Tag: William Orbit (Page 2 of 2)

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about JEAN-MICHEL JARRE or VANGELIS who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with BRIAN ENO. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections.

Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as DAVID BOWIE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electricity Club’s Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

A one-time member of TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, ‘Timewind’ was Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using equipment such as the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ was the breakthrough record for TANGERINE DREAM which saw them using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism to produce a fine meditative electronic soundtrack.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Having released their first long player together in 1969, their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

ASH RA TEMPLE’s Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and what was to become his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style of PINK FLOYD’s David Gilmour, this template was particularly evident on New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

One-time member of GONG, solo artist and an in-house producer at Virgin Records, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived in a sound-world that Eno had created via his various instrument treatments. With Budd improvising live, Eno would occasionally add something but his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions to the moon, one of the inspirations was to react against the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes and news reels of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

By 1986, the former JAPAN front man wanted to get away from singing as reflected by the ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals. Sylvian found a willing conspirator in CAN’s Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly, it was partly inspired by his admiration of COCTEAU TWINS whom he collaborated with on the 1986 4AD album ‘The Moon & The Melodies’.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric collection of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. Alongside the three new pieces, there was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger and its various missions.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing techniques, the sleeve notes recommended it was best heard using headphones while stating “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In that respect, a collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not really miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originally released as part of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the ambient companion progressively got quieter and quieter. The emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. ‘After the Night Falls’ and ‘Before the Day Breaks’ were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie ‘s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s self-explanatory titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s most recent collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape with its Edward Hopper inspired title. Meanwhile, the earlier ‘Translucence’ from 2003 was a close relative and classic Budd, partnered with the more subdued overtures of ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

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


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen to The Electricity Club. Not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree in South London’s Asylum Chapel. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound worthy of the ambient pioneers Statham was influenced by, especially on the gorgeous closer ‘Ascend’.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

OUTERNATIONALE ON EP

OUTERNATIONALE is Scottish musician Derek Miller and while ‘ON’ is his debut EP release, he has already worked with several key names from the post punk era.

Miller boldly recorded a cover version of JOY DIVISION’s ‘Atmosphere’ featuring the vocals of Paul Haig which met with the approval of Peter Hook himself and was released on Haçienda Records in 2011.

Meanwhile, he mixed and co-produced ‘Dark Light’, the most recent album by cult Factory band SECTION 25.

The ‘ON’ EP boasts four tracks, three of which feature the dreamy voice of Jenny Electrik from electro rock duo DYNASTY ELECTRIK.

The pairing of her with Miller really comes into its own with the magnificent ‘The Moments Before’. With hints of MADONNA during her William Orbit phase, the driving syncopated rhythms act as the backbone to a combination of seductive vocals and hypnotic electronics.

‘World’s End’ is less frantic and gives Electrik plenty of space for self-expression amongst Miller’s synths, while the complex rhythm construction of ‘Careless’ provides structure without being overbearing with a suitably breathy performance

To close ‘ON’, Miller is left to run free on his own with the excellent instrumental ‘Path’; reminiscent of GARY NUMAN, it is however attached to much more rigid electro rhythmic pattern than perhaps the former Gary Webb would usually indulge in.

In all, ‘ON’ is an impressive debut offering from OUTERNATIONALE that acts as a fine shop window for Derek Miller’s talents as a producer and collaborator.


‘ON’ is released as a download EP by 5 Pin Din Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/outernationale/

https://twitter.com/outernationale


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Paul Boddy
25th September 2017

JOHN FOXX London Overgrown

JOHN FOXX-LondonOvergrown-artworkIn many respects, JOHN FOXX’s musical career has had many parallels with BRIAN ENO. Both were members of innovative bands, both departed before their respective bands went global and both explored ambient music as part of their subsequent and varied solo careers.

At the start of his solo endeavours, JOHN FOXX had ventured into instrumental territory with ‘Film One’, Mr No’ and Swimmer’, but only the ‘No-One Driving’ B-side ‘Glimmer’ got close to the ambient tradition.

Retiring from music in 1986, when the former Dennis Leigh returned in 1997, he made an artistic statement by releasing the first volume of his ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy alongside ‘Shifting City’, his more conventional song based offering with Louis Gordon.

‘Cathedral Oceans’ saw Foxx immersing himself in religious choral musical forms like Gregorian Chants alongside gravitating electronic textures. While there were to be other instrumental soundtrack works like ‘Tiny Colour Movies’, ‘DNA’, ‘B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica)’ and ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ which recalled the Sci-Fi nature of his early B-sides, eventually Foxx’s ambient work was to become his most dominant platform of expression; noted collaborators over the years have included Theo Travis, Robin Guthrie, Steve Jansen and Steve D’Agostino.

LondonOvergrown-01It was ‘Translucence’, ‘Drift Music’ and ‘Nighthawks’, his three albums with pianist Harold Budd in the period between 2003-2011 that took Foxx’s ambient work to another level. Wonderfully placed in shimmering settings that entered a whole otherworldly sphere, the partnership recalled Budd’s two collaborations with Eno, ‘Plateaux Of Mirror’ and ‘The Pearl’. On this year’s magnificent ‘Codex’ with Diana Yuka and Benge as GHOST HARMONIC, the tradition has been continued and points to Foxx’s musical future as he approaches the twilight of his seventh decade.

‘London Overgrown’ is Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus is a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack.

‘Through Gardens Overgrown’ from the third instalment of ‘Cathedral Oceans’ appears to be a pivotal inspiration. But how ‘London Overgrown’ differs is the complete absence of vocals of any kind. This nullavox template is a crucial aspect of the work, as it then totally disconnects the listener from environmental human intervention.

Effectively a synthony in ten movements, the ambient caveat of no vocals and no rhythms has provided interesting compositional challenges. References to Foxx’s previous ambient works with ‘London Overgrown’ are inevitable. It begins with ‘Oceanic II’, a more minimal progression of the ‘Cathedral Oceans III’ track and ‘A Man, A Woman & A City’, a pastoral cousin of the GHOST HARMONIC project.

With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this is Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century with beautiful string synths placed in a cavernous reverb. Meanwhile, the deeper resonances of the title track and spacey overtones in ‘Everything Is Illuminated’ provide a number of spectrum variations.

LondonOvergrown-03‘A Small Revolving World’ acts as a churchy interlude before continuing the lingering mood constructed in the first half. The flowing sweeps of ‘Often Now, I Wake’ recall the atmospheres of ‘Drift Music’ while ‘Persistence Of Vision’ is the most abstract of the album, with Eno’s ‘Neroli’ being the most obvious reference point. Concluding ‘London Overgrown’, ‘City Of Mirage’ and ‘Imaginary Music’ both do what they say on the tin in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes.

Brian Eno said that ambient music had to be interesting enough to be listened to, yet simultaneously unobtrusive enough to be ignored. A difficult feat to pull off, ‘London Overgrown’ achieves this is the best understated manner. Ambient is not for everyone and very much a cognoscenti pursuit. But like Eno’s own ‘Apollo – Soundtracks & Atmospheres’, this is a fine entry point to begin an appreciation of a much under rated music form.


With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘London Overgrown’ is released on CD by Metamatic Records on 16th October 2015 and available through the usual outlets or the JOHN FOXX online shop at http://johnfoxx.tmstor.es/cart/product.php?id=24458

http://www.metamatic.com

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
London Overgrown Images by John Foxx
26th September 2015

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF 2010

The Electricity Club came into being on 15th March 2010 following the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party at Sheffield Magna.

The year also saw the release of a new album by OMD in ‘History Of Modern’, their first since 1996 while there was the emergence of new acts such as VILLA NAH, MIRRORS and HURTS.

At the end of 2009 when LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX heralded a renaissance in the sound of the synth, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter said to Mojo Magazine: “From all our work comes inspiration. We have been very lucky because the music we envisioned, the ideas we had of The Man-Machine and electro music, have become reality and technology has developed in our direction… and electro is everywhere!”

In a tremendous year for all things electro, here is The Electricity Club’s Top 30 songs of 2010 in alphabetical order by artist:


CHRISTINA AGUILERA & LADYTRON Birds Of Prey

In 2008, there was much talk of CHRISTINA AGUILERA going electro and collaborating with LADYTRON. Fast forward to 2010 and the two finished tracks ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’ were relegated to bonus track status on her album Bionic, with the latter being available only on iTunes. ‘Birds Of Prey’ softens the percussive noise that dominated ‘Velocifero’ with Ms Aguilera showing some great vocal restraint herself, with an almost hypnotic Middle Eastern feel.

Available on the album ‘Bionic (Deluxe Edition)’

http://www.christinaaguilera.com/

http://www.ladytron.com/


ARP High Life

ARP is New Yorker Alexis Georgopoulos who crafts gorgeous contemporary kosmische musik for the 21st century. Beautiful synth strings plus the spectre of KRAFTWERK and CLUSTER dominate this cute instrumental. Some minimal guitar adds texture to the pulsing accompaniment, recalling other German heroes such as MICHAEL ROTHER and MANUEL GOTTSCHING.

Available on the album ‘The Soft Wave’

http://www.studioalexisgeorgopoulos.com/ARP


AU REVOIR SIMONE Tell Me (Un Autre Monde Remix by MIRRORS)

Although AU REVOIR SIMONE have a wispy girls next door demeanour, this remix by MIRRORS recrafts the originally bare ‘Tell Me’ into a dense apocalyptic ditty which makes Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo sound almost suicidal! With its heavy synthetic percussive backbone, this is definitely dance music from another world! Like an alternative gothic disco soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’!

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Night Light’ from Juno:
http://www.junodownload.com/products/au-revoir-simone-night-light/1582186-02/

http://aurevoirsimone.com


BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT Love Part II

Shimmering Emulator type strings, pulsing sequences and a rousing chorus make this a very immediate slice of synthesized pop. BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT mainman Rod Thomas reworks the template of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and gives it a bit of a sensitive new man outlook. ‘Love Part II’ is NEW ORDER’s disco music for lager louts taken back to its slightly camper Italo roots. Not one for those who wear football shirts to the pub!

Available on the single ‘Love Part II’

http://www.brightlightx2.com/


THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW Are You One?

Assisted by I Monster’s Dean Honer who also co-produced THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Night People, THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW’s first single ‘Are You One?’ has Candie Payne’s very classic pop presence coupled with Adrian Flanagan’s eccentronic backing. It wonderfully sounds like SANDIE SHAW being backed by a BBC Radiophonic Workshop collaboration with LALO SCHIFRIN!

Available on the single ‘Are You One?’

https://myspace.com/chanteusenthecrippledclaw


CHEW LIPS Rising Tide

Usually dealing in a brand of “8-bit Casiotone drone-disco” sounding like YEAH YEAH YEAHS with synths, CHEW LIPS look like OMD being led by Debbie Harry! And they take the OMD thing further here with their best track ‘Rising Tide’. The haunting piano, precise drum machine and bass with sparkling synth-harp runs and a spirited vocal come together nicely to build up to a rousing crescendo.

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Unicorn’ from iTunes.

http://chew-lips.com


DELPHIC Halcyon

Here are the young men of DELPHIC, continuing the electronic dance / rock fusion pioneered by the legend of Factory Records. The backing is pure NEW ORDER and reinforced by a great klanky guitar solo which would do Bernard Sumner proud. Now, if DELPHIC could just develop things into great pop songs like ‘Halcyon’ rather than some of the prolonged jams and grooves that dominate their debut album ‘Acolyte’.

Available on the album ‘Acolyte’

https://www.facebook.com/delphicmusic/


FUTURE PERFECT Dark Pleasures

‘Dark Pleasures’ fuses Simon Owen’s dense electronics and stark dance beats with Rebecca Morgan’s melodically rich vocal interfaces. This is synthpop with a dark, sexy edge with Rebecca sounding like a lost SUGABABE accidentally finding her way into a DEPECHE MODE recording session! Precise pulse driven electro, it provides a wonderfully euphoric topline and chorus with that guilty pleasure of a handbag rave styled vocal.

Available on the album ‘Dirty Little Secrets’

http://www.futureperfect.org.uk/


THE GOLDEN FILTER Look Me In The Eye

With their melodic and glacial electronic disco, you’d think they were Scandinavian, but THE GOLDEN FILTER consist of an Aussie in Penelope Trappes and a Yank in Stephen Hindman. Penelope’s vocals have an uplifting quality on the chorus while still retaining a distant chill but the counter melodies compliment the danceable twists. A little I Feel Love creeps in during the chorus to give a wonderful dancefloor adrenalin rush.

Available on the album ‘Voluspa’

http://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming

As the title suggests, this is gorgeous and dreamy with a distinct European flavour from the enjoyable album ‘Head First’ which perhaps is more focused on mid-Atlantic AOR. Alison’s voice still resonates as one of the best in the business and back to being accompanied by primarily electronic instrumentation which is where it belongs. The pulsing sequences and string machine washes of ‘Dreaming’ make this perfect dancefloor material.

Available on the album ‘Head First’

http://www.goldfrapp.com/


HELL featuring BRYAN FERRY U Can Dance

Mr Ferry has certainly been astute in recognising how much of an influence he’s been on younger musicians and accepting collaborative opportunities with modern dance luminaries such as HELL and GROOVE ARMADA. DJ HELL provides U Can Dance’  with some hard electronic backing, complimenting Ferry’s trademark vocals. Ferry recorded his own Roxy styled version for his solo album ‘Olympia’.

Available on the single ‘U Can Dance’

https://www.facebook.com/DJHellOfficial/

http://www.bryanferry.com/


JORI HULKKONEN Man From Earth

Hypnotic in the spirit of Giorgio Moroder crossed with Arthur Baker and featuring the guest vocals of Jerry Valuri who first collaborated with Hulkkonen on 2005’s ‘Lo-Fiction’, this dark club track’s spacey rolling sequences make this almost like a dancefloor take on THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ before launching into a bit of New York electro disco!

Available on the album ‘Man From Earth’

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Night People

After Philip Oakey’s collaborations in 2009 with LITTLE BOOTS and PET SHOP BOYS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE returned with the lead track from their forthcoming album ‘Credo’ sounding very electronic and very modern. Punchy with an elastic bassline and chanting chorus, the lyrical couplet “leave your cornflakes in your freezers, leave your chocolates and your cheeses…” shows Mr Oakey hasn’t lost his touch for off-the-wall symbolism. So “Join us now my friends we hail you!”

Available on the single ‘Night People’

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


HURTS Stay

HURTS have been certainly accused of style over substance. ‘Wonderful Life’ looked like being a one-off but luckily they have some other magnificent songs to back up their European art house film via the Weimar Republic persona. With ‘Stay’, the heartfelt intensity of the lush arrangement captures the understated but epic sophistication. With the symphonic grandeur of ULTRAVOX fronted by the melodic sensibilities of TAKE THAT, is this a ‘Vienna’ for the early 21st Century?

Available on the album ‘Happiness’

http://www.informationhurts.com/


HYPERBUBBLE Candy Apple Daydreams

From the album of the same name, Texan duo HYPPERBUBBLE have an almost cartoon-like take on synthpop in the vein of that great lost combo VIC TWENTY who released only one single on Mute. ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ is fun and quirky with Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff as the obedient robotic version of John Steed.

Available on the album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’

http://www.hyperbubble.net/


KATJA VON KASSEL Lies

Electro Weimar Cabaret is the easiest way to describe the music of KATJA VON KASSEL. Lies’ features strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano but also has hints of GRACE JONES ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’. Not entirely surprising as both songs are routed in the same dance… the tango. LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray’s intricate production alongside Katja’s magnificently deep vocal presence is like the “1930’s meets the future”.

Not yet released, view on Vimeo

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LCD SOUNDSYSTEM I Can Change

From what appears to be the only electronic based act that the real music purists positively fawn over, this is a superbly guitar free number that sounds like ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN mashed up with GARY NUMAN and early DEPECHE MODE. The wonderfully wobbly synths and steady drum machine beat take the lead in the poptastic style of Vince Clarke while James Murphy’s vocal hits a soaring falsetto after initiating a ‘Mac The Mouth’ tribute.

Available on the album ‘This Is Happening’

http://lcdsoundsystem.com/


LOLA DUTRONIC Best Years Of Our Lives

LOLA DUTRONIC are a duo who adapt classic Anglo-Gallic pop with modern electronic arrangements. ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ borrows from the more recent past with quite obvious references to OMD, ERASURE and even PULP. It’s cutesy pop, perhaps reminiscent of prime SAINT ETIENNE and Lola’s accent is just alluring!

Available on the EP ‘Musique’

https://www.facebook.com/LOLA-DUTRONIC-80232595392/


MARINA & THE DIAMONDS Oh No!

Using a bit of Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis adds eccentricity to some catchy keyboard led pop helmed by the ubiquitous Greg Kurstin. “I have become my own self fulfilled prophecy” she proclaims before she screams up two operatic octaves taking a nod towards classic SPARKS while the coda turns into a Cossack dance! Frankly, this is brilliantly bonkers!

Available on the album ‘The Family Jewels’

http://www.marinaandthediamonds.com/


KYLIE MINOGUE All The Lovers

Aided by Stuart Price at the mixing helm, Ms Minogue’s best single since the KRAFTWERK-tinged ‘Slow’ is euphoric Euro-disco with some wonderful synthetic tones, especially on the solo. There’s something for everybody here in this fabulous pop song. Shame about the ‘Aphrodite’ album though.

Available on the album ‘Aphrodite’

http://www.kylie.com/


MIRRORS Ways To An End

MIRRORS hail from Brighton, the UK capital of hedonism but their intense and artful approach to dancing is very different to the ‘hands in the air’ culture of their home base. Synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominate this brilliantly uptempo electro number. Rhythmically this recalls TALKING HEADS ‘Crosseyed & Painless’ while the claustrophobic production is very post-punk, wonderfully dense but melodically dramatic. A brilliant introduction to The World of MIRRORS.

Available on the single ‘Ways To An End’

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


OMD New Holy Ground

In the true innovating spirit of their classic era, the sparse percussive framework of ‘New Holy Ground’ is merely the sound of footsteps. This is the nearest they have come to the lost B-side and fan favourite ‘The Avenue’. The wonderful piano line and virtual choirs contribute to the beautiful melancholy that characterised OMD’s best work where Paul Humphreys concentrated on the musical backbone while Andy McCluskey provided the narrative focus.

Available on the album ‘History Of Modern’

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


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night

sarah-dubstar

In period which has seen a flurry of solo activity and the reformation of DUBSTAR, the lovely SARAH BLACKWOOD took time out to work with on a track from his album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’. Although a version without her ended up on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download in 2010. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s recent offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem from our Sarah which lyrically was “full of pain”.

Originally available as a free download

http://www.williamorbit.com/


PARRALOX Supermagic (O-Phase Edit)

Supermagic sees some DIVINE intervention in a throbbing Bobby Orlando influenced remix. The original meanwhile has a 6/8 glam beat and sounds like MADONNA impersonating GOLDFRAPP. Taking their electro into a pure pop direction, John and Amii certainly don’t let up on that glitterballed dancefloor.

Available on the album ‘Metropolis’

http://www.parralox.com/


ROBYN Dancing On My Own (Radio version)

More bittersweet heartbreak from Ms Carlsson, this is driven by wonderful, edgy electronics while the simultaneous dancing and mourning reflects the vulnerability everyone experiences in the loss of love. Solemn synthetic disco at its best from the feisty, independently spirited Swede who is slowly turning into a modern day GINA X PERFORMANCE.

Available on the album ‘Body Talk’

http://robyn.com/


SHH Wonderful Night

Euphoric sensualism captured in three and a half minutes, the chunky pulsing sequences to a solid dance beat and a rousing chorus add a blissful optimism full of Latin spirit. ‘Wonderful Night’ is bouncy danceable electropop that does what it says on the tin. As their own mission statement announces, it’s “Electronic pop, Buenos Aires style!”

Available on the album ‘Gaucho Boy’

https://www.facebook.com/Shhsounds/


TAKE THAT Flowerbed

No, this isn’t a misprint! The hidden track on the reunited Manchester boy band’s Stuart Price produced opus ‘Progress’ is an electronic gem. In a rare lead vocal for Jason Orange, he comes over all apologetic in the manner of AL STEWART over a dreamy backing track that possesses the glacial Scandinavian quality of ROYKSOPP with a sprinkling of ENO-esque textural ambience. Beginning with soothing vocoder before building to a percussive climax, this is simply quite beautiful!

Available on the album ‘Progress’

http://takethat.com/


TENEK Blinded By You

TENEK have successfully smoothed off some of their more industrial edges to deliver their most immediate and accessible song yet. A rousing chorus and a structure not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, there are further synth anthems galore on their album On The Wire with nods to the MTV-era of TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS. “Heartbeat? Get down!” Synthetic dance rock at its best.

Available on the album ‘On The Wire’

http://www.tenek.co.uk/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red

VILE ELECTRODES are a colourful trio consisting of Anais Neon, Loz Tronic and Martin Swan who formed due to an unhealthy obsession with analogue synthesizers and fetish porn. ‘Deep Red’, a title inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’, is a gorgeous seven and a half minute synth ballad that comes over like CLIENT fronting classic ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK… tremendously dramatic stuff in the vein of Statues and Stanlow!

Not yet released, view on YouTube

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


VILLA NAH Remains Of Love

Have you ever heard GARY NUMAN almost jaunty? The fantastic ‘Remains Of Love’ is the poppiest thing that the former Gary Webb never recorded. Juho Paalosmaa is next to crying in the wonderful chorus but it’s almost sounds like GARY NUMAN on prozac over Tomi Hyyppä’s crystalline melodies. With that all important air synth factor, VILLA NAH took the important elements of classic electronic pop and connected it to sharp, complimentary dance rhythms.

Available on the album ‘Origin’

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2010, updated 14th March 2017

SARAH BLACKWOOD Interview

SARAH BLACKWOOD has been a striking presence on the music scene since 1995.

First as the singer of DUBSTAR, she scored hits with lush Stephen Hague produced kitchen sink dramas such as ‘Not So Manic Now’, ‘Stars’ and ‘No More Talk’. Following three albums ‘Disgraceful’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Make It Better’ on Food Records and increasingly muted interest from a public still drunk on ‘Cool Britannia’, DUBSTAR disbanded and in 2002, Sarah was recruited to front female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE.

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, TECHNIQUE’s superb ‘You & Me’ was massively popular in the Far East via a cover version by Chinese songstress Coco Lee. They had been booked to support DEPECHE MODE in Europe when original singer Xan Tyler went AWOL.

Somewhere in Leipzig of what became a 15 date tour with Basildon’s finest, Kate and Sarah chose the name CLIENT and adopted a musikarbeiter approach in the tradition of KRAFTWERK’s ‘The Man Machine’. They also initially shunned using their real names, choosing to be mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist.

Signed to Mute Records via the Toast Hawaii imprint curated by DEPECHE MODE’s Andy Fletcher, CLIENT released two well received albums ‘Client’ (2003) and ‘City’ (2004). With their eponymous manifesto, they announced “Client… satisfaction guaranteed… innovate never imitate… we aim to please… .at your service”. This impressed all the right people and they were invited to play prestigious supports slots with electronic godfather KARL BARTOS.

Achieving greater success in Europe than in the UK with their own brand of gritty electro, CLIENT signed to German label Out Of Line who issued their last two albums ‘Heartland’ (2007) and ‘Command’ (2009) on the continent.

Meanwhile back home, they established their own Loser Friendly label and a fashion line. In the interim during 2008, Sarah issued a Client B solo EP ‘Acoustic At The Club Bar Dining’ which featured former DUBSTAR bandmate Chris Wilkie. Included were stripped down versions of both DUBSTAR and CLIENT songs plus covers of NEW ORDER’s ‘True Faith’ and THE SMITHS’ ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’.

Playing live shows with both CLIENT and DUBSTAR in Europe throughout 2010, Sarah Blackwood aka Client B gave a highly insightful interview to The Electricity Club over coffee about her influences, her career so far with her two acclaimed bands, women in electro and… Alison Goldfrapp’s breasts!!

How did you first get into electronic pop music and who inspired you?

I can remember the first I saw KRAFTWERK on ‘Top Of The Pops’.

I can’t remember how old I was, but I remember my dad getting hold of me and dragging me in front of the TV going “listen to this, this is fantastic” and that’s one memory that kinda sticks in my head.

And the other one was seeing GRACE JONES with a cigarette in her mouth… she’s not really electronic but she’s just that glacial sort of cool, I thought was she was the coolest thing ever.

When you’re kids and you’re all growing up, you all share music and my mates were really into Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston and I was like “it’s alright” . And then PET SHOP BOYS ‘West End Girls’ hit and I was like “Oh! That’s me!”. And friends who realised I liked PET SHOP BOYS said “you might like THE CURE, THE THE, DEPECHE MODE” and I got into it through all that.

But I love all sorts of music, not just electronic. But it’s more electronic that pushes my buttons, cos I was a real rock girl when I was growing up. I liked LED ZEPPELIN and things like that, I used to hang out in rockers’ pubs and now I just can’t listen to it! Just completely OD-ed on 70s excessive guitar!

And that was the whole thing about DUBSTAR, Chris Wilkie’s guitar playing was so restrained but on tour, he was sometimes “I’m so miserable, I just want to do a Jimmy Page solo just to let out all my fury! I need some catharsis”. But he just doesn’t play like that cos he’s such a modest guy that he wouldn’t play like that anyway!

I think it’s sometimes difficult to get guitarists to hold back, they’re quite egocentric.

Yeah, but Chris is not like that, he was so understated and I was always trying to push him forward in DUBSTAR but he was very low in the mix. This time I’ve gone more Chris driven.

You’ve heard this guitarist joke haven’t you? What have premature ejaculation and a guitar solo got in common? You know when it’s coming and there’s sod all you can do about it!!

Ha! Ha! I mean it’s just like that dinosaur sort of… y’know, Jimmy Page playing bloody guitar with a bow! It’s just like making noise, it’s not even clever! It’s just… UGH! Not that it’s anything against Jimmy Page cos he was a childhood idol and all that, but so was MADONNA!

You been spotted at recent YAZOO and HEAVEN 17 gigs? Are the bands of your youth still something that you’re very passionate about?

Yeah, they’re part of your fabric of your growing up.

For me it would be ABBA I think, I was a massive ABBA fan. I suppose they’re more pop than electronic, but that song MADONNA did ‘Nothing Really Matters’ on ‘Ray Of Light’, it’s so ABBA it’s just wonderful. And the new SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR song ‘Bitter Sweet’, that’s so ABBA, the harmonies! It’s what I grew up with, ABBA and THE BEATLES.

You joined TECHNIQUE in 2001 for the DEPECHE MODE tour, were you singing songs like ‘You & Me’ from the Pop Philosophy mini-album?

Yeah, that’s a great song!

I’d love to hear a recording of you singing it.

That’s a good idea! And ‘Quiet Storm’, that was a really good one!

When CLIENT first started in 2002, the musical landscape was quite different and you were fighting a battle for the synthesizer with LADYTRON, MISS KITTIN and GOLDFRAPP.

We didn’t know all this was going on. Me and Kate shut ourselves away and just started making music together. Then we took it to our publisher and he just went “Have you listened to MISS KITTIN?” and we went “No, who’s MISS KITTIN?”, “Have you listened to LADYTRON?” and we went “Who are they?”

And it was like, “oh my god”, there’s something going on out here and we felt like we were just treading in the water.

And then all the electroclash struck with a vengeance and suddenly it was PEACHES because GOLDFRAPP hadn’t actually embraced the scene at that point, they were still doing ‘Felt Mountain’, which I think really was better. I love Alison Goldfrapp’s voice, it’s great but I don’t like it when it’s all about the sound as opposed to what she’s singing about. I don’t like singers who don’t pronounce the words properly!

When you heard all about these girls, did you ever feel any kind of affinity with them like you were sisters in arms?

Yeah, I mean like the LADYTRON girls. I was a bit disappointed with them on tour cos they weren’t that friendly, but then I realised they’d been sat on a bus for three months and we hadn’t! They didn’t really want to socialise. I thought they were so cool and I was a bit starstruck by them I guess!

The lads were really friendly. But then I could see it from their point of view; when you’re felling like, really mucky and you’ve been on a bus for three months, it’s just horrible!

But the landscape has changed now…

I think we’ve paved the way but to be honest, people are seeing it as a fashion thing again, that women in electronic music is yet another passing fashion and it isn’t I’m afraid! WE’RE HERE TO STAY!!

What do you think of the recent bunch electropop girls like LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX that you helped open the doors for?

I really admire them, they have far more balls and self awareness than I had when I was their age and that helps to make them good songwriters. I’m in awe. Go girls!!

What did you think their albums?

The LITTLE BOOTS one I liked and LA ROUX, I went “oh god, it’s an 80s pastiche”, but actually it’s the LA ROUX one I’m still playing. I think she’s really got it and she’s made my DJ set. I also love LADYHAWKE.

And what do you think of the new crop of boys like MIRRORS, HURTS and VILLA NAH?

I’ve heard HURTS, it’s like JOY DIVISION meets PET SHOP BOYS so they can’t go wrong but I can’t find anything! It’s so difficult to know about music these days. I just go on iTunes and Spotify and let it lead me. That’s quite exciting, but I always end up at THROBBING GRISTLE somehow!!

CLIENT are well known for their sexy Cold War Chic. Where did the original inspiration for the uniform look come from?

Cold War Chic… oh, I like that!

Basically, it started because we didn’t know what to wear on tour with DEPECHE MODE and we just thought “we’re not trying to upstage them, we just want something that will blend us in, we don’t want to look the height of fashion, we don’t want to spend too much money and we want to feel like everyone”. Plus if they threw anything at us, we wanted it to be something that was sort of disposable so we thought of the uniforms!

It was then kind of the Miss Moneypenny thing; secretary, sexually frustrated, all repressed because I had a very religious upbringing. Kate was like “God, your childhood sounds just like ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit'”! I mean it wasn’t… my poor mum and dad, no it wasn’t! But it was kind of religious!

With the uniforms, it felt like we were going to work in the music industry and it’s a play on that as well. “Cheap cotton outfits” as Brix Smith-Start kindly observed! She came on tour with us and was so much fun. She has since re-invented herself as a successful style guru but she was one of the first iconic girl bass players… sod all the grunge girls, Brix was there first and so cool in THE FALL.

CLIENT’s success in Germany continues and you seem much happier with Out of Line Records there. Why do you think you’re more appreciated in the spiritual home of modern electronic music than in the UK?

People in the UK perceive electronic music as cheating I think. They like to see the blood sweat and tears and guitar music is seen as more emotionally honest… striking a chord on the heartstrings haha!!!

I don’t think people can appreciate the skill in electronic music… it’s more of a behind the scenes construction as opposed to an in-your-face performance and because we have no real tradition of electro, I think they think we all mime!!!!

It’s not until people like KYLIE and MADONNA use electronic music and really hit producers that people see it as integrated in pop music. But the actual women doing electronic thing, it still seems to people to be a fashion thing and it isn’t!

People just can’t seem to take it seriously. They either want to put you in the pop box or they want you to be guys in drainpipe jeans with a drug problem playing guitar… sort of four chords and the truth kind of thing!

I don’t think people can really get their heads round women doing it for themselves, running their own record label or running their own management or running their own merch business which is what me and Kate do. Y’know; doing our own DJ-ing, production, all that!

One thing I’ve experienced on fan forums and talking to supposed electro fans on the scene is they can’t seem to accept women on synthesizers. One person compared women doing electro to straight men doing show tunes or white men doing rap! Have you experienced that kind of prejudice?

I think in the UK, yeah! People don’t take you seriously because they think there’s a bloke behind the scenes pulling all the strings. And they think guys are writing the songs! We do have a bit of help with the programming from Joe Wilson from SNEAKER PIMPS. He is brilliant, his drum programming is absolute genius. A lot of people didn’t get songs like ‘Son Of A Gun’ until they hear it live. That drum loop is just superb!

All of SNEAKER PIMPS are doing alright for themselves aren’t they? Kelli Ali’s solo, Chris Corner is IAMX and Liam Howe is producing MARINA & THE DIAMONDS.

Yeah, Chris Corner is so good. His voice is incredible, he leaps around on stage and people think that he’s miming because he doesn’t miss his pitch. All I have to do is clap my hands above my head and my pitch is like… everywhere, let alone dancing!

Oh, I didn’t know that was Liam was producing MARINA & THE DIAMONDS, good for him.

How do you think the internet has helped sustain CLIENT’s profile and fanbase internationally?

Without the internet, we’d be nothing. We really embraced it. CLIENT were one of the first bands to get on MySpace. We just went for it because we saw it as a marketing tool as opposed to something to be shoved under the carpet and be scared of.

But it does p*ss me off with all the illegal downloading because how are we supposed to survive? Never would I have thought there would be someone talking in the House of Parliament for musicians but this guy from BIG COUNTRY just said “Imagine if we just opened the doors to HMV and come and take what you want?”

You’re working with Steve Hillier and Chris Wilkie again as DUBSTAR with a cover of THE PASSIONS ‘I’m In Love With A German Filmstar’ being your first release as part of a project for Amnesty International Catalunya. How did this come about and how will this develop alongside CLIENT?

Somebody approached Steve and he said to me and Chris “do you fancy doing this?” and we were like “OK”. So we all had to go away and think of what songs we wanted to do. I’d just done this thing for KIRSTY MacCOLL with Mark Nevin who wrote with her. And he asked me to sing some songs when it was a tribute for Kirsty on her birthday.

So I did that and that was the scariest gig of my life because her ex-husband Steve Lillywhite was there. My knees were just shaking. I’m a fan myself and I think she’s very underrated, as a lyricist she’s just amazing. What a f*cking tragedy!

So I said I’d love to do ‘New England’ or ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’. Chris wanted to do ‘Under My Thumb’ because he loves THE ROLLING STONES. Steve said why don’t we do THE PASSIONS? And this is where the three of us come from. So Steve did this backing track but it was a really good song to sing. We played it to THE PASSIONS and they really liked it as well.

Is there any more DUBSTAR stuff coming up?

Yeah, that kind of got us back together because we had a false start. We’ve done a few more songs and demos. We’ll just see what happens. It so difficult because which way do you turn? Do you take them to a major or just do it yourself on the internet? We’re just getting a body of work together and we’ll think about playing live and see what unfolds rather than trying to force anything. We’ll see if anything comes to us.

I saw you in DUBSTAR in Cambridge supporting ERASURE in 1996. You didn’t look very happy?

Really? I remember that gig… bloody hell, I was terrified! No, I was never happy! DUBSTAR songs were always very hard to sing. And Steve did confess to me two weeks ago that he use to make them deliberately hard for me as a sort of game! *laughs*

That bit in ‘I Will Be Your Girlfriend’, “I’m the person with a plan” … I mean bloody hell! Incredible strain on the voice! Just having to jump around! I get so frustrated by my lack of range. The things I want to do with my voice, it’s just AAAGH! Can’t do it! Just really drives me insane! I think my voice is just there to sing words to cynical love songs!

Then in 2003, I saw CLIENT supporting KARL BARTOS and I remember being pleasantly surprised how happy you were on stage. You were winking to the crowd and smiling which never seemed to be the case with DUBSTAR?

No, it was always quite fraught in DUBSTAR. There was always some trauma going on and we were all hungover because we did an awful lot of drinking in those days! Another reason DUBSTAR never did too well because we were never properly managed. We had six managers in seven years and the time we did really well, we were managed by Food Records.

I loved a DUBSTAR B-side called ‘Unchained Monologue’…

We always took a lot of care with the B-sides. One we did called ‘View From Here’ should never have been a B-side. ‘Unchained Monologue’ was me and Steve at our most cynical!

With CLIENT and DUBSTAR, you’ve done a lot of cover versions from acts as varied as BILLY BRAGG, BILLY IDOL, PET SHOP BOYS, GARY NUMAN, NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS, ADAM ANT, ASTRUD GILBERTO and CHARLES AZNAVOUR. Of course, ‘Not So Manic Now’ was a cover too, it was originally by BRICK SUPPLY. You must have a very diverse record collection?

Yes, I’ve got all sorts. I like 60s Garage, cheesy house is a guilty pleasure. I like Country music; Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams!

Where did THE LIBERTINES collaborations with CLIENT on City come from? As an electro fan, I found that alienated me.

Well, Kate’s husband Alan McGee was managing The LIBERTINES.

Carl Barat and Pete Doherty really liked us. They called me ‘Sarah Bapples’ because I was quite fat in DUBSTAR and had quite big boobs.

Ha! Ha! I tell you who’s got enormous boobs… MARINA & THE DIAMONDS! They are f*cking huge!

Lucky girl… so’s Alison Goldfrapp! She’s got great legs! *laughs*

DUBSTAR launched right in the middle of guitar-led Britpop explosion with a polished synthesized sound. Often in your career, you do seem to find yourself regularly in the face of adversity from the real music police. Is the acoustic thing possibly motivated by a need to prove yourself?

Yes, I just think a good song will work if you can do it acoustically. Just like ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, me and Chris did that acoustically at a club in Cologne. The acoustic gigs are just something to keep my hand in.

You’ve sung with some electro legends such as GARY NUMAN on ‘Redirected Mail ‘with DUBSTAR and DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore on ‘Overdrive’ with CLIENT…

I have actually! A lot of the new DUBSTAR stuff is being done on GARY NUMAN’s electric piano that Steve bought off him. I was in Manchester when we recorded Redirected Mail but Steve and Chris actually went down to Gary’s and sat and had ham and chips with him. They had a right laugh and had a really good time.

And then the Martin Gore one, that came about because Andy Fletcher played him some demos and Martin said he liked ‘Overdrive’. So Kate said to me “You’ve got lovely handwriting, you write him a letter” so I wrote him a letter going “Dear Martin… “ *laughs*

And the next thing we knew, Martin had this newly set-up studio and recorded himself. The thing is, when we mixed the two vocals together, that was a moment! I didn’t know how it was going to work but when you heard it, it was like “woo!”… it was a bit spine tingling really!

BBC6 Music recently arranged live collaborations for LITTLE BOOTS with GARY NUMAN and LA ROUX with HEAVEN 17. You’ve kind of “done it before” but is there anyone who you’d like to perform with, either as CLIENT or DUBSTAR?

I think most of them are dead actually! I’m a massive admirer of JANIS JOPLIN. Anyone who can just open their mouth and sing in two octaves is just incredible. BJORK is amazing, but sometimes it gets on my nerves… f*cking sing properly!!

Actually, Stephen Hague always said me and Barney Sumner of NEW ORDER would be good together. I think his voice is just raw and honest. And that honesty I admire far more than vocal gymnastics!! With CLIENT, the song kind of formulates as it’s going along and that’s a really exciting process. I like flying by the seat of my pants and you’re just making stuff up. I like that reaching for something but it’s not quite formed.

I hate it when emotion is perceived as vocal dexterity. It’s like w*nky guitar solos to me! I can’t bear that, it’s just showing off and it’s not about the song. You read the lyrics and you appreciate the lyrics and you just try and convey them in a way that’s sincere, and mean it. And I think that’s what singing’s about. It’s not about “hey, listen to me, I can sing in top C and then in E flat.”

You’ve toured with MARSHEAUX in 2007 who are also your Out Of Line label mates. How was that tour and how do you like the concept of forming an all-girl electro supergroup with them?

All in the uniforms? They’re lovely! They sort of copied us, but it was the biggest form of flattery because they’re such lovely girls! It’s nice to think I’ve inspired something! We do love MARSHEAUX, it was a really nice tour actually that!

I remember the guy from the agency came back and there was like MARSHEAUX in various states of undress; there was me, Kate and Charlotte Heatherley from ASH in various states of undress, and there was our web designer Corinna Sanow and her girlfriend having a massage in the corner! And the guy walked in and he was like “oh my god”… he must have thought it was like Sodom and Gomorrah or something! He was just like “bloody hell!” *laughs*

You just painted a really amazing picture for me there… this supergroup has got to happen!! Can I have a backstage pass? *laughs* So tell us about your brilliant collaboration with WILLIAM ORBIT entitled ‘White Night’. What’s going to happen with that?

I don’t know, we put it on Soundcloud. It got put out on his album but not with me. Ironically, it was a song that Brix Smith-Start sang as well, she did a version of it. It was written by one of William’s really good mates and we had an afternoon working together… he looked at my notebooks and said “ooh, they’re very full of pain!”, I was like “oooh, brilliant!”. It was so lovely but he’s so in demand!

But I do think eventually, we should do something together because just his way of production. DUBSTAR were always massive fans but BLUR got to work with William on 13 because we said “please can we work with WILLIAM ORBIT?” and Andy Ross of Food Records said “yeah-yeah-yeah but you’re not ready for an album but BLUR are!”. And then William was going to do us and MADONNA stepped in… that was ‘Ray Of Light’! And DUBSTAR split!

Was that just a natural parting of ways? Musical or personal differences?

I think at the time, me and Steve weren’t getting on at all! We were both really jealous of each other. He was jealous of me singing and I was jealous of him being able to write songs! And the two things were just… we’ve made friends again now and everything but like he said to me the other day, he’d deliberately try and make the songs difficult as a kind of test which I think is quite hilarious actually. It’s very sweet of him to admit it… he was like “what the f*ck was I doing, making you jump from that to that?”

I was neurotic on tour with DUBSTAR. I get a bit like that with CLIENT as well but as soon as you get nervous, your neck tenses up, your vocal chords tense up so you’ve got to stay as unstressed as possible and just focus. On tour, it starts the moment you wake up that you’ve got to perform! Whatever happens during the day, that is the end goal so everything lead up to that.

What’s immediately happening next for you?

I am DJ-ing throughout UK and Europe. I have just finished some gigs supporting Alan Wilder’s RECOIL project. I’m doing some writing, some acoustic gigs with Chris… in fact the next one is June 6th in Hamburg at a book launch for Ian Curtis. I think it’s going to be a really lovely event.

What are your current favourite songs or albums, electronic or otherwise?

I bribe and bargain myself into running with the promise of listening to music!

So at the moment, I’m listening to JERMAINE STEWART’s ‘We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off’!! It’s a brilliant song! I’ve got ROISIN MURPHY ‘You Know Me Better’, SNEAKY SOUND SYSTEM ‘Cancer City’, ‘Romeo’ by DONNA SUMMER, ‘Physical Attraction’ by MADONNA. Also some CHROMEO mixed by TIGA. That’s my running playlist for today!

There’s also a great song I like by a French girl named SOKO called ‘I’ll Kill Her’. It’s a girl and a guitar, check that out, it’s great! It’s how KATE NASH should have been!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Sarah Blackwood

http://dubstarofficial.co/

https://www.facebook.com/dubstaruk/

https://twitter.com/dubstarUK


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th May 2010, updated 23rd July 2017

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