Since their debut EP ‘Together Alone’ in 2016, Danish duo SOFTWAVE have been gaining momentum with well-received live performances and endorsements from luminaries such as one-time member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE Jo Callis and former Numan sideman Chris Payne.
From their studio in Herlev, Catrine Christensen and Jerry Olsen have not stood still, learning from their first release and actually improving on it, particularly with Jerry’s Alternate Version of the catchy ‘On & On & On’ on the companion remix EP.
And now sees the release of the couple’s debut long player with a declaration that it’s all now ‘Game On’. Cross ERASURE with the influence of singers such as Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne, and you get the picture that while female fronted synthpop is a plenty, SOFTWAVE offer something special in the vocal department for their first album.
It’s a journey that has excited Catrine Christensen who told The Electricity Club in Autumn 2017: “An album is like a story with smaller parts that connects and become that greater story. It’s small parts and emotions from your life that fits together, some being uptempo and energetic, some being slow and some sad etc.”
With a dramatic intro appropriately titled ‘Takeoff’, SOFTWAVE’s inaugural full length mission features a spoken commentary and countdown from Christensen to connect to the album’s futuristic gamer theme.
The album’s first single and calling card ‘Something Is Missing’ is buzzingly sub-ERASURE, an alluringly catchy and assured synthpop statement with melodies and counter-melodies galore. In a tune partly inspired by her unique relationship with her dog Nero, as Christensen puts it: “life contains greater things than just temporary material things”.
More uptempo but punctuated by machines of ice, ‘No Need To Hide’ is undoubtedly Clarkean too, celebrating positivity in possibly SOFTWAVE’s finest moment yet with one of those rousing Scandipop choruses.
‘Reflected Memories’ sparkles but retains that touch of melancholy which Nordic acts are so good at. Here, Christensen is vocally rich and more confident while Olsen has upped the ante on production values since the debut, applying bravado and vibrato as appropriate.
Comparatively more sedate, ‘Guardian Angel’ plays with dripping arpeggios, airy soundscapes and the occasional Celine Dion hairbrush moment for something that Christensen declares is almost spiritual.
Rewarding their ‘Valor’, this enjoyable filmic instrumental sets the second for the second act; so with bursts of stabbing electronic energy, ‘I Need Love’ take a leaf from its Moroder-esque title, but with an effective offbeat on it rhythm construction for a love song for people who hate songs about love but who need it and feed on it.
‘Curiosity’ provides a breather and another ballad moment with Christensen displaying her range over Olsen’s sympathetic backdrop; it’s an inventive fictional story about a forgotten “one-hit-wonder” who is deep frozen in an underground laboratory, brought back to life by a fan and together they make another hit record… the concept is downright bizarre but brilliant, showing how much SOFTWAVE are thinking outside of the box.
The trancey ‘Human Beings’ is set at dancefloor pace, but Olsen’s production puts the song itself at centre stage rather than percussively overdriving it. With a commentary about how people use people and love things, rather than the other way round, the end result all the much better for it. Closing the album, the sweet ‘Galaxy Of Stars’ is classic ERASURE, pulsing and signalling gloriously as Christensen stares into the night sky reflecting on her day.
So with ‘Game On’ now “game over”, what is the verdict? SOFTWAVE have delivered a fine and enjoyable debut album with off-the-wall narratives contained within a classic melodic framework. So the natural reaction is to press “play” again.
Striving for continual artistic improvement and displaying a willingness to learn as they progress, there is no doubt that based on this documentary evidence, SOFTWAVE’s synthpop heart will go on…
Sitting on the sofa with my now thirteen year old daughter, who over the years has acquired a rather sarcastic sense of humour (who on Earth does she get that from?!) and pondering how to approach this task of reviewing ‘The Electricity Club’ compilation, makes us both burst out with hearty laughter.
After all, she wants to rise to the occasion properly, and review things “just like Mummy does”, or maybe not, as “Mummy always says it as it is!”
Children have the innate ability to always tell the truth; my daughter, however, has an uncontrollable need to please people, so this could really go either way. She will either be pulling her disgusted face, saying “what a load of rubbish!”, or candidly praise, without certainty.
My own adventure with music dates back many years indeed. I was brought up within, what they used to call in communist Poland, “an intelligence family”, meaning both my parents were white collar workers, rather than working class.
My father, a respectable judge, had loved his music greatly and was an avid guitar player himself, while my mum, a teacher, enjoyed listening to pretty much anything within the popular genre (usually via her radio, which, to this day, is always on).
Recalling the baby book entry, which my mum recorded when I was at the tender age of five, saying “Monika loves listening and dancing to records, she could spend all day doing so”, makes me try and remember the old record player and hundreds of vinyl albums which my parents owned.
All this said, I hold my older by ten years brother solely responsible for my eventual music choices. As I was growing up, I just had to endure what he was listening to (at great volume, may I add!).
As legal copies of western music were incredibly hard (or, simply, impossible) to get, his room was full of pirate cassette tapes of everything from THE HUMAN LEAGUE to MICHAEL JACKSON and anything and everything in between.
He would take great pride in inviting me into his musical cave and fed me with DEPECHE MODE, ERASURE, ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA and OMD.
And all this worked… during his absence, I’d sneak in and put my favourites on, which would primarily include the works of DEPECHE MODE, with the vinyl of ‘Black Celebration’ and maxi-single vinyl of ‘Stripped’ being the firm first choices. And that’s how I acquired the electronic music bug. From then on, not much else mattered but coming home from school and playing the entire back catalogue of the Basildon boys, dotted with the works of YAZOO and ERASURE.
My Allie has had little choice, since her musical adventure dates back to being in my womb. At the age of three she would sing ERASURE’s ‘You Surround Me’ on top of her little baby voice, and her sweet childish vocal was sampled and recorded by a well-known UK electronic duo.
Her first gig was at the age of five, and she went to see ERASURE at six and DEPECHE MODE twice at the grown-up age of seven, keenly taking part in the experience.
Although since she’s found love for KATIE PERRY, ARIANA GRANDE and TAYLOR SWIFT, and electronic music hasn’t been on her radar much lately, she absolutely loved ASHBURY HEIGHTS’ ‘The Looking Glass Society’. She also has a lot of vintage DEPECHE MODE on her Spotify playlist, interestingly enough none of it past ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’, and plays it at least twice a week.
Having heard that, I would include her opinion in the tongue-in-cheek review of The Electricity Club compilation, she keenly decided to be a serious contributor, and so it goes…
MAISON VAGUE Synthpop’s Alive
Allie: I don’t like it but I like it…
Mon: Bit GARY NUMAN this is! But a tad laboured and rough and ready.
Allie: I like the synth sounds, the voice sounds a bit weird.
KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Mon: Ah, my favourite of Nathan’s! Love it, love it, love it!
Allie: I like the sounds, the first bit sounds a bit like DEPECHE MODE!
Mon: Yeah, a tribute to ‘Two Minute Warning’!
Allie: That’s it! I like it a lot. I like his voice.
ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout
Allie: Oh my God! Rubbish!
Mon: Why? *cannot contain the laughter*
Allie: It’s just rubbish!
Mon: Erm, the synth is good, not sure about the vocal…
DAYBEHAVIOR It’ s A Game – Marsheaux remix
Mon: I like this, analog synth! Lovely…
Allie: I like it, like the vocal, but it’s not something I’d listen to if I had a choice.
Mon: Oh, I would. Very good song and well produced by MARSHEAUX.
MARNIE The Hunter
Allie: Reminds me of something but I don’t know what. I like it, love the vocal.
Mon: I hear a bit of LADYTRON, BJÖRK and MARSHEAUX. It’s fresh and enticing.
Allie: Yes, LADYTRON! That’s it!
NIGHT CLUB Cruel Devotion
Allie: Ohhhh, I like that!
Mon: You’ve met them last year Allie! Very good!
Allie: Oh yes, I do like this! I like the background sound and the vocals. I’d play that in my room… She doesn’t sound American! Is she American?
Mon: Yes! *laughs*
Allie: I’d make music like that!
ELEVEN ELEVEN Through The Veil
Mon: I like the beginning, bit of KYLIE there.
Allie: I don’t know who that is! I like the vocals!
Mon: I like the sound! (Note to self: “must educate Allie on KYLIE”).
QUEEN OF HEARTS United
Mon: Oh I’m liking this, fat synth and decent voice…
Allie: I like it, both synth and the vocal.
KATY PERRY Hot N Cold – Marsheaux remix
Allie: It’s KATY PERRY! I like this! I like this remix, it’s different from the original! *singing out loud*
Mon: I never liked the original and this doesn’t do it for me either.
Allie: What?! I love it! But her voice is a bit screechy, like on the normal version!
ERASURE Be The One – Paul Humphreys remix
Allie: Sounds like ERASURE…
Mon: It is!
Allie: Ah, I knew it! Is it a remix?
Allie: I love ERASURE, this is lovely.
Mon: Totally agree.
KID MOXIE The Bailor
Allie: I don’t like her vocals.
Mon: I do, it’s a good song.
Allie: I like the music, the melody is nice.
Mon: It’s a grown up song, very atmospheric and cinematic. Great use of synth. My kind of electronica.
KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS Oostende
Allie: I like it! The vocals are great. I’d listen to it in the car.
Mon: Yes, it’s good, both vocally and musically.
FOTONOVELA featuring JAMES NEW My Sorrow
Allie: I’ve heard it before.
Mon: Really? I haven’t! You must be thinking of something else.
Allie: It’s ok, reminds me of something you’ve played before.
GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica
Allie: I don’t like it, vocals aren’t great, don’t like the music.
Mon: It’s not my cup of tea either, but I’m sure it’ll appeal to few people.
AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
Mon: Interesting start! It’s different, I shouldn’t like it but I do.
Allie: It’s ok, again, it reminds me of something.
METROLAND Thalys – London edit
Mon: Oh I like that. Simple arrangement and that’s all you need. Not sure about the voice sample though.
Allie: It’s very robotic, like science fiction. It’s like something from another planet. It’s KRAFTWERK!
RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog
Allie: Yeah! That’s ok! *does a little dance*
Mon: Hmmm, not sure. It’s not unpleasant.
SIN COS TAN Trust
Allie: Don’t know, not sure about that one.
Mon: It’s ok.
Allie: Bored now!
POLLY SCATTERGOOD Other Too Endless – Vince Clarke remix
Mon: Good synth on this one. Liking this a lot. Competent vocals and arrangement, a real stand out.
Allie: Not my cup of tea.
TENEK What Do You Want?
Allie: Is that MESH? Sounds like it!
Mon: No, it’s not, it’s TENEK. It’s a good song.
Allie: Yes, I really like it. I like the instruments.
ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away
Allie: It’s fast. Not my kind of thing.
Mon: It’s very well written. It needs more oomph! Very OMD.
ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia
Allie: It’s not in tune… I don’t know, I don’t like it.
Mon: It’s different, not me either…
MARSHEAUX Suffer The Children
Mon: A cover. Good.
Allie: It is good, bouncy.
SECTION 25 My Outrage
Mon: Oh dear, messy! Too candied for me, bit all over the place.
Allie: Yes, I don’t think it’s good. I can’t describe it but it’s not something I’d listen to.
047 featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine
Allie: Clubby! Like it. Yes, I do! *bounces away*
Mon: Good, isn’t it? I like the club feel to it. A good dance song.
TAXX Is It Love?
Mon: Oh yes, good stuff! Progressive. Decent vocal too.
Allie: It’s ok, but I wouldn’t listen to it in the car. At a disco, maybe…
LIEBE I Believe In You
Allie: You know the ding-ding sounds? They remind me of PET SHOP BOYS!
Mon: “Ding-ding sounds!” To me the vocal technique resembles NEW ORDER. It’s good.
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS Shanghai Metro
Mon: It’s ok.
Allie: Too poppy, way too poppy. Chow mein? *laughs*
iEUROPEAN feat WOLFGANG FLÜR Activity Of Sound
Mon: That’s it! The synth is all there. Semi-modular synth? Very tidy!
Allie: I do actually like it! It’s club but different.
TWINS NATALIA Destiny
Mon: Not me vocally but decent synth I suppose.
Allie: I like the vocals! I don’t know, all confused now, too many songs!
Mon: No, that’s awful.
Mon: YAZOO cover Allie!
Allie: I knew that I knew it! Is that MESH?!
Allie: Thought so. I like anything MESH!
Mon: Now, there’s a surprise!
Allie: You know me!
MIRRORS Between Four Walls
Allie: Like this one, nice music.
Mon: Bit laboured… it’s not bad though.
OMD Time Burns – Fotonovela rework
Allie: Very robotic.
Mon: Not me!
VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red
Allie: I like the vocals, sounds a bit like Sarah Blackwood!
Mon: It’s Jane actually!
Allie: Ahhhh! Doh! I like that a lot. It’s slow! *laughs*
Mon: It is good, but no surprise there.
Allie: Is that the last song?!
Allie: Thank god, I’m tired now!
She will sleep well! I have to say, she did surprise me with some songs and disappointed with others but that just proves to me, that tastes do indeed vary, and even if I’m vehemently against something, others will find it enticing.
‘The Electricity Club’ compilation is a marvellous collection of tunes, and that’s a given. There’s something for everyone here and what a cross-section of all electronica. Still, I come to conclusion that thirteen year olds are probably not mature enough to fully appreciate certain synth music…
Will she follow in my steps? Not for a while… if ever! The one thing we certainly have in common: WE SAY IT AS IT IS!
‘The Electricity Club’ is released on 3rd December 2018 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 can be pre-ordered from the following retailers:
Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records are to release a 2CD compilation compiled by The Electricity Club.
Capturing its ethos to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music, this compilation is the culmination of a period which has seen the resurgence of the genre. Over the years, The Electricity Club appears to have reflected the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music seeded from that ilk.
Little did The Electricity Club know when it launched on 15th March 2010, it would go on to interview many of the key players in Synth Britannia, get granted an audience with two former members of KRAFTWERK and be influential in helping some of the best new synthesizer talents gain a profile within a reinvigorated scene. So it is highly apt that WOLFGANG FLÜR should make an appearance on this collection.
The Electricity Club is pleased to showcase its ethos in the form of this tangible audio artefact. Among the impressive cast, there are prime movers from the classic era like PAUL HUMPHREYS and VINCE CLARKE. Without the influence of the bands they respectively co-founded, OMD and DEPECHE MODE, electronic pop as The Electricity Club likes it would not exist.
Meanwhile the next generation are represented by acts such as KID MOXIE, NIGHT CLUB, RODNEY CROMWELL and VILE ELECTRODES. Incidentally, the latter were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour following ANDY McCLUSKEY’s discovery of the duo while perusing The Electricity Club’s virtual pages. The bloodline from ‘Radio-Activity’ to ‘Romance Of The Telescope’ and then to ‘Deep Red’ is easily traceable and deeply omnipresent.
The Electricity Club has always relished its diverse taste credentials. It doesn’t do retro or contemporary, just good music. No other compendium could dare to include the spiky post-punk of GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS and the rousing electro-rock of MESH alongside pop princesses such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or KATY PERRY. Be it Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL and MARNIE, Manchester veterans SECTION 25 or Essex boys TENEK, it all fits into The Electricity Club’s avant pop playground.
With international representation also from Gothenburg’s DAYBEHAVIOR and 047, Shanghai synthpoppers QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, Texan dance duo ELEVEN: ELEVEN, Belgium’s own passengers METROLAND and the self-explanatory KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS, the tracks gathered capture a special moment in time where innovative musical aspirations and good tunes have again manifested themselves in the same context.
The collection features a number of covers including MESH’s take on YAZOO’s ‘Tuesday’ and MARSHEAUX’s reinterpretation of TEARS FOR FEARS’ first single ‘Suffer The Children’. In addition, tracks such as MARSHEAUX’s stomping remix of KATY PERRY’s ‘Hot ‘N’ Cold’ and MIRRORS’ ‘Between Four Walls’ make their premiere in CD format.
The tracklisting is:
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
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
‘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:
This November sees the release of a box set of ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’, ‘You & Me Both’, an 8 song remix set and some previously unreleased John Peel / David Jensen BBC session tracks.
YAZOO were a candle that burned stunningly bright, only creating two albums (excepting live and compilation works) before Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet split and went their separate ways. YAZOO’s gestation started whilst Clarke was still in DEPECHE MODE; the debut single ‘Only You’ was written and offered to Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore but they declined it for the band.
Clarke first became aware of Moyet after seeing her sing in THE VANDALS, a band featuring his mate Robert Marlow and a connection was made when he was the only person to answer her Melody Maker ad seeking a “rootsy blues band”.
A demo of ‘Only You’ was recorded with Moyet and despite initial reservations from Mute Records boss Daniel Miller, the duo were asked to record a new version for potential single release.
Released on 15th March 1982 with the future US club hit ‘Situation’ on the B-side; the track was a slow burner but eventually climbed to No2 in the UK charts, giving Clarke single success that easily eclipsed his former bandmates in DEPECHE MODE. The performance of the single gave Mute the confidence to allow the duo to record a full-length album which resulted in ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’.
‘Upstairs at Eric’s’, named after a place where Blackwing Studio engineer Eric Radcliffe lived and not as is usually thought the space above the studio, was a stellar jump for Clarke following DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’ album.
Although there were similarities in sound with Daniel Miller’s recognisable ARP2600 drum sounds were still present and correct, gone were the lightweight/throwaway lyrics and in was a mixture of emotionally charged electronic pop like ‘Don’t Go’ and ’Only You’ with leftfield experimentation such as ‘I Before E Except After C’ and ’In Your Room’.
Having recorded ‘Speak & Spell’ at Blackwing, it was the logical choice for Clarke to reconvene there for ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ but there was an initial hitch; fellow Mute artist FAD GADGET was booked into the main room with Miller, meaning that YAZOO had to work unsociable early morning shifts to accommodate labelmate Frank Tovey.
In an interview with The Quietus, Clarke is quoted as saying that neither he or Moyet really knew what they were doing in the studio and that songs were completed quickly without any unnecessary overdubs or re-works. Listening back to the album now, it is still astonishing how sparse and how few musical elements are present on the tracks.
The fact that ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ just WORKS is down to the combination of beautifully direct songwriting, carefully programmed interlocking monosynth parts (at this point Clarke was still of the opinion that using chords was a “cop out”!) and Moyet’s incredible voice. In a KRAFTWERK aesthetic, there are no superfluous production elements and the tracks are allowed to breathe and give space to Moyet’s still stunning vocals and Clarke’s synthetic mastery.
A lot of credit for this must also be given to Eric Radcliffe; in interviews Clarke praises the producer’s openness with his studio techniques and commented “if I wanted to run a tape loop around the studio I could!”.
From the single opener ‘Don’t Go’ through to proto-house track ‘Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)’, the album showed that soulful vocals and cold electronics could be fitting bedfellows and still remains the measure against which any vocal / synth album should be judged.
Created using relatively minimal equipment like the ARP2600, Sequential Circuits Pro-One, Roland Juno 60, Roland TR808, Roland MC4 / ARP sequencers and a very recognisable Linn LM-1 on ‘Bring Your Love Down’, the album was (at the time) an ambitious piece of work that 36 years later, remains a career peak for both Clarke and Moyet.
Tracks such as ‘Midnight’ and ‘Don’t Go ‘ B-side ‘Winter Kills’ still pack a huge emotional punch and the beautifully understated latter would come as a huge shock for those used to the synthetic cheesiness of some of Clarke’s earlier work (see: ‘What’s Your Name?’).
The spoken word-based ‘I Before E Except After C’ was yet another curveball, featuring Eric Radcliffe’s mum and cut-up vocals by both Clarke and Moyet, it still remains a wonderfully eerie and hypnotising track, despite being very much at odds with the other pieces on the album. Tellingly, the track was maybe deemed a bit too experimental by Mute and was dropped for the first CD release of the album in favour of versions of the more commercial ‘The Other Side of Love’ and ‘Situation’.
Highpoints of the album include the era-baiting ‘Goodbye 70s’ and mainly instrumental ‘Too Pieces’; only the telephone-themed love song ‘Bad Connection’ comes across as slightly throwaway, but does at least counterpoint some of the darker-themed songs.
Upon release, the album proved itself to be a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, hitting No2 in the UK and eventually going on to hit platinum status in the USA.
Tracks from ‘Upstairs At Eric’s also latterly got syncs in the spy series ‘The Americans’ with both ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘Only You’ being featured in season 3 when Paige Jennings’ dad buys her the album as a far cooler alternative to a DURAN DURAN one.
As a stop-gap, Mute released the lightweight ‘The Other Side of Love’ as a single before the duo reconvened. Retrospectively, Moyet was less than charitable as to why the song wasn’t performed on the ‘Reconnected’ reunion tour: “We left out stuff that translated less well to live work. Personally I always thought ‘The Other Side of Love’ was a bit w*nk! It is my least favourite track. I didn’t like singing it and Vince was not bothered by it, so we left it out!” – it’s excluded from this retrospective as well.
With Clarke only envisaging the act as a one-album project, it took pressure from his publisher to persuade the duo deliver a follow-up which meant that ‘You & Me Both’ became the second and final YAZOO work.
In comparison with its predecessor, there were two major differences in the overall concept of ‘You & Me Both’; firstly Clarke’s newly purchased Fairlight CMI (one of two bought for their earlier tour) is all over the album, giving a far more organic sound with marimbas, vibes and brass textures often taking precedence over the trademark synthetic ones.
In an early interview with Deb Danahay for the YAZOO Information Service, Clarke confessed that the Fairlight was his “favourite synth”, primarily because “I don’t have to tune it!”.
Secondly, with a couple of exceptions, most of the lyrical content on ‘You & Me Both’ is an icy cold soundtrack to a break-up; the one and only single ‘Nobody’s Diary’ is a gut-wrenching tale; Moyet’s vocal line “…for the times we’ve had I don’t want to be, a page in your diary babe” could easily be directed at Clarke and his now notorious refusal to stick at his musical projects.
The working pattern on the album was more of a 9 to 5 affair, but involved Clarke creating his musical parts in isolation and then Moyet turning up at Blackwing to lay down her vocals without him around. ‘You & Me Both’ remains the only album to have a song fully vocalled by Clarke in ‘Happy People’ which MOYET refused to sing and also contains an early un-recorded Depeche live track ‘Secrets’ which became ‘Unmarked’.
The band announced their split shortly after the release of ‘Nobody’s Diary’ and this resulted in Clarke refusing to be involved with promotion of the album, leaving Moyet to talk to the press alone.
Although the new long player secured the duo a critically acclaimed and deserved No1 album, the lack of tour and promo meant that sales tailed off; ‘You & Me Both’ sold approximately half the units of ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’.
Even the 23 Envelope-designed album cover of two barely visible dalmatians fighting appeared to be a talisman for the sadly doomed musical relationship. Despite the acrimonious dissolution of YAZOO, the sense of their being unfinished business meant that Clarke and Moyet did reconnect for some live performances in 2008 which gave audiences a chance to experience the ‘You & Me Both’ tracks live for the first time.
Finally, a one-off get together at the Mute Short Circuit Festival in 2011 was the last time the duo would appear on the same stage. When asked as to whether this performance would be the band’s ‘last hurrah’, Moyet told The Electricity Club: “Never say never, but I would say I doubt it would happen again.That’s more to do with the fact that Vince was married to DEPECHE MODE, he’s married to ERASURE and I’m like that transitional relationship. So it’s almost like when he comes back to perform with me, it’s almost like when he comes back to perform with me, it’s a bit like kinda having a shag for old times’ sake and that doesn’t really work when you’re married!”
So what of the legacy of YAZOO? A musical partnership which appeared an unholy alliance on paper worked out so well that it indelibly changed the face of modern pop music. Before even discussing credible artists which were influenced by Vince and Alison, ‘Only You’ cemented itself as a huge popular favourite with the acapella cover by THE FLYING PICKETS and a hybrid orchestral version (also featured in this package) was used as the soundtrack for the 2017 Boots Christmas advert.
It’s almost impossible to imagine artists such as LA ROUX, LADY GAGA, ROBYN or GOLDFRAPP existing without the template that Clarke and Moyet forged and ‘Four Pieces’ provides a welcome opportunity to reassess their impact.
The BBC sessions will be the reason most will invest in this new collection, the versions of songs recorded for John Peel and David Jensen showcase a rawer sound with many alternative synth and drum sounds.
The Peel version of ‘Don’t Go’ showcases a completely different lead sound which is a lot less sawtoothy, whilst ‘Midnight’ features an alternative synth arrangement to the one on ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’. The mix of ‘Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)’ recorded for Jenson features a contrasting lead melody synth, while ‘Too Pieces’ brings Clarke’s Fairlight to the fore and arguably ‘In Your Room’ excels over the one featured on the original album. Meanwhile, fans of Moyet’s vocals will also enjoy the subtle phrasing differences to those which appeared on the final mixes of the two albums.
Omissions? YAZOO completists would have appreciated the appearance of the duo’s TV work including ‘Get Set’, ‘The Other Side Of The Tracks’, ‘Trak Trix’ and ‘Data Run’ as well as the debut tour interval instrumental ‘Chinese Detectives’ and ‘Nobody’s Diary’ B-side ‘State Farm’, but this would be a minor quibble.
These are classic albums that will never get old, never really date and if you don’t have them in your collection now you have no excuse not to invest in a copy. Absolutely essential.
‘Four Pieces’ is released as a vinyl boxed set by Mute Records, a CD variant entitled ‘Three Pieces’ is also available from on 2nd November 2018
Championed by none other than Vince Clarke and signed to his Brooklyn-based VeryRecords, REED & CAROLINE have just completed a successful US tour with ERASURE.
Reed Hays and Caroline Schutz’s 2016 debut album ‘Buchla & Singing’ did what it said on the tin, combining tunes with electronic experimentation.
But released in 2018, its follow-up ‘Hello Science’ is a much more on point as a distinct pop focussed offering suitable for live concert performances.
Marvellous quirky pop songs from the new album like ‘The Internet Of Things’ highlight the potential downfalls of modern society’s over-reliance on web-connected devices and home appliances, while there are also more personal moments like the stark eulogy of ‘Entropy’. It’s a reminder that it’s the juxtaposition of humans and electronics that made the best classic synthpop what it was and how synthesizers should never be the excuse for a song…
Now back home, Reed Hays kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about science, Buchlas, Orchestrons and his radio show with Vince Clarke…
What would you say is the creative dynamic of REED & CAROLINE?
We have always contributed our musicianship to each other’s works. When Caroline was working with her band FOLKSONGS FOR THE AFTERLIFE, I was playing cello on music she wrote. For REED & CAROLINE she is singing on songs I wrote.
How do you look back on your debut album ‘Buchla & Singing’?
I still like to listen to it, and we’ve performed some of the songs while we’ve been supporting ERASURE. The audiences have got misty-eyed during ‘John & Rene’, which is wonderful to watch.
How did the Buchla come to be the instrument of choice for REED & CAROLINE?
The Buchla spoke to me as soon as I heard my dad play a MORTON SUBOTNICK LP when I was a kid. I went to the only college in the US that would allow 18-year-olds to touch a Buchla. As soon as I made enough money from writing TV music, I started buying Buchla instruments.
The pattern over several years was that I would use the Buchla more and more and sell off my other analogue synthesizers. When it came to doing other music, apart from TV stuff, it felt most comfortable for me to do it solely on the Buchla.
You’ve added a Vako Orchestron to your armoury, where did you find that and what’s it like to use?
It came from the fabled Sound City studio in Los Angeles during a revamp a couple years ago. It’s only real appearance in the pop canon is on three KRAFTWERK albums, and I’m a huge fan of how it sounds. The crackly, low-bandwidth character of the instrument sounds like you’re peering at the future from the past.
You had sounds of your own customised and made into optical discs to use with the Orchestron, so who makes these then now?
Once I started searching for people who knew about Orchestrons, I discovered Pea Hicks who lives in San Diego.
Pea has access to the old machinery that made discs for the Orchestron and its predecessor the Optigan.
What other synths or software are used in your recordings?
I pretend ProTools is a tape recorder. For synchronization, I feed 16th-note audio clicks into the Buchla’s Envelope Follower.
Your songwriting appears to come from a folk tradition which is something you have in common with Vince Clarke?
I like simple melodies and whatever chords make them speak the best. I like modal interchange as much as the next guy, but Vince once reminded me that ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ takes you on a journey with only three chords.
How did Vince Clarke and VeryRecords become interested in REED & CAROLINE?
My friend Mark Verbos of Verbos Electronic helped to produce an event in Brooklyn called ‘Machines In Music’. He asked me if I’d give a lecture about using old synths in new productions.
Halfway through the lecture Vince walked in with a mutual friend, and we wound up having lunch. Later the friend played my song ‘Henry The Worm’ from what would become ‘Buchla & Singing’ for Vince, who decided it would be fun to release on his VeryRecords label.
What inspired the concept of ‘Hello Science’?
I grew up in a science and engineering town that also had a space museum so I was surrounded by it from an early age.
When I was little, there was a lot of idealism that science and technology would solve everyone’s problems. Now that I’m older, it’s less about a shiny future and more about science being discredited in these crazy modern times. Scientific concepts also make for convenient metaphors.
The ethical dilemmas behind technological progress with regards the backgrounds of some of those scientists must have provided an interesting background to write to?
Details of Operation Paperclip and the Dora Camp weren’t too public while I was growing up, but the concert hall where I played in the symphony orchestra did have a gigantic painting of Wernher von Braun.
Interestingly, the title song of the new album is all cello?
I took a small Buchla system and a cello to provide background music for an event that my painter friend Stephen Hall was involved in. When Vince heard a recording of it, he put it on the VeryRecords Soundcloud, and that set the stage for using cello on other projects.
I didn’t know how Vince would react if I did something entirely on the cello, so at the very end of ‘It’s Science’, there’s one chime note on the Buchla, just in case he didn’t like it.
‘Entropy’ was an intriguing number and sounded like it was influenced by the ’Dance’ album period of GARY NUMAN which people rarely highlight?
America’s introduction to synthpop was through GARY NUMAN on ‘Saturday Night Live’ at the very end of 1979. As a child, I was captivated. I hated the saxophones on ‘Dance’, but the pitch-shifted CR-78 drums were so cool. ‘Entropy’ was an opportunity to recreate that feel on the Buchla. I even made a polyphonic patch to mimic the Yamaha CP-30 electronic piano.
‘Dark Matter’ is a quirky little pop tune recorded with KITE BASE? How did that come together?
There’s a YouTube video called ‘Two Bald Blokes & a Buchla’ where Vince interviews me and the camera pans to some rock stars that our friend Elia Einhorn brought to the studio. One of the rock stars was Ayşe Hasan of SAVAGES.
Later on, while producing ‘Dark Matter’, I had a terrible time with the synth bass line. Everything seemed to slow down the track. Just when I wanted to scrap the whole song, I got a text from Ayse and her friend Kendra Frost that they were in New York. I set them up in the studio with two bass guitars and the rhythm track for ‘Dark Matter’.
It was amazing watching them work out parts for the song. For the verses Kendra played low notes and Ayse played high notes, and for the choruses they switched roles. To come up with parts they sang them to each other, “Da da da da”. That sounded great, too, so I got them on mic singing for the breakdowns in the middle and the end.
There seems to be a love / hate relationship with how technology has affected the world, ‘Digital Trash’ being a case in point which can be taken in many ways?
Vince kept gently asking me to join social media after we made the first album, so there I was on Facebook and Twitter ten years after everyone else. I’m sure my friends went through that “nothing dies on the internet” thing a lot earlier than I did.
‘Computers’ is another one, what’s that about?
Over the past couple hundred years, prominent male astronomers and rocket engineers had employed uncredited women to crunch the numbers. They were actually referred to as computers. The song wrote itself!
You’ve just finished touring North America with ERASURE, what was that like and how did you adapt you sound for the stage?
After we did a little club date in New York to celebrate the release of ‘Buchla & Singing’, Vince asked if we’d tour with ERASURE.
Upon realizing he wasn’t kidding I wrote the ‘Hello Science’ album with performance in mind.
The big departure from the recorded albums is that I sing the backup vocals through a Xils EMS-5000 vocoder plug-in. There’s a small Buchla cabinet with patches accessible by unmuting channels in the mixer module. There’s also a NS Design cello on a tripod.
Tell us about ‘The Synthesizer Show’… 😉
It’s the ideal venue to hear two grown men eating roasted peanuts while listening to VISAGE.
What’s next for REED & CAROLINE?
Caroline is going straight from the airport to her daughters’ school to sign people up for the Parent-Teachers Association. That’s as far ahead as we’ve planned!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Reed Hays