Author: electricityclub (Page 1 of 402)

“I don’t like country & western, I don’t like rock music… I don’t like rockabilly! I don’t like much really do I? But what I do like, I love passionately!!”: CHRIS LOWE

“Good taste is exclusive”: NICK RHODES

Lost Albums: MIRRORS Lights & Offerings

A seamless majestic journey swathed in layers of vintage electronics and modern rhythmical dynamics, ‘Light & Offerings’ was the only album released by MIRRORS.

Founded by James New and Ally Young in 2008, the pair were soon joined by James ‘Tate’ Arguile and then Josef Page; New and Arguile had actually been members of one-time indie hopefuls MUMM-RA who were signed to Columbia Records and had supported THE KILLERS in 2007.

MIRRORS released their first two self-produced singles ‘Look At Me’ and ‘Into The Heart’ in 2009. As the quartet began to perform live with cerebral projections as visual accompaniment, they fostered a suited look based around 20th Century European Modernism inspired by Gilbert & George and designated their music pop noir.

Signing to Brighton’s Skint Records, after abortive recording sessions with Ed Buller and Richard X, MIRRORS opted to self-produce their debut long player and locked themselves away in a rural Sussex farmhouse for several weeks. Following headlining club shows and pre-album tours opening for OMD, DEPHIC and FUJIYA & MIYAGI, ‘Light & Offerings’ was released on 28 February 2011.

Photo by David Ellis

Mixed in New York by Jonathan Kreinik of DFA, the record began with superb sonic pulsar of ‘Fear Of Drowning’ with its dramatic overtures of young manhood before continuing with reworked recordings of ‘Look At Me’ and ‘Into The Heart’. The sublime ‘Hide & Seek’ was soulful electronic pop while ‘Ways To An End’ had a Germanic edge and proved MIRRORS could cut it on the dancefloor as well.

Elsewhere, the outlier was a superb cover of the largely unknown County song ‘Something On Your Mind’ originally performed by Karen Dalton while ‘Somewhere Strange’ took the listener on the most euphoric train ride since NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’. Breathing new life into classic synthpop, ‘Searching In The Wilderness’ recalled early DEPECHE MODE but to close, ‘Secrets’ presented an ambitious ten minute epic in three movements featuring its own ambient parenthesis.

James New had certainly kept his promise when he described the album as a collection of “really great pop songs” that contained “very densely produced, heavily layered, emotional, soulful electronic music”. MIRRORS were worthy successors to the original Synth Britannia generation, but with the lukewarm response to ‘Lights & Offerings’, the band sadly fragmented in Autumn 2011 when Ally Young announced he was leaving; the most passionately synth-inclined of the four, his departure was a major blow.

Although there were two Bandcamp only releases ‘This Year, Next Year, Sometime… ?’ and ‘Hourglass’ by the now-trio in 2012, momentum had been lost and by 2013, MIRRORS had seemingly ceased to be. However in the years following, there was a qualitative lull in British synth music that still persists today and as a consequence, ‘Light & Offerings’ began to be discovered retrospectively by electronic pop fans who had missed the band in action first time around.

One of those new fans was Norman Cooke, who subsequently founded the MIRRORS Appreciation Society Facebook Group in 2022. As content for the group, he painstakingly transcribed the ‘Lights & Offerings’ album commentary by James New and Ally Young that came with the original iTunes download.

With that audio now no longer available, the track-by-track transcript has been reproduced here along with additional material on a number of B-sides from an interview conducted by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with MIRRORS in Cologne during their 2011 German tour…

Photo by Lars Diegmann

Fear Of Drowning

James: So this is ‘Fear Of Drowning’, the first track on our record and actually my favourite, although I’m going to say that probably about every song.

Ally: We always sort of knew this track would start the record, it has that sort of way. It builds, it starts from a low solitary pulse and gradually builds up and up to towards this big crescendo. Before we even started talking about track listings together, we knew that this would start the record. it just seemed so natural.

James: it’s very atmospheric, it was one of the first five tracks that we ever made and they become the crux of this record.

Ally: I think for me this track is one of the best examples of what sums up MIRRORS as a band, it has all the elements that we, with intention or not, apply to all of our songs. It’s got a lot of close synthesized sounds as well as a lush ambient feel to it, quite monotonous robotic drums, pinned together by a haunting wistful vocal.

James: It was also a breakthrough moment for us because it was the first song that we wrote over a groove, there wasn’t a chord structure, as you can hear, a pulsating pulse that drives the song along.

Ally: One of the challenges when we write songs like this, I think half of the record is probably groove based like this song and half of it is song based. It getting the dynamics, obviously the bass, the route note never changing. I think we achieved it well with this song.

James: The lyrics are sort of based on the idea of isolation. I actually wrote them when I was having a panic attack which took a couple of days out of my life but we gained these lyrics out of it. It has a feeling of alienation, I don’t know why but the music, the lyric, just work.

Ally: It’s almost for me that juxtaposition of those very monotonous, massively quantised, pulsating pulses that go through the whole track and then wrapped up in this sort of blanket of ethereal synthesizers.

James: It does feel like a journey.

Ally: Strangely nostalgic I always think as well, particularly for an opening track. Although it never occurred to me that anything else should be the opening track as it has that real sense of nostalgia.

James: For us as well it was that ‘Trans Europe Express’ feel, a contemporary equivalent in our brains, more a homage.

Ally: I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that we enjoyed listening to that record. I think this track benefits from being listened to at a particularly loud volume, the song really does grow all the way through, if you’re in the right frame of mind, high volume and low lighting, a nice moment.

James: The sound of it as well, I think something we tried to achieve was to make a record where you couldn’t really pinpoint when it had been recorded. You get this kind of slightly low-fi feeling about it but at the same time it sounds if it could have been recorded anytime in the last 30 years.

Ally: It takes what we like about the last 30 – 40 years of music, our influences, certainly of that ilk. Obviously we live in 2010 so we don’t want to make a homage, it still sounds like a modern record, production and mixing techniques. I think that this is the best mix of ours that Jonathan Kreinik, the chap who mixed our album did, obviously we love them all but when we first heard this one, he nailed it!

Look At Me

James: ‘Look At Me’, my favourite song on the record *laughs*

Ally: I think possibly, genuinely my favourite song on the record.

James: I think this is the first song that we wrote properly together that we knew was the “MIRRORS” sound. It’s the song that defined us, and it’s the song still most unique to MIRRORS I think, it’s got a bit of everything.

Ally: I think there are lots of songs on the record with influences that you can pull around from all over the place, some fairly obvious and some a little less conspicuous, but I think this track possibly sounds the most like MIRRORS

James: Possibly the song which sounds most like a love song, we wanted to write a love song but we didn’t want to spell it out to obviously for people, so it’s more about the imagery of it and the memory of it.

Ally: I think the big part of this song again is the vocals. When we came to re-record the album, we didn’t actually re-record the vocal, this is the original vocal that we demoed in my bedroom in Brighton, sometimes you just capture that moment and we tried re-recording the vocal but there was just something about the original take on this that we couldn’t quite get or we were trying too hard. You know what they say, if it isn’t broke.

James: In fact, the demo, we didn’t change a lot about the demo at all, we really captured a great moment on it.

Ally: We didn’t really want to change much about the demo, I think maybe this was one of the easiest and the most difficult to re-record because it was so close in our minds anyway of how we wanted it to be on our album that we weren’t sure if we were going to re-record it at all. But then we did most of the other tracks first then listened to this and felt it had to be pulled up a little bit. Really most of it was just in the mixing process I’d say, mixed by Jonathan again.

James: In a way it’s sort of biggest pop song on the album, it’s like a really big pop song without ever really feeling like it’s trying too hard.

Ally: I think that’s the beauty of this track almost, is that its slow and emotive, a slow track that doesn’t try to make up for the fact that its slow or hide that, it sort of walks along doing its own thing.

James: I guess again it’s got that sort feeling of loneliness, confusion and abandonment about it which seems to crop up with us. We’ve always found it a bit more invigorating to write about the darker side of life.

Into The Heart

Ally: Another one of our so-called pop songs, a skewed pop song, a pop song shrouded in reverb and noise, a cavernous pop song.

James: This was probably the most difficult to get right actually, because we knew this was probably going to be the single or the biggest single on the record.

Ally: Just in terms of the song for us it’s a bit different as we talked about groove-based and song-based, this one is definitely one of the most song-based which spends most of the time in a major key, which we don’t tend to do that often and we found it quite difficult striking a balance, we wanted to preserve the nature of the pop song but really bring it into that MIRRORS aesthetic, without compromising it and it took a lot of different attempts and tries to get it where we were finally happy with it.

James: We’ve never set out to write singles, we create for creation’s sake and this just so happens to have a very catchy chorus.

Ally: I like the lyrics in this, they’re… I don’t want to say random because random reminds me of people’s photo albums on Facebook, but the lyrics are quite sort of wandering.

James: They are entirely random, they are the only lyrics on the record where I actually made them up as I was going along, it was meant to be a rough draft, I attempted to rewrite them but they then just felt weirdly unnatural after that. The only thing I did readjust was the “Into The Heart” chorus, because it needed to be more of a chant, a more repetitive thing. All the lyrics, I picked them out of a hat, there you go. It feels most euphoric actually on the record, it makes me want to put my hands in the air.

Ally: I’m struggling to think of things to say for this track, as much as the others though I think this track is much more obviously a song, in the traditional sense, the words, it’s much more about that than any of the sort acoustics or actual sound, this is much more about the song, probably more than any other song on the album actually.

James: It’s the most naturally, as it comes song.

Write Through The Night

Ally: We should talk about the little segue into ‘Write Through The Night’ by a very well-known Poet Laureate that we affected in the studio.

James: It’s nice to break the record up as well.

Ally: We spent quite a lot of time thinking about how the songs would firstly go on and how well they were going to work together in the context of the album and we felt by this point in we definitely didn’t want song after song after song, even that little 15 seconds there then this intro is a nice little break to prepare you for the next song.

James: It sort of takes your mind away from the music as well, we tend to use quotes quite a lot in remixes as well, it’s an interesting way of drawing your mind away from the music before you plunge back into it.

Ally: This song particularly is quite swirly and then it goes enormous and it’s quite a heavy hit.

James: It’s the most bombastic and, talking about festival moments, it’s the only one I ever imagine as a real stadium song as it’s quite rocky.

Ally: Definitely, it has got a sort of few Trad Rock elements…

James: …I wouldn’t say Trad, when we first did it I remember you saying this needs to sound like MY BLOODY VALENTINE if they had a Moog Modular and went mental.

Ally: Which I think it sort of does.

James: A little element of Dubstep about this track Ally?

Ally: Yes, definitely the bassline, yet again it was totally unintentional. Only when we took this song apart in the studio, well the farm we went to, when we recorded the album, that we really listened and went yeah that’s got Dubstep written all over it.

James: We’ve always said we could get an amazing Dubstep version of this track, which would be amazing, if anyone wants to do that for us as it’s really not exactly our world. In retrospect this is probably the most desperate track on the record, there’s defiantly an angst, an anger about it. When I think about it, I’d probably just met you when I wrote this and it was sort of like I’d just moved to Brighton and I’d been in a band before since I was 15 and that had broken up, it’s quite lonely in a way, I’m definitely writing this song on my own.

Ally: We got the album mixed in New York, we were never there during the process, which is a good thing if you know us, as we are the most obsessive band in the world. We spent a lot of time on this track in particular as we wanted it to sound so enormous. James was talking about the stadium and MY BLOODY VALENTINE feel of the track which it definitely has, we really wanted to get that across, that almost OASIS ‘Definitely Maybe’ vibe

James: I know what you mean, you can play it quietly and it still feels really live and raw.

Ally: It’s got that sort of lolloping feel to it, you can get yourself lost in it.

James: I was listening to it in your car once when we were driving around and it came on your iPod and I went “oh no, it’s stoner rock” for a moment… it’s not stoner rock but I do remember being really concerned for about two hours, and then going no actually, it’s fine.

Ways To An End

Ally: Another single if you will

James: This isn’t even a skewed pop song, this is Krautrock fun

Ally: This was the most fun tracks, this came from a jam first, normally we write songs in a very studio based way where James or I or someone come up with a chord progression or an idea, then we work on that in the studio, building blocks, adding bits or taking away parts to the song, but this one we were actually in a rehearsal room practising for a tour and we jammed

James: Like a proper band. It’s the last song that we wrote for the record as well, which maybe have been a sign of how we potentially could write in the future. Back to the groove based, back to the one note stomper. Definitely think this is the one that has the most, sort of “70s” sound almost, it’s kind of got that, almost Krautrocky sound, but modern, definitely a hint of THE HORRORS.

Ally: It’s definitely got a nod towards Krautrock and also obviously TALKING HEADS of course, the extra percussion and James’ vocal.

James: We should probably say as well, that bloody ‘Senses Working Overtime’ which we didn’t realise at the time until it was too late. XTC were one of those bands who would have been in the back of our minds when we were making this record anyway.

Ally: Yeah, looking at that now you think “1-2-3-4-5”, yeah, that’s good, have I heard that before? I must have heard that before.

James: We even said it didn’t we, it seems way too obvious. A good video this one as well, our first video…

Ally: Shot on my birthday actually, between midnight and 6am in an empty cinema in Brighton, which was not as much fun as it seems. The “talkie bit” is just us talking nonsense over a bit of prose that Tate wrote, this poem is called ‘Traveling Through The Dark’ by William Stafford which Tate had a copy of on a 12”, I don’t know where he found it. We just recorded that in and manipulated it, really quite ominous sounding and I like that over this quite uplifting almost psychedelic piece.

James: It just diverts your attention again doesn’t it, that’s a nice thing and also who ever is reading it has an amazing voice. The song is so saturated isn’t it, so full of everything.

Ally: I particularly like the bass on this although it doesn’t really do much, locking with the kick drum quite tightly, it reminds me sort of a finger played electric bass, post-punk, I sort of think, quite seventies, not much weight to it.

Hide & Seek

Ally: A different mood entirely now with ‘Hide & Seek’.

James: I’m a particular fan of this song live, it’s much more chaotic and sort of messy live. This is more subdued and again an atmospheric sort of vibe on the record.

Ally: One of the ones we, I wouldn’t say struggled with but didn’t come easy to us recording this. We should probably mention at this point we self-produced the album, just the four of us and we locked ourselves away in a remote farm in the middle of Sussex, for more time than is healthy. The reason we did that was that we’ve worked with producers before, some very talented producers but we didn’t really feel that we’d made the track sound how we wanted them to.

James: I think we have our own world and our own very specific idea of what that is.

Ally: The label were very good to us and gave us the opportunity to do it and we live and die by our words. This is exactly the record we wanted to make and it sounds how we wanted it to, if it doesn’t do as well as we’d hope, then we’ve only got ourselves to blame, but at least it sounds of the moment, exactly how we wanted this MIRRORS record to sound like.

James: It’s quite a sad song, in a way. Lyrically it’s very childish, I think that almost makes it sadder in a way, like very simple. Sounds like an electronic ARCADE FIRE.

Ally: Yeah, definitely got elements of that.

James: Like a younger JOY DIVISION.

Ally: A younger, happier JOY DIVISION, I wonder how people would interpret this song if the vocal were missing, if it were just an instrumental, if they would engage that or not. The music, the drums, the backing perhaps don’t suggest that, which I like.

James: More hopeful, a lot of our songs have a lot of melodies within the music and a lot of other catchy bits whereas this is really, I don’t want to, it’s my vocal but the crucial point is the vocal and that sort of brings everything together.

Ally: And the song just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. We contemplated for a long time, where to place this on the record. When we play this live, we play this last and it works so well, one big crescendo to end the set and this endless “Minipops” drum loop that carries on. We were going to put this song last on the record but we ended up writing a track called ‘Secrets’, which just had to come last as far as I was concerned as it was ten and a half minutes long. This works for me in the middle of the record now really well, I’m used to it.

James: It’s a really great pop song, and I’m going to say that.

Ally: I’ll humbly second it.

Photo by Richard Price

Somewhere Strange

James: We weren’t sure we were going to put this on the record.

Ally: No, we really weren’t and then Dave our A&R at the label said he’d listened to it on the way out to visit us at the farm where we were recording the album to bring out supplies and boost morale. He insisted that we re-record it, he was convinced it would go on the album, and to be fair to him, he was right. I think in contrast to the song before this, it’s another quiet lonely vocal but I think it’s so full of hope this song, particularly in James’s vocal.

James: I’m still a big fan of the demo of this, it’s much more lo-fi.

Ally: It took us a long time to do if I remember. When we recorded this song, it took forever! That’s the sort of downside of working, producing and writing the songs, no decisions get made quickly, the longer it goes on the more time everything seems to take. We drove ourselves to a point when we were recording this where we had to have a couple of days away from the farm and the chickens and get our heads back together.

James: Yeah, this is the point we actually had to go back home.

Ally: Back to normal civilisation.

James: This was the biscuit incident!

Ally: The “famed” biscuit incident.

James: Because obviously we were living out of each other’s pockets to such an extent.

Ally: The farmhouse we were living in was literally three rooms. A kitchen, a studio room and a bedroom.

James: Our best friend was a chicken, I just remember we had some lunch, which wasn’t a particularly big lunch and I had a biscuit and you had a massive go at me, because I didn’t need it.

Ally: We insisted that you weren’t hungry… *both laughing*

James: …which ended up in a sort of argument with us packing our bags and getting away for a couple of days.

Ally: This is it, we’re arguing over Rich Teas now, it’s time to take a break.

James: Definitely this track has got a bit of that LCD SOUNDSYSTEM vibe about it, which are great modern records, which we love. I had really good fun making the visuals for this which never worked because it felt too clubby. I got my housemate, and I sort of sat him in a chair around different parts of Brighton, sort of busy areas and sped everything up and it looked fantastic.

Ally: And he was dressed up as a 19th turn of the century duke as well.

James: A good album this… it’s probably the first time that we have ever listened to the album without actually being really cynical about it picking at every moment.

Ally: Yeah, I think so, it’s been quite refreshing. We spent so long analysing every detail and then the mixing process. It’s really nice now to listen to it and be able to talk about it in a positive manner.

James: Do you remember the original, original demo of this, which had three different verses, we nearly did it with Ed Buller?

Ally: Oh! The QUEEN moment, your QUEEN vocal, oh I do remember that. That one may not see the light of day.

James: That’s the point with us, for every song there are usually about five different versions of it before it gets to this point.

Ally: There is a hard drive of “off cuts” somewhere.

James: There really are which are being burnt as we speak. We’re not the kind of band that releases a lot of material, we’re really more about the quality than the quantity. Hence, you’re getting a ten-track record, we wanted to make it a nine-track record.

Photo by Richard Price

Something On Your Mind

Ally: Ahh, the lovely Karen Dalton.

James: It’s quite a relaxing thing this, isn’t it?

Ally: For those of you that don’t know, this is a cover of a song called ‘Something On Your Mind’ by a country singer called Karen Dalton who has the most incredible voice and if you haven’t heard it, you must listen to her. She died quite young which makes her story even more tragic. Her voice has as much emotion as you will ever hope to hear from anybody. Again, this was never meant to make the album, we were asked to do a cover for something, which incidentally we never ended up using. Again we played this to Dave, our A&R from Skint when he came to the farm to visit us and he just loved it. We hadn’t really given it much thought, its one of the quickest things we did, but he heard it and was really quite taken by it which is a lovely feeling for us because we had become so involved in it that hearing Dave, whose musical taste we trust say, you know, that’s really quite striking. I really enjoy listening to this.

James: It’s nice for us as well, because there is less pressure on it as it’s not our own. I think it’s a nice challenge as well, bands don’t really do covers anymore.

Ally: The antithesis of what MIRRORS do, listen to the original track, it’s just fantastic. It’s not as reverb laden as ours but I think it works with this track.

James: Short but sweet, the closest to a MIRRORS ballad we’re ever going to get. I wouldn’t ever write lyrics like this as well because the structure of it is so strange, it just goes all over the place.

Ally: Yeah, in rounds and rounds, I’m sure, ever since she recorded this, it would have been different.

James: Also, it’s just a nice challenge to be able put yourself in a different artist’s head, it’s just an interesting thing to do, it’s the same reason that we’re getting into remixes now, it’s just a totally different experience to recording your own music.

Photo by Richard Price

Searching In The Wilderness

Ally: ‘Searching In The Wilderness’, the track that always goes down very well live.

James: It’s a bit like Marmite for people, it’s very different from our other tracks in that it’s quite fun and light hearted

Ally: And definitely the most uptempo.

James: So people either find it their favourite track or something that Mirrors are not about, but I think it breaks the record up perfectly at this point.

Ally: It’s quite a nice injection of pace, I’m a big fan of the slow grooves.

James: Sometimes you’ve just got to have a dance.

Ally: Exactly, there has to be a point where you stand up.

James: The song title incidentally comes from a very good Garage Rock compilation.

Ally: Very good indeed, if you can get a copy, do, but you may struggle. I’ve only ever seen the one that we have. This song was in the public domain before the album was released, people commented on it being an homage to the 80s

James: That’s the slight problem with it, when people talk about the 80s which they invariably will with us, we don’t want them to think of this element of it really.

Ally: I personally think it’s a bit of a lazy journalistic view to say that we are an 80s band in 2010, I would say we are more 1977 to 1981 if you had to put a date stamp on it.

James: This is our debut 1977 record in our brains isn’t it?

Ally: I think so, yeah. I think this has many elements of the music of the late 1970s as opposed to the 1980s.

James: Yeah, this does, this track particularly, but when it does come back to the first chorus it has elements of Speak & Spell about it. This is definitely the record that will be our most dense, its all about that waterlogged sound, it gives it a feeling and definitely, entirely has its own vibe

Ally: It’s exactly what we wanted to do.

James: It gives us somewhere to go for the second record.

Ally: Exactly!

Photo by David Ellis


Ally: This probably is my favourite track on the record I would say.

James: This is my favourite track on the record.

Ally: James’s Ten favourite tracks of ‘Lights & Offerings’.

James: This is a very old song.

Ally: Well it’s almost three songs in one this isn’t it.

James: It is now, yeah. The early original section was written almost three and a half years ago now, mad to think.

Ally: Again an amazing mix job here from Jonathan Kreinik, in a few bars or so when the drums come in it just sounds amazing, it sounds like it breaks through a window almost.

James: Mr McCluskey of OMD a big fan of this one. He hears a bit of ‘Maid of Orleans’ in it which is always a complement.

Ally: When he said it I thought you’re absolutely right, of course when the string riff which comes in, I hadn’t really thought of it until that point.

James: This is again a song we would say is very much of our own taste.

Ally: I think it has a…

James: …slow sexy groove

Ally: It has a few rock elements to it, I think it has a bit of that sort of, almost ‘Screamadelica’ vibe to it in the percussion and the drums and the vocals.

James: What’s that track on ‘Screamadelica’ that’s like 14 minutes long?

Ally: ‘Come Together’!

James: I think the vocal sounds the nicest on this, a really dreamy quality to it, I can definitely close my eyes and sway to this song.

Ally: Yeah this, the vocal sits in this so nicely for me. It’s almost one entity, the vocal is less of a part on its own but more a sort of texture in the whole song, I think it works really nicely. It’s interesting going back to the Andy McCluskey point, when he listened to this track he said “I think ‘Secrets’ could be a really good single”, I walked in and thought are you mad, its ten minutes long, but what of course he meant was just the first bit, not the self-indulgent latter bit.

James: It’s not self-indulgent, I mean it’s the end of our record isn’t it, we’ll get to that. I don’t think it’s self-indulgent for self-indulgent sake.

Ally: No I Don’t.

James: We actually had quite a big argument about it because I personally wanted this song to be in the middle as the sort of ‘Marquee Moon’ moment.

Ally: I did not.

James: Because I guess, it’s my favourite, I think for me it’s another one of those lynchpin moments on the record and a lot of people, me included, can be quite impatient and not get to the end of an album. I know that I tend to actually now listen to the first half, go have a cup of tea then listen to the second half of a record because I don’t have the patience, which I’m honest about, but I do genuinely hope people get around to listening to this because we want to play it live and I think this could be a favourite of people.

Ally: I think this is a song that you almost have to put a bit of effort into listening to, it’s not one to listen to on the train with your iPod headphones. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice set of speakers, sit in front of them and make yourself a brew and really get into it and I think you’ll enjoy it.

James: We wanted to have a moment on the record that wasn’t melodically based and it’s been useful because we use it now to start our live set off which is nice.

Ally: One of the things about your debut record is that you don’t want to look back on it and think I wish we’d have been bolder, and I think this track is not going to be to everybody’s taste. Were fully aware that people might get to track nine “Searching In The Wilderness” and then not listen to this, but I think for those people that do listen to this track, I think it could be one of their favourites, again it’s going to split people.

James: There’s more to listen to so you can go back to it a second and a third time and you will hear new things in it.

Ally: Definitely.

James: For me, musically, it makes things more exciting. I did feel a bit sorry for Jonathan Kreinik.

Ally: Yeah, the accompanying email I remember sending with the hard drive with this contained was probably a book in itself but god bless the man, patience of a saint, a very talented mixer.

James: I think when we were doing this, we almost wanted people to forget that the song previously had happened because in a minute, it explodes back into the song and it’s a shocking bold moment.

Ally: This was a lot of fun for those of us in the band who are more into synthesizers and sonics, mentioning no names, certainly including myself, just really having a bit of fun making this sort of ambient soundscape.

James: I was taking the piss out of them an awful lot when they were in the kitchen recording cutlery, dropping things, a little self-indulgent maybe.

Ally: Yeah, possibly.

James: Originally this was four parts as well.

Ally: It was, the missing part of ‘Secrets’, I think we will finish it off and do something with it one day.

James: I liked the fourth part. I like the third part more. Probably the only moment as well that sort of hints at a more modern dance moment in the background.

Ally: I love these Daniel Miller type vocals

James: Quite ‘Warm Leatherette’. Regarding talking over it, it’s not a very melodic moment so it didn’t feel right trying to sing anything over it.

Ally: After having four minutes of atonal nonsense, this wasn’t the most shocking thing to happen.

James: It’s good advice though.

Ally: What?

James: The lyrics!

Ally: Coping with life 101 with MIRRORS.

James: It seems strange being self-deprecating over a moment like that. The important thing for us is that we don’t do things like that to be pretentious. We do it because we think it enhances the record and enhances the music. So, don’t think we’re stone faced and cold.

Ally: No absolutely! We definitely thought of this record as a listening experience, there’s nothing worse when you hear an album and you think individually the songs are very good but that’s all they are a collection of songs put together. I feel really pleased and proud of the album we’ve got, it feels like a journey and makes for a really enjoyable listen.

Lights & Offerings

Ally: ‘Lights & Offerings’ was so close to making the album…

James: The reason it didn’t make it was because ‘Secrets’ did, it’s as simple as that. They come from a similar place and we didn’t want to have too many epics. With ‘Somewhere Strange’, ‘Fear Of Drowning’ and ‘Secrets’, you’ve got three lynchpin moments; we didn’t need another one of those.

Ally: We’ve always played it live, it goes down excellently.

James: It’s one of my favourite tracks of ours! ‘Broken By Silence’ as well, I like that one.

Visions Of You

James: That’s another of the ones we looked at when we were making the record. The label really wanted it to be on the album and we had to put our foot down and say…

Ally: …this doesn’t feel right to do this on our first record. It didn’t make it in the UK but we’re happy to release it in Germany and I think we’ve come back to it a bit.

James: It’s a very big pop song but there’s part of me that thinks it might be a little too big.

Ally: It sort of scares us almost! They are tracks that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the record, be it for mood or that there was already a song of a similar nature on there.

James: We didn’t in a lot of cases think they were worse. Every single B-side could happily have had a place. We didn’t want it to be too self-indulgent and long. If you’ve got fifteen brilliant songs, it’s going to be an hour and forty five minutes!

Ally: No-one going to have time for that, we’re not RADIOHEAD! *laughs*

James: It’s nice that people really appreciate that we do put as much of an effort into the B-sides because it means they’ll come back to the singles.

Photo by Richard Price

Toe The Line

Ally: That was a song we didn’t really consider for the album until the very last minute and we thought “What about this? It’s actually quite good!”

Falls By Another Name

Ally: It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure…

James: …we do have a habit of writing quite big melodies and choruses, we come from a poppy sort of place.

Ally: James and I normally do that, it’s Tate that reins us in! *laughs*

James: And Tate will tell you right now that he’s not a big fan of ‘Falls By Another Name’…

Tate: It’s alright… *everyone laughs*

‘Lights & Offerings’ used the following equipment: ARP 2600, Akai MPC1000 Production Station, Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 08, Doepfer MAQ16/3 Sequencer, Kawai R50 Drum Machine, Korg MicroPreset, Moog Little Phatty, Minimoog, Memorymoog, Nord Lead 2X, Octave Cat, Roland Juno 60, Roland SH101, Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer, Roland MC202 MicroComposer, Roland SPD-S Electronic Percussion Sampling Pad, Siel Cruise.

‘Lights & Offerings’ was released by Skint Records and is still available as a CD or download via assorted online retailers

Norman Cooke’s Facebook Group MIRRORS Appreciation Society can be joined at

Introductory Text and Additional Interviews by Chi Ming Lai
Transcription by Norman Cooke from the original iTunes album commentary
28 February 2024


1984 saw FM synthesis, sampling and computer controlled systems taking a more dominant role in not just electronic music making but within mainstream pop as well.

The ubiquity of the Yamaha DX7 with its realistic sounds and the dominance digital drum machines meant that inventive electronic sound design would take a backseat. This meant that the otherworldly fascination that had come with Synth Britannia was now something of a distant memory. But despite the popularity of the Emulator at this time for its factory disk derived symphonic strings, brass and choirs, the Roland Jupiter 8 remained the main analogue synth for the likes of THE BLUE NILE and TALK TALK as well as Howard Jones.

While Trevor Horn and his team were well equipped with all the state of the art equipment money could buy for the ZTT releases of THE ART OF NOISE and FRANKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD, OMD and HEAVEN 17 were among those who purchased the Fairlight Series II. SOFT CELL and Gary Numan chose the PPG system while THE HUMAN LEAGUE opted for the Synclavier II.

However, despite all the high tech, the most disappointing record of the year was undoubtedly ‘Hysteria’, THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s lukewarm follow-up to ‘Dare’ which departed from the supreme synthpop formula of its predecessor. ‘Dare’ producer Martin Rushent had left the troubled sessions following disagreements with the band but as the recording continued to be prolonged, his replacement Chris Thomas soon followed him through the door.  Hugh Padgham who had worked with Phil Collins on his key hit recordings was drafted in to finish the record.

Although the excellent ‘Louise’ saw the estranged couple from ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ cross paths again a few years on, the laudable attempt at political observation and guitar-driven dynamics ‘The Lebanon’ confused fans. Meanwhile the remainder of the album was underwhelming, with the reworked version of ‘I Love You Too Much’ sounding a poor shadow of the dynamic Martin Rushent original which had premiered on the Canadian ‘Fascination! EP in 1983.

Those pop acts who had topped the UK charts in 1983 like CULTURE CLUB and SPANDAU BALLET also suffered from lacklustre follow-ups and were superseded by the rise of WHAM! Despite the absence of a new studio album, DURAN DURAN managed to score a No1 with ‘The Reflex’ and a No2 with ‘The Wild Boys’, both in a creative union with Nile Rodgers while making an impact in 1984 was Nik Kershaw.

The split of YAZOO the previous year led to Alison Moyet issuing her first solo album ‘Alf’ but the new Vince Clarke project THE ASSEMBLY lasted just one single ‘Never Never’ featuring the vocals of Feargal Sharkey. Comparatively quiet in 1984, NEW ORDER released their most commercial single yet in ‘Thieves Like Us’.

With bands like A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS and U2 having achieved success in North America with a more rock derived template, the lure of the Yankee Dollar steered SIMPLE MINDS towards that less artful bombastic direction with the ultimately flawed ‘Sparkle In The Rain’. The purer synthesizer sound was now less desirable in terms of Trans-Atlantic marketability and pressure was put on acts to use more guitar and live drums, something that would become even more prominent in 1985.

So until then, here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK seen as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1984. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker

ALPHAVILLE Forever Young

German trio ALPHAVILLE broke through in the UK with a Zeus B Held remix of ‘Big In Japan’ and while that version is not included on the ‘Forever Young’ album, the original held its own alongside songs like ‘Sound Like A Melody’. Meanwhile, the poignant title song has since become an evergreen anthem which has since been borrowed by THE KILLERS and JAY-Z!

‘Forever Young’ is still available via Warner Music

THE ART OF NOISE Who’s Afraid Of?

From the off, THE ART OF NOISE were rattling cages. ‘Beat Box’ was the track which scared KRAFTWERK enough for them to delay the release of their ‘Technopop’ album and rework it as the underwhelming ‘Electric Cafe’. The crazy staccato sample cacophony of ‘Close (To The Edit)’ still sounds as fresh and mad as ever while ‘Moments In Love’ heralded a new age in mood music.

‘Who’s Afraid Of?’ is still available via ZTT


On the back of hit singles in ‘Blind Vision’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’, the brilliantly titled second BLANCMANGE album ‘Mange Tout’ became their biggest seller. Another surprise came with a melodramatic cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’; considered an odd but daring decision at the time, it was something of a cultural prophecy with ABBA now fully reabsorbed into mainstream popular culture.

‘Mange Tout’ is still available via Edsel Records

THE BLUE NILE A Walk Across The Rooftops

Glum Scottish trio THE BLUE NILE had an innovative deal with Linn, the Glasgow-based high quality Hi-Fi manufacturer where their crisply produced debut ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ as used by dealers to demonstrate the sonic range of their products. ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ and ‘Stay’ got BBC Radio1 airplay and while they were not hits, the artful album was a favourite among the music cognoscenti.

‘A Walk Across the Rooftops’ is still available via Confetti Records

BRONSKI BEAT The Age Of Consent

When BRONSKI BEAT first appeared, they were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, melodic synth sound and Jimmy Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. ‘The Age Of Consent’ used their position as openly gay performers to make important statements such as ‘Smalltown Boy’ and ‘Why’ as well as the anti-consumerist ‘Junk’ and the self-explanatory ‘No More War’.

‘The Age Of Consent’ is still available via London Records


Featuring the blissful ‘Sensoria’, the second Some Bizzare long playing adventure of CABARET VOLTAIRE saw Stephen Mallinder and Richard H Kirk at possibly their most accessible yet. With a Fairlight CMI now taking over from the previous tape experiments alongside the punchy rhythmic backdrop, tracks like ‘Do Right’ and ‘Slammer’ exemplified their alternative club direction.

‘Micro-Phonies’ is still available via Mute Artists

DEAD OR ALIVE Sophisticated Boom Boom

With Pete Burns now looking like Gina X, it was no big surprising that her producer Zeus B Held was helming DEAD OR ALIVE’s electronic disco direction. A cover of KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way’ was the hit breakthrough but there was also mighty sequencer dance tunes such as ‘Misty Circles’ and ‘What I Want’, as well as the Morrissey fronting ABBA serenity of ‘Far Too Hard’.

‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ is still available via Cherry Pop

DEPECHE MODE Some Great Reward

Despite more adult songs with S&M metaphors about capitalism and doubts about religion, ‘Some Great Reward’ was the last innocent DEPECHE MODE album. With Gareth Jones now taking on a co-production role with Daniel Miller, the sampling experimentation was honed into the powerful metallic pop of ‘Something To Do’, ‘Master & Servant’, ‘If You Want’ and ‘Blasphemous Rumours’.

‘Some Great Reward’ is still available via Sony Music

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Welcome To The Pleasure Dome

The Trevor Horn produced ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ was a double album that should have been edited down to a single record but that would have missed the point. Featuring three UK No1 singles in ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power Of Love’, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD had their place cemented in musical history, regardless of the radio bannings and controversial marketing stunts.

‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ is still available via ZTT


Best known for his work as ASHRA, Manuel Göttsching improvised an extended piece based around an understated Prophet 10 sequence and a gentle but hypnotic backbone as something to listen to on his recently purchased Walkman for an upcoming flight. Influenced by minimalist trailblazers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the end result was the hour long suite ‘E2-E4’.

‘E2-E4’ is still available via SpaMG.ART

HEAVEN 17 How Men Are

The success of ‘The Luxury Gap’ brought money into HEAVEN 17 and this was reflected in the orchestrally assisted Fairlight jamboree of ‘How Men Are’. “I think it’s an underrated album and that was when we were probably in our most daring and creative phase” said Martyn Ware and that manifested itself on the sub-ten minute closer ‘And That’s No Lie’ and the outstanding Doomsday opener ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’.

‘How Men Are’ is still available via Virgin Records


Having been an early adopter of the Fairlight CMI on ‘Magnetic Fields’, Jean-Michel Jarre utilised it further to create an instrumental palette sampled from 25 spoken languages. It also saw the use of notable musicians including Marcus Miller, Yogi Horton, Adrian Belew and Laurie Anderson who lent her voice to the delightfully oddball ‘Diva’. The magnificent highlight was the 11 minute ‘Ethnicolour’.

‘Zoolook’ is still available via Sony Music


‘Human’s Lib’ was the beginning of Howard Jones’ imperial phase, with four hit singles ‘New Song’, ‘What Is Love?’, ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Pearl In The Shell’ included on this immediate debut. But there was quality in the other songs with ‘Equality’ sounding like an arrangement blue print for A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and the title song touching on the complexities of love triangles!

‘Human’s Lib’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

GARY NUMAN Berserker

After the jazzier overtones of ‘Warriors’, ‘Berserker’ was conceived as “a science alternative album” by Gary Numan as a much more of an electronic proposition. Dominated by the PPG Wave system which had been the heartbeat of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, ‘My Dying Machine’ aped ‘Relax’ while the rhythmic title song and the exotic ‘Cold Warning’ provided other highlights.

‘Berserker’ is still available via Eagle Records

OMD Junk Culture

With its embracement of calypso, reggae, indie and mainstream pop, ‘Junk Culture’ was perhaps even more experimental than ‘Dazzle Ships’ and took OMD outside of the Germanic sound laboratory they had emerged from. Known for two slightly inane singles, ‘Locomotion’ put them back into the UK Top5 while ‘Talking Loud & Clear’ only just missed out on the Top10.

‘Junk Culture’ is still available via Universal Music

SECTION 25 From The Hip

Co-produced by Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER, ‘From The Hip’ followed founder member Larry Cassidy’s statement that “you can’t be a punk all your life”. Recruiting vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy, ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ with its clattering drum machine, pulsing hypnotism and ominous synth lines was the album’s standout while ‘Program For Light’ explored further electronic territory.

‘From The Hip’ is still available via Factory Benelux

SOFT CELL This Last Night In Sodom

If ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ was the difficult second SOFT CELL album, ‘This Last Night In Sodom’ was an even more challenging proposition. The thundering percussive cover of ‘Down In The Subway’ was  a metaphor for Marc Almond’s mental state while ‘L’ Esqualita’ provided some fabulous gothic menace alongside the frenetic rush of ‘Soul Inside’, all aided by Dave Ball and his acquisition of a PPG Wave 2.2.

‘This Last Night In Sodom’ is still available via Some Bizzare

TALK TALK It’s My Life

The second album TALK TALK saw them work with producer Tim Friese-Greene who would also have a songwriting role alongside Mark Hollis. Still reliant on synthesizers for its aural template, the initial five song sequence from ‘Dum Dum Girl’ to ‘Tomorrow Started’ was superb, taking in the title song and the magnificent ‘Such A Shame’. It sold well in Europe but was largely ignored in the UK.

‘It’s My Life’ is still available via EMI Music


Following their breakthrough record ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’, ‘Into The Gap’ was the most commercially successful THOMPSON TWINS studio album, putting the quirky trio into the US Top10. Co-produced by Alex Sadkin, it featured the megahits ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’ while the neo-title song ‘The Gap’ offered an Eastern flavoured take on ‘Trans-Europe Express’.

‘Into The Gap’ is still available via Edsel Records


With self-produced recording sessions in the Musicfest home studio of Midge Ure, there were more obviously programmed rhythm tracks than previously while tracks ranged from the earnest rock of ‘One Small Day’ to the sequencer-driven ‘White China’. But it was the apocalyptic Michael Rother influenced ‘Dancing With Tears In My Tears’ that presented ULTRAVOX with their biggest hit since ‘Vienna’.

‘Lament’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

Text by Chi Ming Lai
24 February 2024


A product of Berlin, DINA SUMMER is the collaborative project comprising of Greco-German technodisco couple Dina Pascal and Max Brudi aka LOCAL SUICIDE and Nu-disco exponent Jakob Häglsperger, better known by his frozen dessert flavoured alias of KALIPO.

Blending new wave, synthpop, dark disco and techno, DINA SUMMER opened their account with the excellent single pairing of ‘Who Am I’ and ‘Fortune Teller’. Their new EP ‘Hide & Seek’ embraces synth with a cutting Mittel Europa edge following their more Italo flavoured 2022 long player ‘Rimini’. But around this time, although not featuring on the album, they covered THE FLIRTS’ Booby O produced disco classic ‘Passion’ and FRONT 242’s EBM favourite ‘Headhunter’ as free downloads to show how across the spectrum their musical tastes lay.

With an epic gothic intro, “the clock is ticking” with live sounding drum fills and frenetic blips as ‘Unter Strom’ comes shaped with stabbing synth interventions and a feminine Anglo-Germanic vocal presence for an ecstatic opening. The uptempo rhythmic thrust of ‘Hide & Seek’ offers tension and excitement using real bass guitar and a much more snarly vocal delivery in amongst all the throbbing electronics although its sparkles in a manner that puts all the synthwavers to shame with its elicit spirit. Meanwhile its ‘Club Edit’ matts the shine and takes things deeper and darker at a more steadfast past, drawing sonic parallels to another Berlin-based act NNHMN.

Photo by Petra Ruehle

Even faster but interestingly sans hi-hats is ‘All Or Nothing’; using a high energy formula with deep synthetic choirs and pitch swoops for the required burst of gloom, it is punctuated by feisty and assertive spoken words declaring “I won’t be caged”. Then with the minimal structure of a solid propulsive beat and spacious layers of electronics before a big bang of hypnotically repeating basslines, ‘Excess’ is sexy and sweaty with talk of “high leather boots”, its nonchalant narration providing an alluring incentive to dance and be corrupted.

This is an excellent EP that combines light and shade in a manner that is perfect for the dancefloor or a home soundbar. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to good electronic dance music with a grittier impassioned outlook, well it’s alive and well, and it’s right here…

‘Hide & Seek’ is released by Iptamenos Discos on 23 February 2024, available as a 12” vinyl EP or download via

Text by Chi Ming Lai
21 February 2024

ZANIAS Ecdysis

Coming just one year after ‘Chrysalis’, ZANIAS returns with an adventurous new album called ‘Ecdysis’.

The solo vehicle of Alison Lewis who first came into public view as a member of acclaimed dark synth duo LINEA ASPERA, as the album title suggests, the music is the shedding an outer cuticular layer into a new self. Its origins emerged from the same sessions as the more song based material on 2023’s ‘Chrysalis’.

“I call it music from the same planet, just slightly different dimensions”, ZANIAS said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “I made them with many of the same plugins and techniques, just took ‘Ecdysis’ a little further beyond the usual sound structures. I was producing so much music at the time, I wasn’t sure if it would be one long album or two, and then the tracks naturally divided themselves into two camps: the songs with words and the more abstract pieces with no words.”

Brooding and lyric-less, ‘Earthborn’ sets the scene with its other worldly voice texturing and manipulation in tongues. “I was thinking a lot about human evolution and prehistory” Lewis remembered, “I think ‘Earthborn’ was a bit of a soundtrack to how we arrived where we are today. Full of heavy emotion and conflict – hence the sounds of swords and ancient battles”.

Proceedings continue at a moodier tempo on the mantric ‘Mara’ which is heavily influenced by the abstract glossolalia of Lisa Gerrard. Upping to much more frantic pace, ‘Duneskipper’ brings the vocal pitch shifts into a wider deeper spectrum, enhancing the cinematic tension.

The vocal textures are pitched higher and vibratoed to a gentle pulse on the atmospheric Fourth World resonating ‘Acacia’ while the trance-laden ‘Bloodwood’ possesses an eerie quality that absorbs the senses in its cacophony of sound.

Referring to a small bilateral neuronal structure in the brain of vertebrates that can act as a critical node in chronic stress-related anxiety, ‘Habenula’ is like an angel calling to respond and calm while much more ominous, ‘Swim’ evokes slightly more unsettling resonances although ultimately it is escapist.

Bubbly sequences and prominent but minimal beats shape the ‘Ecdysis’ title piece to provide a brighter optimistic closer; embracing a wonderfully mysterious quality, there are hopeful sparkles amongst the strident rhythms.

Is this an instrumental record? Only in the sense of not being conventional songs but Alison Lewis has created an ecstatic language which its creator has said is “Best enjoyed on headphones in total darkness”. Constructed in a whirlwind during a period of adversity, the soothing quality of ‘Ecdysis’ is the sound of things that help make you feel ok when things aren’t ok…

‘Ecdysis’ is released on 16 February 2024 via Fleisch Records (worldwide) and Metropolis Records (North America), available in limited edition blue / white coloured vinyl LP variations, CD and digital formats direct from

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Tim Darin
14 February 2024


It has been nearly 4 years since Milwaukee synthwave duo IMMORTAL GIRLFRIEND released their last EP ‘Ride’ although singular excursions have maintained the presence of the self-proclaimed Dark Knights Of Synth.

Launching themselves in 2017 with the ‘Daybreak’ EP, their songs have been used in Netflix shows such as ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Good Girls’ but that shouldn’t be entirely surprising given their cinematic sound.

IMMORTAL GIRLFRIEND are Will and Kevin Bush, two brothers influenced by long night drives but the new EP ‘Sojourner’ takes on extra poignancy with Will’s critical illness diagnosis and treatment. A “Sojourner” is defined as a “temporary resident” and this acts as a metaphor for life as the collection carries a spectrum of emotions experienced over the past few years.

Opening proceedings, the ‘Sojourner’ title track is an impressive moody instrumental, like NINE INCH NAILS’ ‘At The Heart Of It All’ from ‘Further Down The Spiral’ reimagined by John Carpenter before flipping into an unexpected Hi-NRG disco cassette interlude and returning with burst of percussive drama under headlights.

With understated vocals and an arpeggiated sparkle, ‘Hourglass’ brings a European vibe with the likes of France’s M83 being a pointer while cut from a not dissimilar cloth, ‘Calling’ brings the sombre synthbass pulses forward alongside layers of voices pitched at all frequencies. Sweeping into ‘10:32PM’ for a quick burst of night time ambience, the stuttering rhythm construction on ‘Mobile’ recalls MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and introduces subtle R ‘n’ B elements into the equation.

A heavy metronomic beat and robotically assisted harmonies shape the comparatively sinister spectre of ‘All I Want’ before into the final stretch, ‘Diamond Black’ blends eerie synth atmospherics with metallic drum machine and electronic voice treatments.

Back from their own long form sojourn with a vengeance, it has been a long journey for IMMORTAL GIRLFRIEND to this point. But this synth odyssey is a valuable statement from the Bush Brothers that music, both as a creative and a listener, plays a role in elevating the spirit during troubled times and provides therapeutic benefits to all.

Despite the serious disposition, catchy hooks in the bass and melodic structures are in evidence to prevent things from becoming too morose. In darkness, music can provide the light. It ultimately allows ‘Sojourner’ to be accessible and enjoyable, positioning it above most of what is being labelled synthwave currently.

‘Sojourner’ is available as a digital EP via the usual online platforms including

Text by Chi Ming Lai
10 February 2024

« Older posts