Tag: Xan Tyler

GLASSHOUSE We Are The Light & The Dark

With GLASSHOUSE, Xan Tyler and David Liddell have in their words created “A journey through orchestral scores combined with dark underground techno and jazz.”

Xan Tyler is perhaps best known in electronic music circles as the vocalist of cult synthpop duo TECHNIQUE. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, the concept was a female interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS crossed with NEW ORDER’s post-punk edge. More recently, Tyler’s work has been of a more traditional nature, having contributed to the latest album by folk artists Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds.

Meanwhile David Liddell is a renowned classically trained trombonist who has worked with personalities as diverse as Roger Daltrey, Boy George and Pharrell Williams.

The debut GLASSHOUSE EP ‘We Are The Light & The Dark’ is their love letter to the human race and “asks the listener to restore their faith in mankind and embrace beauty and light.”

Opening song ‘Echo Chamber’ is a delightful return to the technopop reminiscent of Tyler’s time in TECHNIQUE, with a great sequenced bassline and an enticing off-beat. It vocally recalls a time when Sarahs Cracknell, Blackwood and Nixey ruled, with the string quintet providing a nice compliment next to the electronics.

The glistening synth tones on ‘Reward & Rewind’ dress a jazzier swing with Tyler’s sweet folkier tones unusually placed next to rapper MWS who announces it’s “time to rest”

The ‘We Are The Light &The Dark’ title song chimes beautifully aided by harp-like tones, reminiscent of Hannah Peel; “You are the oxygen” Tyler affectionately coos, highlighting the Ying and Yang of romantic relationships accompanied by a rich orchestrated backdrop and a flugel horn solo from Reuben Fowler towards the end.

Over an electric piano intro, ‘The Temperature Is Rising’ sees a steady beat joining in, building to a gently chilled grooving dance tune which is far superior to much of the beach mix nonsense that afflicts summer holidays. Taking things down, the ballad ‘Cry Out’ closes proceedings with some trombone, but is perhaps the less convincing track on the EP.

Combining synths and brass like Hannah Peel did on ‘Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia’ but in a more traditional song based format, GLASSHOUSE have found themselves a unique combination and this EP is well worth your time.


‘We Are The Light & The Dark’ is available as a download EP direct from https://glasshousetunes.bandcamp.com/album/we-are-the-light-and-the-dark

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Kelly McIntyre
31st August 2018, updated 7th April 2019

XAN TYLER Stop The Clock

XAN TYLER is perhaps best known as the vocalist of cult synthpop duo TECHNIQUE.

xan tyler-03Together with multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, their concept was a female PET SHOP BOYS crossed with NEW ORDER.

The pair had two minor hit singles ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘You & Me’ in 1999, both under the auspices of acclaimed producer Stephen Hague.

Having worked on a variety of projects since then, Tyler released an electro-acoustic hybrid EP ‘Into The Blue’ at the end of 2014.

Produced by Stuart Crossland, she told The Electricity Club: “I’ve always listened to wide mix of different music and I wanted to make something that reflected my varied tastes”. One of the key songs ‘Stop The Clock’ has just had a brand new video created by Alice Emily Baird to accompany its sublime beats and beautiful dreamy vocals.

Recalling the more recent synth tinged work of HANNAH PEEL’s ‘Fabricstate’ EP, ‘Stop The Clock’ is perfect listening for the onset of Autumn. “I’m aware that the tracks are all quite different from each other” said Tyler about the songs on her recent EP, “but I think there is a thread running through them that ties them together. My voice and writing style alongside Stuart’s incredible production… I think it works, hopefully others will too”.


xan tyler-into The Blue‘Stop The Clock’ from the ‘Into The Blue’ EP is available at
https://xantyler.bandcamp.com/releases

http://xantyler.com/

https://www.facebook.com/XanTylerMusic

https://twitter.com/XanTyler

https://soundcloud.com/xan-tyler


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Kelly McIntyre
2nd September 2015

The Electricity Club’s 2014 End Of Year Review

Integrated Circuits

Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,

This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.

While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012. But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.

Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.

Karl Bartos-Koeln2014-03Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’ to which The Electricity Club contributed liner notes. CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.

And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.

MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014. Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder. MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.

Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.

Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.

Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’. He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.

And to cap it all, HEAVEN 17 presented ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’ with BLANCMANGE, proving that heritage events could be both nostalgic and credible if the line-up was right.

After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.

CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material. Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.

The enduring legacy of many of these veterans was celebrated in ‘Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’, possibly the best book of its kind about that musical era which the Americans like to refer to as New Wave. Featuring brand new interviews with key protagonists like GARY NUMAN, OMD, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, YAZOO, ULTRAVOX, A-HA and HEAVEN 17, it was a high quality publication that made up for some previously clumsy attempts by others at documenting the period.

Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER. Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.

It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.

In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.

imogen + taylorThe delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.

TEC commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition. By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.

In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.

One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY.

Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.

Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.

The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity.

The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.

Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015. KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.

From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.

Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life curated possibly the best electronic event of the year with ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ at London’s 93 Feet East.

In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered one of the best debut albums of the year in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE.

Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska. And all this while TEC bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!!

‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.

Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.

TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…

kid moxie-twin peaksMARSHEAUX celebrated ten years in the business with a compilation called ‘Odyssey’ on the prestigious Les Disques Du Crépuscule label.

They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety.

Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach.

Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.

From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.

VILE ELECTRODES confirmed their position as the best independent electronic act in the UK currently when they snared not one, but two Schallwelle Awards in Germany.

To celebrate the first anniversary of their brilliant debut album ‘The future through a lens’, the sparkling duo of Anais Neon and Martin Swan played TEC003 alongside DEPECHE MODE tribute act SPEAK & SPELL for a wonderful evening that also featured SARAH BLACKWOOD.

Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.

Analog Angel-in-profilePossibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’. Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.

Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.

Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.

Alt-Fest-cancelledHowever, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, TEC found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!

Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!

As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out: “Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.

However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.

But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out to TEC: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”

The Electricity Club is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.

TEC’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.

As Client A put it frankly to TEC in the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”

Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”

So TEC considers what music it features very, very carefully. TEC may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2014

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE


KAREN BUXTON

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES Empire Of Wolves
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Jazz Café
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Not In Love
Most Promising New Act: EURASIANEYES


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2014

XAN TYLER Interview

xan tyler-Kelly McintyreXAN TYLER is perhaps best known in electronic music circles as the vocalist of cult synthpop duo TECHNIQUE.

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, the concept was a female interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS crossed with NEW ORDER’s post-punk edge, hence the moniker after the Mancunian quartet’s fifth album.

The pair had two minor hit singles ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘You & Me’ in 1999, both under the auspices of acclaimed producer Stephen Hague while a mini-album ‘Pop Philosophy’ belatedly came out in 2001. As a result, TECHNIQUE were booked to support DEPECHE MODE in Europe but Tyler was unavailable for the tour, rumoured to be AWOL. DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited to replace her and the new duo eventually became CLIENT in 2002.

Meanwhile, XAN TYLER continued to work on a variety of projects and has now unleashed a new EP ‘Into The Blue’ which adopts an electro-acoustic flavour not entirely dissimilar from HANNAH PEEL, particularly on the spacious piano-led title track. The jazz flavoured ‘Rainmaker’ could be a British take on JULEE CRUISE while ‘No One Like You’ is a pretty, atmospheric number with sweeps and beeps alongside some acoustic strumming. ‘Stop The Clock’ adds a drum machine to the EP’s template but ‘If’ takes an even more electronic stance with the beats taking a more prominent role. Closing with ‘This Room’, it is this one that perhaps is most reminiscent of TECHNIQUE despite the six string picking.

Now based in Scotland, XAN TYLER kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about her career, the new approach to her music and heading ‘Into The Blue’…

You first became known to the synth world as part of TECHNIQUE with Kate Holmes. How do you look back on that time?

Really fondly… before that, I had been a jobbing singer, touring and doing the odd session here and there. Then all of a sudden I was doing live telly, making expensive videos and partying on expenses. I had a great time.

TECHNIQUE were signed to Creation but were out of place with the post-Britpop mood of the times. The music environment was not as sympathetic to electronic pop, particularly fronted by women, then as it is now… the press appeared to be quite hostile to you?

Well, not all of them were hostile, we did get some great press but yeah, it was tough here in the UK. We did better in Europe and Japan in that respect. The British press just couldn’t get past Kate’s relationship with Alan McGee. Despite her being an established artist in her own right years before she met Alan, the British press were just obsessed with it and it really got in the way. Also, I do think musically we were a bit early. We paved the way for others… including CLIENT!

But TECHNIQUE were vindicated when ‘You & Me’ became a hit in China via a cover version by COCO LEE in 2000?

Well, it was covered by Coco, so obviously I had very little to do with that but I was chuffed for Kate because she did well out of it. It was a nice two fingers up to all the doubters.

TECHNIQUE pop philosophyTECHNIQUE worked with Stephen Hague and seven tracks appeared on the ‘Pop Philosophy’ mini-album via Poptones in 2001 after Creation folded. Mr Hague is known for his ‘painstaking’ approach’, how close were you to finishing a full length album?

‘Pop Philosophy’ was always going to be a mini-album. It’s a cracking little album and I still get messages from TECHNIQUE fans that say they listen to it often. Stephen Hague is a genius.

TECHNIQUE supported DEPECHE MODE on tour in 2001 but you were not part of it and the group eventually morphed into CLIENT. What’s your side of the story and do you have any regrets?

At the time, I was working with TIMO MAAS on Positiva and I was involved with a club night in London that clashed with the tour. It was only one night that clashed as I remember and with hindsight I probably shouldn’t have blown out the whole DM tour for it but no, I don’t regret it. That time was an important turning point for me personally and career-wise… it was meant to be. If Sarah Blackwood hadn’t come in at that point, CLIENT wouldn’t have happened… that was also meant to be. Kate and I wouldn’t have evolved into CLIENT. Besides, if I had done the tour, I wouldn’t have had the enjoyment of reading press reports that described me as AWOL!

You subsequently worked in the dance scene. How did you find this compared with TECHNIQUE and which of your tracks/collaborations were your particular highlights?

It wasn’t all dance music after TECHNIQUE. I also did a dub album with MAD PROFESSOR, which featured a guest vocal from LEE SCRATCH PERRY. That was released on Poptones too.

ORINOKO was the highlight of my dance chapter. I collaborated with TIMO MAAS and MARTIN BUTTRICH on that track and at the time, the two of them were massive. Positiva was a really cool label and they were putting out amazing stuff – it was nice being a part of that scene.

TECHNIQUE 1999In 2011, there came the surprising news that you were to join CLIENT. But what happened there?

It was after Sarah had left CLIENT and I visited Kate in Wales. At the time, Kate was busy setting up her Client London brand but she knew she wanted to do another album and that there might be a tour. She asked me if I would stand in on any gigs and I said yes. It was only ever going to be for live shows and as it turned out nothing came in before the start of the album. Kate and I are good mates. Who knows, we might collaborate again in the future.

You’ve finally gone solo and have a brand new EP ‘Into the Blue’ which, while having an electronic base, explores more acoustic territory?

Yeah, I’ve always listened to wide mix of different music and I wanted to make something that reflected my varied tastes. Stuart Crossland (producer) and I were involved in the London underground scene near the end of my involvement with TECHNIQUE. We shared a lot of ideas about music across a lot of genres and it was only a matter of time before we would collaborate on some kind of creative project. We have bonded over everything from folk, pop, deep house to techno. We didn’t feel we needed to restrict ourselves during this project. We finally got together in 2013 when Stuart found time from his busy schedule at Artspace Studios. It was a collaboration that was destined to happen and it brought together a whole load of influences and artists to create an interesting mix of sounds.

What is the story behind ‘This Room’, which is probably the track that’s a good entry point for anyone who has been aware of your previous work?

I actually feel any of the last three songs on the EP are a good starting point for those people as they are all more rooted in an electronic vein.

‘This Room’ is about a break up but it’s also about the sense you can get when you’re in a relationship that you’ve lost yourself and don’t recognise who you once were. The industrial noises and beats really give a sense of that loneliness. But above and beyond, it’s simply a really good dance track.

xan tyler-01What are your particular favourites from the ‘Into the Blue’ EP and why?

The first track, ‘Into the Blue’ is about strength and courage coming from a delicate source. I wanted it to be spacious and light. When the flugelhorn and trombone come in during the chorus it feels bright and hopeful. I love that moment because it sounds exactly the way I heard it in my head when I wrote it!

Stuart and I both wanted a retro sound for ‘Rainmaker’ and Jamie Fisher came in and put down these incredible Mark Ronson-esque drums. They are perfection.

On ‘No One Like You’ I really love the double bass played by Andy Tolman. The song is about unrequited love and somehow the double bass gives both sadness and hope. It’s lovely. I’ll never tire of hearing those horns (Titch Walker and Kieron O’Neill) kick in either… I’m a sucker for a horn section!

‘If’ is a bit of a nod to James Figurine (DNTEL) who Stuart and I both rate. I really love the production of that track and the beats are sublime.

I’m aware that the tracks are all quite different from each other but I think there is a thread running through them that ties them together. My voice and writing style alongside Stuart’s incredible production… I think it works, hopefully others will too.

This is your first release without label backing. So what is the future for an artist of your position in this modern music world? Is it crowdfunding? Or does an artist now have to aim for it to perhaps be a sustainable hobby while juggling a day job?

It’s really hard to make money through music now more than ever. The industry is going through a shake up and big bands are giving away their music. Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!

As for me, I’m putting together a live set and rehearsing for gigs next year. I’m promoting this EP and already writing songs for the next one.


xan tyler-03The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to XAN TYLER

Special thanks also to Sara Jones Management

‘Into The Blue’ is available via https://xantyler.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-blue-ep

http://xantyler.com/

https://www.facebook.com/XanTylerMusic

https://soundcloud.com/xan-tyler


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Kelly McIntyre
7th December 2014, updated 27th February 2015

A Beginner’s Guide To STEPHEN HAGUE

STEPHEN HAGUE-01Portland born STEPHEN HAGUE first came to musical prominence in 1984 with his production of MALCOLM McLAREN’s ‘Madam Butterfly’, an incongruous blend of opera, soul, hip-hop and electropop.

Although an experienced hand having already notched up a hit with the breakdancing novelty record ‘(Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew’ in 1983, the cinematic arthouse resonance of ‘Madam Butterfly’ allowed Hague to be taken more seriously musically. As one of the first advocates of digital recording, he was seen as someone who could helm a modern polished sound to maximise the dynamics of the then new compact disc medium.

Two acts who were listening closely were OMD and PET SHOP BOYS. Hague’s first full album production was OMD’s ‘Crush’ in 1985 but it was with his re-recorded version of ‘West End Girls’ that PET SHOP BOYS hit No1 in both the UK and US in 1986.

Interestingly, the character of its distinctive bass synth was achieved by Hague coercing a reluctant Chris Lowe into hand playing the riff while the track fulfilled Neil Tennant’s concept of the duo sounding “like an English rap group”. Hague’s work on ‘West End Girls’ made him a producer-in-demand and started an imperial phase which mirrored that of PET SHOP BOYS themselves.

Although Hague was not involved in OMD’s massive American hit ‘If You Leave’ from the John Hughes teen flick ‘Pretty In Pink’, he was the music supervisor of Hughes’ next film ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ which included PROPAGANDA and FURNITURE in the soundtrack. He then went through a particularly prolific period with a variety of synth flavoured acts such as NEW ORDER, ERASURE, COMMUNARDS and MARC ALMOND, while also working with artists as diverse as PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, JANE WIEDLIN, ONE DOVE and BROTHER BEYOND.

One of the main criticisms of Stephen Hague’s sound was that his wash of digital synths and smoothed over percussion lacked edge. But as Hague would argue, pop music “carries certain traditions of structure and expectation”. Thus his work made considerations to the placement of instruments and voices, while giving any new technology an organic touch that still sounded positively futuristic.

Hague later got his foot in the door occasionally during the Britpop era with productions for DUBSTAR, BLUR, JAMES and even MANIC STREET PREACHERS. But it is electronic pop that Hague is best known for and his best work has certainly pointed to an affinity with synthetic textures.

So quite why REM asked him to produce a demo, only for them to then complain that the results were too synth heavy, remains a mystery.

When The Electricity Club first acquired a car, a mix tape conceived around Hague’s various productions was the first cassette created for its incumbent entertainment system. In effect, this was a various artists compilation but with a wonderfully cohesive sonic core.

So what eighteen songs would go on an imaginary compilation today as an introduction to the work of this under rated, but very gifted producer? Listed in chronological order with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s choices…


MALCOLM McLAREN Madam Butterfly (1984)

MALCOLM McLAREN Madam ButterflyBased on Puccini’s iconic work, ‘Madam Butterfly’ became Stephen Hague’s production showcase with DX slap bass and a reverberating drum machine sitting next to haunting synth motifs and a highly emotive aria. With the late McLaren in the role of Colonel Pinkerton, the beautifully soulful vocal of Deborah Cole as Cho-Cho San and operatic stylings from Betty-Ann White provided a refreshing sound that was in its way, quietly subversive as one of the most beautiful records from the early digital era.

Available on the album ‘Fans’ via Charisma Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/24495-Malcolm-McLaren


OMD (Forever) Live & Die (1986)

OMD ForeverInspired by the steadfast groove of GRACE JONES’ ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, ‘(Forever) Live And Die’ had been written alone by Paul Humphreys about missing his then wife Maureen who was away working on a ballet. A hit in both the UK and US, while the song pointed more towards the Trans-Atlantic aspirations of OMD following the success of ‘If You Leave’ in America, it still possessed elements of their Kling Klang inspired roots with KRAFTWERK’s melodic sensibilities and Vako Orchestron derived choirs looming in the mix.

Available on the album ‘The Pacific Age’ via Virgin Records

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


PET SHOP BOYS & DUSTY SPRINGFIELD What Have I Done To Deserve This? (1987)

PET SHOP BOYS what have i doneOriginally slated for ‘Please’, ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ sounded like three songs morphed into one, but that was because it actually was. Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant did their respective pop art sections while Allie Willis who co-wrote ‘Boogie Wonderland’ came up with the rather blissful chorus. The song went into another sphere once DUSTY SPRINGFIELD was brought out of semi-retirement to add her voice and ad-libs. The smoothness of Hague’s production provided the perfect backing.

Available on the album ‘Actually’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


NEW ORDER True Faith (1987)

true faith‘True Faith’ was a superb indicator of how Hague could transform a band without necessarily hindering their ethos. During recording, Hague insisted that Bernard Sumner laid down his lead vocal early on in the session so that the instrumentation could be built around his voice. The result was that there was a more subtle dynamic space in the finished track with the occasionally messy wall of sound effect that had been a characteristic of NEW ORDER’s self-produced recordings reduced.

Available on the album ‘Singles’ via WEA Records

http://newordernow.net/


CLIMIE FISHER Love Changes (1988)

CLIMIE FISHER Love changesIf a young ROD STEWART had joined PET SHOP BOYS, what would the end result have sounded like? It might probably have been like CLIMIE FISHER. The late Rob Fisher had Stateside success in NAKED EYES while Simon Climie had proved his worth with his No1 song ‘I Knew You Were Waiting’ for ARETHA FRANLKIN and GEORGE MICHAEL. ‘Love Changes (Everything)’ continued that latter tradition, but with slightly more synthesized backing.

Available on the album ‘Everything’ via Edsel Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/112925-Climie-Fisher


ERASURE A Little Respect (1988)

ERASURE A Little RespectProbably Hague’s best known production worldwide, ‘A Little Respect’ was perfection from the off with its combination of Vince Clarke’s pulsing programming and strummed acoustic guitar. As the busy rhythmical engine kicked in, Andy Bell went from a tenor to a piercing falsetto to provide the dynamic highs and lows that are always omnipresent in all the great pop songs like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ and ‘Careless Whisper’.

Available on the album ‘The Innocents’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


HOLLY JOHNSON Heaven’s Here (1989)

hollyjohnson-heavens-hereThe former FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD front man’s first hit ‘Love Train’ had been mixed by Hague but the producer was fully involved in the recording of ‘Heaven’s Here’, a stand out track from the ‘Blast’ album which also later came out as a single. A lush love ballad, ‘Heaven’s Here’ took a leaf out of ERASURE’s vocal sensitivity to allow Johnson to present a less in-yer-face vocal style that perhaps he had not really visited since ‘The Power Of Love’.

Available on the album ‘Blast’ via Cherry Red Records

http://http://www.hollyjohnson.com/


JIMMY SOMERVILLE Heaven Here On Earth (1989)

Jimmy-Somerville-–-Read-My-LipsHaving worked on COMMUNARDS’ ‘Red’ opus which spawned a rather fabulous cover of ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, Stephen Hague was often a willing conspirator in aiding Somerville’s reputation as a falsetto Karaoke machine. However, ‘Heaven Here On Earth’ was a beautifully sumptuous layered self-composition from Somerville that was one of the best tracks on his debut solo offering ‘Read My Lips’. The staccato voice samples towards the song’s conclusion provided an enticing lift.

Available on the album ‘Read My Lips’ via Polygram Records

http://www.jimmysommerville.co.uk/


MARC ALMOND A Lover Spurned (1990)

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWith an epic orchestration and the ghost of Brel deep within its arrangement, ‘A Lover Spurned’ could only have been a single by MARC ALMOND. A forerunner to the Trevor Horn assisted second side concept of ‘Tenement Symphony’ that was to come a year later, ‘A Lover Spurned’ was Almond at his narrative best with ‘The Life & Loves Of A She-Devil’ actress Julie T Wallace giving a stern spoken cameo as the title character that added a ‘Fatal Attraction’ menace to proceedings.

Available on the album ‘Hits & Pieces’ via Universal Music

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


BANDERAS This Is Your Life (1991)

BANDERAS This is your lifeBANDERAS were vocalist Caroline Buckley and instrumentalist Sally Herbert and ‘This Is Your Life’ with its sample from GRACE JONES ‘Crack Attack’ had a distinct Pet Shop Girls behavioural vibe to it. There was also the added bonus of Johnny Marr on rhythm guitar plus a terrific middle eight section featuring Bernard Sumner on backing vocals before an emotive synth solo. “There is no rehearsal, no second chance” sang Buckley and Sumner rather prophetically as there were sadly to be no more hits…

Available on the album ‘Ripe’ via London Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/31185-Banderas


SIOUXIE & THE BANSHEES Kiss Them For Me (1991)

SIOUXSIE Kiss Them For MeIt seemed a strange pairing but what Stephen Hague brought to The Banshees was an exotic Middle Eastern sheen driven by synthesizers that was complimented by some sparkling rhythm guitar. Long standing fans were outraged but ‘Kiss Them For Me’ possessed an accessibility that prised away some of the perceived threatening spectres of their previous work. Siouxsie Sioux may have been unhappy with the ‘Superstition’ album overall, but it yielded a huge US hit.

Available on the album ‘Superstition’ via Universal Music

http://www.siouxsieandthebanshees.co.uk/


ELECTRONIC Disappointed (1992)

ELECTRONIC DisappointedThe join between NEW ORDER and PET SHOP BOYS became totally blurred with this Europop styled number inspired by the French pop hit ‘Désenchantée’ by MYLENE FARMER. The nucleus of Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr were joined by occasional member Neil Tennant on lead vocals for this interim single. The effect of Stephen Hague’s input can be heard markedly on the two versions offered on the CD single; ELECTRONIC’s original mix was effectively a high quality demo. However, Hague’s pop sensibilities transformed ‘Disappointed’ into a fully functioning hit single.

Available on the album ‘Get The Message’ via EMI Records

http://www.feeleverybeat.co.uk/


THE OTHER TWO Selfish (1993)

The-Other-Two-Selfish-102742From the side project of NEW ORDER’s Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris, ‘Selfish’ was another exquisite Stephen Hague production with its rich synthetic strings and lively but unobtrusive machine driven rhythms. Gilbert’s resigned vocal about “someone I hate” added to the inherent melancholy. Meanwhile the simulated acoustic guitar solo could easily have been represented by some Hooky bass had this number been a NEW ORDER recording, such was its melodic but understated quality.

Available on the album ‘And You’ via LTM Records

http://theothertwo.co.uk/


BLUR To The End (1994)

BLUR To The EndImagine MARC ALMOND impersonating ANTHONY NEWLEY with a Gallic twist? Like some obscure monochromatic Nouvelle Vague movie theme, the esoteric nature of ‘To The End’ needed a lusher orchestrated treatment than for BLUR’s usual mockney Britpop, so Hague was recruited to produce it. Given added authenticity by Laetitia Sadier from STEREOLAB’s sanguine “Jusqu’a la fin – En plein soleil” and Hague’s accordion playing, ‘To The End’ was popular with many casual listeners.

Available on the album ‘The Best Of’ via Food Records

http://www.blur.co.uk/


DUBSTAR Stars (1995)

DUBSTAR StarsGlorious string synths, rich bass and contemporary beats accompanied Sarah Blackwood’s girl-next-door vocal on DUBSTAR’s biggest UK hit single. The lyrical kitchen sink dramatics fitted well with the lush backing of ‘Stars’ as the trio stood on the bridge between synthpop and Cool Britannia. Hague produced a second album ‘Goodbye’ for DUBSTAR while he also continued his association with Blackwood later on when she formed CLIENT.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


TECHNIQUE You & Me (1999)

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, TECHNIQUE were a female interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS crossed with NEW ORDER’s post-punk edge. The usual Hague poptastic trademarks were present on ‘You & Me’ and while not a hit in the UK, it was in the Far East via a cover version by COCO LEE. TECHNIQUE were booked to support DEPECHE MODE in Europe but when singer Xan Tyler went left, DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited… that duo morphed into CLIENT…

Available on the mini-album ‘Pop Philosophy’ via PopTones

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Technique


A-HA You Wanted More (2002)

a-ha_Lifelines-coverA-HA were undergoing a career renaissance following ‘Minor Earth:Major Sky’. Stephen Hague produced four tracks on the follow-up ‘Lifelines’, the best of which was ‘You Wanted More’. Morten Harket had actually worked with Hague previously on a cover of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ for the ‘Coneheads’ soundtrack. So with A-HA’s lush melancholic pop drama, the artistic union with Hague was particularly apt. Harket hit his marvellous falsetto in the chorus while a gospel sample added a strange twist.

Available on the album ‘Lifelines’ via WEA Records

http://a-ha.com/


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Thank You (2011)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Thank YouOne of two tracks Hague co-wrote and recorded for Ms Brücken’s ‘ComBined’ retrospective collection, ‘Thank You’ was like a Bond Theme reimagined by MASSIVE ATTACK, held together by a sumptuous percussive mood. The fruitful partnership led to a full album of reinterpretations entitled ‘The Lost Are Found’ which came out in 2012. Interestingly, it saw Hague revisit two of his original productions ‘Kings Cross’ and ‘The Day I See You Again’ for PET SHOP BOYS and DUBSTAR respectively.

Available on the album ‘ComBined’ via Salvo / Union Square Music

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th April 2014, updated 13th November 2018