If there is one person who has probably sparked the realisation of a long-awaited second WHITE DOOR album, then it has to be the synth Superswede Johan Baeckström.
A solo artist in his own right but also a member of synth duo DAILY PLANET, the young Johan Baeckström was a fan of the first WHITE DOOR album ’Windows’ released in 1983.
When he needed B-sides for the singles from his own 2015 solo debut ’Like Before, he covered ’Jerusalem’ and ’School Days’.
Although Baeckström has been unashamedly candid about the influence of Vince Clarke on his music, his musicality was also been shaped by the small catalogue of songs by Mac Austin, Harry Davies and John Davies.
While Mac Austin and Harry Davies have continued to perform in their prog combo GRACE over the years, Baeckström sowed the seeds of a WHITE DOOR reunion when he and DAILY PLANET bandmate Jarmo Olilia invited Austin to provide lead vocals on ‘Heaven Opened’ on their 2017 album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’.
That sparked a WHITE DOOR reunion and as a newly confugured quartet, Mac Austin, John Davies, Harry Davies and Johan Baeckström now present ’The Great Awakening’. Baeckström gives the pulsing Vince Clarke-isms a breather and swaps it for the more polyphonically formed keyboard interventions of his other heroes like Howard Jones.
A joyous tune that sets the scene, the exotic sophistication of ’Among The Mountains’ possesses the soaring windscreen poise of A-HA with a flawless vocal from Mac Austin while the soundscape is sweetened by flute, providing an interesting timbral contrast.
Acknowledging the theme of ’Get Carter’ but with a more brassy flair, ’Resurrection’ surprises with a bouncy Giorgio Moroder inspired stomp and the lift of a rousing chorus. Meanwhile Mac Austin manages to sound like a cross between Morten Harket and Chris De Burgh over some beautifully symphonic synth and subtle slapped bass in a guest appearance from Baeckström’s son Simon.
’Soundtrack Of Our Lives’ captures the joys of spring, with the English folk austere that was very much part of WHITE DOOR’s make-up playing a key role with the harmonious vocal arrangement.
A sparkling production with space for all the elements to shine, there’s even a few classic Linn Drum sounds thrown in too. Yes, they are more recollections of A-HA although of course, the ’Windows’ album came out a year before ’Hunting High & Low’.
Holding down the steadier mood with a synth arpeggio, the richly layered ’Lullaby’ makes what appears to be a simple arrangement sound grand and complex in a cleverly configured traditional tune that steadily builds and surprises with a burst of saxophone in the final third which also glistens ivory-wise in the manner of Howard Jones.
Beginning with a slightly stuttering rhythm, ’Angel Of Tomorrow’ bursts into life with a spacey buoyant pomp that captures an air of Vangelis.
An elated majestic tone ensues as staring mortality in the face, ’The Great Awakening’ celebrates an embracment of life and second chances with a range of complex synth motifs. All wondefully complimenting one another, it is akin to a casade of church bells ringing on a Sunday morning.
The spritely ’Simply Magnificent’ does as the title suggests and is pure sequenced synthpop in the vein of early ALPHAVILLE, the distant transistor radio ending acting a nice tribute to bygone listening experiences.
Ending the album, ’Beautiful Girl’ is classic WHITE DOOR and a song which Harry Davies describes as ”a wonderful song for making babies to”. Vocally like a modern hymn with patterns of hooky chimes, there’s even a surprising lilt of sax that suits the electronic backdrop, with a gorgeous sweeping polysynth conclusion that CHINA CRISIS would be proud of, recalling the feel of their appropriately titled tune ‘The Soul Awakening’.
Hopeful, mature and joyous, ’The Great Awakening’ grandly blows away the attempted sensitive synth overtures of the young pretenders almost half their age. It is twilight magic provided by the sorcerers and their apprenctice. Nearly four decades on, WHITE DOOR have again passed the test with commendation.
Of his role in ’The Great Awakening’, Johan Baeckström said to The Electricity Club: ”I really wanted to do my best to maintain the WHITE DOOR sound and spirit in the production on this album”.
Mission accomplished 😀
’The Great Awakening’ uses the follwoing synthesizers: Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Juno 106, Akai AX73, Minimoog, Korg Mono/Poly and ARP Odyssey
‘Mirores’ is the excellent debut long player by Welsh synth songstress ANI GLASS and conceived around the idea of movement and progress around her hometown of Cardiff.
With enticing synthpop songs sitting together with more conceptual found sound adventures, it is one woman’s artistic vision celebrating her heritage and home, empowered by the freedom and democracy opened up via electronic music.
ANI GLASS released her first EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ in 2017 having served an apprenticeship under mentors such as OMD’s Andy McCluskey and the late Martin Rushent. She kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about realising her artistic vision and remaining true to her culture.
Your debut album ‘Mirores’ has been several years in the making, how did you keep focussed and motivated?
It’s been a real labour of love and I’ve really enjoyed the whole process. That’s not to say that it’s been a never-ending journey of joyful motivation; there have been heavy periods of down-time whilst I focussed on other things such as my Masters and PhD, but even during those times I was busy collecting ideas and building a narrative. I’ve always wanted to have created and crafted a strong body of work and so that was all the motivation I needed to make sure that I finished, no matter how long it took.
What were the main differences in approach for you with the album compared with your debut EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’?
The main difference I would say is that my ideas, musicianship and skills have developed since writing and recording the EP and so my approach to making the album was more considered. Essentially, I would just say that I was far more confident in my ability this time around.
You opted to self-produce the album, what were the pros and cons you uncovered along the way?
The only con I can think of was that it probably took far longer than it may have had someone else produced it, but the list of pros is pretty endless to be honest. I learnt the skill of production, I learnt how to fully realise my ideas from start to finish, I felt more ownership over my music and could work at my own pace and it encouraged me to listen to music in a different and more observant way. It also made me realise the amount of work involved and I now fully understand why Martin Rushent took over a year to finish the second PIPETTES album!
What hardware or software synths were you using, have you been tempted by any of those affordable Behringer clones?
I tend to stick to hardware synths, the ones I used on the album include a Juno 106, Waldorf Blofeld, Fender Rhodes and a Korg Minilogue. There maybe one or two software synths but mainly incidental or background stuff and absolutely no Behringer clones!
The album is an observational electronic travelogue with pop songs and conceptual interludes, that appears to be reminiscent of OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ or ‘English Electric’? What were you main pointers influence-wise?
My main sonic influences were Vangelis, Martin Rushent, Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Michel Jarre and Arthur Russell. I do love OMD so I’m quite happy if anything I make resembles their work! The album is a journey – based around a day in the life of a Cardiff girl – and journeys tend to vary in pace, mood and tone and so I made an album that I felt would represent this.
The ‘Mirores’ title song has a very liberating quality about it, what was its genesis?
It was one of the last songs from the album that I wrote, and I certainly began to feel liberated knowing that I had nearly finished it! I wanted the song to capture how moments of doubt and despair can evolve into ones of clarity and realisation.
You play with Euro-disco on ‘Ynys Araul’, do you ultimately still have a pop heart within the messages you are looking to convey?
To me, I find pop music to be the most versatile when it comes to freedom of narrative. I’ve never felt restricted by its more traditional format, this structure allows me to experiment with lyrical themes and ideas. I’m generally quite conceptual and often a little vague when it comes to lyrics which then allows me to discuss almost anything. OMD’s ‘Enola Gay’ is a classic example of how a well-crafted song can be both pop and poignant.
You use sample of Welsh newsreader Huw Edwards within the voice collage on ‘Peirianwaith Perffaith’?
This recording is taken from a news report during the 1997 Welsh devolution referendum results. This momentous event in the social, cultural and political calendar of Wales has played a huge part in the development of Cardiff as a European capital city. What was once the largest exporter of coal in the world, the place where the first million-pound cheque was signed felt like a pretty grey and dreary place during the 80s and 90s.
Despite this, there were a lot of exciting things happening in various pockets around the city and most of all, the people were kind and generous.
The city is unrecognisable today, in part due to the devolution process which has weaved its way into the minds and mechanics of Welsh life, and although we have all the problems of other cities – it’s home.
There’s a gospel flavoured interlude called ‘I.B.T’ which appears to sound familiar?
The recording is of my Mum’s choir CÔR COCHION CAERDYDD (Cardiff Reds), who are a socialist street choir. They sing every Saturday in Cardiff city centre to raise money for great causes and have done for the best part of 40 years. The song itself ‘Freedom Is Coming’ is a South African protest song, but this version is called ‘I.B.T’ which reads in Welsh ‘I Beaty’ (To Beaty). Beaty was a choir member and a wonderful woman and friend, and I recorded the choir singing this song at her funeral.
What was the idea behind including both English and Welsh in ‘Agnes’?
The words spoken at the beginning are taken from an interview done with the artist Agnes Martin as part of a documentary and the Welsh passages that follow depict my feelings about her work (basically, I love her). Her work stops you from thinking or worrying about things, it’s very calming and hugely inspiring – most certainly one of my greatest inspirations.
Do you have any personal favourite tracks on the album, or is it one thread of work for you?
I don’t think I do – they each have specific meanings that are equally important to me. They are reflective of different places, feelings and experiences and I suppose I value them all. I most certainly have songs which fall into the more traditional ‘pop’ category (and I really love pop), but I don’t think I would say that I like them more.
You’re going to be touring the ‘Mirores’ album first in Wales, what have you got planned as far as its presentation is concerned and will you be taking it further afield?
I’ve recently picked up the bass again – I hadn’t played it since I was a member of GENIE QUEEN a long time ago – so that will make an appearance. Andy McCluskey bought this bass for me (as he managed the band at the time) and so the whole process of learning to play it again has been quite an emotional experience… probably realising that I’m not 19 anymore! I will most certainly be travelling across the border and further afield later in the year so I’m very much looking forward to that.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to ANI GLASS
Special thanks to Bill Cummings at Sound & Vision PR
Following her acclaimed first EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ in 2017, ANI GLASS releases her long-awaited debut album ‘Mirores’.
It is an observational electronic travelogue based around the idea of movement and progress in her hometown of Cardiff.
That might sound overly conceptual but this is a melodic pop record that also gathers ambience of the urban landscape, traffic, people and nature, all coming together to create the score of a city’s symphony.
Fluent in Welsh and Cornish, ANI GLASS uses a play on words for the album’s title which incorporates the name of one of her favourite artists Joan Miró – along with the Cornish word ‘miras’ which means “to look”. Therefore, ‘Mirores’ essentially translates as “Observer”.
An experienced hand who has previously worked with OMD’s Andy McCluskey and the late Martin Rushent, ANI GLASS opted to self-produce ‘Mirores’; she said to The Electricity Club: “I’m really excited about curating the presentation of this album; conceptually and visually. I have a lot of ideas about how I might involve and engage with people who may not be instinctively interested in Welsh electronic music.”
Beginning with ‘The Ballet Of A Good City’ and a folk choir, the subtle arpeggios paint an ambient air which recalls Vangelis, one of the album’s main sonic influences that also includes Martin Rushent, Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Michel Jarre and Arthur Russell.
With the dulcet tones of Welsh newsreader Huw Edwards within the voice collage, an eerie uplifting quality permeates on ‘Peirianwaith Perffaith’; translated as ‘Perfect Machinery’ and with the vibe of Autumnal discontent, the haunting detuned backdrop is perfect for her socially conscious Welsh expressionism and a celebration of devolution. With a wonderfully swirling leadline reminiscent of THE FALLOUT CLUB’s ‘Dream Soldiers’ and a suitably penetrating bass pulse, it is a search for identity in a moving city that is starkly industrial.
With a lovely higher vocal register, the Euro-disco of ‘Ynys Araul’ is rich in traditional melody, offering a pop sensibility and a wonderful triplet bassline. More mature and earnest in tone, ‘Y Cerrynt’ is unusual in having an almost minimal bass presence which gives it a unique quality. But ‘Cariad’ is a solemn set-piece, with sparse contemplative backing like one of OMD’s experiments in vertical take-off.
Following a short taped gospelly interlude ‘IBT’, the ‘Mirores’ title song itself is pure Cmyru synthpop brilliance with wonderful harmonies and a fabulously liberating vocal middle eight. It depicts the journey from dark desperation to motivation and inspiration, so despite the inherent melancholy, the newly married songstress gets to radiate an inspired mood of optimism..
Playing off a claustrophobic soundscape and a bouncy off-beat in the vein of GRIMES, some fabulous icy strings make their presence felt on ‘Goleuo’r Sêr’. Singing in English over a staccato bassline and bell-like rings, ‘Cathedral In The Desert’ is an affectionate reminder musically of what EURYTHMICS once sounded like before they went all rock ‘n’ roll. Continuing in English but in a spoken word fashion, ‘Agnes’ swiftly returns to Welsh with its deeper resonances rich within the sparse synthscape as a touching tribute to artist Agnes Martin .
Closing with ‘The Rising Of The Moon’, a collage of male speech and ANI GLASS’ own layered voices counterpoint as night time covers the city.
Taking a leaf out of her mentor Andy McCluskey and OMD albums such as ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’, ‘Mirores’ has enticing synthpop songs sitting together with more conceptual found sound adventures.
It is one woman’s artistic vision celebrating her heritage and home, empowered by the freedom and democracy opened up via electronic music.
Signed to Domino Records, home of FRANZ FERDINAND, ARCTIC MONKEYS and AUSTRA, over the last year, GEORGIA has been the artist that everyone is talking about.
Comparisons with LITTLE BOOTS are hard to avoid though; both got a profile boost on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ thanks to unusual live presentation. In LITTLE BOOTS’ case, it was her use of a Stylophone alongside a Yamaha Tenorion while with GEORGIA, it was her standing drum ‘n’ synth. And that all without mentioning the BBC Sound nominations.
Gaining mainstream radio airplay in 2019, her singles ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ and ‘Never Let You Go’ were great, mining ROBYN and CHVRCHES respectively in the process, the former stating “I have no material gifts for you”. Here were the signs of a promising breakthrough artist.
But before that, there was ‘Started Out’ with its much groovier vibe with soulful influences and neo-ragga inflections going over the electronics, while the quirky R ‘n’ B pop of ‘Feel It’ was not that far from the urban DIY austere heard on her self-titled debut.
All four songs appear on ‘Seeking Thrills’, the second album by GEORGIA, the daughter of LEFTFIELD’s Neil Barnes who first found her musical feet drumming for Kate Tempest among others. So unsurprisingly, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a showcase for rhythm, twelve tracks of exuberance with a bittersweet tinge.
With a definite move into more accessible pop territory, the new single ‘24 Hours’ does as the album title suggests, celebrating the thrill of night life and finding love with a bass rumble and a hint of PURITY RING. With throbbing synths and a drum machine backbone, our heroine declares with excitement that “If two hearts ever beat the same, we could be it”.
However, ‘Mellow’ with rapper SHYGIRL goes the opposite direction with some deadpan art school hip-hop while ‘Ray Guns’ explores similar territory although for The Electricity Club at least, neither quite hit the spot.
Back to avant electro, ‘The Thrill’ with its hypnotic shuffling beats, vocal layers, glistening arpeggios and gorgeous synths sees GEORGIA trying to stop herself “feeling so blue”, but a sudden switch to techno brings with it an extra lift for a terrific album highlight.
The remaining songs get more reflective as GEORGIA enters ballad territory. As with any hedonistic adventure however exhilarating, its inherent Ying and Yang leads to the inevitable and never welcome comedown. ‘Till I Own It’ is quite sorrowful and while ‘I Can’t Wait’ sparkles in places, it is tinged with melancholy.
Providing another of the album’s highlights, the gently crystalline ‘Ultimate Sailor’ delightfully comes over like a cosmic collaboration between VANGELIS and ROBYN. But appropriately closing the eclectic range of ‘Seeking Thrills’, the nocturnal cinematic soundscape of ‘Honey Dripping Sky’ is interrupted by an unexpected reggae-flavoured end section.
Yes, half of this album has already been issued as singles of some sort, but with an opportunity to potentially catapult her music to a wider audience, then why not? To have an interesting and varied body of work in one place helps an artist build a bond with their fanbase.
The mainstream audience are NOT hipsters (who are notoriously fickle anyway), so time must be allowed for them to catch up and savour. While some of these songs were released in 2017, this should not spoil things for the listener because good songs will last.
With a three year gestation period, ‘Seeking Thrills’ is a solid and varied pop statement. But for the next record, will she go the full pop hog like CHVRCHES or retreat to the underground? It’s going to be an interesting year for the Londoner.
‘Seeking Thrills’ is released by Domino Records in vinyl LP, CD, cassette and digital formats
GEORGIA 2020 UK + Ireland live dates include:
Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (3rd March), Glasgow King Tuts (4th March), Manchester Yes (5th March), Liverpool Phase 1 (6th March), Dublin The Workman’s Club (7th March), Leeds Brudenell Community Room (9th March), Birmingham Mama Roux’s (10th March), Bristol Thekla (11th March), London Heaven (12th March)
Back in 2014, a Chinese combo named QUIETER THAN SPIDERS caught the ears of The Electricity Club.
Fast forward to 2019 and after a few delays, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have finally released their debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ on Anna Logue Records.
Their understated but richly melodic and emotive Shanghai synthpop is largely played by the hands of the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao.
‘Signs Of Life’ possesses a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously both futuristic and classic, and in common with records such as DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Low’, JOY DIVISION’s ‘Closer’ or MOBY’s ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder.
Yi Fan from QUIETER THAN SPIDERS kindly chatted to The Electricity Club to answer a few questions about one of the best electronic albums of 2019.
How did QUIETER THAN SPIDERS become a musical entity and what is your creative dynamic?
It was a very gradual process which only formally came to fruition once we started to record the album.
Leon has been writing and recording songs since his teenage years while Yao and I both grew up playing traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu (a two-stringed fiddle) and guzheng (a type of zither). Over the years, we took an interest in each other’s music and tried to encourage each other. Eventually, Leon started to teach us how he wrote and recorded music on his synthesiser and, step by step, we became more involved with it.
We started by designing electronic sounds and making field-recordings which we would then experiment with. By the time Leon wrote ‘No Illusion’ we had started to perform with him during the recordings and, from thereon, we were officially a group. It didn’t take long to decide what to call our project. QUIETER THAN SPIDERS was an affectionate school nickname for one of us and, as we are all quiet people, we thought it would be a perfect name to use.
What was the key track that got QUIETER THAN SPIDERS rolling? Was it ‘Shanghai Metro’? What inspired it?
‘No Illusion’ was the first song that Yao and I were involved with, even though we still hadn’t quite officially formed QUIETER THAN SPIDERS at the point when Leon wrote it. Stefan Bornhorst aka THE SILICON SCIENTIST heard the song and recommended us to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records who offered us the chance to record an album. It was such a special and unexpected thing to happen, particularly because Stefan’s own wonderful music had actually been such an important inspiration.
Another defining moment was when The Electricity Club included ‘Shanghai Metro’ on its compilation CD. That really was a lovely moment for us, not least because it was the first time any of our songs had been officially released. We wrote ‘Shanghai Metro’ with the simple idea of celebrating the city and its modern development. We first had the idea after a day out together at the Oriental Pearl Tower which is a radio tower that overlooks the city. The next morning, we went out again to travel around on the metro system and record some announcements. We knew someone who owned a Speak & Spell machine, so we borrowed it to spell out ‘Shanghai’ for the chorus.
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have described themselves as “using home-made electronic sounds played by hand”, how much of that manifesto have you been able to maintain in the final realisation of ‘Signs Of Life’?
Our recording style stems from when Leon first started to create music in his youth. His first keyboard was an old second-hand Roland W-30 and most of the buttons and functions were broken. He therefore learnt to create songs without being able to use or learn any of the basic technical features.
His songs were simply layers of live recordings played entirely by hand. Even the metronome didn’t work, so he first had to play a freehand drum track to serve as the basis for the rest of the song. Later on, Yao and I also inherited the same recording method. When affordable software came along, it offered us the opportunity to record songs ‘properly’ for the very first time.
Some aspects, such as being able to programme the drums, were a welcome relief but, for the most part, we didn’t want to let go of the old recording style. The challenges and limitations had actually become part of the creative process and it gave us the intimacy of being ‘physically present’ at every little moment of a song.
When it comes to designing our own sounds; this is something we enjoy just as much as making the music. We distort basic electronic sounds and manipulate sounds from our field recordings as a way of recreating imagined atmospheres.
Of course, we occasionally used some standard sounds and other samples too on the album but, for the most part, we preferred to rely our own palette of sounds.
What are your tools as far as producing the music is concerned, are you vintage synth or software users?
We didn’t have the budget or space to acquire vintage synths and recording equipment, so we just embraced a modest set-up. We use software, mainly for the track recorder and the effect modules which enable reverbs and sound manipulations etc. We also use the software to programme basic percussion; we then add additional percussion sounds by hand as we record. For performing, we use midi keyboards and a microphone – that’s about it. With such limitations, it can sometimes be frustrating and we had to use a lot of trial and error to make things sound the way we wanted.
‘Arcade Eighty – Five’ opens and has a bouncy chiptune backbone, but that is almost a red herring for the album as it steadily slows and becomes more understated. What inspired this unusual concept as most albums are either primarily fast or primarily slow, or at least mix the tempos up within the tracklist?
Initially, we did think about mixing the tempos but, in the end, we decided that we preferred the songs to be surrounded by an appropriate context. We also wanted the album to build, or perhaps subside, towards a certain feeling. Although there are some exceptions, the songs are roughly in the order that we recorded them so, in that sense, there is a vague personal narrative which takes the album in a particular direction.
‘The Land Of Lost Content’ was inspired by a AE Housman poem, but it works on so many levels as a track…
Housman’s poem manages to express so much about the nature of memories and the passing of time. He laments the ability to remember a state of being that he can never return to. These are the types of themes which interest us because they seem to say something of life’s deeper meanings and mysteries.
When we adapted the poem into a song, we also wanted to include a notion of uncertainty about dreams and memory. The development of Shanghai has been spectacular over the past decades and many familiar old streets and buildings have now disappeared. When you can no longer revisit and verify particular things that you remember, you’re sometimes left wondering if it was just a dream.
‘The Land of Lost Content’ was actually the most difficult song on the album to record and mix. We seriously considered giving up on it at one point. Aside from mastering the album, Stefan Bornhorst also kindly mixed this track for us and performed some additional synths. It is entirely thanks to him that the song survived and made it onto the album.
The interlude side of your music provides an important aspect of ‘Signs Of Life’ which has coincidentally fallen into that ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack realm, is it a TV show that you have seen and followed?
With many of our songs, we try to convey certain images and moods that we imagine. I suppose we approach things a bit like a soundtrack because we are trying to capture a particular atmosphere. This was certainly the case with the interludes and also the later songs on the album.
Are QUIETER THAN SPIDERS influenced much by TV or cinema??
Soundtracks certainly do inspire us, whether it’s just the pure use of sounds or beautiful pieces of music from people such Angelo Badalamenti, Johann Johansson and Max Richter etc. We hadn’t seen ‘Stranger Things’, but we recently had the opportunity to watch all three series in one go. We really enjoyed it and, needless to say, we absolutely loved the wonderful synth soundtrack by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon!
On ‘Brave New World’ and ‘The Statues’, Vangelis is looming…
For all of us, our first real experience of electronic music was mostly through artists such as Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. For Leon especially, these were the kinds of artists which made him first dream of having a synthesiser. As a child, he had a compilation album of instrumental synthesiser music and, looking back, those songs must have formed his first ideas of what electronic music should sound like and what components it should have.
‘Hibakusha’ is a haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, had this been a difficult song to write?
Whenever we have an idea for a song theme, it usually takes several attempts to find the right song melody and structure. However, with ‘Hibakusha’, it all seemed to develop and fit together quite naturally. In terms of the lyrics, Leon wanted to link them to small details which appeared in the hibakusha’s testimonies. He also wanted the words to form a double narrative so that they could be from both the perspective of a hibakusha but also from the perspective of someone reading the testimonies and fearing them to be a premonition. We have no desire to ever include any politics in our songs; we just like to focus in on human feelings and the thoughts they inspire, that’s all.
Musically, The Electricity Club can hear SOLVENT and the solo work of Michael Rother from NEU! in ‘Hibakusha’. Had they been reference points in the final arrangement?
It is a real honour to be compared with either of them but I must admit that we didn’t consciously have any particular reference points for ‘Hibakusha’. We generally approach our songs in a very abstract and intuitive way but I think it’s inevitable that many music influences from across the years will weave themselves into the fabric of anything we do.
What inspired you to produce a piece of music about the tragic cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov? There’s one hell of a backstory behind Soyuz 1 with him and Yuri Gagarin, both literally prepared to die for the other, knowing that this mission was likely to fail?
As with ‘Hibakusha’, we were moved by the human story behind it all together with the haunting backdrop of primitive space experimentation.
I can’t actually remember how I came to be reading about Komarov in the first place but, when I shared the story with Leon and Yao, they were equally captivated by it. We actually recorded ‘Komarov’ during the same autumn that we recorded ‘Hibakusha’.
There is a lot of sadness in the album, but is ‘The Signs Of Life’ song referring to something much more personal?
‘The Signs of Life’ was written as a personal memorial for a special person we knew. It was also a way for us to process our feelings in relation to the nature of loss. There are so many little signs of life which go unnoticed because they seem mundane or unimportant. When they suddenly disappear, they take on a heart-breaking significance.
While writing the song, Leon went for an evening walk and saw a rusty old vintage car hidden away in the long grass near the edge of a forest. It made him think about things disappearing from everyday life but still secretly existing somewhere else. Although songs such as ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ are melancholy, they also convey a deep sense of hope; a feeling that all is not lost somehow.
What have been your own highlights on ‘Signs Of Life’?
We are really pleased with the whole album but, if we have to choose, I think that ‘Hibakusha’ and ‘Komarov’ are the songs that we are most pleased with. We felt very deeply immersed in the feelings and imagery of the subjects when we recorded those and it felt a bit like re-entering a vivid dream each time that we returned to work on them. The same was also true for ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ which had the added dimension of having a personal connection. They will always be very precious songs for us because they captured the way things felt at a specific moment of time.
It’s been a long time coming, but ‘Signs Of Life’ has been worth the wait, how do you look back on the journey?
Yes, quite a long time has passed since we originally recorded the songs. When we listen to the album now, it lets us retrace our footsteps but in the comfortable knowledge that we arrived safely in the end despite the setbacks.
The main feeling we have when looking back is ‘gratitude’ simply because, without the kindness of people such as Stefan Bornhorst and Marc Schaffer, we would probably never have made this album. Along with Steve Lippert who designed the artwork, they all put so much love and effort into the project to ensure that it reached the light of day. We are now inspired to write more songs to keep the journey going; but let’s wait and see!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to QUIETER THAN SPIDERS
Special thanks to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records
‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records in 2CD and double vinyl LP formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – please email firstname.lastname@example.org