Tag: Analog Angel (Page 1 of 3)

10 Years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK – A DECADE OF MEMORIES

Ian Ferguson, founder member of RAINLAND, one-time member of ANALOG ANGEL and occasional contributor looks back from both sides of the fence at ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

It’s appropriate that a 10th anniversary is celebrated with tin or aluminium given the current state of the UK electronic scene (spoiler, there is no ‘scene’, just folk making scenes) as when looking for gold, you are more likely to dig up an old mouldy dog food can than a nugget of rare and precious metal.

Like the UK industrial scene before it, this loose of collection of folk making noise is slowly eating itself alive in the pursuit of success that was never going to be attainable in first place.

Seriously, the number of grown adults acting as though they are members of a million selling act rather than one that can’t fill a phone box would be hilarious if it wasn’t so toxic in the way it manifests itself, but more of that later..

So what of my last decade as a fan of electronic music, a contributor to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and someone that has thrown out a few releases of my own in that time? Highlights and lowlights abound and here are a few of them…

‘Electronic music, what like 80s stuff…?’

The last decade has been in turns brilliant and infuriating for a fan of synth music. The re-emergence of some of my favourite bands producing music of a similar quality to their releases from the height of their fame has been particularly gratifying. The number of excellent new bands that have come through in this time has also been a joy to behold. This is due primarily to the real advances in technology which has allowed anyone with a laptop and a few plugins to make music.

These tools also mean that bands can now play live easier than ever, not needing to haul a van load of keyboards around to replicate their sound. Still however we see folk ‘jazz hands-ing’ live, thinking dressing up in age-inappropriate clothing and dancing around like you are holding in a wee is a live performance… news just in, it’s not…

This of course means you have to wade through tonnes of chaff to find the wheat and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been invaluable in doing a lot of the ‘leg work’ in this task.

The best releases of the last decade would fill a number of Op Ed pieces but standouts include the ‘English Electric’ and ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ albums by OMD, which show that if you stick with what you know the quality will shine through, the ULTRAVOX album ‘Brilliant’ and numerous KITE EPs.

The aforementioned ‘scene’ featured a number of standout releases from the likes of VILE ELECTRODES, ASSEMBLAGE 23 and MESH who let the music do the talking and reaped suitable rewards. These bands and a number of others all show how to conduct yourself in a professional way without fermenting what basically amounts to a hate campaign against those that don’t subscribe to your narrow view of how things are done.

The childishness of certain corners that house a handful of bands and hangers on from the UK has been one aspect of the last 10 years that I personally could do without. These self-proclaimed ‘scene’ gatekeepers have actually done themselves more damage than good.

It’s funny that they think they are all in a self-supporting community when any one of them would throw the others under the bus (a tour one, you can come on-board if you sell 30 tickets to each show, then you can pretend you are an in-demand support) given the chance of a gig with a named act or coverage on this site. This petulance has escalated more recently to thinly veiled racism and this needs to be stomped out, preferably by a big pair of New Rock boots. They need to grow up and concentrate on producing decent music and not poorly thought through opinions.

‘I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because sometimes they take a rest…’ Alexandre Dumas

I have been writing for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK for around half of its existence and I have had the chance to meet some of my heroes thanks to this association. Highlights include bumping into Imogen Heap who on hearing I had written the ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK review of her ‘Sparks’ album, thanked me for my kind words and asked for a selfie (a proper fan boy moment), recommending soft synths to Martyn Ware and Green Gartside, chatting with John Foxx and seeing quotes from my reviews being used in NO-MAN promotional ads.

You only need to look at the people that give up time to speak to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and the PR people that approach ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK for coverage to understand how highly the site, and by extension site founder Chi Ming Lai, is held by the people in the know in the industry. From NEW ORDER to OMD, BLANCMANGE to Midge Ure, various members of JAPAN to HEAVEN 17 all have spoken openly at length about their careers giving insight to the people behind the music we all love.

And what other site can discuss an obscure electronic release by a leading light of the UK Prog movement one minute and chat with Synthesizer Patel the next without missing a beat or it appearing to jar?

‘You’re still in a band… Aren’t you a bit old for that behaviour…?’

I have come back to music this last decade after a considerable time out from writing and performing. I am sure there are a number of folk that wish I had stayed ‘retired’ and I accept that though I will be setting up a website soon called The Electrikery Club to let them all know why they are wrong, I am right and to give some much needed exposure to my mate Colin’s magnum opus recorded on a VL-Tone on his mum’s old Bush tape recorder…

Since returning to the fray, I have toured with some well-known names, played some big festivals both in the UK and further afield (actual festivals, not vanity gigs with 38 bands on the bill in a pub in Peckham), seen folk do questionable things with chicken nuggets and on more than one occasion, almost killed a well-known electronic percussionist and filthy hippy (who may or may not be my son…)

I have spent way way too long listening to subtle mixes of the same song, locked in windowless rooms with my musical compatriot Derek MacDonald and eaten considerably more motorway service station sarnies than is healthy. And you know what, I wouldn’t change one bloody minute of it.

I would even do Glastonbury again with Keith Trigwell and that included watching him dancing and let’s be honest, nobody wants that…

When a week is a long time in politics, a decade publishing music related guff on the web is an eternity… ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been around for 10 years and I get the feeling this is really just the start of the journey. Stay on-board, it’s been and will continue to be one hell of a ride


RAINLAND’s ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.rainland.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/rainland-interview/


Text by Ian Ferguson
14th March 2020

RAINLAND Interview

Returning to London on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019 will be Glaswegian synthpop duo RAINLAND.

Having accompanied ASSEMBLAGE 23 on two UK tours, their rousing stage manner make them perfect as cheerleaders to begin any live presentation.

Although RAINLAND have so far only one EP ‘Touch’ to their name, Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald are experienced hands having been the musical lynchpins of their previous band ANALOG ANGEL, best known for songs such as ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ and ‘Drive’.

Settling into a two piece set-up has been straightforward with Ferguson having already proved himself a worthy vocalist on a number of ANALOG ANGEL tunes, while MacDonald has had more of a free rein to explore his purer synthpop fantasies.

While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK opted for an IRN-BRU, the pair settled down with a wee dram each to ponder the state of the synth nation and much more…

Ian: So here we are Derek in our top secret studio to answer some questions from Uncle Chi about all things RAINLAND…

Del: Yeah, top secret studio in a back bedroom cos that’s what you do if you’re in a synth band these days, or say you’re in the studio by posting a photo of Sarm West to pretend you are being something you aren’t…

Ian: Hahaha! Anyway, on with the questions…

RAINLAND seems more relaxed than ANALOG ANGEL, how’s it been to free of its industrial shackles?

Del: I’ve always loved melody, you can’t have a song without a melody. The world is awash with tuneless industrial music currently

Ian: When we started, we didn’t have many outlets for us to play live and that’s what we always wanted to do so we were ‘tarred’ with the industrial brush as those were the bands we played with or supported.

Del: I don’t think we ever really were. The first two albums had an industrial edge but they were still songs based.

Ian: That whole ‘scene’ has turned into a bit of a parody of itself, which the synth scene has a danger of doing too. Never understood why, it was more style over substance.

Del: The whole dressed like a Nazi shouting “DAS!” covered in dog sh*te, you’re from Doncaster FFS!

Ian: I would say it’s been liberating doing the RAINLAND stuff.

Del: Exactly, I was always more into YMO who as we know are as industrial as f*ck!

So how has the creative dynamic and attitude changed working as a duo?

Ian: There are half as many people to satisfy, so the voting process as to what does and doesn’t make the cut is simpler.

Del: You and I tended to write together anyway in AA or were the folk that said “yeah let’s work on that” if an idea was presented…

Ian: It’s an interesting question as our attitude hasn’t changed but we can use more expansive soundscapes now, things like harmonies for example which is a big thing.

Y’know, I can’t help smirking at comment… *laughs*

Del: We couldn’t do that in AA as we weren’t the singers, so didn’t carry that part of the song and melody.

Ian: We tried to introduce it in places though… I’m a fan of pop music, I do love my metal and prog rock too of course which you’ve been getting into more Del…

Del: I listen to punk, INXS who are an incredibly melodic band…

Ian: Yeah, but could you imagine folk from ‘the scene’ going to see for example CAMEL or URIAH HEAP who are both in the diary for later in the year?

Del: Or Steven Wilson! We can now draw on more of our influences…

The eponymous ‘Rainland’ was a really rousing calling card, please describe its genesis…

Ian: I had the chorus part kicking around for a long time and never developed it beyond a few scribbled notes. At that point it was called ‘Homeland’… it’s played on a synth called Dune and the opening sequence developed from working with that software. I married it to a piano part from my Work in Progress folder called ‘Keane Thing’. The lyric came together walking along the marina in Ipswich on my way to work.

Del: We both have large WIP folders on our hard drives!

Ian: At the time, we wanted to keep playing and working together but weren’t sure what that was going to be or if it would happen at all. We ended up choosing the name, which I stole from a track title by a friend Simon Godfrey and his band TINYFISH, got a logo and booked a tour before we even had any finished songs so that forced our hand to get stuff written/finished. ‘Rainland’ was the first completed track and feedback was encouraging enough to convince us we were going in the right direction

Del: It had to be the opposite of what we had just finished. The initial reaction was “didn’t expect that!”… folk have compared it to all sorts of bands including A-HA and ENDGAMES, we’ll take that happily

Ian: ENDGAMES… that’s because according to some people we come from a town with no musical heritage! *laughs*

Vocally and musically, ‘Rainland’ appears to have overtones of ULTRAVOX?

Ian: I’m Scottish, I’m from Glasgow and anyone that knows me knows I’m a massive ULTRAVOX and Midge Ure fan, they are my favourite band from that Synth Britannia era so that’s all going to rub off on me. I’m either going to sound like Midge or one of THE PROCLAIMERS!

Del: Or Lauren Mayberry!

Ian: That’s not gonna happen!!!

Del: Talking of Midge and THE PROCLAIMERS, we have performed songs from both live in the past! It’s that whole thing about melody and big sounds.

Ian: Yeah you listen to the late Foxx / early Ure ULTRAVOX and it’s very simple, the playing is great but there’s a lot of space and we try to replicate that.

‘Touch’ seems to have a nod towards BRONSKI BEAT maybe?

Ian: That’s your area Del!

Del: BRONSKI BEAT?? You mean the melody?

Ian: I thought more the bass sound, that layered PPG Wavestation slap bass? I thought that was more PROPAGANDA… I don’t know, you’re more the BB guy than me…

Del: I did like ‘Smalltown Boy’, but thought the rest of the songs were pish…. Sorry!

Ian: Oh well maybe not then!

‘Silverlight’ featuring lyrics by poet and novelist Ange Chan started off as an ANALOG ANGEL number?

Ian: Back to that thing of being in AA, there were 4 people that got a vote and this somehow never made the cut… I wrote this song about 6 years ago when I first joined AA. It was one of the songs I wanted to work on with RAINLAND but it wasn’t until Del and Phil Morrison, our producer, suggested swapping the chorus and verse round musically…

Del: Phil has a brilliant ear for that kind of thing and it clicked. I know you weren’t sure at first…

Ian: Yeah but it really works. It’s a f*cker to sing live though which is why it tends to be early in the set! Cos it’s got a weird structure!

Del: To get it out the way! It would be good if Ange would write some more stuff.

Ian: Yeah she has an unusual lyrical touch.

‘The Light Of The Sun’ showcases some engaging uptempo synthpop songcraft?

Del: Another one written for AA during the ‘Four Front’ album sessions which didn’t make the final release.

Ian: I wrote that with Tracy from AA and I don’t think it’s unfair to say we added it to the EP as a filler and it’s become one of our more popular songs, shows how much we know…

Del: It’s a great song though, lots of melody.

Synthpop is pop music using synthesizers, not a by-word for fluff… discuss!

Del: Synthpop… electronic music in general, it depends how you look at it, can be viewed that way, but that’s the same as any genre.

Ian: I think there’s still a lot of sniffiness, even 40 years after the whole Musician’s Union campaign about synths from certain people. It’s nonsense… is a Billy Currie ARP solo any less exciting or musical than an Eric Clapton or Dave Gilmour guitar solo?

Del: As I’ve always said, if Beethoven had a MacBook, there would have been a whole orchestra out of jobs, instantly…

Ian: I get p*ssed off at folk turning their noses up at my chosen instrument. They are tools to do the job. Would you say an OMD hit from the back in the day has less right to be called a classic than say ‘Layla’ or ‘Comfortably Numb’? Different audiences yes, most of the time…

Del: Something like ‘There She Goes’ by THE LA’S is fluff, it’s no ‘Stanlow’ or ‘Statues’!

Ian: When people think of synthesizer music, they do think of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ I suppose…

What do you think about the current state of modern electronic pop at the moment? Do you have any interest in Synthwave for example?

Ian: To be honest I don’t listen to a lot of modern bands. There are a couple of the newer bands yes, like KITE, but by and large they don’t feature on my playlists. A lot of the bands producing music at our level seem to rush the product out the door and it sounds like it. Probably setting myself up for some brickbats with that statement, let him without sin etc…

Del: It’s all presets, homogenised, Apple loops and stuff…

Ian: Which brings us onto Synthwave…

Del: Yeah but some of that is good…

Ian: Yeah, THE VAN DAMMAGE and ELECTRIC DRAGON… Michael Oakley and FM-84, though that’s a Scottish thing. Synthwave is trying to capture something that didn’t really exist back in the day.

Del: Yeah, some ‘Miami Vice’ soundtrack stuff and ‘Axel F’ maybe…

Ian: I’m not a fan of the majority of it…

Del: Barry Douglas, our friend from Glasgow, is a massive supporter of the Synthwave scene so we have seen a lot of those bands that have gone on to big things on that scene, he gave many of them their first UK gigs so I guess it’s his fault!

Are there any new acts you’ve encountered in the last 12 months that you would recommend to look out for?

Ian and Del together: WITCH OF THE VALE!

Ian: They really are the ones that stand out… they have a certain something that stands them apart.

Del: Erin and Ryan are great, yeah!

Ian: The new Michael Oakley stuff and FORM.

Del: For me it’s all the classic bands… The last BLANCMANGE album was brilliant.

Ian: I tend not to listen to a lot of synthesizer specific music TBH.

You’ve toured with ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their two most recent UK visits, how are your livers? 😉

Ian: This tour not as bad as 2017 when we tried to kill Mike their drummer

Del: Aided and abetted by an Australian Pirate Metal band…we were very well behaved this time apart from the night of Scott our merch / crew guy’s birthday. We are very old now however…

Ian: It’s like being on a school outing with those guys, we pile into a bus, point it down the motorway.

Del: And rip the piss out of one another for the duration.

Ian: The ASSEMBLAGE 23 guys are different class… They are head and shoulders above the likes of VNV NATION and AND ONE in respect of songwriting and production

Del: And Tom doesn’t have ridiculous stage height demands…

Ian: You’ve seen him dancing, nobody wants that!

How do you think RAINLAND went down with the ASSEMBLAGE 23 crowd?

Ian: We didn’t get bottled off stage so that’s a plus… Our job was as support, which used to be called the warm-up act and I’d like to think we did that. I’ve seen so many bands play those slots, not interact with the audience and then f*ck off after the show, that’s not your job!

Del: The crowd appeared to enjoy it, we seem to be a good fit for the band and have been told our music works well in that line-up by people after the show, so all good.

You’re playing with ARTHUR & MARTHA and PLASMIC, what can punters expect who have not seen or heard of you before?

Ian: We are opening the event, doing this has been a long time coming. Hopefully we will start the show as we all mean to go on.

Del: Help everyone have a good night… PLASMIC looks like it will be a fun set

Ian: And ARTHUR AND MARTHA! Looking forward to catching up with the guys

Del: We always like playing in London, come and buy us a beer!

What’s next for RAINLAND, is there a follow-up EP to ‘Touch’ in the works?

Ian: RAINLAND is a hobby, we released ‘Touch’ in 2017 and then life got in the way and I ended up going abroad to work for a year which is why things have been slow. We don’t have any delusions of being superstar musicians… if as a 50-something you aren’t a successful, million selling songwriter / artist already guess what, you’re probably not going to be a million selling songwriter/artist!

Del: We do have another EP written, just need to get all our diaries to align especially with Phil. We hope to showcase some new material though as it is ready to play live.

Ian: Just playing it by ear… we have a couple of other gigs lined up to be announced which are exciting.

Del: Just looking forward to seeing everyone at the show.

Ian: Exactly, we will see you soon!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to RAINLAND

The ‘Touch’ EP is available as a free download from https://rainland.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th February 2019

RAINLAND Touch EP

From the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL come forth RAINLAND and their debut EP ‘Touch’.

The Weegie duo of Ian Ferguson and Derek MacDonald were the musical lynchpin of their previous band and now free of the industrial shackles that occasionally held them back, their self-titled number ‘Rainland’ is a stomping synthpop statement, embroiled in a musicality that provides an almost joyous journey through the Grampian Mountains. Ferguson had already proved himself a worthy vocalist on ANALOG ANGEL songs such as ‘No Goodbye’, ‘I Am Me’ and ‘Another Rainy Day’ with a tone not dissimilar to a certain Midge Ure.

This is allowed to rein free on ‘Rainland’, while the ivories of MacDonald stylistically ape the symphonic overtones of ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie. Synthpop is pop music using synthesizers, not a by-word for fluff. As the cultural commentator Simon Reynolds put it in The Guardian as part of his ‘Synth Britannia’ assessment on the legacy of synthpop in 2009: “Oddly, what’s made this music last are the same things that made The Beatles and Motown immortal: melody and emotion” – ‘Rainland’ possesses both those qualities and this eponymous calling card shows exactly what RAINLAND are capable of.

Meanwhile the neo-ballad ‘Suddenly Winter’ conveys a snow-capped atmosphere that does exactly what it says on the tin while the uptempo ‘The Light Of The Sun’ showcases more of the engaging synthpop songcraft that perhaps hadn’t been able to attain its full potential within ANALOG ANGEL.

‘Touch’ with its digital slapped bass and HI-NRG flavour in a nod to BRONSKI BEAT will surprise ANALOG ANGEL fans, while ‘Silverlight’ featuring lyrics by poet and novelist Ange Chan sonically punches, as sweeps and sequences make their presence felt on this rousing number.

Tom Shear has already recognised RAINLAND’s capabilities and invited Messrs Ferguson and MacDonald for ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their 2017 UK tour. What happens next is now up to them, but expect the pair to allow the music to speak for itself. There certainly won’t be any misguided sojourns into reality television or remixes by eminently, the worst music act in the world today… 😉


The ‘Touch’ EP is available for download via https://rainland.bandcamp.com/album/touch

RAINLAND play the following 2017 live dates with ASSEMBLAGE 23: Glasgow Ivory Blacks (30th March), Manchester Zoo (31st March), London Electrowerkz (1st April)

https://www.rainland.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RainlandtheBand/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos and artwork by Mark Walker @ MNW Visual Communications
29th March 2017

SYNTH.NU Interviews ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

synth.nu is a long established Swedish language web publication that covers a broad spectrum of electronic music.

Founded in March 2004, synth.nu follows an ethos that covers both new and established acts.

With a team of contributors, their mission statement is “We make reviews, interviews and live reviews in synth / electronic music from all over the world” be it “synth, electronica, EBM, industrial, wave, darkwave and stuff that applies”.

With Sweden being the epicentre of modern electronic music, synth.nu are suitably positioned to report on what is an highly vibrant and creative scene. As kindred spirits following their passion for electronic music, it was only natural that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and synth.nu would eventually get together and have rather a lot to talk about.

Following a first meeting at the Electronic Summer 2015 Festival in Gothenburg, Martin Brandhill from synth.nu chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK founder Chi Ming Lai for an interview feature that was originally published in the Swedish language at the synth.nu site on 16th March 2016…

When did you start to like electronic music and become fascinated by this music genre?

My very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to us all in class and the sound of both was unusual, yet captivating. It wasn’t until later that I got into synthesizer music properly first through GARY NUMAN, then JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and OMD before moving onto ULTRAVOX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE, HEAVEN 17, JOHN FOXX and SIMPLE MINDS.

As I got older, I caught up with the influential acts of the past like BRIAN ENO, ROXY MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE, TANGERINE DREAM, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF.

How and why did you start the electronic music website ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK back in 2010? Were there not any electronic music websites prior to that, who supported the electronic music scene in UK?

The main motivation to do ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK came from my disgust at classic synthpop being lumped in with the so-called 80s revival.

I hated how OMD and DEPECHE MODE were being associated with T’PAU, SWING OUT SISTER and LIVING IN A BOX! Everyone wanted to remember the 80s whereas I didn’t, so there was a definite reaction to the nostalgia industry that was starting to build. “Synthpop NOT 80s!” was my mantra! There are still people who should know better that don’t understand the difference! Incidentally, the writers are banned from using the term “80s” to describe the music in their articles 😉

I’d been writing music reviews since college, progressing from student newspapers to fanzines and then online media. There were a number of websites featuring acts I liked, but many focussed on just the 80s or particular bands. And then there were others that were only about dance music or new artists exclusively…

I wanted to somehow combine coverage of new and classic synth based pop, but away from dance music which to be honest, is something I generally loathe.

When ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK launched in March 2010, LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and LADY GAGA had been hailed as the next big things. And with their synth dressed credentials, I embraced them… but it turned out to be a false dawn. Luckily though, just as The L-Word Foursome started disassociating themselves from the whole synthpop thing, MIRRORS, HURTS, VILLA NAH and VILE ELECTRODES emerged and sat nicely with classic acts such as VISAGE, OMD, HEAVEN 17, ULTRAVOX, THE ART OF NOISE and PROPAGANDA who ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featured in that first year.

What is the main goal that you want to achieve with the website?

You could nickname it ‘Now That’s What Chi & Friends Call Music’ 😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is about electronic pop music with roots to Synth Britannia; that was a great BBC documentary about the post-punk UK synth movement. It featured GARY NUMAN, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JOHN FOXX, NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, SOFT CELL, ULTRAVOX, YAZOO and CABARET VOLTAIRE.

However, the site was never just going to be about established acts, it was always the intention to feature newer ones. But the site launch didn’t take place until our interview with Paul Humphreys of OMD was completed, because having that was the best way to get people to look at the site. And it worked, because parts of the interview were later quoted in The Guardian newspaper in their article about OMD’s then new album ‘History Of Modern’.

So by attracting people who want to read about the acts they know and love, they might then stick around and have a look at the new artists featured who have been seeded from those same electronic pioneers.

The act I have been most proud of featuring in the last five years has been VILE ELECTRODES.

Andy McCluskey read about them on the site and as a result, they ended up supporting OMD on their 2013 German tour and winning awards too. And they recently did a live session for BBC Introducing. It’s a great upward trajectory they are on right now. They’re a fine example as to what can be achieved by an independent synthesizer act in this day and age.

Which philosophy does the website follow with writing new reviews, interviews or articles in general?

The heart of the site is properly written features, not buzz blogging. I don’t like the whole “this is a song, now here’s another…” approach that other websites indulge in. People of a certain adult demographic just haven’t got the time or inclination to go through 10-15 new acts each week; they want to know which band you think is the best and why they should spend money or invest an hour of their time for them.

That is why the articles have easy-to-understand musical references, trivia and critique. It’s my style and always has been since I started writing about music as a student; I think you can tell if I am really into something when you read my text. It’s storytelling, rather than lecturing or trying to be cool. I’ve been told by friends in Europe that my style is easy to understand for people whose first language is not English.

If people connect with your ethos and enjoy what you write, then they will trust your opinion and return for more. But you need to maintain quality control.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has to be about what’s good, not what’s going on in The Scene. This is why the site doesn’t have many news bulletins.

If people don’t like what the site features or its style of referencing, then that’s ok.

They can always do their own blog as some have done. That’s great because then there’s another music platform. We have our choices.

What do I look for in a new act submission? A good song accompanied by a reasonable video with hopefully two or three other numbers of comparable quality. The video is important because it tests the commitment of the artist with regards their visual presentation, as well as their songwriting and production. I come from a generation where videos and sleeve artwork were important; so it’s not just about the music and bands need to be aware that.

I probably give a track about twenty seconds! I’m not after a song that I necessarily love on first hearing, it’s more about it being interesting enough to play on to the end and then, listen to again. People have sent me demos that go on for over eight minutes… that’s not a good idea even if it is your art!

The most clueless submission was a five song live gig video recorded at a kid’s birthday party and nothing happened for the first minute! I literally get hundreds of emails each month. There are complaints that we don’t reply or give feedback. But if we replied to each one, we would never get any articles done.

A fair few get deleted straight away, especially if the accompanying press release mentions “deep house”, “bangin’ techno”, “DJ”, “80s” or “shoegaze”, or the band photo has more than two members with a beard!

I remember Neil Tennant once saying he knew THE KILLERS’ second album was never going to be as good as the first, because Brandon Flowers had grown a beard! *laughs*

Just because an act hasn’t been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK before, it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. The best example of that is Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who I passed on in 2011. They were quite industrial back then, but changed direction and became more synthpop. So when they released ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ in 2013, I asked them for a video to feature on the site which they duly presented.

By the same token, just because an act has had coverage before doesn’t mean that their future releases will be featured. One artist demanded we remove a second video that we had on an article about them, so that it could be used for a future  review… hang on! There is a strange sense of entitlement from some artists which I find baffling. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is not a crowdfunded promotional service. *laughs*

Some people do take things rather personally if they’re not featured; one individual shouted abuse at me in a pub before a gig and stormed off, but he then proceeded to lie and tell everyone I was rude to THEM!

It wasn’t as if ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had written a negative review… would they rather have that? Because there have been a few of those when appropriate as well!

But slagging ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK off on social media and to their friends is not the best way to gain favourable attention from us. The thing is, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is not the only platform covering electronic music… other blogs ARE available.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has existed now for over five years. Has it been lots of fun and an exciting journey when you are looking back at the development of the website and meeting lots of famous people in the electronic scene, since you started the website back in 2010?

It’s definitely been fun, it’s the reason why I am still doing it and would like to do it for a few more years yet 😉

New-Order-2015-MusicComplete-01Two interviews spring to mind as favourites and good examples of the site’s development. In 2011, I interviewed Stephen Morris from NEW ORDER.

I was surprised ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s request was accepted, but we had a brilliant 70 minute chat. He said something about “Never say never” when it came to the future of NEW ORDER.

Then a few months later, NEW ORDER announced they were returning, but without Hooky. So the site was inadvertently part of a subtle promotional campaign to rebuild the band’s profile before the news broke!

Our 2013 interview with GARY NUMAN was a significant one. In the past, we would lobby for a major interview, but probably end up NOT getting it, like DURAN DURAN or GRIMES. In 2011, we were only granted a short email Q&A with GARY NUMAN. But in 2013, the site had built up such a good reputation that Numan’s representatives got in touch and literally said “you’re interviewing GARY NUMAN at 6.00pm on Thursday!” – Numan was great and he wouldn’t stop talking, which was great for the eventual article!

Having been invited to meet both KARL BARTOS and WOLFGANG FLÜR, I’ve sort of got nowhere else to go now! It’s not every day you get to be photographed together with two KRAFTWERK legends. Is there anyone else I’d like to meet and interview? I guess JEAN-MICHEL JARRE would be one. And I’ve never met or interviewed VINCE CLARKE either.

Has 2015 been a good or disappointing music year? Will we remember this year when we look back in a couple of years?

I think 2015 has been good, especially for veteran acts proving they can still do excellent music, be it JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, A-HA, JOHN FOXX or NEW ORDER. Age is not a barrier to creativity, although lack of motivation to challenge oneself artistically in later years might be… 2015 was certainly better than 2012, which I felt was a lacklustre year for electronic pop.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK appears to be very critical at times against synthpop legends DEPECHE MODE, why is that?

DEPECHE MODE can still do brilliant stuff, my favourite 21st Century songs are ‘Oh Well’, ‘I Feel Loved’, and the TRENTEMØLLER club mix of ‘Wrong’; I think from those three, you can work out how I prefer DEPECHE MODE to sound today.

But personally, I am not keen on DEPECHE MODE’s modern day concert format which is more rock based and dominated by live drums; however, I need to clarify about why I’m so critical of them and in particular, Christian Eigner aka ‘The Drumhead’ 😉

Yes, Alan Wilder was a sticksman on the ‘Devotional’ tour but he wasn’t a drummer in a John Bonham sense, so he only played what was needed. Herr Eigner on the other hand is a traditional rock drummer, a role that has a very egocentric and bombastic mindset. So he fills every nook and cranny with drums, whether they really ought to be there or not, that’s the difference!

Now, did you know that THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ has no crash cymbals on it? That’s because the Linn LM1 Drum Computer used did not have enough chip memory to store such a sound. So the restrictions meant they had to be artistically inventive and think out of the box to nurture the dynamics of each song. The most recent example of a no crash cymbal policy has been CHVRCHES ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

The first five OMD albums have no crash cymbals either and I think you’ll find the majority of DEPECHE MODE recordings up to 1990 are the same. Do you see a pattern here? What I’m trying to say is, live drums and crash cymbals can be a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll cliché… the point about most good electronic pop music is that it is anti-rock ‘n’ roll *laughs*

The word is that it’s Dave Gahan who wants it everything to be overtly rockist, but I can’t think of anything more boring! He apparently refuses to sing over exclusively programmed rhythm tracks now.

Ironically though, it’s that rigid electronic percussion which helps give those truly great DEPECHE MODE songs that tension and soul.

It’s why the tribute band SPEAK & SPELL have their place on the live circuit as a recreation of that three synths and a tape machine era. The strange thing is that I’ve been accused of featuring and referencing DEPECHE MODE too often.

But on the opposite side of the coin, there are people who think I am very negative about DM… neither are true. But do I really enjoy DM gigs in the 21st Century? They have their moments on stage, but the last show I saw at Birmingham NEC in 2014 was terrible!

Are you not grateful for all the great music and achievements DEPECHE MODE has done for electronic music in the UK and for the genre in general?

To use an F1 analogy, DEPECHE MODE are Michael Schumacher from an achievement point of view. But personally, I find the gifted but flawed drivers like the late Ronnie Peterson who never became World Champion, or lively new talent such as Max Verstappen much more interesting. Well, that’s what I think, for what it’s worth 😉

I’m an armchair DEPECHE MODE fan from ‘Speak & Spell’ up to ‘Ultra’, as opposed to being a Devotee. My favourite album is ‘Violator’, while I have a lot of affection for ‘A Broken Frame’. I was in my early teens at the height of Synth Britannia, so when SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and DURAN DURAN emerged, it was all very exciting.

But what you have to understand is that at the time, SOFT CELL were generally seen by people, including myself, as the better prospect. By the time DEPECHE MODE got darker on ‘Black Celebration’, I was at college and had started DJ-ing so was naturally inclined towards more danceable electronic acts like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and ERASURE… in hindsight, you can see PSB are actually a smoothed out SOFT CELL! I was still keeping an eye on DM in 1987-1988, but effectively lost touch as I was doing my final examinations. So like many in the UK, when ‘101’ came out in 1989, I was like “what on earth has happened here?” *laughs*

I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed Alan Wilder three times now and was honoured that the only interview he granted for the 25th anniversary of ‘101’ was with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. He’s always been very honest and forthright.

I remember at the RECOIL film Q&A in London, one girl took exception to his answer to her question about BECK. “YOU ASKED ME FOR MY OPINION!” he retorted. Brilliant!

Like many, I still feel the missing artistic ingredient in today’s DEPECHE MODE is Mr Wilder. Yet, DM have got bigger in terms of their live audiences! So go figure *laughs*

In Sweden, there was a big discussion in many local synth / electronic music communities about the genre’s status. It started because of my discussion event ‘Är Synthen Död?’ (In English: Is The Synth Dead?) which I held in Gothenburg last December. The panel discussed if the genre was still vital and interesting to the youth of today and to old electronic music lovers here in Sweden; or more plainly dead, has no future and will become like Rockabilly music. What are your personal points of view on this subject, when you look at the UK scene?

There was a period in the UK when the dance scene and Britpop effectively killed off synthpop; this would have been 1994-1999. I never really liked acid house or club oriented music. Acts like LEFTFIELD, UNDERWORLD, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and ORBITAL did great singles, but they weren’t very song based and their albums left me underwhelmed, especially as the tracks often went on for far too long! And I wasn’t into the Industrial duff-duff shouting-in-German thing that was going on in Europe either!

But for me, there was a turning point for the synth in an avant pop context, and that came in 2000-2001 with LADYTRON, GOLDFRAPP and CLIENTBecause they had female vocalists, they also gave a fresh slant to the old Synth Britannia template. 

KYLIE MINOGUE’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ and SUGABABES ‘Freak Like Me’ were also significant; it’s fair to say quite a few people got into GARY NUMAN because of the latter! 

So synthpop effectively returned, if in a slightly different but still recognisable form. The period helped to shape the sort of music I enjoy listening to now, like MARSHEAUX, KID MOXIE, HANNAH PEEL and GWENNOUnfortunately, although a lot of music is electronically based now, as PAGE’s Eddie Bengtsson said to me, classic synthpop appears to be a dying art.

A friend of mine, who is a video director, received a brief for a “contemporary electropop band”… but they were so contemporary, there was hardly any electropop in their music! The lines are getting too blurred and that’s not a good thing. Like this trio YEARS & YEARS that have been labelled a synthpop act by the mainstream press! Err, no! They are basically BROS with a housey beat!

CHVRCHES-2015-02Luckily, the success of CHVRCHES has confirmed there is still an international market for synthpop. They have a broad appeal which connects with people who don’t necessarily know, or want to know, what a Minimoog Voyager is.

Their songs could be covered by TAYLOR SWIFT and become massive hits. Acts like CHVRCHES are the key to younger musicians being influenced to make electronic pop music in the future.

Is the genre dead or alive in UK? Has it a bright future or will genre just have a few followers?

Things are quite strange in the UK… synth music is alive but slightly wounded in my opinion. There is also the weird phenomenon of promoters who don’t even really like electronic music, putting on electronic music events.

In my opinion, there’s big fish in a small pond syndrome going on, in that there’s a sub-culture of acts who just prop each other up and think just because they get a few plays on an internet radio station, they’re heading for the big time. But they are not as good as they like to think they are. Ok, everyone has to start somewhere and grow, but they need to show some humility and give themselves time to learn their craft.

It is important to support bands that are good, not just any band because they are electronic. The trouble is, the entry point to electronic music, podcasting and blogging is very low so if everything is of a mediocre standard, it misrepresents the genre and no-one actually has a quality bar they can work towards. Healthy competition is a good motivator.

mirrorsBut when an act appears out of nowhere and has the potential to break into the mainstream like LA ROUX, MIRRORS or CHVRCHES, The Scene doesn’t like it and turns on them.

The lack of recognition for MIRRORS still bothers me, I really miss them and it’s a shame that they didn’t stick together having delivered one brilliant album and a bunch of fabulous B-sides.

People have caught onto them since retrospectively, but it’s a bit too late and now we’re stuck with average bands that go on and on and on!

As far as the UK is concerned, the most promising beacon of light for electronic pop is EAST INDIA YOUTH; he’s a bit like a one-man MIRRORS and it will be interesting to see how he progresses. There’s also RODNEY CROMWELL who is a bit more unorthodox and whose music I like very much. As they’re both solo acts, they can’t split up!

Will we see more unusual electronic music countries or trends that will rise and get more attention, instead of the traditional electronic music countries like the UK and Germany? I was thinking about the rising profile over the past few years for electronic music coming from, for example Canada, Australia, South Africa and even from my native country Sweden?

My favourite new act at the moment is KITE from Sweden. They have a melancholic, majestic sound that I love. To me, Sweden is the modern hub of electronic pop and has been for several years.

When I visited Gothenburg for the 2015 Electronic Summer Festival, I was very impressed by the Swedish passion for electronic music; it appeared a lot more honest than in the UK and I really felt at home.

It’s not just Sweden though, the Nordic region has been producing electronic acts of a very high standard, particularly Norway and Finland. VILLA NAH came from Helsinki and although they appear to be no more, they have at least morphed into SIN COS TAN who are really good.

North America is proving to be one area of growth for electronic music, with Canada being the most creative with acts like TR/ST, AUSTRA, GRIMES, PURITY RING and ELECTRIC YOUTH; but don’t forget the country has a cult tradition dating back to RATIONAL YOUTH and PSYCHE. The USA has some great acts too like SOFT METALS, NIGHT CLUB, FEATHERS and HYPERBUBBLE.

Germany is making a return, although to my ears, much of the new music coming from there is derivative, although of a good standard. But the emergent nation in electronic music appears to be China with FIFI RONG and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS being two of its most notable acts. I am pleased that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK features acts from all around the world, and does not base itself around a single scene, city or country.

What are your expectations and hopes for electronic music in 2016?

I have learnt over the years to be quietly optimistic and not to have too many expectations… I always think it’s quite funny when bloggers announce that an album is “going to be brilliant” when they haven’t actually heard it yet, and then after its release, go “oh, actually, it’s not very good…” *laughs*

Obviously, I hope there is going to be lots of new high quality synthpop in 2016… if there isn’t, then the site will focus on being more retrospective, like with those career spanning Beginner’s Guides listings which we do and have become quite popular with readers. It’s a way of showcasing how good things have been in the past, so that new acts know what to aspire to.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will not just feature sub-standard output just because it’s electronic. There’s a lot of new music out there, but it needs to stand the test of repeated listening; only time can tell if you were right or wrong… and we  got it wrong with a few acts that were featured in 2012 😉

People say to me the site should cover other forms of electronic music like dubstep and more leftfield sub-genres but frankly, I’m not interested… I know what I like and I’m happy to stand by it. When I was in Gothenburg, Alexander Hofman from S.P.O.C.K complimented me on the fact that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK focusses on pop. As OMD once sang “It’s my direction, it’s my proposal…”

Speaking of whom, OMD have a new album pencilled in. I remember there was great anticipation about the comeback album ‘History Of Modern’ back in 2010, yet it turned out to be a major disappointment. So when it came to ‘English Electric’ in 2013, I expected nothing, but it was their best album for 30 years!

I would like there to be another great OMD album, but I will not be too upset if it doesn’t happen. I got the album I’d been waiting for since 1984 with ‘English Electric’, so as far as I am concerned now, OMD have nothing left to prove.

On the other hand, DEPECHE MODE have plenty to prove again; they really need to take a leaf out of OMD’s book and regain some of that artistic high ground. But the thing is, OMD brought back their Alan Wilder ie Paul Humphreys and let him take control of the production reins; the end result of ‘English Electric’ speaks for itself 😉


This interview was originally published in Swedish at http://synth.nu/

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Interview by Martin Brandhill with thanks to synth.nu
23rd March 2016

2015 End Of Year Review

There are no illegal connections…

System100 CakeThe user manual for the Roland System 100 semi-modular synthesizer profoundly stated “there are no illegal connections…”

And in modern electronic music, that is still the case with the accomplished artists of today very much connected to the synth pioneers of yesteryear like KRAFTWERK, OMD, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Belgian duo METROLAND would not exist without the tradition established at Klingklang, while EAST INDIA YOUTH’s interest in BRIAN ENO and Motorik beats curated a sound that has enabled parallels to be drawn with the artful template of the similarly influenced Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey.

And although SUSANNE SUNDFØR was already an established singer / songwriter in her homeland of Norway, attention was not fully drawn on her new synth based direction until she performed a sympathetic cover of ‘Ice Machine’ with RÖYKSOPP in late 2012.

GWENNO by Jacek Davis PhotographyEven the exquisite lo-fi Welsh language electronica of GWENNO can be traced to Sheffield, thanks to the songstress’ previous pop excursions which involved working on an album with the late Martin Rushent.

As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE said: “Electronic music has a family, a legacy and a future…” so to deny the glorious heritage of electronic music when assessing new acts would be futile.

Indeed, acknowledging history is very much part of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s style and it appears to have been appreciated, especially in regard to the feature ‘30 Favourite Albums 2010 – 2014’, one of a quintet of special articles to celebrate the site’s fifth birthday in March…

“Huge thanks to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK” said avid reader Hugh David, “A victory for well-written, artfully conveyed content curation once again… you knew exactly what to say to sell me on one artist or another. That rare ability of a reviewer to pinpoint the precise comparisons that enable me to decide to seek something out based on my own tastes is something lacking in so many other outlets; love that you’ve got that in spades”

Another reader David Sims added: “ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is a great way of discovering artists you might not otherwise be aware of. A bit like when a friend used to come round your house clutching an LP or C90 saying ‘I really love this, have a listen’, introducing you to new music that makes your neck hairs stand up in ovation”

2014 was a comparatively lean 12 months, but this year found many veterans returning to the fold. NEW ORDER released ‘Music Complete’, a much discussed comeback that was not only the Mancunians’ first album for Mute, but also without estranged bassist Peter Hook.

MARC ALMOND released ‘The Velvet Trail’, his first pop album for many years while ANDY BELL embarked on further solo adventures in support of ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’.

SPARKS joined forces with FRANZ FERDINAND as FFS while telling everyone to ‘P*ss Off’ and proved that collaborations do work. Electronic music legend JEAN-MICHEL JARRE also went the collaborative root. His first album for several years ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ featured the likes of LITTLE BOOTS, JOHN CARPENTER, TANGERINE DREAM, AIR, ARMIN VAN BUUREN, GESAFFELSTEIN, MOBY, MASSIVE ATTACK and VINCE CLARKE.

Another legend GIORGIO MORODER made his statement of intent with ‘74 Is The New 24’ and released ‘Déjà Vu’, a disco pop record featuring the likes of SIA, BRITNEY SPEARS, FOXES and KYLIE MINOGUE.

Meanwhile, his artier counterpart ZEUS B HELD gave us some ‘Logic of Coincidence’ and WOLFGANG FLÜR made his solo debut with ‘Eloquence’, his first length album project since 1997.

Liverpool duo CHINA CRISIS delivered ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’, their first original material since 1994’s ‘Warped By Success’ while HOWARD JONES showed he could still innovate at 60 years of age when he launched ‘Engage’, “a highly interactive live experience designed to immerse audiences in an audio / visual feast”. A-HA came back after disbanding in 2010 with ‘Cast In Steel’ and DURAN DURAN recruited an all-star cast that included Nile Rodgers, John Frusciante, Kiesza and Lindsay Lohan for the rather disappointing EDM blow-out ‘Paper Gods’.

BLANCMANGE’s ‘Semi Detached’ was Neil Arthur’s first without long-time partner Stephen Luscombe and he even found time to release a wonderful instrumental collection entitled ‘Nil By Mouth’. Indeed, there were quite a few instrumental opuses in 2015, with GHOST HARMONIC’s wonderful ‘Codex’ featuring JOHN FOXX and the electronic pioneer’s own glorious ‘London Overgrown’. TUXEDOMOON joined forces with CULT WITH NO NAME for ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ while not wishing to be left out, DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore released the tutorial for his new Eurorack modular system as the simply titled ‘MG’.

2015 saw the 25th anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’ and to ignore its significance, as some DM fan related platforms did, would have been incredibly short sighted. However, there was none of that from premier DM tribute band SPEAK & SPELL who played their biggest UK gig yet with a splendid boutique showcase of that landmark album at London’s Islington Academy.

CAMOUFLAGE, a band who started off very much under the influence of the Basildon boys, issued the mature statement of ‘Greyscale’ while continuing the DEPECHE MODE album theme, Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX gave a worthy of re-assessment of ‘A Broken Frame’ and procured a number of interesting arrangements for some under rated songs. DIE KRUPPS got more metal than machine on their fifth opus ‘V – Metal Machine Music’.

Fellow Germans BEBORN BETON made up for a ten year absence with ‘A Worthy Compensation’ while SOLAR FAKE and SYNTHDECADE also got in on the action too.

CHVRCHES continued their quest for world domination with something that LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and HURTS never managed… a decent second album. But PURITY RING, the Canadian act whose template CHVRCHES borrowed, must have looked over with a touch of envy at the Glaswegian’s success so responded with ‘Another Eternity’.

HANNAH PEEL released an interim mini-album ‘Rebox 2’ which blended centuries of music technology while VILE ELECTRODES came up with the gorgeous ‘Captive In Symmetry’, possibly one of the songs of 2015. EURASIANEYES heeded all the guidance available to them to produce their most accomplished song yet in ‘Call Your God’ and ANALOG ANGEL went on a well-received tour supporting Swedish veterans COVENANT with a message to listeners of ‘Don’t Forget To Love’.

Elsewhere in the British Isles, CIRCUIT3RODNEY CROMWELL and SUDDEN CREATION made their first excursions into the long player format just as KID KASIO and KOVAK each delivered album number two while Berlin based Brit EMIKA helpfully titled her third opus ‘Drei’.

“So, what’s so special about Sweden then?” someone once rather cluelessly asked TEC. Well, it is the modern hub of inventive, electronic pop. KARIN PARK offered her profanity laden fifth album ‘Apocalypse Pop’.

Meanwhile SAY LOU LOU finally gave the world their ‘Lucid Dreaming’. SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN offered to ‘Translate’ while TRAIN TO SPAIN told the world ‘What It’s All About’. And this was without feisty youngsters like ME THE TIGER and comparatively experienced hands such as PRESENCE OF MIND, DESTIN FRAGILE, CLUB 8, 047 and HILTIPOP all entering the equation too.

Still in Sweden, DAYBEHAVIOR went all female PET SHOP BOYS with the Italo flavoured ‘Cambiare’ and MACHINISTA followed up their debut ‘Xenoglossy’ with ‘Garmonbozia’. while there was also the unexpected return of alternative synthpopsters ASHBURY HEIGHTS.

But best of all were the mighty KITE; their ‘VI’ EP was a masterclass in epic, majestic electronic pop. In the rest of Europe, there was an influx of darker female fronted acts such as Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET, Italy’s ELECTROGENIC, Greece’s SARAH P. and Germany’s NINA; the latter’s ‘My Mistake’ even ended up on a Mercedes TV advert. The male contingent did their bit too with Slovenia’s TORUL unleashing their second offering ‘The Measure’ while the prolific Finnish duo SIN COS TAN took things a little bit easier in their fourth year with just an EP ‘Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse’, having already released three albums since 2012.

Oslo based studio legend John Fryer returned with two new projects, SILVER GHOST SHIMMER and MURICIDAE featuring vocalists Pinky Turzo and Louise Fraser respectively. Both reminded listeners of his work with COCTEAU TWINS and THIS MORTAL COIL, but with an Americanised twist. The Icelandic domiciled Denver singer / songwriter JOHN GRANT added some funkier vibes to his continuing electronic direction while IAMX moved from Berlin to Los Angeles, and did no harm to his art with the brooding ‘Metanoia’ album.

On the brighter side of North America, PRIEST’s self-titled debut long player became reality following their dreamy ‘Samurai’ EP, while HYPERBUBBLE made available their wacky award winning soundtrack to the short film ‘Dee Dee Rocks The Galaxy’ and joyous 2014 London show. And GRIMES caught the music biz on the hop when she released a new album ‘Art Angels’, having scrapped an album’s worth of material in 2014.

But despite North America itself being one of the territories flying the flag for the synth with acts like NIGHT CLUB, BATTLE TAPESAESTHETIC PERFECTION and RARE FACTURE all figuring, the worst single of 2015 actually came from the USA!

Literally decades of synth heritage were eminently obliterated in five soul destroying minutes… was this really what the Electronic Revolution was fought for? This is cultural history and it needs to be protected.

Although the year had flashes of brilliance, it was generally less impressive overall for fledgling electronic artists, with a number forgetting that all important factor of a good tune! Eddie Bengtsson of SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN remarked last year that synthpop was becoming a dying art.

And in 2015, synthpop’s credibility was further tarnished with lazy use of the term by the mainstream press for acts like YEARS & YEARS; one could argue that TAYLOR SWIFT and her ‘1989’ opus is possibly more synthpop than YEARS & YEARS have ever been! In a market where EDM appears to be king and clubbers are happy to witness DJs miming their two hour sets, there is clearly something wrong.

Things were not helped by certain media outlets insisting that dance music was the only way; it was as if electronic music had somehow managed to jump from KRAFTWERK to Detroit techno with nothing happening in between.

jarre clarkeAnd then, there were those who had never particularly enjoyed music from that key Synth Britannia period, who were trying to dictate how modern electronic music was being presented and pretending it had popped out of thin air!

Some bands were not doing themselves any favours either, showing little empathetic connection to the history of electronic music in their deluded optimism that they were crafting something completely new!

As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE amusingly quipped to Sound-On-Sound magazine: “Lots of people in America think that electronic music started with AVICII and it’s not exactly the truth…”

The lack of accuracy in a number of publications over the last 18 months was also shocking, particularly within magazines and online media that continued to employ writers with a history of not knowing their tape recorders from their drum machines. This simply proved the old adage that just because someone is employed as a professional writer, it doesn’t actually mean they are a good writer!

MYSADCAT2015

Photo @MYSADCAT

The domestic live scene had its challenges too with slow ticket sales and a number of events cancelled.

But even when some true legends in electronic music were booked, ticket sales could not be guaranteed and efficient promotion was needed to maximise potential.

Some observers were bemoaning a lack of support for the scene, but if line-ups are not particularly appealing, then audiences cannot be expected to invest time and money to attend.

A number of organisational infrastructures also lacked credibility; if a promoter doesn’t have at least some idea if they’re going to sell fifty tickets or five thousand, then they really shouldn’t be in the business!

The question that has to be asked then is, has anybody actually learnt from the Alt-Fest debacle of 2014? It really would appear not!

ES2015-Marsheaux+TrainToSpainWhile ‘A Secret Wish’ and SOS#2 were a couple of the year’s better UK events, Europe showed once again how things should be done. Electronic Summer in Gothenburg and the Electri_City_Conference in Düsseldorf were two of the most notable electronic music events of 2015.

The inherent knowledge and sense of understanding in both differed immensely to some British promoters. This perhaps could explain why electronic pop has generally flourished more in territories across the North Sea.

Electronic pop needs to continue to develop, but quality control must be maintained to ensure the genre is not publically misrepresented. SOFT CELL once sang about ‘Monoculture’ while KID MOXIE declared how everyone was just content with ‘Medium Pleasure’.

If all that’s heard is the best of a bad bunch, then younger listeners (and therefore potential future synth oriented musicians) will not be inspired. That is why it is important that CHVRCHES and EAST INDIA YOUTH consolidate their positions as modern electronic pop’s representatives in the mainstream.

It is not good practice to support mediocre music just because it happens to be electronic.

The finest examples need to be set so as to show what can be achieved; now if that means possibly referencing back to the golden age of synthpop, then so be it.

Only then will the synth baton be able to taken up by a new generation who can then truly reinvigorate it.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2015

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Restless
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES Valkyrie
Most Promising New Act: BATTLE TAPES


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: IAMX Metanoia
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: NODE at The Royal College of Music
Best Video: IAMX Oh Cruel Darkness Embrace Me
Most Promising New Act: KITE


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: KITE Count The Days
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at SOS#2 Festival
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: SILVER GHOST SHIMMER Soft Landing
Best Song: IAMX Happiness
Best Gig: IAMX at London Koko
Best Video: TORUL The Balance
Most Promising New Act: SYNTHDECADE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LAU NAU Hem Någonstans
Best Song: ME THE TIGER As We Really Are
Best Gig: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN at A Secret Wish
Best Video: JUNO Same To Me
Most Promising New Act: REIN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: SUSANNE SUNDFØR Ten Love Songs
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: FFS at The Troxy
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Plastic
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: KITE


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2015

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