Category: Transmissions (Page 1 of 10)

CHRIS CROSS 1952 – 2024

Chrisopher Thomas Allen, better known to the music world as Chris Cross, bass engine of ULTRAVOX has passed away aged 71. Bandmate Midge Ure announced the sad news via his social media.

Born in Tottenham, he studied Art and Psychology in London and while he was there, he answered an advert to form a new band by fellow student Dennis Leigh. The band was TIGER LILY and guitarist Stevie Shears, drummer Warren Cann and violinist / keyboardist Billy Currie would complete the line-up.

Influenced by NEW YORK DOLLS and ROXY MUSIC, TIGER LILY released just one single, a cover of Fats Wallers’ ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1975 recorded for an X-rated arthouse movie of the same name. While David Bowie also loomed large in their sound, music from Germany such as KRAFTWERK and NEU! began to be absorbed into the band.

This led to a name change to ULTRAVOX! complete with exclamation mark in tribute to the later. Dennis Leigh changed his name to John Foxx and Allen who had used the surname St John on ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ became Chris Cross.

ULTRAVOX! got their big break when they were signed to Island Records and able to secure the services of Brian Eno working alongside a young Steve Lillywhite to produce their eponymous debut album released in 1977. With the emergence of punk, while the follow-up ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ had a particularly fierce sound, it saw the introduction of Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey, notably on ‘The Man Who Dies Everyday’.

Cross also became interested synthesizers and purchased an EMS Synthi AKS, a portable version of the VCS3 built into a suitcase with a touch sensitive blue and black keyboard. This coincided with an opportunity to work Conny Plank whose credits included KRAFTWERK and NEU! as well a change of line-up with Shears replaced by Robin Simon. Relocating to Conny Plank’s farmhouse studio outside of Cologne, Cross used his AKS to write the lead line to ‘Slow Motion’.

Despite the resultant 1978 album ‘Systems Of Romance’ being the most accomplished ULTRAVOX (now without the exclamation mark!) record to date, all was not well in the camp and after a 1979 US club tour, John Foxx and Robin Simon departed. It left the band without a vocalist or guitarist and to add to their woes, Island Records had dropped ULTRAVOX from their roster.

While ULTRAVOX was on hiatus, Billy Currie worked on VISAGE with Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Dave Formula, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson and Steve Strange. Although at that time in 1979, the project became stillborn, he brought Ure with him to join ULTRAVOX to fulfil the dual role of singer and guitarist. Cross and Ure hit it off immediately and would become close friends.

Around this time, Chris Cross had acquired a Minimoog and began pulsing it from Warren Cann’s drum machines to produce a characteristic repeating synthbass sound on tracks such as ‘Vienna’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘The Thin Wall’ and ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. He never forgot his first instrument and songs such as ‘The Voice’ and ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ benefitted from his bass guitar runs.

Signed to Chrysalis Records, over a period of four years, ULTRAVOX conquered Europe with their brand of symphonic synthesized rock with classic albums such as ‘Vienna’, ‘Rage in Eden’, ‘Quartet’ and ‘Lament’. One indirect and amusing consequence of his new found fame was that he would be mistakenly sent royalty cheques for the Grammy award winning American singer-songwriter Christopher Cross.

Cross was versatile and while his role in ULTRAVOX was bass, he deputised for an absent Midge Ure on ‘The Voice’ B-side ‘Paths & Angles’, playing guitar and singing lead on its chorus and closing refrain. Together with Ure, they produced the music for the iconic Levi’s advert ‘Rivets’ which also led to the jeans manufacturer perhaps incongruously sponsoring ULTRAVOX on their 1984 ‘Set Movements’ tour.

With ULTRAVOX very much trailblazing the cinematic video age, Chris Cross and Midge Ure began self-directing ULTRAVOX’s promos and became in-demand separately from the band, working on visual presentations for VISAGE, BANANARAMA and FUN BOY THREE.

The visual aspects of ULTRAVOX were very important to Cross and it was he, through his love of the Factory Records aesthetic, who suggested employing Peter Saville Associates to design their artwork and stage sets including the notable gothic architecture captured on the ‘Monument’ live document.

By 1987, ULTRAVOX had split up and Cross retired from the music industry to become a psychotherapist; he would later jokingly remark that the two fields were not that dissimilar from his point of view.

In 2009, the classic ULTRAVOX line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure unexpectedly reunited for three headlining tours and a new album ‘Brilliant’ issued in 2012. During ‘Astradyne’, Cross would coolly play bass and synth simultaneously! However, following a UK tour opening for SIMPLE MINDS in 2013, the band were back in hiatus and Cross returned to being a psychotherapist.

Midge Ure paid tribute to Chris Cross saying: “You were the glue that held the band together. You were the logic in the madness and the madness in our lives. It was great to know and grow with you. You are loved and missed old friend”.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
2 April 2024


Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

Just as it looked like it would be safe to come out to play, there was uncertainty within the music industry again.

What had become the artists’ favourite platform thanks to its low commission and 0% Fridays, Bandcamp was taken over by Epic Games in 2022 but then following a move by employees to unionise, was sold to Songtradr who immediately dismissed half of its staff… in hindsight, despite its proclamation that this platform cared about the music, it looked like this had been yet another start-up by tech venture capitalists. Just as many acts dropped their own websites in favour of Facebook over a decade ago but were then trapped into sponsored posts to reach the majority of their own fanbase, online shops had been dropped for Bandcamp. So, things are back to square one as many consider a rebuild of their web presence.

Meanwhile, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made a controversial declaration that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”. While THE CURE notably refused to do this and capped their face value tickets at $20 for their US tour, the Live Nation sister outlet Ticketmaster applied excessive booking extras of more than $20 per ticket for a “service fee”, “facility charge” and “order processing”! With dynamic pricing in place at a number of high profile events and so-called VIP tickets on the rise (which didn’t actually include a meet ‘n’ greet but only a nearby bar and a lanyard), fans had their “FOMO” anxieties triggered and simply paid up!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Another artist who kept ticket prices low was Midge Ure who embarked on the successful ‘Voices & Visions’ tour after a year’s delay due to uncertainties over the Covid situation in 2022. Complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and material from his second and third long players with ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’, it was a triumph. He was rewarded with a 70th birthday show celebrating his career at The Royal Albert Hall, which despite its plush surroundings was also kept affordable.

Who says an artist has no control over retail pricing? But one band who were shamelessly happy to charge more for concert tickets, more for merchandise and more for physical releases were DEPECHE MODE. For their first album and tour since the passing of co-founder Andy Fletcher in 2022, the remaining members played the death card with ‘Momento Bori’ and managed to plonk an even more underwhelming arena show into the stadiums of the world… at least the ‘Global Spirit’ tour featured risers!

With renowned UK venues such as Printworks and Moles closing down, as had already been highlighted by Juls Garat of US goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING via social media in 2022: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. However, one seemingly oblivious Devotee said about the inflated ticket prices: “Really don’t know what the issue is. Happily paid £108.00 for a DM ticket. Would have paid more!!”. And therein lays the problem… DEPECHE MODE played a date at Stadion Wankdorf in Bern and that said it all! As the man who Devotees call a genius once wrote: “Some great reward will be coming my way…”

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

As The Devotees wallowed in their collective misery during 2023, the Stockholm Syndrome was stronger than ever. On the Bratislava leg at the National Football Stadium, one of The Black Swarm commented to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I was there… I must admit, a bit disappointed… but I still love them!!!”. It was business as usual for DEPECHE MODE, with “business” being the operative word. It was reported that so much money had been sucked out of the European alternative music market in particular that a number of acts had to schedule their planned tours to 2024, while others who had made good albums worthy of attention in 2023 got lost in the sea of DM propaganda on the web.

Despite increased ticket prices at all levels, gig etiquette declined to the worst possible standards with the constant chatter and bad manners among some attendees. Surely if you have paid upwards of £30 or more for a show, you might want to pay more attention and enjoy it? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never seen it this bad in the 43 years it has been going to concerts, but this entitled arrogance to talk extremely loudly about total bollocks is a undoubted legacy of Brexit and Covid which in combination has normalised a lack of social graces in gathered environments… and when challenged, these total numbskulls become aggressive, pitifully unaware that they are ruining the evening of those around them.

Meanwhile, there was another undesirable element who only go to gigs to post selfies and badly distorted footage on their socials… these were often the sort of people who actually hated the band back in the day, but after 40+ years realised they like the song on the Vitality or Waitrose advert so are sudddenly giving it the big “I AM” about being a fan… but BECAUSE they are only there for one song, they then treat the rest of the gig like they were out with their mates in the pub! 🤬

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

The best live shows of the year came from PET SHOP BOYS and DURAN DURAN with their arena extravaganzas full of hits, classic fan favourites and great staging. Among the album celebrations, CHINA CRISIS ran through their second long player ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ on tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary and founder bassist Peter Hook took the first NEW ORDER compilation ‘Substance’ out on the road to coincide with its expanded 4CD reissue.

“Sweden’s best kept pop secret” KITE impressed with an imitate headliner for their debut London gig and later at Cologne’s Amphi Festival to a much larger crowd, while the return of Ollie Wride to the London stage at The Scala illustrated why he has potential to be the next synthwave artist to crossover into the mainstream.

Photo by Ed Miles

‘Time’s Arrow’, LADYTRON’s second album since their return from hiatus proved to be something of a disappointment while fairing slightly better with its anti-Brexit sentiments, ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ was touted as the final album from OMD; now kissing the strict machine, having previously been supportive of new electronic pop via ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK championed acts MIRRORS, VILLA NAH, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, their choice of art glam hipsters WALT DISCO as opening act on the UK leg of the 2024 tour was symbolic of the general poor state of modern synthpop ie pop music using synths, particularly within the narrow-mindset of Brexit Britain.

Although the UK was continuing to party like it was 1933, the incendiary language that Cruella Braverman was using was so extreme that she was even dismissed from fronting the Conservative Party new wave covers band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS… as a trio of poets from South Yorkshire once said: “BROTHERS! SISTERS! WE DON’T NEED THIS FASCIST GROOVE THANG!”

Reflecting a wider issue, 2023 also saw ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK publish its fewest number of ‘Introducing…’ new artist articles since its inception in 2010 with only Brigitte Bardini and Madeleine Goldstein featured. There were a number of possible reasons…

Photo by Bella Salvatore

“The technology leads the art form and it always has” said veteran producer Steve Lillywhite on a recent Rockonteurs podcast, “if the technology allows you to reference other people’s records… you WILL do that!”. This was summed up by an Apple Mac advert featuring sample-based British pop singer PinkPantheress demonstrating how to have a hit by appropriating a topline from Kelly Rowland and plonking it into GarageBand before processing her voice through AutoTune and nabbing the intro of ‘Gold’ by SPANDAU BALLET… you said it yourself Miss Walker, IT SOUNDS LIKE GARBAGE!

While the accessibility, usability and sound quality of modern tech has totally democratised music making, as another veteran producer Stephen Hague put it to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “it’s made it far too easy”, with the end result being familiarity and imitation rather than innovation. Now that an acceptable sound is able to be obtained fairly quickly on software such as GarageBand, the level of songwriting has generally declined in many genres. Artists abstain from putting in the hard work towards the actual songcraft because they think their track is already great, as it sounds like someone they’ve based it on!

However, the misuse of “synth” as a description reached a new nadir in 2023. There were those using “synth” or “synthwave” in their brand identity who proudly revealed via their Spotify Wrapped that their Top Genre was actually rock or made bizarre comments like “What I like most about synthwave is the guitar solos”. Meanwhile one artist declared they were synthpop because they had spent their youth “listening to too much Madonna”! But synth music as an enduring form is ultimately doomed when social media platforms using “Synthpop” in their idents think that guitar-based bands like BIG COUNTRY and COCTEAU TWINS are part of it, or compile acoustic playlists!! 🤦‍♂️

“Synth” has now somehow become is a general term for any retro-flavoured pop with an element of shiny artifice whether synthesizers have been used or not! These artists and “content creators” are now too young to understand what “synth” in music actually once meant and probably think the term is short for “synthetic” as in clothes and hair products, as opposed to “synthesizer”.

That said, 2023 was not all bad and there was a lot of excellent music. The song of the year was by the unlikely synth hero in glum rocker Lloyd Cole; while guitars made a more prominent but limited return on his album ‘On Pain’ following 2019’s electronically-dominated ‘Guesswork’, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ saw him provide a touching narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976.

Swedish veterans PAGE took the Numanisation of their poptronica to its zenith by bringing in former imperial phase Numan band members Chris Payne and RRussell Bell on their new album ‘En Ny Våg’. Across the Öresund Bridge, Danish synthpop couple SOFTWAVE showed the world the ‘things we’ve done’.

Photo by George Tripodakis

Another music veteran Ricky Wilde teamed up with NINA to reveal their ‘Scala Hearts’; full of classic pop references and a modern sheen, this was the record Wilde had wanted to make for a few years but hadn’t been able to with his sister Kim. Its creative drive showed and this was also the best long player that NINA had been part of since she launched her solo career in 2011. In a busy year, NINA also found time to satisfy many a red blooded fantasy by collaborating with Kid Moxie on the ‘Lust’ EP released by Italians Do It Better.

The Finns were strong too, with Jaakko Eino Kalavi and Jori Hulkkonen producing two of the best albums of 2023. The former’s eclectic ‘Chaos Magic’ featured Alma Jodorowsky, Mr Silla and Jimi Tenor as special guests while the latter’s ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ brought in John Grant, Ralf Dörper, Jake Shears, Jon Marsh, Juho Paalosmaa and Tiga.

While maintaining his front man role in MESH, Mark Hockings presented his solo project BLACKCARBURNING in long playing form and was ‘Watching Sleepers’. Also going it alone, Alison Goldfrapp squarely hit the dancefloor via ’The Love Invention’ with Kylie Minogue’s similarly glitzy ‘Tension’ as its companion. But with ACTORS still busy touring the world, the planned long playing debut from LEATHERS was yet to emerge but there were two new singles in the interim.

METROLAND and side project 808 DOT POP ambitiously released albums in five different formats with exclusive tracks on each between them simultaneously, in a move that had not been seen since 1978 when all four members of KISS released solo records on the same day. Much more discretely, ITALOCONNECTION came up with ‘Nordisko’ which comprised of Nordic pop disco covers. More ambient experiments were served by John Foxx, Vince Clarke, Patricia Wolf, Johan Agebjörn and the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, while putting those ethereal textures into song was Hinako Omori with her appropriately named second album ‘stillness, softness…’

Germany’s BEBORN BETON offered bleak commentary on the state of the planet with ‘Darkness Falls Again’ but encouraged everyone to be dancers in the dark while Chinese band STOLEN highlighted this ‘Eroded Creation’. Within their ‘Circle Of Doom’, NNHMN had pressing matters closer to home while ZANIAS emerged from her ‘Chrysalis’. FERAL FIVE confronted and worked with AI to declare ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ and Finlay Shakespeare tapped into his ‘Illusion + Memory’.

Photo by Tim Darin

Among the promising emergent acts with debut EPs were NEU-ROMANCER and DIE SEXUAL while German solo artists Jennifer Touch and Laura Dre added to their long playing portfolios, as did OHNOTHING and BUNNY X. Fronted by respectively by John Grant and Neil Arthur, CREEP SHOW and THE REMAINDER outlined the benefits of collaboration while CAUSEWAY joined forces with R. MISSING for the single ‘Wear The Night Out’.

Despite having plied their trade for over 50 years, SPARKS continued to be as eccentric as ever and even had Cate Blanchett appear in the video for ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’. With ‘*Happiness now completed’ and Dave Ball returning to the live fold after a period of serious illness, SOFT CELL effectively issued another new album featuring a significant number of previously unreleased tracks including covers of Giorgio Moroder and X-RAY SPEX to provide a much more satisfying listening experience than the parent ‘*Happiness not included’ record. Then there was the unexpected recorded return of CLASSIX NOUVEAUX with their ‘Battle Cry’.

Veteran acts who ceased active operations many years ago got worthy boxed set treatments; TELEX provided ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with the funniest interview of the year in support of their self-titled retrospective on Mute while LANDSCAPE were comprehensively catalogued by Cooking Vinyl. Not to be left out, the trusty Cherry Red via their Lemon imprint showcased how underrated NEW MUSIK and their leader Tony Mansfield were, especially with the latter’s sound clearly audible in today’s pop acts such as THE WEEKND.

Despite the return of Q, the jury was still out on whether music magazines are still desirable aside from their CD and vinyl artefacts. Meanwhile, music-based social media dumbed down its engagement to cut ‘n’ paste Wikipedia snippets accompanying archive photos or artwork, pointless 26th anniversary posts and non-significant birthday celebrations to attract likes. Comments from the public such as “My favourite album… I wish I still had it!” and saying “Happy Birthday” when the platform wasn’t even connected to the artist concerned only highlighted further the continuing inane nature of online interaction. And this was without those irritating “POV” reels and reaction videos on TikTok and Instagram which were unfortunately prevalent!

The less said about the right wing gammon infested sh*t show that Twitter has become, the better but on the new Threads platform intended to take it on, PENDULUM’s El Hornet remarked “omg threads is full of music industry self help w*nkers making lists about things nobody asked abort! ABORT!” 🤣

With such platforms also seemingly centred around the exposure of flesh with photos “just for fun” be the subject a golfer, gamer, painter, baker, comedian, hairdresser, photographer, psychologist, racing driver, book reviewer, poet, dating coach or Lego enthusiast, is it any wonder that several music artists resorted to setting up OnlyFans accounts to sell nude photos!

With pun totally intended, in this challenging climate for exposure, some acts simply got a bit too big for their boots and were unbearably conceited on their socials with their bragging and frivolous chatter to appease a needy flock who hung onto their every word, desperate to be seen to be “friends” of wannabe stars while crowdfunding towards their spa weekenders and vet bills for their cat… it was therefore ironic that one of these acts declared “Music isn’t a competition!” when it appeared that another band might be taking away some of their limelight! Well, stop acting like it’s a 24 hour edition of ‘The Apprentice’ then!!! 🙄

On the other side of the coin, one too cool for school band took a strange attitude to promotion by refusing to accept questions about their influences while trying to come over like total originals. Despite their inspirations being blatant and obvious to hear, they had a misguided self-belief that they were somehow speaking a new language! But everybody knows they started out by purchasing the sheet music to ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ from a New York thrift store! 😆

A few years ago, a lone British artist was complained about the lack of press attention for their new admittedly good album, but then proceeded not to answer emails containing interview pitches. Artists need to engage, no matter how much they say they hate doing promotion, they can’t have it both ways. The days of RADIOHEAD not doing interviews to promote a new album and letting the music speak for itself are long gone…

With the world now making up for lost time since 2020, it would be fair to say that 2023 has been something of a strange year!

Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 December 2023


Photo by David Bailey

The renowned Japanese musician, composer, actor and environmental activist Ryuichi Sakamoto has tragically passed away at the age of 71. He was battling stage 4 cancer.

Sakamoto was best known as a member of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and for soundtracks to a number of films including ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, ‘The Last Emperor’, ‘The Sheltering Sky’, ‘Little Buddha’, ‘Femme Fatale’, ‘Babel’, ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Fortress’. A frequent collaborator, Sakamoto worked with Madonna, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, Adrian Belew, Robin Scott, Youssou N’Dour, Robert Wyatt, Brian Wilson, Robbie Robertson, Roddy Frame, Holly Johnson, Virginia Astley, Laurie Anderson, Alva Noto, Akiko Yano, Masami Tsuchiya and David Sylvian.

Sakamoto graduated from the Tokyo National University For The Fine Arts & Music in electronic and ethnic music. Prior to joining YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with producer / bassist Haruomi Hosono and drummer Yukihiro Takahashi, Sakamoto had already recorded his first solo album ‘Thousand Knives Of’. YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was intended as a one-off project at the behest of Alfa Records who all three were signed to.

As the idea of an instrumental disco band with international potential was formulated, it was Sakamoto who crucially introduced the music of KRAFTWERK to Hosono and Takahashi for the trio’s Bento box of influences. The technology used on the 1978 eponymous debut album included the Moog III-C, Korg PS-3100, Polymoog, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim Eight Voice, Minimoog, Korg VC-10 Vocoder and the Roland MC-8 Micro Composer programmed by Hideki Matsutake who had worked with Sakamoto on ‘Thousand Knives Of’.

Known in Japan as Technopop, the crisp exotic sound of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA scored a UK Top 20 hit single in 1980 with ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’ although the main section of the track was actually ‘Firecracker’, a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny. The single also gained traction in the US where the band made a memorable appearance on the prestigious music show ‘Soul Train’. The Sakamoto penned ‘Tong Poo’ was another highlight from the album and despite its pulsing electronic disco bassline, in a sign of his future creative endeavours, the melody was inspired by the music of China’s Cultural Revolution.

1979’s ‘Solid State Survivor’ was to reinforce YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s position as one of the most successful Japanese bands on the world stage and included on it was a composition that was to become one of Sakamoto’s most lucrative. ‘Behind the Mask’ was initially put together for a Seiko watch commercial but ended up on ‘Solid State Survivor’.

Featuring a catchy vocodered chorus written by Tokyo based British composer Chris Mosdell, Michael Jackson loved ‘Behind the Mask’ so much that he penned additional lyrics to it during the ‘Thriller’ sessions. Unable to be released at the time by Jackson himself, he gave the reworked track to his musical director Greg Phillinganes who had a surprise Top 5 hit in the US R’n’B charts in 1985. Eric Clapton hit the mainstream with his rockier version in 1987 while the remixed MJ demo eventually appeared on the posthumous album ‘Michael’ in 2011.

Recorded partly at London’s Air Studios, Sakamoto released his second album ‘B-2 Unit’ in 1980. From it, ‘Riot in Lagos’ was often been seen as a pivotal track that influenced house music with a frantic but danceable rhythmic tension; it was a fine example of the visual narrative of Sakamoto’s compositional mind. Not included on the album, his first solo single ‘War Head’ was a quirky electronic dance number featuring vocals by Chris Mosdell that gained British radio airplay.

While he was at Air Studios, having previously been assigned by a Japanese magazine to interview David Sylvian, he visited the JAPAN front man during the recording of the band’s fourth album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’. The meeting led a glorious collaboration entitled ‘Taking Islands In Africa’ which ended up closing the long player and cementing what became a long standing friendship.

1981 was to be Sakamoto’s most prolific year with two YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA albums ‘BGM’ and ‘Technodelic’ while there was to be his third solo record ‘Hidari Ude no Yume’ recorded with Robin Scott and Adrian Belew, as well as production work on his then-wife Akiko Yano’s ‘Ai Ga Nakucha Ne’ long player featuring JAPAN members Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and David Sylvian.

Despite their technological innovations, neither ‘BGM’ nor ‘Technodelic’ were considered particularly accessible so for YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s fifth full length album ‘Naughty Boys’, the trio lightened up by delivering the most commercial album of their career. This was highlighted by the massively popular and joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’. In the ironic promo video, Takahashi, Hosono and Sakamoto appeared as the oldest J-Pop boy band in town. The song achieved ubiquity as the closing theme to the Anime series ‘Maria Holic’ sung by the cast while a YMO vs THE HUMAN LEAGUE EP featuring a remixed ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’ with new English lyrics and vocals by Phil Oakey was released by Alfa Records in 1993.

Following a joint single with David Sylvian entitled ‘Bamboo Music’ and a guest appearance with JAPAN at their final concert at Nagoya-shi Koukaidou in 1982 , Sakamoto made his acting debut in 1983 alongside David Bowie in ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ as Captain Yonoi, the commander of a POW camp in Japanese-occupied Java.

Sakamoto also composed the soundtrack with the WWII drama’s haunting theme tune becoming particularly iconic. Featuring David Sylvian, the vocal version retitled ‘Forbidden Colours’ reflected the taboo love story of the Nagisa Oshima directed film and reached No16 in the UK singles chart. Another highlight of the soundtrack was ‘The Seed & The Sower’ which showcased Sakamoto’s use of organic textures alongside emotive electronic sounds in what was to be become his characteristic East meets West signature.

After the half songs / half comedy sketch album ‘Service’, YMO announced in 1984 that they were “spreading out” rather than splitting, continuing to play on each other’s solo recordings and making guest appearances at various live shows. Sakamoto’s next album ‘Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia’ saw Sakamoto exploring a variety of styles and genres including jazz and soca although the album was altered for the international market with some new tracks including a catchy collaboration with Thomas Dolby entitled ‘Field Work’ which united both artists’ concerns for the environment.

But world of cinema came calling and in 1987, Sakamoto was commissioned by Bernardo Bertolucci to compose half of the music for ‘The Last Emperor’, a film in which he also had a minor acting role. With a larger budget, he was able to explore more of his classically trained instincts with an orchestra, as well have a young associate producer and Fairlight programmer by the name of Hans Zimmer to assist; the soundtrack which also featured music composed by David Byrne and Cong Su, won an Oscar for the Best Original Score while the film itself won 8 further Academy Awards.

Now in-demand in Hollywood, Sakamoto expanded his portfolio to include films such as ‘Black Rain’, ‘The Sheltering Sky’ and ‘Little Buddha’. Journeying into wider musical palettes, his ‘Heartbeat’ album reflected his soundtrack work and contained many eclectic world music influences. From it, the dreamy ‘Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II)’ saw David Sylvian return to give a raw passionate vocal performance which was counterpointed by a whispery spoken word passage from Ingrid Chavez.

Sakamoto’s burgeoning soundtrack success would lead to commissions for huge events such as the Opening Ceremony of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and following an album of his best known works rearranged for piano and string quartet called ‘1996’, he signed to Sony Classical. His first work for the label ‘Discord’ in 1997 was a four movement avant-garde composition exploring dissonant musical structures. There was also the solo piano ‘BTTB’ in 1999 but in 2002, Sakamoto began a series of experimental collaborations with German producer Alva Noto pairing his piano work with glitch programming, the first of which being the excellent ‘Vrioon’.

Sakamoto reunited with David Sylvian for the song ‘World Citizen’ in 2003 and would work with him again on what was the former JAPAN vocalist’s first recording for a number of years on ‘Life, Life’ for the 2017 album ‘async’, reciting a poem by Arseny Tarkovsky.

With regards reunions, a short YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA one took place in 1993 for the ‘Technodon’ album where the band had to be known as YMO, as the name was owned by Alfa Records. But there was no further activity until 2007 when Hosono, Sakamoto and Takahashi reunited for a light hearted Kirin Lager advertising campaign performing ‘Rydeen’ and played the 2007 Kyoto Live Earth event. In Summer 2008, the trio were part of the Meltdown Festival bill curated by MASSIVE ATTACK.

Sakamoto was a member of the anti-nuclear organization Stop Rokkasho and following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, organised the No Nukes 2012 concert which featured KRAFTWERK; the 2013 concert saw YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA covering ‘Radioactivity’ in a lounge jazz style.

In December 2022, Sakamoto streamed a pre-recorded concert that he announced “may be my last”. It was seen in over 30 countries and featured 13 of his compositions, edited together from separate performances made at the NHK Broadcasting Center in Tokyo. He released his final album ‘12’ in January, an elegiac ambient work that included the sound of Sakamoto’s own breathing.

With his bandmate Yukihiro Takahashi having passed away earlier in January, a void has not just been left in Japanese and electronic music but popular culture as a whole. The contribution of Ryuichi Sakamoto over the past 45 years cannot be underestimated.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd April 2023


Photo by Kaoru Ijima

Yukihiro Takahashi, the drummer and lead vocalist of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA has sadly passed away at the age of 70. 

In 2020, Takahashi had a brain tumour removed and undergone a course of treatment following surgery but he eventually succumbed to his illness.

Born in Tokyo, Takahashi first came to prominence as the drummer of THE SADISTIC MIKA BAND, a prog fusion outfit who were signed to PINK FLOYD’s Harvest label and appeared on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ in 1975.

He released his first solo album, the lounge-flavoured ‘Saravah!’ in 1978 which featured a cover of ‘Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)’. But that same year, he was invited by producer Haruomi Hosono to form a primarily instrumental disco band with Ryuichi Sakamoto which could have the potential to succeed internationally; that band was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. While Hosono was schooled in jazz and funk, the classically trained Sakamoto bought in the influence of KRAFTWERK while Takahashi was something of an Anglophile with a love of ROXY MUSIC having toured with them as part of THE SADISTIC MIKA BAND. The end result was a very Japanese approach of merging many different styles like a Bento box in a reliable, forward thinking fashion.

Released in 1978, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s wonderful self-titled debut album captured a crisp exotic electronic pop sound. Its key track was ‘Firecracker’, a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny which became a surprise UK Top 20 hit single in 1980 while also gaining traction in America where the band made a memorable appearance on the prestigious music show ‘Soul Train’. The rest of the album featured original material including the Takahashi-composed ‘La Femme Chinose’.

Released in 1979, the excellent second album ‘Solid State Survivor’ featured Takahashi’s masterpiece ‘Rydeen’ and saw him feature more prominently as a vocalist as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA moved away from solely instrumental compositions. While the next two albums ‘BGM’ and ‘Technodelic’ were darker and more experimental, Takahashi maintained a successful solo career in his homeland where his Ferry-ish vocal delivery naturally took centre stage.

His solo albums ‘Neuromantic’, ‘What, Me Worry?’, ‘Time & Place’ and ‘Wild & Moody’ featured notable British musicians such as Steve Jansen, Bill Nelson, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, David Palmer and Tony Mansfield as well as Antiopdeans Zaine Griff and Iva Davies. Takahashi also got into production, notably working with the Franco-Japanese beauty Susan on the highly syncopated rhythmical number ‘I Only Come Out At Night’ which he also co-wrote.

YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA went on to be the one of the most popular bands in South East Asia; their fifth full-length album ‘Naughty Boys’ in 1983 delivered their most commercial release to date, exemplified by the joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’; the song was later the closing theme to the Anime series ‘Maria Holic’ sung by the cast while it was also reworked with new English lyrics and vocals by Phil Oakey for a YMO versus THE HUMAN LEAGUE EP. Takahashi was later to work on the soundtrack of another Anime series ‘Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water’.

With each member continuing their already established parallel solo careers, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA went into hiatus in 1984. Teaming up with kindred spirit Steve Jansen who shared a similar sense of humour, the pair released a superb one-off joint single ‘Stay Close’ in 1986. With Jansen doing a very able impression of his older brother David Sylvian and Takahashi providing his usual mannered vocals, it remains a true lost classic as possibly the best song that JAPAN and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA never recorded.

A short YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA reunion took place in 1993 for the ‘Technodon’ album although the band had to be known as YMO  for legal reasons as their original record label Alfa Records owned the name. With Takahashi always one for an easy listening cover, it finished with a Japanese language interpretation of ‘Pocketful Of Rainbows’ made famous by Elvis Presley. While he continued with his prolific solo career and other business interests including fashion and publishing, there was no further group activity until 2007 when Hosono, Sakamoto and Takahashi reunited for a Kirin Lager advertising campaign.

Takahashi continued working with Hosono in SKETCH SHOW but when Sakamoto was invited to join, for recording purposes they combined names and became HASYMO. But in 2009, the trio finally performed again as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA at the World Happiness festival in Japan. His final solo record of original material ‘Life Anew’ came in 2013 and featured James Iha of SMASHING PUMPKINS as a collaborator.

Last Autumn, two boxed sets ‘T.E.N.T Years Vinyl Box’ and ‘It’s Gonna Work Out ~ Live 82-84 ~’ were released while there was a special tribute show featuring Akiko Yano and Steve Jansen to celebrate his 50 years in music held at Tokyo’s NHK Hall, although the guest of honour was too ill to attend.

With his impeccably tight timing and a frenetic but controlled style of drumming with notable tone variation, Yukihiro Takahashi influenced the likes of David Palmer and Steve Jansen who in turn influenced top session players such as Gavin Harrison. A pioneer of electronic percussion and one of the first to use the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer while also able to play guitar and keyboards, he challenged the perceived role of a drummer in pop music. And without YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, there would be no Citypop…

Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th January 2023


Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at

Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022

« Older posts