It’s an extraordinary way to finish off this interesting album, with salvos of fireworks lighting up the dark night sky.
It is fair to say that TORUL, with their unique sounds and array of musical approaches, as well as a mix of influences, are as original as it gets. The production is extraordinary and the attention to detail superb. This album fully represents this, and although it may be a grower, it definitely is a valid addition to the catalogue, of not only the electronic music fan, but also alternative and pop listeners alike.
TORUL have an aura of supremacy, magnetism and prominence around them and ‘The Measure’ surely adds a decent “measure” of all those into the mix. It is definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s music collection.
‘The Measure’ is released by Infacted Recordings on 20th March 2015
Native to the wonderfully named Ljubljana in Slovenia, Torul Torulsson, a talented songwriter and producer met guitarist and live synth player Borut Dolenec at a party.
A friendship was forged when they both went to see psychedelic experimentalists BELGRADE NOISE SOCIETY.
Torulsson had already established himself within the music industry having recorded a number of successful club tracks since 1995 under several aliases. The debut album by TORUL, appropriately named ‘Dark Matters’, was released in 2010 and portrayed the demons that Torulsson himself must have overcome to be able to write so eloquently about them.
Torulsson and lead vocalist Jan Jenko came together through a mutual producer friend while Jenko was recording with his other band WORLD::WITHIN. As in the case of so many inspiring collaborations, the pair experienced an instant connection and so work began on recording a new album ‘In Whole’ in 2011. Single ‘Try’ was the first to be released and due to the adroit video, it was successfully featured on regional MTV stations.
TORUL’s current album – the highly contagious ‘Tonight We Dream Fiercely’ – was released in Europe in April this year and reached a top three spot on the Deutsche Alternative Charts just behind OMD and DEPECHE MODE no less! Launch single ‘Glow’ sets the benchmark for a collection of magnificent electronic tracks, each easily a single in their own right. ‘I’m Still Here’ delights with more than a nod towards electronic stalwarts BLANCMANGE while the dark and menacing ‘Wake Up’ conjures visions of FAD GADGET although neither of these great acts are quoted by the band themselves as influences.
TORUL have certainly impressed during their very successful 14 date European tour supporting MESH recently with the statuesque Jenko displaying more than his fair share of stage presence. With the band heavily involved in the conception and production of their own videos, they are a steadily growing force in the alternative electro field and deservedly so…
TORUL’s ‘Tonight We Dream Fiercely’ is available now on CD and download via Infacted Recordings