Category: Live Reports (Page 1 of 33)

ALICE HUBBLE + HATTIE COOKE Live at Folklore

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

At Folklore in London’s trendy Hoxton district, promoter Baba Yaga’s Hut gathered two of the UK’s most talented synth ladies for an intimate evening of live performance.

While both exhibit an earthy plaintive approach vocally, technologically they sit at quite different sides of the spectrum.

For Alice Hubble, the analogue warmth of vintage keyboards has always been a key DNA constituent of her sound.

To launch her second solo long player ‘Hexentanzplatz’, she had her trusty Moog Prodigy as part of an expanded live set-up also featuring Tom Hilverkus on the small but mighty Yamaha Reface CS mini-keyboard and Nord Lead 3. But for Hattie Cooke who uses just GarageBand for her take on synth, it was a MacBook with backing tracks and lyrics that augmented her first live performance for over two years. Hailed as one of the best new talents in Britain, despite the release of her third album ‘Bliss Land’, she had never played live in the capital before.

Beginning with a sat down solo guitar take of ‘One Foot Out The Door’, a tinge of folk illustrated its roots but also how it was more or less structured before electronic textured for ‘Bliss Land’. Standing up after this sedate start, Hattie got upbeat and electronic with the glorious ‘I Get By’, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Italians Do It Better catalogue. She amusingly added that her more recent electronic pop material was “less suicidal” than her previous work; “I’ve always been a hoot” she quipped, “but I wasn’t so happy back then…” – the forlorn strum of the semi-ironic ‘Happy Today’ from her self-titled debut record was a sign of how far she had moved on.

Photo by Adrian Hextall

Cooke promised jokes and her one about Dr Who having Dalek bread as a side order to pizza highlighted her charm. Although tinged with melancholy, songs such as drum machine dominated ‘Lovers Game’ and the much sparser ‘Summer Time’ use appealing arrangements that harmonise well with her voice.

Her focus on writing songs first has set her apart from the boys with their toys whose equipment is used as the excuse for the songs rather than the other way round.

The mechanised tension ‘Mistaken’ offered Hattie’s own quirky interpretation of a dancefloor filler before closing with the reflective ‘Youth’. Although Hattie Cooke has more aurally expansive in her productions, she might have benefitted from undertaking some live synth soloing during the instrumental sections as she looked slightly lost during these moments; in her delightful stage banter, she did admit to forgetting to pack the correct lead for it. There is room for improvement in the live presentation so as her audiences grow, she could do a lot worse than to follow the lead of the evening’s headliner.

Alice Hubble opened her longest live set to date with the watery wash of ‘West Reservoir’, while visually enhanced by shades of misty red and billowing smoke. The wonderful ‘My Dear Friend’ provided a touching ode to Alice’s late parents while the synthetic glam of ‘Kick The Habit’ was boosted by bursts of the Prodigy, the synth, not the band; this classic Moog also provided some further elegiac resonance to ‘Goddess’, a number that became a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq at the time of its release in 2019.

Photo by Adrian Hextall

Dreamy Mellotron tines and more Moog Prodigy bedded the rousing indie synthpop of ‘Projections’, the undoubted standout of the ‘Hexentanzplatz’ opus, while the strident title track and ‘Power Play’ pointed to the weightier developments in the Alice Hubble sound, both musically and lyrically.

The progressively constructed ‘Still’ from ‘Polarlichter’ came over as spacey as ever before the motorised soundscape of ‘Gliechfalls’ acted as an exhilarating cosmic jam to finish.

One notable absentee from the set was ‘We Are Still Alone’, the best song on ‘Polarlichter’ and its presence would have been more preferable to the lengthy instrumental ‘Atlantis Palm’ which although a beautiful album, unnecessarily stalled momentum mid-show. But minor quibbles aside, it was an entertaining show that even prompted energetic dancing from a young hipster couple new to Alice Hubble and who enthusiastically visited the merch stand afterwards.

Electronic pop may not ever hit the mainstream heights of 1981 again although four decades on, its understated feminine variant is making its presence felt in the enchanting songs of Alice Hubble and Hattie Cooke.


Alice Hubble’s ‘Hexentanzplatz’ is released by Happy Robots Records in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, available from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hexentanzplatz

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/

Hattie Cooke’s ‘Bliss Land’ is released by Castles In Space in CD, red vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://hattiecooke-cis.bandcamp.com/

https://www.patreon.com/Hattiecooke

https://www.facebook.com/hattiecookemusic

https://twitter.com/hattiecooke

https://www.instagram.com/hattiecookemusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th October 2021

BLANCMANGE + HEARTBREAK Live in Tunbridge Wells

The leafy Kent town of Royal Tunbridge Wells was the location for first night of the BLANCMANGE tour rescheduled from 2020.

Originally intended to coincide with the 12th full length BLANCMANGE long player ‘Mindset’, Neil Arthur recorded another album ‘Commercial Break’ during lockdown while also preparing a soon-to-be-released collaboration with Finlay Shakespeare who will be the support act from Colchester Arts Centre onwards.

But tonight at The Forum, which was chosen to be a sort of warm-up to get BLANCMANGE back into the ritual of live performance after a gap of almost two years, the opening act was the energetic Anglo-Argentine electro duo HEARTBREAK. Comprising of charismatic vocalist Sebastian Muravchik and thoughtful instrumentalist Ali Renault, HEARTBREAK toured with the likes of LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS in support of their 2008 debut album ‘Lies’ before they went into hiatus for nearly a decade and re-emerging in 2018.

Muravchik has been making music as SNS SENSATION while Renault recently issued an instrumental solo mini-album ‘Nawce Blizzard’, but there is a new HEARTBREAK album on the way and it was with one of the new numbers ‘1888’ that they began their uptempo set. From ‘Lies’ came the modern Italo romp of ‘Akin to Dancing’ and the falsetto charged ‘Regret’ before Muravchik announced how the fall out between himself and Renault (which put HEARTBREAK on the backburner) had been channelled into another new song called ‘This Battle’.

Having regrown his moustache especially for this occasion, Muravchik busted some Latin lothario moves and beckoned the now warmed up audience to dance to HEARTBREAK’s appropriately titled signature song ‘We’re Back’ and the frenzied ‘My Tears Electro’.

The most enthusiastic of the participants was undoubtedly Renault’s primary school aged daughter who was totally thrilled with seeing her father perform for the very first time and assiting on vocoder.

To very bright stage lights, long standing BLANCMANGE live keyboardist Ogoo Maia and electronic percussionist Liam Hutton took their places as they awaited the arrival of Neil Arthur to launch into the ‘Mange Tout’ favourite ‘Game Above My Head’.

With a set divided equally divided between classic material and 21st Century BLANCMANGE works, the marvellous robopop of ‘In Your Room’ from 2018’s ‘Wanderlust’ and songs off the ‘Mindset’ album, such as the title song and ‘Clean Your House’, showed that Arthur was still pushing forward artistically. But surprises also came with the 1985 single ‘What’s Your Problem?’ and ‘I Prefer Solitude’ from the FADER collaboration with producer Benge.

‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Waves’ and ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ highlighted that for those in attendance, the 1982 debut ‘Happy Families’ is still a record held with great affection by many while there was also space for the topical wordplay of ‘This A State’ from the upcoming ‘Commercial Break’ album.

However, during a lone ivory version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, Arthur got knocked off focus by those who were talking quite loudly during this key set-piece.

Asking Maia to stop, the Lancastrian made his thoughts known in his deep dry tone about the lingering chitter-chatter and said he would prefer it if people sang along instead. This prompted some to visit azlyrics.com on their phones and as Arthur continued with his rendition of his favourite ABBA song, he had to contain his laughter as most present joined in!

Heading for the home straight, ‘Living On The Ceiling’ prompted the now-customary massed chant of the song’s main instrumental while ‘Feel Me’ and ‘Blind Vision’ closed proceedings with a welcome Saturday night disco. “It’s been hard work in rehearsals and the first show proper after around 2 years is quite a challenge” Neil Arthur said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK afterwards, “In a good way.”

As the most prolific artist of the Synth Britannia generation and one who has toured every year since as BLANCMANGE’s comeback in 2011 up to and including 2019, Neil Arthur’s return to the live stage is an important symbol that gives hope after a difficult 21 months.

Certainly those present at The Forum seemed happy to be out with their friends for some live music and a drink or three, even if not all were necessarily paying attention to what they had paid their hard earned money to see.


With thanks to Joe Pidgeon at AGMP and Chris Pritchard at The Forum

‘Commercial Break’ is released by Blanc Check on 17th September 2021 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

BLANCMANGE 2021 live dates include:

Colchester Arts Centre (16th September), Norwich Arts Centre (17th September), Birmingham Institute 2 (18th September), Gloucester Guild Hall (23rd September), Exeter Phoenix (24th September), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (25th September), Blackburn King George’s Hall (29th September), Newcastle Riverside (30th September), Edinburgh Liquid Room (1st October), Glasgow Oran Mor (2nd October), Southampton The Brook (13th October), Bristol Fleece (14th October), Northampton Roadmender (22nd October), Manchester Club Academy (27th October), Leeds The Wardrobe (28th October), Liverpool Grand Central Hall (29th October), Brighton Concorde 2 (17th November), Harpenden Public Halls (18th November), Cardiff Portland House (25th November), London Under The Bridge (26th November), Shrewsbury Buttermarket (27th November)

BLANCMANGE will also be opening for ERASURE on 17th October 2021 and London O2 Arena

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

https://www.instagram.com/blancmange_music/

https://www.facebook.com/Heartbreak-14224761975


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
13th September 2021

HEAVEN 17 Reproduction + Travelogue Live at The Roundhouse

Photo by Simon Helm

Having been mooted for several years and postponed twice, HEAVEN 17 finally delivered their 40th anniversary celebration of THE HUMAN LEAGUE albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’.

“We’re not pretending we were reforming THE HUMAN LEAGUE, all the publicity states this is HEAVEN 17’s interpretation of those two albums” said Martyn Ware, “As you well know, I was the major writer on most of those tracks. I always felt they deserved a wider audience, hence why we’ve played a lot of those songs live with HEAVEN 17 anyway.” Although it was Fast Product that released the first version of ‘Being Boiled’ in June 1978,  Virgin Records, under the A&R directorship of Simon Draper, had the foresight to see the wider potential of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s sound containing synthesizers and vocals only.

But how important are these two records in the development of pop music using synthesizers? Using the Roland System 100, Korg 700s, Roland Jupiter 4 and Korg 770, ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ are certainly up there with landmark British albums such as ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, ‘Metamatic’ and ‘Vienna’, while a case can definitely be made that they are on a par with international works such as ‘No1 In Heaven’ and ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’.

Former member of both THE HUMAN LEAGUE and HEAVEN 17 Ian Craig Marsh once imitated the deep voice of Seiko watches on an early demo and declared “THE HUMAN LEAGUE, one day all music will be made like this…” and it all turned out to be rather prophetic. Deputising tonight at The Roundhouse for the long absent Marsh, alongside Ware and HEAVEN 17 front man Glenn Gregory, was keyboardist Flo Sabeva, while acting as Director Of Visuals in place of Adrian Wright was Assorted iMaGes design director Malcolm Garrett.

Using a four screen ‘Reproduction’ of the album’s inner bag as the stage set, synths-wise, Ware had his Roland trusty V-Synth GT at his disposal alongside a vintage Roland System 100, mini-Korg 700s and a Jupiter 4 on loan from Irish synth artist CIRCUIT3. Meanwhile, Sabeva kept the tech up-to-date with her Fantom 6 and System 8 arsenal from Roland.

The aggressive synth-punk of ‘Almost Medieval’, naturally opened proceedings while the harrowing ‘Circus Of Death’ following, both displaying a thoughtful ‘Reproduction’ of the percussive System 100 dynamics. A rallying call to rebel against conformity, ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ was as relevant as ever while fun came on ‘Blind Youth’, summing up another sad observation that could be applied today, especially with its known anti-Covid vaccine elements.

The Schaffel nursery rhyme of ‘Empire State Human still came over as the mighty hit it never was, illustrated by world monuments and the achievements of the US and Soviet space programmes. Using the System 100 for its lonely sequence, ‘Morale’ segued seamlessly into the ring modulated tick-tock of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ with Gregory and Ware doing their familiar Righton Brothers duet, to convey the eerie soundtrack’s desolate emptiness.

As the fierce acceleration of ‘Zero As A Limit’ climaxed the ‘Reproduction’ section of the show, the ‘Travelogue’ part was introduced by the harsh screeching frequencies of ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ as it all went up another gear with this still entertainingly humorous Sci-Fi story about an infinite chart topper. Meanwhile, the minimal synth rendition of Mick Ronson’s ‘Only After Dark’ prompted an audience chantalong while the under-rated ‘Life Kills’ proved to be something of an electronic pop evergreen

But it was all hush for the poignant prog synth of ‘Dreams Of Leaving’; with a narrative about the traumatic escape of refugees who then try to settle into a new home, the alignment of sad, happy, fast, slow with its uplifting pipe-pitched climax was proof that 40 years on, emotional responses can still come from the machines of Roland and her sisters.

For the instrumentals ‘Toyota City’ and Jeff Wayne’s ‘Gordon’s Gin’, Gregory took his place on a Sequential Prophet 6 but as backing singers Rachel Meadows Hayley and Hayley Williams joined in and danced to the vicious backbone of ‘Crow & A Baby’, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this number as a prototype of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’; squinting from the balcony, it could even have looked like “Phil, Joanne and Susan” were on stage!

An epic synth reimagination of PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC, the reworked ‘Being Boiled 2.0’ with Phil Oakey’s surreal lyrics about the extermination of silk worms never sounded so glorious and further memories of the mature audience were triggered by the incongruous but effective use of slides featuring characters from Gerry Anderson’s iconic Supermarionation shows ‘Fireball XL5’, ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’.

A dystopian song about the mechanisation of radio stations which inadvertently predicted the Spotify playlist, ‘WXJL Tonight’ closed the ‘Travelogue’ section with Gregory adding the tones of Neil Diamond to his delivery.

But the evening was not over yet as tracks from the companion ‘Holiday 80’ EP were aired. The stupendous ‘Marianne’ with its three part vocal counterpoint and multiple harmonies over its crashing rhythmic barrage was worth the ticket price along while Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s ‘Nightclubbing’ somehow got an even more sinister funereal treatment.

But then things went disco as ‘I Don’t Depend On You’, the 1979 that was released prior to ‘Reproduction’ under the alias of THE MEN took its place in the set but importantly, highlighting how THE HUMAN LEAGUE might have mutated into how HEAVEN 17 eventually sounded even if there hadn’t been a split.

Ever the raconteur, Gregory jokingly threatened a performance of ‘Dare’ but settled on stories about the formation of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and HEAVEN 17.

But an unexpected HEAVEN 17 encore reminded the sold-out crowd that we don’t need Fascists, especially that nasty little race traitor Ugly Patel and her scruffy bumbling posh boy mate! But ultimately, all anyone in life really desires is ‘Temptation’ with dimes in that hot slot!

Prior to these shows, THE HUMAN LEAGUE faithful inevitably questioned the validating of HEAVEN 17 performing these albums without Phil Oakey, but is ‘Fade To Grey’ any less valid sung by its co-writer Midge Ure than it is by the late VISAGE front man Steve Strange? By using many of the original synth sounds, this celebration of these two seminal albums was both authentic and appealing.

Sometimes celebrations can actually be more entertaining than modern day incarnations of an original act, as proven with DEPECHE MODE and their various tribute bands showing more spirit to respect for their legacy. At the end of the day, the stars of this evening were the songs themselves, a collection of pioneering electronic adventures that have been forgotten by the mainstream who largely think THE HUMAN LEAGUE appeared by magic with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’.

Those who want to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE performing the ‘Dare’ album can do so at the end of 2021.

But for those who preferred to recall the excitement prevalent at the start of the Synth Britannia era, tonight at The Roundhouse was the place to be… the way it was in the past, a long long time ago!


‘Reproduction’ + ‘Travelogue’ were released by Virgin Records and are still available in the usual formats

https://www.heaven17.com/

https://www.facebook.com/heaven17official/

https://twitter.com/heaven17bef

https://www.instagram.com/heaven17official/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price except where credited
6th September 2020

BON HARRIS Songs From The Lemon Tree – Episode 03

From his home in Los Angeles, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB has presented a series of streamed live performances under the title of ‘Songs From The Lemon Tree’.

Accompanied by his system comprising of an Octatrack MK2, Roland MC101 and two rows of 104 HP modular plus a vibraphone, Harris impressed all with his wonderfully compelling upper vocal range and unusual esoteric electronic covers.

He told Reflections Of Darkness: “I wanted to sing songs that were light-hearted and optimistic – outdoors among the trees in the sunshine…” – while predictably, much of the alternative music media focussed on ‘Compulsion’ by Brummie post-punk musician Joe Crow (which Martin Gore recorded for the 1989 ‘Counterfeit’ covers EP) in Episode 01 and the laid back jazz-tinged rework of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Ice Machine’ in Episode 02, it was the Episode 03 featuring an eclectic quartet of classic songs that was the most captivating.

Beginning with an emotive rendition of ‘Love & Affection’, the breakthrough hit of Joan Armatrading, the biggest surprise came with the eerie carousel ride of ‘My Happiness’; written in 1933 by Borney Bergantine, although the version with lyrics by Betty Peterson Blasco as performed by Harris was first published in 1947, it was made famous by Connie Francis in 1958 but was also notable as one of the two songs that Elvis Presley recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis as a gift to his mother.

Meanwhile, the introduction to Paul Weller’s ‘That’s Entertainment’ sounded as if it might drift into ‘But Not Tonight’, but the set ended with a marvellous thumping dance take on the 1970 Diana Ross hit ‘Remember Me’ which was one of several world famous songs including ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘Reach Out & Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’ and ‘I’m Every Woman’ from the portfolio of husband and wife songwriting team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Reinterpretation is an artform and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK always prefers a thoughtfully crafted genre crossing cover version any day of the week, over a tedious remix by the man on the street with a DAW. In his autobiography ‘Fast Forward: Confessions Of A Post-Punk Percussionist – Volume II’, Stephen Morris of NEW ORDER hit the nail on the head when he said “The worst of it for me was all the remixes. A VERY big thing in the 90s; I have never got to the end of most of them. I don’t think any of us have, to be honest.”

“Each of the songs from the three episodes have had a special place in my life and experience since I first heard them” said Harris. This love and affection has been quite obviously apparent in his arrangements and vocal delivery for ‘Songs From The Lemon Tree’, demonstrating his sympathetic understanding of the music and the quality of the songs.


All three episodes of ‘Songs From The Lemon Tree’ can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiXpThI8zmTLZocvVvZgGEg

http://www.nitzer-ebb.com/

https://www.instagram.com/bonharrisarts360/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2020

KARIN MY Messed!Up Magazine Live Session

Swedish chanteuse Karin My performed a superbly moving live set a secret forest location near Gothenburg as part of a series of live streams.

An experienced self-taught musician, after more than a decade of doing backing vocals or playing cello for acts such as TWICE A MAN, MACHINISTA, CARBON BASED LIFEFORMS and FAKE MOSS, Karin My has finally stepped out to the front to showcase her traditionally derived electronic songs.

Premiering ‘Stray From The Path’ and ‘Silence Amygdala’, a pair of songs from her upcoming debut album, the four song set also included two of her previous singles ‘Time To Go’ and ‘World From Orbit’. Backed on keyboards and harp by D. Kaufeldt, with her folk-laden overtones swathed in beautiful synths and embroiled in wonderful melancholy, the voice of Karin My evokes a forlorn abandonment like a Nordic Mary Hopkin, with the darkening autumnal backdrop providing a magical setting to compliment her captivating music.

“To be performing like this, singing alone out into the darkness and seeing only the sky, the shadows of the trees and the team moving around us carefully” she told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “it slowly allowed me to take one step further into the songs and focus in a way that felt both very special and beautiful”

“When I got the request from Messed!Up Magazine about doing a recorded live session, I also got all the freedom to do what I wished with it, so I wanted to do it in the ‘habit’ where I so often am, mentally or for real when I’m writing or singing. Under the sky, close to the nature, which always inspires me” she added, “So I choose the place and made the light settings, the rest of it was a lovely team work with the filmers (Richard Bloom, Jimi from Messed!Up and Krichan Wihlborg) and my companion D. Kaufeldt. Also Anna Öberg, Gasleben and Niels Gordon were helpful in different ways”.

Karin My’s first experience of electronic music came when a friend of her mother gave her the five imperial phase KRAFTWERK albums from ‘Autobahn’ to ‘Computer World’. She then discovered TANGERINE DREAM and DEPECHE MODE, and the synthy snowball effect rolled on to today’s acts such as KITE.


‘Time To Go’ and ‘World From Orbit’ are released by Ad Inexplorata and available on most digital platforms

http://www.karinmy.net/

https://www.instagram.com/karinmymusic/

http://www.explorata.net/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Richard Bloom
23rd November 2020

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