Tag: Villa Nah (Page 1 of 5)

THE ELECTRICITY CLUB’S 25 Synth B-Sides Of The 21st Century

There is nothing like the other side of life. As a companion to its favourite 25 Classic Synth B-sides, The Electricity Club presents a listing looking at the 21st Century equivalent.

B-sides often take on a cult following, provoking discussions among fans about why they might have missed inclusion on the parent album.

On why artists occasionally overlook a track when it is clearly good enough, Richard Silverthorn of MESH said “Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees”.

Then there are the occasional abstract studio experiments which often fail but occasionally work and the occasional cover versions which don’t always find favour with some listeners but are infinitely more preferable over pointless remixes of the A-side!

But how is a modern B-side been defined? There is a wider definition now due to digital and streaming formats, so they can include flipsides of vinyl, bonus tracks on CD singles and non-album tracks released as part of a download single or EP bundle. Despite all this, the term “B-side”, like “album” and “video”, still remains.

So for the purposes of this listing as before with the 25 Classic Synth B-sides, B-sides featured on the original issue of a full length album, or subsequently included on a new one are NOT included. However, those added as bonus tracks on later reissues, deluxe editions or compilations are permitted. Rules are good, rules help control the fun! 😉

So with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in date and then alphabetical order within, these are The Electricity Club’s 25 Synth B-Sides Of The 21st Century…


LADYTRON Oops Oh My (2003)

LADYTRON surprised their audiences during live shows in support of the ‘Light & Magic’ album by closing with a feisty synthpunk cover of TWEET’s ‘Oops Oh My’. Co-written by Missy Elliot, the Timbaland produced original with a DEVO sample had been a hip-hop favourite but the aggressive Riot Grrrl styled take on this risqué song about self-love with lyrics like “There goes my skirt, droppin at my feet” added a rockier edge to their sound.

Available on the LADYTRON single ‘Evil’ via Telstar Records

http://www.ladytron.com/


CLIENT Can’t See Me Now (2003)

“This was written in response to the Iraq War” said Sarah Blackwood aka Client B, “I remember endless discussions with Toast Hawaii boss Fletch about whether it was the right decision and with heavy hearts, watching endless shelling and firefighting, from the 24 hour news coverage on far flung European hotel TVs. It was the first time I had felt that disconnection and frustration with my home country, the ‘not in my name’ ringing loudly in my ears. Bit late to the party but that’s the story of my life.”

Available on the CLIENT single ‘Here & Now’ via Toast Hawaii / Mute Records

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic


GOLDFRAPP Gone To Earth (2004)

The eloquence and surreal atmospheres of the first GOLDFRAPP album ‘Felt Mountain’ may have taken a back seat on its follow-up ‘Black Cherry’ but the experimentation continued on the B-sides of the album’s singles. ‘White Soft Rope’ combined the unsettling imagery of bondage with a chorus sung a school choir, but ‘Gone To Earth’ was even more otherworldly. The reverberating bassline combined with swirling synths and dreamy glides while Alison’s alternate cosmic language startled with a spacey hypnotism.

Available on the GOLDFRAPP single ‘Black Cherry’ via Mute Records

http://goldfrapp.com/


THE MODERN Model #426 (2005)

Nathan Cooper who was in THE MODERN said: “The inspiration came from ROXY MUSIC’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ which was about a blow up doll, we took that a step further and Model# 426 is about some kind of sex droid!! ‘Model #426’ was always the song that would get the audience talking because singer Emma would open a trunk on stage and lead a gimp out on a collar into the bemused looking audience!! I think it was actually that stunt that got us signed to Universal!”.

Originally on THE MODERN EP ‘Eastern Bloc’, now available on the album ‘Life In A Modern World’ via Pie & Mash Recordings Ltd

https://www.themodernband.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Party Song (2006)

Interpolating KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way (I Like It), the self-produced ‘Party Song’ was naturally a throbbing disco driven affair outshone the horrendous Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ which comprised the main act. Lyrically inspired by the classic Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter fronted Campari adverts that, it began life as a dance cover of NIRVANA’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ suggested by Elton John and intended as a single for a new PET SHOP BOYS ‘Greatest Hits’!!

Originally the B-side of ‘Numb’, now available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Format’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


ARTHUR & MARTHA Japanese Kiss (2008)

‘Japanese Kiss’ was from the debut release on Happy Robots from Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell. “This was the first track I wrote for ARTHUR & MARTHA” he recalled, “mostly recorded in the bedsit I’d moved into after splitting up with my girlfriend. I was absorbed in self-pity, comforting myself with Japanese-horror movies and the company of my ARP Quartet, Moog Rogue and the DR-55. Living my best life!”; 11 years later as Rodney Cromwell, Cresswell did a NEW ORDER inspired ‘KW1’ remix.

Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA single ‘Autovia’ via Happy Robots

https://www.facebook.com/arthurandmarthaband


MARSHEAUX Bizarre Love Duo (2008)

Basing its title on the well-known NEW ORDER tune, as with a number of the B-sides listed here, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ outshone the main act ‘Ghost’. It all began with a pitch shifted groan sample repeated with hypnotic effect over some squelchy backing. But during the second half, the track built itself to a fabulous but abstract electrodisco number with a marvellously catchy refrain. While not quite a song and not quite an experiment, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ was enjoyable tune in the MARSHEAUX canon.

Originally the B-side of ‘Ghost’, now available on the MARSHEAUX album ‘E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


ANTHONIO Angel Face (2009)

A cover of a cover, namely SHOCK’s take on THE GLITTER BAND’s 1974 Top5 hit; playing the role of the Latin lothario in response to the Annie song ‘Anthonio’, Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK and now SNS SENSATION remembered:Richard X produced this version of ‘Angel Face’ as a side B in his single ‘Annie’. I sang both sides, which kind of shows two sides of Anthonio’s personality in a way. It was a fantastic experience – Richard is a great guy and über pro, so really a win-win.”

Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters ‎

https://www.facebook.com/wearesns


LITTLE BOOTS Catch 22 (2009)

“Positive and negative can only attract” sang Victoria Hesketh on the bouncy ‘Catch 22’, a lesser known LITTLE BOOTS track which initially only appeared on the 7 inch single of ‘Earthquake’ in the UK. Gloriously synthpoppy, in hindsight along with other songs that did not make it onto the final tracklisting of her debut album ‘Hands’, it highlighted a possible direction that could have been taken, but which was ultimately watered down for wider acceptance after she was named BBC Sound Of 2009.

Originally the B-side of the single ‘Earthquake’, now available on the LITTLE BOOTS deluxe album ‘Hands’ via On Repeat Records

https://www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk/


VILLA NAH Benny’s Burning (2010)

Continuing a great tradition among the synthpop acts of the past, VILLA NAH had ‘Benny’s Burning’ and ‘Daylight’ as part of their B-side armoury as well as the brilliant debut album ‘Origin’. Highlighting the inherent talent of Juho Paolosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä, ‘Benny’s Burning’ was a smoother and more atmospheric side of VILLA NAH compared with the uptempo technopop impressions of its A-side ‘Rainmaker’. The Helsinki duo later opened for OMD during the UK leg of 2010’s ‘History Of Modern’ tour.

Available on the VILLA NAH single ‘Rainmaker’ via Keys Of Life

https://www.facebook.com/villanah


ERASURE Never Let You Down (2011)

Produced by Vince Clarke, ‘Never Let You Down’ was free of the many autotune treatments that Frankmusik had applied when helming the disappointing ‘Tomorrow’s World’ album in his attempts to make ERASURE sound more modern and contemporary. As a result, that heartfelt soul often associated with Andy Bell made its presence felt over a glorious galloping synthpop tune in the classic ERASURE vein, especially during the middle eight section in Spanish.

Available on the ERASURE single ‘Be With You’ via Mute Artists

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


MIRRORS Falls By Another Name (2011)

In their short career, MIRRORS left not only a great album in ‘Lights & Offerings’ but a body of wonderful B-sides too. Any number of them are worthy of mention but the nod goes to ‘Fall By Another Name’ as it was accessible enough to have been an A-side. Not as dense as MIRRORS’ usual pop noir hence its likely relegation to flipside, the bright pulsing melodies and James New’s Dave Gahan impression made this sound rather like a quality outtake from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’.

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

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Dead Air Einz (2013)

While the A-side was a faithful cover version of Peter Schilling’s anthemic ‘Major Tom’, ‘Dead Air Einz’ was a self-composed song by APOPTYGMA BERZERK mainman Stephan Groth that was eagerly welcomed at the time, thanks to it being his first original new track for four years. Utilising distorted radio broadcasts in its backdrop, it also featured some Korg MS20 from Jon Erik Martinsen and was something of a grower with its steadfast drum machine shuffle.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK single ‘Major Tom’ via Pitch Black Drive Productions

http://www.theapboffice.com/


CHVRCHES Now Is Not The Time (2013)

Making their initial impression with the mighty ‘Lies’ in 2012, Glasgow trio CHVRCHES actually became the mainstream saviours of synthpop that LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX had promised but ultimately failed to deliver on. ‘Now Is Not The Time’ was a fantastic midtempo tune with a great chorus that like ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like Taylor Swift gone electro. However, it got relegated to B-side status despite being superior to several songs on their debut long player ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

Available on the CHVRCHES single ‘Recover’ via Virgin Records

https://chvrch.es/


DEPECHE MODE All That’s Mine (2013)

In a pattern similar to the ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ boxed set only track ‘Oh Well’, the best song from ‘Delta Machine’ sessions was left out of the main act. ‘All That’s Mine’ featured a tightly sequenced backbone, electronically derived rhythms and a gloomy Eurocentric austere, all the perfect ingredients for a classic DM tune! While it was no doubt rejected for not fitting into the faux blues aspirations of modern DEPECHE MODE, it made up for the dreary notions of the A-side ‘Heaven’ which were more like hell…

Originally the B-side of the single ‘Heaven’, now available on the DEPECHE MODE deluxe album ‘Delta Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


OMD Time Burns (2013)

OMD’s twelfth album ‘English Electric’ was notable for combining conceptual art pieces alongside supreme electronic pop in a manner reminiscent of their fourth long player ‘Dazzle Ships’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’. Although four of these concepts made it onto the final running order of the album, one that didn’t was ‘Time Burns’, a intriguing sound collage comprising of clock movements, chimes and digital watch alarms over rumbles of sub-bass and profound computer generated speech.

Originally the B-side of the single ‘The Future Will Be Silent’, now available on the OMD EP ‘Night Café’ via BMG

http://www.omd.uk.com/


QUEEN OF HEARTS United (2013)

A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder and Micha Adam, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat! However, ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side. Reeder said ”I saw a piece posted on The Electricity Club about QUEEN OF HEARTS and I was curious. I really liked Elizabeth’s voice from the moment I heard the first couple of tracks.”

Originally the B-side of ‘Secret’, now available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves

http://iamqueenofhearts.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Little Death Capsule (2013)

With an alluringly haunting vocal from Anais Neon, the eerily stark ‘Little Death Capsule’ saw VILE ELECTRODES tell the story of early space travel when these primitive craft were sent out of the earth’s atmosphere effectively sitting on inter-continental ballistic missiles, with burning up also a possibility on return. With pulsing instrumentation from Martin Swan, it featured the sort of sterling analogue treatments that would make KRAFTWERK and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA proud.

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES EP ‘The Last Time’ via Vile Electrodes

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider with hints of YAZOO’s ‘In My Room’, Johan Baeckström said of ‘Synth Is Not Dead’: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM single ‘Come With Me via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


METROLAND (We Need) Machines Without Romance (2015)

METROLAND’s second album ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a triumphant electronic celebration of the Bauhaus, art movement led by Walter Gropius. Gropius theorized about uniting art and technology and on the B-side of its launch single ‘Zeppelin’, METROLAND worked towards the 21st Century interpretation of that goal. Now imagine if Gary Numan had actually joined KRAFTWERK in 1979? Then the brilliantly uptempo ‘(We Need) Machines Without Romance’ would have surely been the result.

Originally the B-side of ‘Zeppelin’, now available on the METROLAND boxed set ’12×12′ via Alfa Matrix

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


MESH Paper Thin (2016)

Of the superbly rousing ‘Paper Thin’, Richard Silverthorn of MESH recalled: “Mark Hockings presented me with a demo at the time we were writing material for ‘Looking Skyward’. On first listen, I wasn’t too sure about the track as I thought it didn’t really fit with the overall feeling of the album so it kind of got shelved. The record company asked ‘what about the B-side?’ so Mark suggested ‘Paper Thin’ again. The bassline, drums and many other lines were changed and the new version came to life.”

Available on the MESH single ‘Kill Your Darlings’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mesh.co.uk/


KNIGHT$ So Cold (2017)

After SCARLET SOHO, James Knights busied himself with a new Britalo inspired solo project. With hints of NEW ORDER’s ‘Subculture’ and found on KNIGHT$ debut EP ‘What’s Your Poison?’, he said “’So Cold’ is the second or third song I wrote as KNIGHT$. It’s a little darker than my other material, and the only song I’ve recorded using a marxophone (a fretless zither which I borrowed from my friend Alun Davies). It didn’t make it onto my debut album, but it’s still a song the audience enjoy, as do I.”

Available on the KNIGHT$ EP ‘What’s Your Poison?’ via Speccio Uomo ‎

https://knights101.com/


PSYCHE Truth or Consequence (2017)

PSYCHE co-founder Darrin Huss said of ‘Truth Or Consequence’: “It started out under the title ‘Life On Trial’ and was about the Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) situation. It’s about the NSA surveillance, whistleblowers, etc. It’s also about the confusion between what is Truth, and what are the consequences of telling it, living it? Do we have safety in numbers? etc. It’s all in the lyrics. It’s a very PSYCHE song with even a nod to ‘The Brain Collapses’ with our use of that song’s drum machine the Oberheim DMX.”

Available on the PSYCHE single ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


SOFT CELL Guilty (2018)

That Marc Almond and Dave Ball reunited for a farewell gig and new material was a pleasant surprise. The frustration and anger expressed in ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’ with the lines “I can denounce you just because I can, I didn’t have the life I wanted, I didn’t do the things I dreamed” saw SOFT CELL continue where they left of in 2003. With dark resonances like ‘The Omen’ gone disco, its eerie gothique countered the celebratory electro-soul of A-side ‘Northern Lights’

Originally the B-side of ‘Northern Lights’, now available on the SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles’ via Universal Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Another Brick In The Wall – Remoaner mix (2019)

Inheriting the mantle of THE HUMAN LEAGUE in the modern synthpop stakes, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP impressed with their self-titled debut album. With the single release of ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Wilson’ was a timely Remoaner mix of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ sung in German that made a bold musical and political statement. Headteacher Adrian Flanagan said: “I hope that statement is ‘I hate PINK FLOYD but love KRAFTWERK’ and / or – ‘I hate you but love the EU’”.

Available on the INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP single ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’ via Desolate Spools

https://www.facebook.com/internationalteachersofpop


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to all the artists who contributed
19th July 2020

Ten Years Of TEC: STILL PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

The Electricity Club celebrates its tenth birthday and it really has been synthly the best.

At the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party for their triumphant gig at The Magna Science Park on 6th March 2010, following chats with Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware, Paul Humphreys and Claudia Brücken, interview opportunities opened up.

It was obvious there was gap waiting to be filled for a quality web publication that featured the best in new and classic electronic pop without having to lower itself to using the dreaded “80s” label. The Electricity Club was it and became reality on 15th March 2010.

Electronic pop music didn’t start in that Thatcher decade and certainly didn’t end there either. So there was even an editorial diktat which banned The Electricity Club’s writers from using the lazy”80s” term as a reference. Tellingly, several PR representatives said that one of the site’s main appeals was that it avoided the whole nostalgia bent that had been presented by both virtual and physical media.

At the time, kooky female fronted keyboard based pop like LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS, LADYHAWKE, LADY GAGA and MARINA & THE DIAMONDS were among those touted as being the future at the time. But it proved to be something of a red herring, as those acts evolved back into what they actually were, conventional pop acts.

The Electricity Club preferred the sort of innovative synthpop as outlined in BBC4’s Synth Britannia documentary with the next generation of artists like MARSHEAUX, VILE ELECTRODES, VILLA NAH and MIRRORS more than fitting the bill and that ethos of featuring pop music using synthesizers stuck too.

Meanwhile, The Electricity Club’s portfolio expanded swiftly with key personalities such as Rusty Egan, Sarah Blackwood, Richard James Burgess, Warren Cann, Chris Payne, Thomas Dolby, John Foxx, Andy McCluskey, Neil Arthur, Alan Wilder, Mark Reeder, Gary Langan, Jori Hulkkonen, Howard Jones, Mira Aroyo, Sarah Nixey and Hannah Peel among those giving interviews to the site during its first two years.

The Electricity Club has always prided itself in asking the questions that have never usually been asked, but which fans want to know the answers to. And it was with this reputation for intelligent and well researched interviewing that in March 2011, the site was granted its biggest coup yet.

Speaking to Stephen Morris of the then-on hiatus NEW ORDER, the drummer cryptically hinted during the ensuing chat that Manchester’s finest would return by saying “I never say never really”; and that is exactly what happened in Autumn of that year and the band have been there since, as popular as ever and still making great music with the release of ‘Music Complete’ in 2015.

Monday 21st March 2011 was an interesting day that partied like it was 1981 when it saw the release of albums by DURAN DURAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS. Also in 2011, Mute Records celebrated their influential legacy with a weekender also at London’s Roundhouse which culminated in ERASURE, YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY performing in the same set.

Despite the ‘Brilliant’ return of ULTRAVOX, 2012 paled in comparison after such a fruitful year and several acts who were featured probably would not have gained as much coverage in more competitive periods. With pressure from outsiders as to what was hot and what was not, this was the only time The Electricity Club felt it was obliged to support a domestic scene.

But realising acts like HURTS and STRANGERS were actually just jumping on an apparent synth bandwagon and possessing more style than substance, The Electricity Club decided to change tact and only featured acts it felt truly passionate about, even if it meant upsetting the wider synth community. The reasoning being that just because a band uses a synthesizer doesn’t mean it is good.

During this time, MIRRORS sadly disbanded while VILLA NAH mutated into SIN COS TAN. But the year did see the launch of CHVRCHES who stood out from the crowd with their opening gambit ‘Lies’. With their Taylor Swift gone electro template, Lauren Mayberry and Co managed to engage an audience who didn’t know or care what a Moog Voyager was, to listen to synthpop!

2013 turned out to be one of the best years for electronic pop since its Synth Britannia heyday. What The Electricity Club achieved during this year would take up a whole article in itself… there were high profile interviews with Alison Moyet, Gary Numan and Karl Bartos while OMD released the album of the decade in ‘English Electric’. PET SHOP BOYS made up for their ‘Elysium’ misstep with ‘Electric’ while there was finally a third volume in BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ covers series.

Although 2014 started tremendously with The Electricity Club being invited to meet Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür in Cologne, the year suffered next to quality of 2013.

The interviews continued, particularly with key figures from the Synth Britannia era including Midge Ure and the often forgotten man of the period Jo Callis who was a key member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE during their imperial phase.

But the year saw grandeurs of delusion at their highest, with one artist of a far too normal disposition in particular failing to realise that in order for a crowdfunding campaign to succeed, they needed to actually have quite a few fans in the first place!

Then, there was the similarly clueless Alt-Fest debacle which saw the organisers play Fantasy Festival with no cash to underwrite the infrastructure to enable it to actually happen!

Sadly today, there are still egotistic chancers organising events with zero budget and the money from ticket sales being fleeced to fund their holidays. But these artificial factors are rarely considered and so long as there are lower league artists desperate to play for nowt and a misguided enhancement in profile that is often on a platform that provides minimal exposure anyway, then the confidence tricks will continue.

2015 saw the local emergence of Rodney Cromwell and Gwenno, while the majestic Swedish duo KITE proved that they were the best synth act in Europe with the ‘VI’ EP and their impressive live show.

It was also the year when ERASURE front man Andy Bell gave his first interview to The Electricity Club to offer some revealing insights.

Making something of a comeback after a recorded absence of nearly eight years, Jean-Michel Jarre presented his ambitious two volume ‘Electronica’ project which saw collaborations with a varied pool of musicians including Pete Townsend, Lang Lang, John Carpenter, Vince Clarke, Hans Zimmer, Cyndi Lauper, Sebastien Tellier and Gary Numan.

VILLA NAH returned in 2016, as did YELLO with Fifi Rong as one of their guest vocalists while APOPTYGMA BERZERK went instrumental and entered the ‘Exit Popularity Contest’. Riding on the profile generated from their ‘A Broken Frame’ covers album, MARSHEAUX released their biggest-selling long player to date, a two city concept in ‘Ath.Lon’. This was also the year that The Electricity Club first became acquainted with the analogue synthesizer heaven of Johan Baeckström, a modern day Vince Clarke if ever there was one.

2017 saw a bumper crop of great albums from the likes of I SPEAK MACHINE, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, SOULWAX, IAMX, GOLDFRAPP and DAILY PLANET, while veterans such as Alison Moyet and Gary Numan produced their best work of the 21st Century.

However DEPECHE MODE unleashed their most dire record yet in ‘Spirit’, a dreary exercise in faux activism bereft of tunes. Salt was rubbed into the wound when they merely plonked an underwhelming arena show into a stadium for their summer London show.

The trend was to continue later in 2019 as DEPECHE MODE just plonked 14 albums into a boxed set, while OMD offered an album of quality unreleased material in their ‘Souvenir’ package.

And with DEPECHE MODE’s sad descent into a third rate pseudo-rock combo during the last 15 years to appease that ghastly mainstream American institution called The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with guitars and drums, Dave Gahan in particular with his ungrateful dismissal of the pioneering synth-based material with which he made his fortune with, now has what he has always coveted.

And don’t get The Electricity Club started on the 2019 Moog Innovation Award being given to Martin Gore, a real insult to true synth pioneers if ever there was one, including Daniel Miller, Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder, the three men who actually did the electronic donkey work on those imperial phase DEPECHE MODE albums! Gore may have been a very good songwriter during that time, but a synth innovator? Oh come on!?!

With regards Synth Britannia veterans, new albums in 2017 from Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen saw a revived interest in JAPAN, the band with which they made their name.

Despite releasing their final album ‘Tin Drum’ in 1981, as a later conversation with one-time guitarist Rob Dean proved, cumulatively from related article views, JAPAN became the most popular act on The Electricity Club.

The return of SOFT CELL dominated 2018 with a lavish boxed set that was not just comprised of previously released long players, new songs, new books, a BBC documentary and a spectacular farewell show at London’s O2 Arena.

Meanwhile, adopting a much lower profile were LADYTRON with their comeback and an eventual eponymous sixth album. A Non Stop Electronic Cabaret saw Canadian veterans RATIONAL YOUTH play their first ever UK gig alongside PAGE and PSYCHE, but coming out of Brooklyn to tour with ERASURE was REED & CAROLINE.

EMIKA was ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ and Swedish songstress IONNALEE showcased one of the best value-for-money live presentations in town, with a show that surreal imagined Kate Bush at a rave!

But from China came STOLEN, one of the most exciting bands in years who were then later rewarded for their graft with a European tour opening for NEW ORDER.

2019 was the year when synthwave graduates Dana Jean Phoenix and Ollie Wride were coming into their own as live performers, while electronic disco maestro Giorgio Moroder embarked on a concert tour for the first time with his songs being the true stars of the show.

Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS gave his first interview to The Electricity Club to tie in with his solo album ‘Gone From Here’, while a pub lunch with Mark White and Stephen Singleton mutated into an extensive chat about their days in ABC. Lloyd Cole adopted a more synthesized template on ‘Guessworks’ and Britpop went synth as GENEVA’s Andrew Montgomery formed US with Leo Josefsson of Swedish trio LOWE.

If The Electricity Club does have a proudest achievement in its first ten years, then it is giving extensive early coverage to VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, six acts who were later invited to open on tour for OMD.

Partly because of this success, some of those who were less talented felt aggrieved despite feeling a narcisstic entitlement to be featured. A few deluded artists even went as far as to blame The Electricity Club publically for their lack of traction! NoW that’s what The Electricity Club calls deluded!

If an act is good enough, the fact that The Electricity Club hasn’t featured them should not matter, especially as other electronic and synth blogs are available. After taking its eye of the ball once before in 2012, The Electricity Club maintained a trust of its own gut instinct.

Meanwhile, its stance has been tested by those shouting loudest who instantaneously champion what they perceive as the next big thing like sheep, without really looking ahead at a wider picture. However, TRAVIS on VSTs is just not The Electricity Club’s thing frankly…

The Electricity Club’s participation in the annual ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf for on-stage interviews with Rusty Egan, Chris Payne, Mark Reeder and Zeus B Held was another high profile engagement to be proud of. Then there were six TEC branded live events and five rounds of hosting ‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ in one of the most unenviable but highly entertaining refereeing assignments in music 😉

Other highlights over the last ten years have included The Electricity Club’s 2015 career retrospective on German trio CAMOUFLAGE being edited and used as booklet notes for the Universal Music sanctioned compilation CD ‘The Singles’.

There was also ‘The Electricity Club’ 2CD released by Amour Records in 2019 which included TEC featured acts like MESH, SECTION 25, SIN COS TAN, KID KASIO, NIGHT CLUB, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, DAYBEHAVIOR, LIEBE, TWINS NATALIA, KID MOXIE, GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS, ELEVEN: ELEVEN, AUTOMATIC WRITING, FOTONOVELA and QUEEN OF HEARTS among its 34 excellent tracks, including a bangin’ MARSHEAUX remix of Katy Perry!

As 2020 settles in, highly regarded artists within the electronic community continue to engage with The Electricity Club. Neil Arthur recently gave his seventh interview as BLANCMANGE and his tenth interview overall, taking into account his side projects FADER and NEAR FUTURE. Not far behind, Martyn Ware has also been a regular interviewee having spoken to the site on six occasions while Paul Humphreys has been interviewed no less than five times.

The Electricity Club is still pushing the envelope, continuing to reflect the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music seeded from that ilk. With artists like ANI GLASS, IMI, KNIGHT$, NINA, MECHA MAIKO, GEISTE and PLASMIC among those on the cusp of a wider breakthrough, there is still more excellent music still to be created, discovered and savoured.

One inferior revivalist platform featuring far too much normal rubbish once complained that The Electricity Club “only feature bands that are popular…”; what they actually mean is “only feature bands that are really good”! 😉

The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to everyone who has taken the time read any article on the site over the last ten years, it is greatly appreciated.


‘The Electricity Club’ is released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records as a 34 track 2CD set in a deluxe 6 panel digipak with track-by-track commentary and ‘O’ card; the compilation be purchased from the following retailers:

Europe http://www.poponaut.de/various-artists-electricity-club-p-18056.html

North America https://stormingthebase.bandcamp.com/merch/various-the-electricity-club-2cd

The tracklisting is:

CD1

01 MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive
02 KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
03 ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout
04 DAYBEHAVIOR It’s A Game (Marsheaux remix)
05 MARNIE The Hunter
06 ELEVEN:ELEVEN Through The Veil
07 NIGHT CLUB Cruel Devotion
08 QUEEN OF HEARTS United
09 KATY PERRY Hot ‘N’ Cold (Marsheaux remix)
10 ERASURE Be The One (Paul Humphreys remix)
11 KID MOXIE The Bailor
12 KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS Oostende
13 FOTONOVELA featuring JAMES NEW Our Sorrow (Original mix)
14 GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica 6
15 AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
16 METROLAND Thalys (London Edit)
17 RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog

CD2

01 SIN COS TAN Trust
02 POLLY SCATTERGOOD Other Too Endless (Vince Clarke remix)
03 TENEK What Do You Want? (Alternate TEC version)
04 ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away
05 ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia
06 MARSHEAUX Suffer The Children
07 SECTION 25 My Outrage
08 047 featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine
09 TAXX Is It Love?
10 LIEBE I Believe In You
11 QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Shanghai Metro
12 iEUROPEAN featuring WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound
13 TWINS NATALIA Destiny
14 MESH Tuesday
15 MIRRORS Between Four Walls
16 OMD Time Burns (Fotonovela rework)
17 VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red

Please note this product is NOT on sale through The Electricity Club website and only via retailers


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Image Design by Volker Maass
16th March 2020

FISCHERSPOONER Sir

Having started as a group of performers, the enterprise that is now FISCHERSPOONER consists of core members Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner, who are joined by a troupe of dancers and singers.

Fischer is a classically trained musician, while Spooner has his fingers in many pies, including performing in experimental theatre, fashion and producing various types of art.

Their first album came in 2001, named ‘1’, cleverly released on many labels, to be followed by ‘Odyssey’

With their third opus, ‘Entertainment’, the duo went to Jeff Saltzman to aid the production and the current offering ‘Sir’ is being produced by none other than Michael Stipe from REM.

‘Sir’ follows Spooner’s art exhibition of the same name, which centres around nudity, featuring himself and many of his former partners, friends and lovers in assorted sorts of nakedness. “We’re living through this sexual revolution. Everyone has a camera. People are redrawing their boundaries of what they share and what they don’t” claims Spooner, introducing his saucy enterprise, to which the newest album is a perfect accompaniment.

With the tone being “aggressively homosexual”, with love moans being used as part of the soundtrack, Spooner showcases the liberated states of today’s society.

‘Have Fun Tonight’ heralds the album as the first single, and what an entrance it is! Big, bold, full of defined synth but not devoid of good melody and sexually charged vocals by Spooner. Mantric drum rolls and arpeggiated electronic elements flow freely throughout this sublime dance track, leading into sweet oblivion.

‘Togetherness’ with CHAIRLIFT’s Caroline Polachek, sounds like vintage PET SHOP BOYS meets GOLDFRAPP, with love pains present. ‘Butterscotch Goddam’ describes the vocalist’s long standing relationship which ended, resulting in Spooner’s liberation and the discovery of endless sensual possibilities.

The apparent sleazy Brazilian trysts are being described in ear-ringing ‘Top Brazil’, which marries marvellous synth a la DEPECHE MODE with filthy lyrics, as one can never have enough of gay sex! ‘Stranger Strange’ with its offbeat tribal simplicity boils up to a hallucinating psychedelic plea to be “fixed up”, while ‘Everything Is Just Alright’ brings a heavier synth line into play.

Multiple vocals on ‘Discreet’ frolic within the realms of simple melody depicting the urgency of “now” in sexual relations, leading gently onto ‘Strut’ with its club feel euphoria and contributions from Juho Paalosmaa of VILLA NAH and SIN COS TAN. While Spooner admits: ‘I Need Love’, he also needs to ‘Get It On’.

Andy LeMaster joins in on ‘Try Again’; an arpeggiated gem full of sadness in the lyrical content, where the desperate cries for “everything I ever wanted, everything I ever needed” prevail.

‘Oh Rio’ with Holly Miranda closes the opus with an alternative twist to wrap up the record of sexual freedom, the power of choice and the beauty of partying and being able to do what one wishes, no strings attached.

Spooner muses: “When I started, the record was optimistic because I was in a happy, open, long-term relationship”, but it wasn’t to be; otherwise the eclectic, sex laden product would never surface. Fischer agrees with “The best thing that happened to this record is you getting dumped.”

‘Sir’ marks the time to play and explore and Spooner is grabbing the opportunities with both hands: “Everyone thinks I’m having a midlife crisis, and maybe I am”…

And if it wasn’t for his midlife crisis, we wouldn’t be listening to the marvel that ‘Sir’ is!


‘Sir’ is released by Ultra Records

https://fischerspooner.com

https://www.facebook.com/FischerspoonerMusic/

https://twitter.com/fischerspooner

https://www.instagram.com/fischerspooner/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
20th February 2018

A Beginner’s Guide To JORI HULKKONEN

JORI HULKKONEN is one of Europe’s most highly regarded electronic producers, yet remains something of a hidden secret.

While a fan of synthesized music such as PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and JOHN FOXX, Hulkkonen’s love of Detroit techno and house music has brought a rhythmical edge to his many productions and remixes.

Hulkkonen released his first album ‘Selkäsaari Tracks’ in 1996, but he first came to the world’s wider attention as ZYNTHERIUS with TIGA on their 2001 electro cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’.

As well as solo long players such as 2010’s acclaimed ‘Man From Earth’ and collaborative projects like KEBACID, STOP MODERNISTS, PROCESSORY, SIN COS TAN and THE TANIA & JORI CONTINENTS, he has DJ-ed around the world, presented his own radio shows and remixed artists as diverse as ROBYN, KID CUDI and JOE JACKSON.

Based in Turku on the southwest coast of Finland, Hulkkonen recently downsized the amount of hardware in his AlppIVhouz Studios, although he still retains a Korg PS3100, Emulator II, Roland Jupiter 4, Roland SH101, Roland TR808, Roland TB303, Siel Orchestra and the ubiquitous Eurorack Modular system.

Always up for the odd spot of artistic mischief, he assembled THE ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, an experimental avant-garde techno ensemble of nine fellow conspirators each controlling a Roland TB-303, conducted and mixed by Hulkkonen; the collective famously supported KRAFTWERK on their Helsinki date in 2009.

More recently, Hulkkonen has teamed up with fellow Finn Jimi Tenor for a touring presentation of their silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Starring Mr Normall as its central alien character, it features a live improvised soundtrack ranging from blippy ambient to frantic motorik; none of the music is to be released. So with each performance being unique, ‘Nuntius’ provides a cerebral audio / visual experience for who are able to witness it.

With such a varied catalogue of work and projects, The Electricity Club looks back at the career of JORI HULKKONEN in the shape of this eighteen track Beginner’s Guide, arranged in chronological order and with a restriction of one track per album / project


TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS Sunglasses At Night (2001)

This cover of Corey Hart’s cult classic, adopted as a signature song by the Electroclash movement, came about when Hulkkonen was in Montreal promoting his ‘Helsinki Mix Sessions’ CD released on TIGA’s Turbo label. “The synthline just felt very cool to use with the 808 beat” he told The Electricity Club, “I’m glad I used a pseudonym for that release as even though I loved a lot of the music that was around and connected with Electroclash, the whole scene felt a bit distant to me.”

Available on the TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS single ‘Sunglasses At Night’ via City Rockers / International Deejay Gigolo Records

http://tiga.ca/


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JOHN FOXX Dislocated (2005)

“’Metamatic’ is one of my all-time favourite albums” said Hulkkonen, “and for me it was a fantastic opportunity to get a chance to work with one of the people who had shaped my musical world. ‘Dislocated’ was written by me, with John and the sound of ‘Metamatic’ in mind”. The end result sounded like what the title suggested and the pair worked together again in more collaborative manner in 2008 on ‘Never Been Here Before’; it wouldn’t be for the final time either…

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Dualizm’ via F Recordings

http://www.metamatic.com/


TIGA High School (2006)

Work had actually begun on a TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS album, but the pair both felt that keeping the project as a one hit wonder was a much cooler alternative. However, several songs from those recording sessions ended up on their various solo albums, with ‘Dying In Beauty’ appearing on Hulkkonen’s ‘Dualizm’, while ‘High School’ with its hypnotic synth sequence and latent machine groove found a home on TIGA’s debut long player ‘Sexor’.

Available on the TIGA album ‘Sexor’ via PIAS

https://twitter.com/tiga


JORI HULKKONEN featuring JUSTINE ELECTRA Errare Machinale Est (2008)

2008 could be considered Hulkkonen’s Down Under phase and for the title track of his sixth solo record, he recruited Electra, a Melbourne-based singer / songwriter / musician / DJ to add her wispy nonchalant voice to this expansive mood piece with an extended ambient intro.  The track utilised grainy Emulator II strings in an aesthetic that was to become one of his trademarks. The album also featured a tune fittingly titled ‘Forgive Me Father For I Have Synth’.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Errare Machinale Est’ via Solina Records

https://www.facebook.com/JustineElectraOfficial/


THE PRESETS This Boy’s In Love – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2008)

Australian duo Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes made their international breakthrough with ‘This Boy’s In Love’, an uptempo ASSOCIATES flavoured highlight from their second album ‘Apocalypso’. Hulkkonen stretched out the track out for almost ten minutes in a beat laden squelch fest and described it to The Electricity Club as: “a 10 out of 10 remix on my standards. It’s difficult to say why but somehow everything just clicked when I was making it and it still sounds fresh”.

Available on THE PRESETS single ‘This Boy’s In Love’ via Modular Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/thepresets/


CLIENT Can You Feel – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2009)

Co-written with one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth, Hulkkonen’s remix adopted a deep framework and applied a pulsing club friendly vibe to the dark cool of Client A and Client B’s Cold War Chic, while “dancing on a ticking bomb”. Growing up in Finland during that era with The Bear next door looming would have had a profound effect on Hulkkonen in shaping his soundscapes.

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic/


TIGA Sex O’Clock (2009)

Like its predecessor, TIGA’s ‘Ciao’ was mostly co-produced by Belgian brothers SOULWAX, although James Murphy of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM gave a helping hand on another track originally intended for TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS. Hedonistic and sweaty like a clubby Marc Almond, TIGA however could never quite escape the DJ tag to establish himself a fully-fledged artist in his own right. Indeed, he once congratulated LADYTRON “for escaping Electroclash”.

Available on the TIGA album ‘Ciao!’ via PIAS

https://www.facebook.com/officialtiga/


JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Neuro Video – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2010)

‘Neuro Video’ came out of Foxx and Gordon’s ‘From Trash’ recording sessions and reflected Foxx’s known love of old science-fiction B-Movies which had influenced much of earlier solo work. For his remix, Hulkkonen stripped the track down and made it less percussively frantic, procuring a spacious groove for the bubbling electronics to work within. This remix and another of ‘Impossible’ were originally made available as a free download via Foxx’s Metamatic web platform.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Sideways’ via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


VILLA NAH Ways To Be (2010)

Hailing from East Helsinki, Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä’s superb debut album ‘Origin’ was co-produced by Hulkkonen. He told The Electricity Club at the time: “The guys had written a lot of songs in the previous couple of years, so someone outside their songwriting duo having a fresh pair of ears was crucial in picking a group of songs that would make a good album…They have a lot going on for them though; great songwriting, a very good debut album to build on and definitely not least, Juho’s magical voice”.

Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Origin’ via Keys Of Life

https://www.facebook.com/villanah/


PROCESSORY Take Me To Your Leader (2011)

“We were both going through on a very deep phase with THE SMITHS” said Hulkkonen of ‘Lo-Fiction’, his first collaboration with reclusive vocalist Jerry Valuri in 2005. With their ambitious joint project PROCESSORY, the aim was “to create its own little universe” with various space travel themed concepts. With a lo-fi anguished gothique, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ concocted some very introspective moods at The Finland Station… however, nothing has been proved.

Available on the PROCESSORY album ‘Change Is Gradual’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/Processory/


STOP MODERNISTS feat CHRIS LOWE Subculture (2011)

A cover of the lost NEW ORDER single from 1985, Hulkkonen remembered: “The idea was to take what me and STOP MODERNISTS partner Alex Nieminen felt was an underrated song, make a late 80s deep house interpretation and bring some extra twist with having Chris on the vocals. It’s very hard – impossible, actually – to explain how important this record is to me. PET SHOP BOYS have been the most important musical influence for me”.

Available on the STOP MODERNISTS single ‘Subculture’ via Keys Of Life

https://www.facebook.com/stopmodernists


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

When VILLA NAH went on hiatus, Hulkkonen and Paalosmaa formed SIN COS TAN. Explaining the difference, Paalosmaa told The Electricity Club: ”With VILLA NAH, I’ve been solely responsible for the songwriting, so I knew that would be different with SIN COS TAN. With Jori, we both bring our ideas to the table”. Very nocturnal in tone, ‘Trust’ was a superb 21st Century answer to ‘Enjoy The Silence’, described by Hulkkonen as “Disco You Can Cry To”. Indeed, like that iconic tune, ‘Trust’ had been written as a ballad.

Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records

http://solinarecords.com/sincostan/


BILLY MACKENZIE Boltimoore – Original JiiHoo Bootmix (2012)

The magnificent voice of Billy Mackenzie from his stark cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Baltimore’ was flown into a hypnotic tech house bootleg constructed by Hulkkonen. With deliberate incorrect spelling of our hero’s name to mask its illegal nature, it was a haunting ghostly return from the heavens to the dancefloor. Mackenzie would have loved it and had he been alive today, he would have almost certainly been working with Hulkkonen; what magic that would have been…

Available on the 12” vinyl release ‘Boltimoore’ via Kojak Giant Sounds

http://www.billymackenzie.com/


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

Despite their collaborative history, Foxx and Hulkkonen had never worked together on a body of work with a conceptual theme, but the opportunity came with the appropriately titled ‘European Splendour’ EP. It took on the grainier downtempo template of PROCESSORY and  the lead song ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://twitter.com/jorihulkkonen


SIN COS TAN featuring CASEY SPOONER Avant Garde (2013)

Hulkkonen first found fame during the Electroclash era and a noted personality from that scene made an appearance on the second SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’. ‘Avant Garde’ featured Casey Spooner who provided a suitably cynical snarl to contrast Paalosmaa’s lost boy cry on a track that sounded like THE CURE being produced by PET SHOP BOYS. Paalosmaa was particularly thrilled, saying “I’ve been a big FISCHERSPOONER fan since their debut in 2001, so it was a very cool honour”.

Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records

https://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan/


JORI HULKKONEN Italian Love Affair (2015)

A brilliant slice of uptempo electronic pop with more than just a hint of GIORGIO MORODER and NEW ORDER, ‘Italian Love Affair’ was Italo Disco laced with a soaring vocal and a fabulous neon lit groove. Despite having shied away from singing throughout the majority of his career, Hulkkonen took on vocals himself on this highlight from his ninth solo album, with the end result sounding not unlike a cross between Jerry Valuri and Juho Paalosmaa.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Oh But I Am’ via My Favorite Robot Records

https://www.facebook.com/JoriHulkkonen/


FEELS If You’d Meet Me Tonight – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2016)

FEELS are a Helsinki based indietronica band comprising of Sofi Meronen, Mikael Myrskog and Jooel Jons; when Hulkkonen saw them band play live in Turku, he became a fan and asked if he could work on their material. Speeded up considerably and pracatically changing the entire character of the song, his remix of ‘If You’d Meet Me Tonight’ was highly danceable, but still retained the trio’s glorious Nordic melancholy for some more of that “Disco You Can Cry To”.

Available as a free download via https://soundcloud.com/feelsfeels/if-youd-meet-me-tonight-jori-hulkkonen-remix

http://www.feelsfeels.com/


VILLA NAH Stranger (2016)

VILLA NAH unexpectedly returned after six years and Hulkkonen was there to assist again as co-producer. Of the magnificent track with which they returned, Paalosmaa said: “‘Stranger’ is a play on words; how somebody you’ve known can turn stranger over the span of time… and end up as a complete stranger in the process”. This was classic crystalline synthpop with a modern twist at its best, in a fine juxtaposition of swirling arpeggios and melodic tension.

Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ via Solina Records

https://twitter.com/villanah


JORI HULKKONEN Tintån Terdel (2017)

Hulkkonen has released several EPs and singles over the last couple of years in the build-up to a new long player, while a new single ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ is set to be unleashed. A cinematic synth wave instrumental with a dripping percussive template, ‘Tintån Terdel’ signals a possible future in film work. It’s an avenue already being explored by himself and Jimi Tenor in a live context via the unique presentations of their silent Sci-Fi movie ‘Nuntius’.

Available on the JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘I Am The Night’ / ‘Tintån Terdel’ via My Favorite Robot Records

https://soundcloud.com/theofficialjorihulkkonen/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Tapio Normall
26th August 2017

This Occupation: The Legacy of CHINA CRISIS

Liverpudlian duo CHINA CRISIS are probably the most under rated band of their generation.

Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon formed the band in 1979 as they were leaving school. While Daly played bass and Lundon the guitar, their interest in Brian Eno, particularly his ‘Before & After Science’ album and collaborations with David Bowie and Jon Hassell, led to their first synth purchase, a Yamaha CS10 before later adding an Octave Cat and Roland SH2 to their armoury.

Continuing their fascination with Eno, the pair became influenced by TALKING HEADS which resulted in the first magnificent single ‘African & White’.

Beginning with a stutter from a Boss Dr Rhythm, tribal rhythms played by Dave Reilly formed the backbone as an infectious bassline and haunting synth complimented an insightful political observation.

Released in 1981 by the local independent Inevitable Records, who had issued early recordings by WAH! and DEAD OR ALIVE, ‘African & White’ gained CHINA CRISIS critical acclaim and a deal with Virgin Records; the label’s advance underwrote the acquisition of further equipment including a Korg PolySix.

Caroline International reissue the first three Virgin era albums ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’, ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ and ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ as expanded deluxe CD editions including band’s superb B-sides and previously unreleased BBC Radio sessions.

This early period of CHINA CRISIS saw them compared with their label mates JAPAN and OMD, but while the synthesizer was an important aspect to their sound, they also utilised a variety of traditional instrumentation with lots of melody and a subtle rhythmic backbone.

While CHINA CRISIS are best remembered for their soulful art pop, it’s quite strange to think now that when they first emerged, they were quite uptempo and percussive with post-punk influences such as MAGAZINE and SIMPLE MINDS, who they were to open for on the ‘New Gold Dream’ tour.

And with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE, they were also flirting with pure mechanical synthpop, as the heavily drum machine driven John Peel session recording of ‘This Occupation’ from April 1982 included in the fabulous extras for this batch of reissues shows.

Their second single ‘Scream Down At Me’ saw a band still trying find to their feet and it displayed a frantic funk tension that was never to be repeated by the band. As a result, it was not included on the first CHINA CRISIS album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ but now appears on its 2CD reissue. So it was the pretty ‘No More Blue Horizons’ with its memorable trumpet theme that launched CHINA CRISIS’ debut long player in Autumn 1982.

Split into Difficult and Entertainment sides, the latter comprised of sweetened up demos that the duo had recorded in an eight track studio with Gil Norton, later to produce THE PIXIES! ‘Red Sails’ and ‘Temptation’s Big Blue Eyes’ were highlights that made the most of Daly’s afflicted but passionate vocal style, while the closing ‘Jean Walks In Fresh Fields’ showcased CHINA CRISIS’ prowess in ambient instrumental forms.

Meanwhile, the Difficult first side was produced by Steve Levine and Peter Walsh; it saw the band experimenting with Linn Drum Computers, Simmons Drums and bass sequencers as well as fretless bass played by Andy Pask of LANDSCAPE. The latter was to prove crucial to the haunting ‘Christian’, a song about the fate of soldiers in the trenches during World War One.

‘Christian’ was as unlikely a hit single as ‘Ghosts’ by JAPAN was, but in a far more open-minded and diverse period in pop music than today, acts with a less obvious rock ‘n’ roll bent were generally in with a chance; it reached No12 in the UK singles charts.

It was a promising debut, but ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ was a something of a mish-mash, with its eleven tracks involving no less than four different producers.

The second album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ released in Autumn 1983 was to be more cohesive and produced under the auspices of Mike Howlett, fresh from working with OMD, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and BLANCMANGE.

Featuring Daly’s newly acquired Roland Jupiter 8 as well as bass guitar by Gazza Johnson and new sticksman Kevin Wilkinson, the long player was a maturer pop statement with a distinct English resonance, thanks to the addition of woodwinds from Snowy Levy.

The template was still synth friendly, as affirmed by the politically driven title track and the propulsive ‘Animals In Jungles’, but songs such as ‘Tragedy & Mystery’, ‘The Gates Of Door To Door’ and ‘When the Piper Calls’ exuded an almost folky feel despite the surrounding technology.

However, it was the album’s brilliant Emulator laced third single ‘Wishful Thinking’ that was to become CHINA CRISIS’ major breakthrough as their only UK Top10 hit in early 1984; the pair later joked that it was a “housewives’ favourite”. The success had been unexpected as the song featured Lundon on lead vocals while on the John Peel session recorded the year before, it appeared nothing more than a possible album track at the time.

Indeed, the stand-outs from that particular Peel session had been ‘A Golden Handshake For Every Daughter’ which ended up as a B-side and ‘Here Come A Raincloud’, which displayed more rhythmic tension than the disappointing album cut that eventually appeared.

With ‘Soul Awakening’, the atmospheric synth textures and ethereal piano made a perfect closer to ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’, but the tune had previously appeared on a Kid Jensen radio session in a quality instrumental arrangement.

From an earlier Jensen session, a sparkling wordless wonder called ‘Reflections’ makes its first formally sanctioned appearance, while two further instrumentals from the period come with this lavish 3CD edition of the album that both rank among some of CHINA CRISIS’ best work.

Daly and Lundon often recorded a variety of instrumental sketches to relax prior to formal writing sessions for albums and ‘Dockland’ was a sublime slice of nautical transience inspired by Liverpool’s once vibrant docks lying wasted in a period of high unemployment. It was captivating and emotive, as was more the more guitar focussed ‘Forever I & I’, recorded by Daly alone on a Portastudio in Lundon’s bedroom!

One song that was recorded with Mike Howlett but never made it onto ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ was ‘It’s Never Too Late’.

Probably dropped from the album on account of it sounding like a more steadfast ‘Wishful Thinking’, it finally emerged, tucked away on the limited edition 12 inch of ‘Black Man Ray’. And this lost jewel is one of the bonuses on the expanded 2CD edition of ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’, the band’s biggest seller which even cracked the US Top200.

It would be fair to say that if ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ was CHINA CRISIS’ English album, then ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ was their American one. The material was recorded with much more of a live soulful feel as on ‘Gift Of Freedom’ and ‘Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling’, while reggae inflections appeared on songs such as ‘Strength Of Character’ and the outtake ‘Animalistic’.

Produced by Walter Becker of STEELY DAN, the influence of his band on ‘Flaunt The imperfection’ was more than obvious on ‘You Did Cut Me’. Shades of ABBA could also be heard on ‘Wall Of God’ with the bridge taking an obvious lift from the verse of ‘As Good As New’, a track from the Super Swedes’ disco flavoured album ‘Voulez-Vous’.

But it was the more classic CHINA CRISIS songs augmented by synths and drum machines like ‘Black Man Ray’ and ‘King In A Catholic Style’ that secured another two UK Top20 hits.

Sadly though, they were to be Daly and Lundon’s last. While improving as musicians and songwriters, they were perhaps becoming less artful and interesting, as indicated by album’s overall FM friendly vibe, use of noted session musicians like PINK FLOYD live guitarist Tim Renwick and the live recordings included as extras with the ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ set.

With the world now turning a bit SIMPLE MINDS in the wake of Live Aid, the next CHINA CRISIS albums were to be more conventional and Trans-Atlantic friendly. The fourth album ‘What Price Paradise’ produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley was a disappointment despite the wonderful singles ‘Arizona Sky’ and ‘Best Kept Secret’, while the band parted with Virgin Records after poor sales for the largely Walter Becker steered fifth album ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ in 1989.

1994’s ‘Warped By Success’ and 2015’s ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ may be new additions to the tradition, but it is the melodic inventiveness of the first three albums that mark CHINA CRISIS as an important band of the Synth Britannia era.

CHINA CRISIS have been surprisingly influential in modern synthpop where elements of their sound have re-emerged in acts such as MIRRORS and VILLA NAH; just listen to ‘Visions Of You’ by the former and ‘Love Chance’ by the latter for some conclusive documentary evidence.

Today, CHINA CRISIS continue to play live, touring the world and it is testament to this highly enjoyable period in their history that they are still able to do this.


‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’, ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ and ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ are released as expanded deluxe CD sets by Caroline International on 15th September 2017

CHINA CRISIS 2017 live dates include:

St Albans The Horn (5th October), Worcester Huntingdon Hall (6th October), Middlesbrough Longlands Club (7th October), Sheffield Greystones (14th October), Dundee Clarks (19th October), Stirling Tolbooth (20th October), Kincross Backstage (21st October), Glasgow Wood End Bowling Club (22nd October), Hilversum Podium De Vorstin (26th October), Zoetermeer De Boerderji (27th October), Bedford Esquires (9th November), St Helens Citadel Arts Centre (10th November), Bishops Cleeve Tithe Barn (12th November), Shrewsbury Henry Tudor House (13th November), Huddersfield The Keys (17th November), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (18th November), Bury The Met (24th November), Coventry Catch 22 Lounge (25th November), Wolverhampton Robin 2 (26th November), London Putney Half Moon (30th November), Hertford Corn Exchange (1st December), Hornchurch Fairkytes Arts Centre (2nd December), Liverpool The Cavern (14th-15th December), Glasgow Oran Mor (16th December)

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/

https://twitter.com/ChinaCrisisUK

https://www.instagram.com/chinacrisismusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th August 2017

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