Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 193)

MICHEL MOERS As Is

Best known as the front man of Belgian electronic trailblazers TELEX, Michel Moers releases what is only his second solo studio album ‘As Is’.

Together with Dan Lacksman and Marc Moulin, TELEX were the ultimate passively subversive pop group, whether it was by performing a funereal robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ on Top Of The Pops while Moers was reading a newspaper or entering the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest to send up the whole charade with the sole intention of coming last!

When TELEX went into hiatus after their 1988 album ‘Looney Tunes’, the dryly humorous Moers released his solo debut ‘Fishing Le Kiss’ in 1991. Although the trio reunited, with the sad passing 2008, TELEX were formally retired.

After 33 years, Michel Moers has admittedly that working on music alone has been a challenge in the absence of his late bandmate and while continuing jobs in photography and architecture, he made music on Sundays like a painter. Recorded primarily using Logic, the songs have been developed over several years and although Moers continues with his distinctive cynical surrealism, one change in approach has been a more direct lyrical expression.

Like with TELEX, ‘As Is’ is multi-lingual while the mood is reflective. Representative of this is ‘Les Gens Sont Affligeants’, a rework of a song that actually appeared on Moers’ debut. Translated as “People Are Disappointing” because let’s face it, they are, with deep chanson resonances offset by arpeggios, it is sad that individualistic entitlement is still very relevant today.

The single ‘Microwaves’ features Claudia Brücken on lead vocals for a more straightforward slice electronic pop with solid bass and icy synth lines that come over like PROPAGANDA meeting TELEX. With dead pan and treated vocals in unison, ‘Potentially (Love-Hate)’ is like a spacey commuter train ride that makes an ideal backdrop for the frustrations expressed; the psychedelic overtones provide an interesting twist while the closing synth work is fantastic.

Declaring “we are only human, curious by nature”, ‘New Friend’ is solemn yet strangely heartfelt while ‘Beau-Triste’ offers sci-fi Charles Aznavour. Upping the pace with splashes of subtle percussive noise, ‘Keske Tu Veux?’ sees sparkly pulsating electronics come into play to contrast the low vocal nonchalance and what’s this? Kerranging rock guitar? In an almost resigned state wondering where the child in himself has gone, ‘Back To Then’ featuring the additional voice of fellow Belgian DAAN continues with the guitars although in a more understated manner alongside the electronics.

The absorbing ‘Pixels’ brings in an appealing synthetic cacophony over a steady metronomic beat but the throbbing ‘R.E.M.I.X’ is a fabulous slice of arty machine dance music where Moers laments aspects of his past, wishing he could “remix my life” just as Karl Bartos did on ‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ in 2013. To close and translated as “You fall asleep”, ‘Tu T’endors’ is bare to the bone, an airy atmospheric lullaby embroiled in a drifting melancholy before a closing chime of guitar.

While delightfully astute and thoughtful, attentive effort is required from the listener but this makes ‘As If’ all the more satisfying in these days of disengaged music consumption. With this album, you can become invested and involved. Describing where the album belongs in the modern world, Moers himself says “it would be on the living room table”.


‘As Is’ is released by Freaksville Records on 19 April 2024 as a transparent vinyl LP and digital download via https://michelmoers.bandcamp.com/album/as-is

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 April 2024

GEMMA CULLINGFORD The Komiza Project

Following up her collaborative EP ‘FOMO’ with performance poet Luke Wright, Gemma Cullingford presents another 4 track offering ‘The Komiza Project’.

It is the soundtrack to her lovely 25 minute short film ‘Home’ which comprises of Super 8 cine footage from between 1974 to 1983 assembled by Gemma Cullingford of her parents from their late teens through to their early 30s in East Anglia, Italy and Switzerland, with cameos from her grandparents, uncles and aunties, brother, friends and pet cat Beans.

The songs themselves date back to 2012 as compositions co-written with Liam Capper-Starr for her first band KOMIZA who released just one EP ‘Early Hours’ in 2014. Taking a step back from the sequencer-assisted dance friendly tunes of her two solo albums ‘Let Me Speak’ and ‘Tongue Tied’, ‘The Komiza Project’ captures Cullingford’s relationship break-up haziness of the time with observational lyrics by Capper-Starr.

The glorious melancholy of ‘Early Hours’ is a synth-laden song of wanting straight out of the Julee Cruise / Angelo Badalamenti / David Lynch songbook. Embroiled in hurt but less direct, ‘Hurry Home’ gazes more to the floor with its shimmering wall of sound and airy vulnerable vocal in the vein of Sarah Cracknell.

‘Ashes’ brings in a subtle bounce and a hint of optimism as part of the emotional recovery with the wonderful synth strings doing a great job of brightening the light at the end of the tunnel. Beginning like a SAINT ETIENNE acoustic ballad, ‘Battle Sighs’ closes with an acceptance to let things go and move on as more of those icy but beautiful synth strings take hold.

As accompaniment to the ‘Home’ film, the personal ethereal songs on ‘The Komiza Project’ make a perfect backdrop to ‘A Norfolk Love Story’ with their ghostly but nostalgic dreamlike qualities complimented by soft wispy vocals. It all fits wonderfully well together despite the seperate components having been made decades apart.


‘The Komiza Project’ is released by Shake! Shake! Records as a 12” vinyl EP in an individually hand numbered plain white sleeve with a unique 6”x4” photograph taken from the ‘Home’ film on 20 April 2024 for Record Store Day 2024 and digital formats on 27 April 2024

https://www.facebook.com/gemcullingford

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https://gemmacullingford.bandcamp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15 April 2024

GAGARIN Komorebi

Behind GAGARIN is Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall, a veteran musical experimentalist who has been a member of LUDUS, FACTION and PERE UBU with Nico, John Cale and Eric Random associations along the way…

It was following a visit to Russia and a move from drums to electronics that led to Dowdall’s adoption of his Cosmonaut moniker and the release of several acclaimed albums and EPs since 1996. Fast forward to 2023 and Dowdall was invited to soundtrack ‘Solitude’, a film by Nina Danino about Nico.

Acknowledging his close relationship with Nico from playing drums in the cult German icon’s backing band, the commission led to an electronic reworking of her 1981 single ‘Saeta’. With its main guitar riff now transposed into a synthesized arpeggio backed by reverberant polyrhythmics building up to a cavernous grandeur, this cerebral tribute to Nico became the first track recorded for the new GAGARIN album ‘Komorebi’ .

However, later in 2023, Dowdall had his own ghost to deal with when he was diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer and underwent chemotherapy. But displaying the utmost resilience, he continued composing and recording the remaining tracks for ‘Komorebi’ in his studio by the sea in Margate, Kent. ‘Komorebi is a Japanese word that refers to how sunlight is seen and felt through leaves and branches so is a fitting title expressing the light and shade looming within Dowdall’s mindset.

Opening the album, the windswept ‘Margate Illuminati’ centres around a repeating pattern but it is wonderfully held down with a sinister drone and percussive tension. ‘Cingulum’ adopts uneasy moods capturing drama and menace while drifting with birdsong accompaniment, ‘Wonderdusk 1’ acts as a widescreen relaxant before a mantric rumble and distorted string machines take proceedings into another place.

As ‘Hazmat’ speeds into bliss during an uptempo about turn, ‘PAM 710’ provides some Sci-Fi ambience. But making use of creative distortion, an unwielding impressionistic effect engulfs ‘Lomea’ as a beacon calls in the distance. Discordant signalling shapes ‘Codeswitch’ before crunching up on the avant-industrial while the ‘Stanmer’ strips things down to distorted sweeps and birds still singing in the background to end.

With most of its instrumental pieces in excess of 5 minutes, ‘Komorebi’ is an absorbing listen and fits right into the current trend for Hauntology as it moves around moody ambience and melodic optimism, noisier textures and darker distress. Released on the 63rd anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, ‘Komorebi’ is a document of hope and escape in difficult times while not shying away from reality.


‘Komorebi’ is released on 12 April 2024 by Geo Records as a CD and digital album, pre-order via https://gagarin.bandcamp.com/album/komorebi

GAGARIN 2024 live dates:

London New River Studios (11 April), Lincoln Weird Garden (13 April), Gravesend St Andrews Art Centre (26 April), London Walthamstow Trades Hall (27 April), London Biddle Brothers (2 May), Rugeley Lea Hall Pavillion (4 May), Brighton Brunswick (11 May), Manchester Plex – performing OST of ‘Solitude’, a film about Nico (15 June), Colchester Cuckoo Farm Studios (22 June), Gainsborough Church Of Sound (24 August), Colchester Arts Centre (27 August)

https://gagarin.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/Gagarinsounds/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Brian David Stevens
11 April 2024

HYPERBUBBLE Cowgirls & Synthesizers OST

‘Cowgirls & Synthesizers’ is the amusing 2023 docufilm by the quirky Texan synth do HYPERBUBBLE.

Comprising of married couple Jessica and Jeff DeCuir, ‘Cowgirls & Synthesizers’ traces their two decade career and the true-story of how HYPERBUBBLE drove to Nashville to record a Country and Western album ‘Western Ware’ using only synthesizers, drum machines and theremin!

Directed by Joe Wallace, with noted musical mischief maker Ricardo Autobahn narrating, commentary is provided by Samantha Newark of cult cartoon series ‘Jem & The Holograms’, Manda Rin of BIS, SHOES, FREEZEPOP and OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING while somewhere along the way, HYPERBUBBLE end up winners in Dolly Parton’s Netflix song contest with their version of ‘Jolene’ as part of the promotion for her series ‘Heartstrings’.

It all sounds crazy but as Jeff DeCuir once said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2014: “Synthesizers with their pitch bend and portamento really lend themselves to that country twang! And the first three letters of ‘Moog’ spell MOO!” – and that recollection has not only ended up in the film but also the soundtrack album!

The record is packed full of fun and captures the essence of the film, beginning with the speedy electro-blueglass of the ‘Cowgirls & Synthesizers’ title song and its shopping list of iconic synths. Meanwhile, ‘Bionic Girl’ continues in the same frantic spirit if based around a more Sci-Fi aesthetic

One of the highlights is ‘Will You Spin For Me?’, a 1984 song originally recorded by SHOES who while known as power pop guitar band, actually had an interim period as a more synth-driven new wave act; here HYPERBUBBLE do fairly faithful cover with SHOES gamely providing backing vocals over the buzzy backdrop.

In 2021, HYPERBUBBLE did a remix of Samantha Newark’s ‘Hologram’ and they pay tribute to her on ‘I Was a Teenage Jem Girl’ and at the end, the lady herself mentions how ‘Jem & The Holograms’ had a live drummer before HYPERBUBBLE celebrate the joys of their ‘Little Drum Machine’; and while Roger Linn’ once posed ironically posed with a sticker that said “DRUM MACHINES HAVE NO SOUL”, the irony has been the since DEPECHE MODE opted to use a numbskull Drumhead, all the soul has gone from their mechanically driven classics when performed live!

Another cover comes in the shape of the OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING instrumental ‘Digital Cowboy’ with their own Scott Simon guesting on synth while not a cover, ‘Hyperactive Moviemix’’ concludes with a mad synth barrage and a solo snatch of their best known tune ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’!

The mood changes with ‘No Time To Say Goodbye’ which is a murder ballad in the classic folk tradition but with fabulously ghostly Theremin solo but when ‘Bionic Girl’ is reprised as an authentic “Bluegrass Version”, it acts as a fitting bookend to in validate their cross-genre adventure.

At just under half an hour, with its genre bending antics and places where no synth duo has gone before, ‘Cowgirls & Synthesizers’ is a fun and wacky experience, just like its parent docufilm. HYPERBUBBLE straddle that fine line between deserving an award or a straitjacket, but that is why they so appealing…


The ‘Cowgirls & Synthesizers’ soundtrack album is released by ArtLabTX films Label, available as a yellow vinyl LP, CD and download via https://hyperbubble.bandcamp.com/album/cowgirls-and-synthesizers-original-motion-picture-soundtrack

http://www.hyperbubble.net/

https://www.facebook.com/hyperbubble

https://twitter.com/Hyperbubble

https://www.instagram.com/hyperbubbleofficial/

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https://www.instagram.com/cowgirls_and_synthesizers_film


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21 March 2024

KALEIDA In Arms

A few years ago, it looked as though KALEIDA would disband due to the pressures of parenting and the shifting patterns of life.

But Christina Wood and Cicely Goulder have again managed to make their long distance creative partnership work again and their reward is their third album ‘In Arms’. As the title suggests, it has been an impassioned battle capturing 3 years of artistic perseverance. “This project is truly a labor of love. But in the end making music means more to us, and so we got back to it. We’ll never stop” said Christina Wood to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

With a Hollywood pedigree that saw their first single ‘Think’ included in the soundtrack of the 2014 Keanu Reeves action thriller ‘John Wick’ and their stark cover ‘99 Luftballons’ appearing in the 2017 Charlize Theron spy drama ‘Atomic Blonde’, album opener ‘Hollow’ is possibly their most immediate number since ‘Think’; throwing subtle house piano shapes, there is that divine haunting quality as can be expected from KALEIDA.

‘Generation’ exudes gothic soul with a touch of trip-hop and jazz inflections while with a sombre percussive drive, ‘Seagull Nun’ is eerily mesmerising with its recurring glitch adding an unexpected edge.

Collaborating with German producer Robot Koch, ‘Choices’ comes over like a modern folk song where a doomed romance is the theme and is a reminder that everyone has choices. Using synthetic and acoustic sounding basslines, ‘Hansaplast’ naturally possesses a looming Cold War tension with beautiful ivories tinkling in a foggy backdrop that recalls Mauerstadt Berlin.

The glorious ‘Stranger’ springs a surprise with 808 electro dance rhythms with a superb collage of staccato voice samples, punchy bass and great vocals, in particular a mantric chant that comes over almost prayer-like.

Elsewhere, the uplifting ‘Kilda’ could be CLANNAD if they had embraced hip-hop beats while the emotive ‘Endless Youth’ goes all deep and moody. A subtle backbone and heavy drone shapes ‘Hey Little Precious’ as “a dream we hold” before ending in an understated neo-acoustic manner with male harmonies on ‘Don´t Turn Me Out’ where KALEIDA collaborate with Oklahoma indie rock band OTHER LIVES.

A product of resilience, KALEIDA have got through their existential crisis and reinforced their sense of purpose. Producing their most varied and best body of work yet, ‘In Arms’ explores directions that could be considered opposites but at its core, the music remains angst-ridden yet hopeful. A real grower of a record, the emotive rush contained within gets increasingly satisfying on each listen. As Cicely Goulder says “It’s a constant dialogue of music and emotion.”


‘In Arms’ is released by Embassy One on 22 March 2024 in blue vinyl LP, black vinyl LP, CD and digital formats via https://lnk.to/KaleidaInArms

KALEIDA 2024 live dates include:

London Oslo (22 March), Prague Cross Club (23 March), Brno Kabinet Múz (24 March), Cologne Artheater (27 March), Berlin LARK (28 March), Hamburg Hääkken (29 March), Warsaw Chmury (30 March), Seattle High Dive (11 April), Los Angeles The Echo (12 April), San Francisco Brick & Mortar Music Hall (13 April), Brooklyn Elsewhere (20 April), Montreal Bar Le Ritz PDB (21 April)

https://www.kaleidamusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KALEIDAMUSIC/

https://twitter.com/kaleidamusik

https://www.instagram.com/kaleidamusic/

https://kaleida.bandcamp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Benjamin Hampson
18 March 2024

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