Category: Lost Albums (Page 1 of 14)

Lost Albums: JYL Jyl

After decades of composing lengthy synth symphonies, there must have been times when Jean-Michel Jarre must have just wanted to do a four minute pop tune. The France maestro managed this in a quirky collaboration with Cyndi Lauper on ‘Swipe To The Right’ in 2016.

But before that there was Peter Baumann producing a whole long player for Leda in 1978 while a few years later in 1984, another former TANGERINE DREAM member and fellow Berlin School legend Klaus Schulze did a co-production for the only album by Jyl, released on his label Inteam GmbH.

With Donna Summer teaming up with Giorgio Moroder on ‘I Feel Love’ in 1977, a new trend was set to accompany female vocalists with artful electronics. While Peter Baumann’s production ‘Welcome To Joyland’ for Leda saw him conflicted about the more commercial ethos of the concept, Gina Kikoine and Zeus B Held had a colder vision and achieved acclaim for their first album ‘Nice Mover’ as GINA X PERFORMANCE.

The vehicle of American avant-songstress Jyl Porch who wrote the majority of the lyrics to nine of the self-titled album’s songs, the music was composed and arranged by Ingo Werner who had been a member of cult German band MY SOLID GROUND before fronting his own project BABA YAGA; his wife Angela, a Neue Deutsche Welle artist in her own right, provided lyrics to two songs and backing vocals.

Born in California, Jyl Porch went to Europe to work as a dancer and model, before ending up in Germany. Here she was introduced to Ingo Werner who was looking for a performance artist to collaborate with on some electronic compositions he was developing. Recorded over a period of about 5 years, Jyl saw lyrics as pictures which suited the predominantly electronic backdrop, creating a character for each song.

The opener ‘Mechanic Ballerina’’ featured glassy PPG textures and a scary gothic male choir while a nonchalant spoken lead vocal came in the verses; there was drama and even a salvo of rock guitar from Leo Leonhardt of JOST BAND. A sexy love song in outer space, ‘Universe’ took on an ominous funereal pace with deep and kooky Lene Lovich stylings in the chorus that captured a Fantasia presence.

Chugging along with something of a disco military march and not a KRAFTWERK cover, ‘Computer Love’ saw Jyl playing the part of an operatic robot programmed to please and with Gallic expression from Helene Vernant, it was one of the album’s highlights. The playful ‘Position’ was shaped by pretty pulses and appealing sweeps for a wonderfully saucy spoken and sung number on carnal preferences, although its actual lyrical gist was of fighting patriarchy and breaking with traditions

Hopping over to 6/8 with figures reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Ivory Tower’ including Euro-rock interventions from noted studio engineer Frank Wolf’s guitar, the Anglo-French ‘Dance & Death’ naturally provided sinister yet seductive contrasts.

Back onto technological themes and digital chimes, ‘Computer Generation’ was pacier and percussive with delightful varispeeded voices; predicting today’s world with ”we are the computer generation – time time time – new technology – hit hit hit -high activity -s um sum sum – computer memory – trigger trigger trigger- machine authority”, it was ahead of its time.

With a pulsing synthbass as its backbone, ‘Animation’ was shrouded in a Trans-Atlantic rock flavour despite being all electronic with musical pointers to WHITE DOOR who issued their debut ‘Windows’ album the year before. Meanwhile with the spectre of Gina Kikoine looming, the spacey influence of the New York electro scene was clearly behind ‘Silicon Valley’ although the mighty synth solo would have appealed to old school Berliners; Jyl proclaimed “A brand new world future age in the heart of the valley” but countered about its “future rage”.

Continuing the New York influence with synthetic claps and Christoph Haberer’s timbale rolls thrown into the bargain, the female empowering ‘Electric Lady’ saw our heroine declaring “I’ll ride your rocket”; quite art school in its approach with an unusual beat, however it appeared that things were running out of steam as it did not hit the heights of the rest of the album. Closing the album and more new wave than electronic, guitars were the dominant feature on ‘I’m A Machine’ along with drowning vocals; undoubtedly the outlier on the record, it was result of a jam at the end of the recording sessions.

Despite its Klaus Schulze credentials, ‘Jyl’ did not capture the public imagination when released but over the years, the recorded has become something of a lost classic with its prophetic themes adding to its legend. ‘Jyl’ was remastered and reissued in 2020 by Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave Records and now being enjoyed by electronic music enthusiasts who were not aware of it previously. Ahead of its time, it can now been seen as yesterday’s tomorrow coming true.

Klaus Schulze would undertake further adventures in pop, working with ALPHAVILLE on a 1988 remix of ‘Big In Japan’ before producing their 1989 album ‘The Breathtaking Blue’. Meanwhile the classically schooled Ingo Werner would venture into classical electronic, new-age and soundtrack music.

Jyl Porch would co-write and provide vocal contributions on the Angela Werner tracks ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Gotta Little Love’ also from 1984. While she would not make another record of her own, she did make an eventual impact amongst the electronic cognoscenti with her enchanting collection of futuristic songs.

‘Jyl’ is available via Minimal Wave Records as a vinyl LP with 12 page booklet insert from or

Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Jeff DeCuir
24 April 2024

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

Lost Albums: RED FLAG Naïve Art

Comprising of brothers Mark and Chris Reynolds, although they were originally from Liverpool, RED FLAG were based in San Diego.

The Reynolds had lived in many places across the globe due to their father’s work as a Naval Officer, but eventually the family settled in California. Acquiring a Roland Juno 60 synthesizer, the sibling duo were very influenced by DEPECHE MODE. First recording as SHADES OF MAY, their minimal synth number ‘Distant Memories’ was included on the ‘91X Local Heroes 1984’ sampler album compiled by radio station 91X.

Invitations to perform live came thick and fast as the brothers relocated to San Diego and took their music more seriously, studying computer-based music technology and eventually changing their name to RED FLAG. With accusations that they were communist sympathizers, the pair said that “red flag” was taken from the signal used on beaches by lifeguards warning of high hazards due to rough currents. The term has since become ubiquitous as a warning sign, particularly in relationships.

While performing at a party in Southern California, the pair came to the attention of producer Jon St James who had worked with BERLIN, been a member of SSQ and was now helming the solo career of their lead singer Stacey Q.

Released in Summer 1988 as a 12” single on St James’ Synthicide Records, ‘Broken Heart’ gained airplay on the influential KROQ-FM in Pasadena via DJ Richard Blade. The Bristol-born expat had championed the likes of DURAN DURAN, DEPECHE MODE, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, OMD and NEW ORDER on the West Coast and by coincidence, had also been the secret boyfriend of BERLIN’s Terri Nunn when Jon St James was assistant engineer on their 1982 breakthrough EP ‘Pleasure Victim’.

After the monotone heard on ‘Distant Memories’, Mark Reynolds had developed a vocal timbre similar to Martin Gore, as well stylising a look based on him. Described on the single’s sticker as “Sonically Seductive Performers A La Mode From The Grey Ambience Of Liverpool”, ‘Broken Heart’ was what DM would have sounded like if they had worked with Giorgio Moroder instead of Daniel Miller. Throbbing and energetic, there were backing vocals from Stacey Q who had also coached the singer during the recording.

Again produced by Jon St James, the next RED FLAG single ‘Russian Radio’ released by Synthicide Records was even better. With a great chorus and a romantic view of Eastern Europe, the song was full of catchy staccato voice samples, metallic beats and digital bass syncopation to give ‘The Great Commandment’ by CAMOUFLAGE a run for its money.

Just as OMD had been fascinated by the stark Cold War era of shortwave radio broadcasts from behind The Iron Curtain, so had RED FLAG. But lyrics declaring “I feel our love is only a smile away, getting so much closer to me every day” gave a more positive outlook in the era of Glasnost lead by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. As the USSR promised more openness and transparency on the route to peace, the 12” A side was named the ‘Glasnost Club Mix’ to reflect this.

Convinced they had found the next DEPECHE MODE in the wake of their Pasadena Rose Bowl triumph, Synthicide Records’ parent label Enigma released RED FLAG’s debut album ‘Naïve Art’ in 1989. Although they were best known for releasing records by hair metal rockers POISON, they also had DEVO on their roster as well as providing an American home to more esoteric British artists such as Bill Nelson and WIRE.

Having been involved in the remixes of ‘Russian Radio’, Paul Robb of INFORMATION SOCIETY, who had found success with their Dr McCoy and Mr Spock sampling single ‘What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)’, was brought in to produce ‘Naïve Art’ and reshaped ‘Broken Heart’ in the process. Opening proceedings, the punchy hook-laden ‘If I Ever’ was disaffected yet euphoric HI-NRG and made a great third single.

A play the title of the John Hughes film whose white middle class teen movies were prevalent at the time, ‘Pretty In Pity’ wallowed in melancholy while playing with lighter metallic touches and melodic rings. Coming over like ‘Heart’ by PET SHOP BOYS with added orchestra stabs, ‘Give Me Your Hand’ was swathed in chromatic filmic mystery. Likely to have been inspired by DEPECHE MODE’s flop US single ‘But Not Tonight’, ‘Save Me Tonight’ was very Gore like in its tone and approach.

However, the rest of ‘Naïve Art’ did not quite hit the highs of the first three singles or ‘Give Me Your Hand’. There was the more steadfast mid-paced ‘All Roads Lead To You’ while much speedier, ‘Count To Three’ suffered from an over long hi-hat breakdown at its conclusion. ‘I Don’t Know Why’ was not particularly adventurous lyrically, repeating the title several times over in the chorus.

Perhaps in an attempt to show that RED FLAG were more than just DEPECHE MODE clones, after the very European approach of the first nine songs, the album took an about turn with the soul ballad ‘Rain’; sounding like it wouldn’t have been out of place on a Paul Young album, there were even echoes of the Phyllis Nelson smooch slowie ‘Move Closer’. To close, there was a pleasant if almost incongruous classical piano piece ‘Für Michelle’.

Mixed by Joseph Watt of specialist remix service Razormaid whose edits and mixes were very popular in the alternative clubs of New York and Los Angeles, ‘Naïve Art’ was a promising debut that showcased the potential of RED FLAG’s songcraft. An enjoyable if derivate long player, although their music was melancholic, RED FLAG had less of the pessimistic doom that had hung over DEPECHE MODE’s output since ‘Black Celebration’ and more akin to their fourth album ‘Some Great Reward’.

Although electronic pop with danceable beats and industrial sounding samples was booming in the US at this point, a backlash in the shape of grunge was just round the corner. RED FLAG would go on to open for DEVO, BOOK OF LOVE and REAL LIFE, but with Enigma folding, the Reynolds brothers would move onto an unhappy period with IRS Records for the single ‘Machines’ in 1992. Forming their own an independent record label Plan B Records, RED FLAG issued their laid back second album ‘The Lighthouse’ in 1994, before heading towards a much darker direction by 2000’s ‘The Crypt’ and sharing live bills with emerging European acts like MESH and DE/VISION.

Releasing albums prolifically, after ‘Codebreaker t133’ which set all its songs at 133BPM, Mark Reynolds sadly took his own life in 2003. After a period of grieving, Chris Reynolds returned as RED FLAG in 2007 with ‘Born Again’ which exuded more gothic overtones and included a song called ‘Doom & Gloom’. The final RED FLAG album to date came with ‘Serenity’ in 2012.

In 2020, ‘Naïve Art’ was reissued by Pylon Records as an expanded edition. While not groundbreaking, as one of the first releases from a DEPECHE MODE influenced act (of which today there are far too many!), ‘Naïve Art’ retains a melodic and rhythmic charm that captures a much more innocent time in music that is worthy of revisiting.

The Reynolds brothers handily sounded the way they looked during this period and had credible American producers to realise their initial vision. ‘Naïve Art’ was never officially released in the UK and for that reason alone, RED FLAG remain relatively unknown in their country of birth, even among electronic pop enthusiasts.

So, if you have never heard of RED FLAG before and are curious, you know what to do…

‘Naïve Art’ is available via Pylon Records as a 30th Anniversary double vinyl LP edition from

An expanded 2CD featuring radio edits and Razormaid remixes is available at

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Alex Remlin
22 November 2023

Lost Albums: CICERO Future Boy

A fan of synthpop and dance music, David Cicero began writing songs and making music in his bedroom, aided by advancements in technology such as affordable samplers and sequencing software. His set-up eventually included a Korg T3, an Akai sequencer, an Akai sampler and a Roland rack mount synth.

Following a PET SHOP BOYS concert in 1989, the lad from Livingston in West Lothian managed to get a demo tape to the duo and before two could be divided by zero, Cicero was offered a record deal with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s new record label Spaghetti Records imprint which was being set up in conjunction with Polydor Records.

Although the excellent debut single for both Cicero and Spaghetti Records ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’ failed to chart, it brought the young photogenic Scot to the attention of radio programmers and press. So when his PET SHOP BOYS produced second single ‘Love Is Everywhere’ was released in late 1991, traditionally a good time to break new acts due to the traditional New Year lull in the music business, it eventually reached No19 in the UK charts. The parent album ‘Future Boy’ was eventually released in Summer 1992.

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, Cherry Red will be reissuing ‘Future Boy’ as a fully remastered 45-track 3CD deluxe expanded edition with an illustrated 24-page booklet featuring an introduction and track-by-track comments by David Cicero himself. As well as all the Cicero tracks released during his Spaghetti period, there are also ‘Ciceroddities!’ in previously unreleased songs such as ‘Pretend’ and live tracks from a one-off concert at London Heaven opening for PET SHOP BOYS at an after party for the premiere of the 1991 Derek Jarman film ‘Edward II’.

The limited edition white vinyl LP edition of ‘Future Boy’ comes with a bonus DVD ‘Cicerovision!’ and includes all the official promotional videos, his 1992 Electronic Press Kit with contributions from Neil Tennant and live footage of the 1991 Heaven gig.

The melancholic but hopeful pop sound captured on ‘Future Boy’ was a reaction to Scottish radio which had local bands RUNRIG, HIPSWAY, DEACON BLUE and TEXAS on constant rotation. With the international success of PET SHOP BOYS, Cicero had seen an opening for electronic music influenced by acid house and techno but in a more mainstream way.

The London recording sessions were happy ones with Chris Lowe playing the joker while Neil Tennant would hold court, offering his critique on successful artists who he believed were not deserving. “I was loving every moment of it and thought it was amazing” Cicero told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2019, “looking back now it all seems like a dream.”

With his Italian name and the song’s Italian dance flavour, ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’ ticked all of PET SHOP BOYS boxes as they prepared their first release on Spaghetti, but they opted to produce the second single ‘Love Is Everywhere’. Combining THE PROCLAIMERS with PET SHOP BOYS and OMD while throwing in bagpipes and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo for good measure, it was a bizarre but glorious sound that emerged from the radio just as 1992 began. A Scottish anthem that just worked, Cicero became a pop pin-up with a ‘Smash Hits’ front cover and numerous TV appearances including ‘Top Of The Pops’.

With “Cicero In Da House”, the excellent ‘That Loving Feeling’ also produced by PET SHOP BOYS was the third single prior to launching ‘Future Boy’ but stocking issues at parent label Polydor stalled momentum despite the video being shown pre-release on ITV’s ‘The Chart Show’; Cicero just missed the Top 40 at No46.

Aside from the three singles, ‘Future Boy’ included a number of equally worthy tracks. Cicero’s own personal favourite ‘Then’ was slated to be the fourth single but was shelved in favour of a PET SHOP BOYS remix of ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’. Meanwhile mixed by Tennant and Lowe with Pete Schwier, ‘My Middle Class Life’ was a stark observation on the abuse of class hierachy that had an air of VISAGE in the chorus.

Both recalling NEW ORDER, ‘Sonic Malfunction’ and ‘Cloud 9’ were two catchy instrumentals that revealed Cicero’s affinity with club culture, but with the collapse of The Iron Curtain, he offered something much darker in ‘The Butcher Of Bucharest’ about the Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.

At the time a standalone single taken from the PET SHOP BOYS directed soundtrack to the movie ‘The Crying Game’ released in Autumn 1992 but very much a postscript to the ‘Future Boy’ story, ‘Live For Today’ displayed a more orchestrated feel with a superb gospel-tinged vocal from Sylvia Mason-James. Providing a “what if?” scenario as to a possible second album direction, Cicero however dropped out of the pop music industry for personal reasons. Although he would continue to release singles and record instrumental albums under the name THE EVENT, a second Cicero album ‘Today’ would not finally appear until 2021… but that’s another story.

‘Future Boy’ was a promising debut long player and contained a number of outstanding tracks which were enhanced by the involvement of PET SHOP BOYS during their imperial phase. But while that promise was not ultimately fulfilled back then, that Cicero is still making great pop music such as the poignant ‘Hold On To The Memories’ in 2022 shows that the talent really was there and never left him.

For the 30th Anniversary edition of ‘Future Boy’, a previously unreleased song intended for the album ‘Pretend’ has been included into the main tracklisting. There is also an early version of ‘Wish’, a song which he later re-recorded and subsequently appeared on ‘Today’. Among the bonus material, Cicero revisits ‘Love Is Everywhere’ for 2023 while there are also newly commissioned remixes of the track by the likes of SOFTWAVE and SHELTER.

Reflecting on criticism that said ‘Future Boy’ was just another PET SHOP BOYS side-project, David Cicero surmised: “I was their prodigy, they found me and I found them, it’s all about fate. I may have made it without the lads, but having them help me and to be part of it was something I would never change”.

‘Future Boy’ 30th Anniversary Edition with ‘Ciceroddities!’ is released as a 3CD deluxe set via Cherry Red Records on 29 September 2023, pre-order via

The white vinyl LP features a bonus DVD insert ‘Cicerovision!’ and can be pre-ordered at

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Eric Watson
18 September 2023

Lost Albums: DENIS & DENIS Čuvaj Se

In what was then Yugoslavia, cult synth duo DENIS & DENIS formed when vivacious vocalist Marina Perazić met synth player Davor Tolja in the Croatian port city of Rijeka in 1982.

Out of all the communist states during The Cold War, Yugoslavia was the most liberal with its citizens entering Jeux Sans Frontiers and Miss World including the 1983 contestant Bernada Marovt who had controversially appeared in nude photo sessions! Meanwhile as with today, the beautiful Adriatic coastline was a desirable holiday destination for Western Europeans.

The more open environment under the rule of Marshal Tito allowed the duo to hear the classic synthpop emerging from the UK such as YAZOO and EURYTHMICS, both of whom DENIS & DENIS were compared to, thanks to Tolja’s high production values and Perazić’s deep enigmatic voice which was laced with that Eastern Bloc allure.

Thanks to good quality demos being sent to the major radio stations of Yugoslavia and assorted live gigs, there was a domestic media buzz about DENIS & DENIS by the middle of 1983. Meaning “Take Care!”, the ‘Čuvaj Se!’ album was released on the state record label Jugoton in 1984.

The opening title song was suitably lively and accessible. It was up there with some of the best electronic music from Western Europe, with an appeal for those with English language ears like Scandinavian or Gallic pop. Telling the story of a lonely woman in an endless search for comfort, Perazić’s vocals were alluringly contralto while the combination of Linn Drum rhythms and percolating sequences came over like a less frantic YAZOO meeting the DEPECHE MODE-connected French synthpop trio VIENNA.

Maintaining the standard in an exploration of mundane daily routines, ‘Dvadeset I Osam Minuta Do Pet’ (“28 Minutes To Five”) was frantic synthpop laced with incessant sequencers as some wonderfully staccato vocal phrasing manifested itself by necessity to keep up with the pace. Meanwhile the catchy ‘Ti I Ja’ (“You and Me”) grabbed an Italo-styled resonance with a rugged machine hook and a Vince Clarke aping middle eight section.

Considered their best known song, ‘Program Tvog Kompjutera’ (“Your Computer Programme”) was like a sister song to ‘Dvadeset I Osam Minuta Do Pet’, but with Davor Tolja providing a vocal turn as well; the end result came over not unlike the 21st CENTURY YAZOO-influenced Swedish duo ALISON, especially in the chorus.

Another duet based around the passing of time, ‘Tek Je Sedam Sati’ (“It’s Just About 7”) was more directly YAZOO in arrangement with a distinctly Europop chorus amongst a backdrop of bleeps and solid metronomic rhythms. Also a duet, ‘Telefon’ drove into middle of the road territory as possibly the most conventional song on the album; despite the synths and drum machines, it was far less quirky in its emotive desire for reconciliation.

An enigmatic midtempo set piece about a relationship, Tolja took the lead vocal on ‘Sačuvaj Nešto’ (“Keep Something”), but with solid bass sequencing and squawking tremeloed guitar, ‘Doba Noćnih Kiša’ (“Rainy Nights”) stuttered into some bleeping autumnal electro-funk. To close and possibly shaped by the surrounding spectre of The Cold War, paranoia was the theme of the closing number ‘Dio Refrena’ (“Part Of The Refrain”), an atmospheric building synth ballad with spacey textures that ended the album on a more pessimistic note.

The release of ‘Čuvaj Se!’ led to several appearances on Yugoslavian national television while there was an ‘Album Of The Year’ award in the domestic music magazine ‘Rock’. But despite the acclaim, as with a number of acts in the West, things were never the same again and the magic was never to be repeated. The second album ‘Ja Sam Lažljiva’ (“I Am A Liar”) issued in 1985 was not so much an album, but a 5 track EP with bonus alternate versions. Stylistically, things became more confused, indicating conflicts between the pair in musical direction.

‘Soba 23’ (“Room 23”) took its lead from Howard Jones’ ‘What Is Love?’ while working the other way round, the guitar-driven ballad ‘Voli Me Još Ovu Noć’ (“Love Me More Tonight”) is said to have been the inspiration for the 1999 Ricky Martin song ‘She’s All I Ever Had’. Much jauntier than their previous material, the ‘Ja Sam Lažljiva’ title track grabbed a pseudo Caribbean feel, no doubt following the lead of CULTURE CLUB with timbale rolls thrown in for good measure. But it was the antithesis of the moodier introspection of ‘Noć’ (“Night”) which had more of a spiritual connection with their earlier material.

After the bland final non-album single ‘Oaze Snova’ (“Oases of Dreams”) in 1986, Perazić left to embark on a solo career. Tolja recruited Edi Kraljić who had provided backing vocals on ‘Čuvaj Se’ to front a rebooted DENIS & DENIS. However, not only did the all-male line-up change the visual dynamic but the ‘Budi Tu’ album in 1988 was more rock oriented, away from the synthy sound that had made DENIS & DENIS so appealing in the first place.

There were farewell reunion concerts with Perazić and Tolja in 2012 while in 2013, the instrumentalist relaunched the DENIS & DENIS name with a new female frontwoman Ruby Kolić and a new album ‘Restart’; but it didn’t and nothing could recapture poise or the glory days of the Marina Perazić fronted period and its playful charm.

Along with much of the best European synthpop from four decades ago, ‘Čuvaj Se’ has aged well and lasted the distance, sounding fresh and vibrant even now. The joys of DENIS & DENIS and this album in particular deserve to be discovered by the many ears worldwide that would have been unable to experience the duo back in their creative heyday.

All the tracks from ‘Čuvaj Se’ appear on ‘The Best Of Collection’ released by Croatia Records, available via the usual online platforms

Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th December 2022

« Older posts