Tag: Anna Logue Records


Back in 2014, a mysterious Chinese combo named QUIETER THAN SPIDERS caught the ears of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

Fast forward to 2019 and after a few delays, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have finally released their debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ on Anna Logue Records, the independent label based in Germany.

Their understated but richly melodic and emotive Shanghai synthpop is largely played by the hands of the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao.

‘Signs Of Life’ possesses a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously both futuristic and classic, and in common with records such as DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Low’, JOY DIVISION’s ‘Closer’ or MOBY’s ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder.

Yi Fan from QUIETER THAN SPIDERS kindly chatted to answer a few questions about one of the best electronic albums of 2019.

How did QUIETER THAN SPIDERS become a musical entity and what is your creative dynamic?

It was a very gradual process which only formally came to fruition once we started to record the album.

Leon has been writing and recording songs since his teenage years while Yao and I both grew up playing traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu (a two-stringed fiddle) and guzheng (a type of zither). Over the years, we took an interest in each other’s music and tried to encourage each other. Eventually, Leon started to teach us how he wrote and recorded music on his synthesiser and, step by step, we became more involved with it.

We started by designing electronic sounds and making field-recordings which we would then experiment with. By the time Leon wrote ‘No Illusion’ we had started to perform with him during the recordings and, from thereon, we were officially a group. It didn’t take long to decide what to call our project. QUIETER THAN SPIDERS was an affectionate school nickname for one of us and, as we are all quiet people, we thought it would be a perfect name to use.

What was the key track that got QUIETER THAN SPIDERS rolling? Was it ‘Shanghai Metro’? What inspired it?

‘No Illusion’ was the first song that Yao and I were involved with, even though we still hadn’t quite officially formed QUIETER THAN SPIDERS at the point when Leon wrote it. Stefan Bornhorst aka THE SILICON SCIENTIST heard the song and recommended us to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records who offered us the chance to record an album. It was such a special and unexpected thing to happen, particularly because Stefan’s own wonderful music had actually been such an important inspiration.

Another defining moment was when ‘Shanghai Metro’ was included on a compilation CD. That really was a lovely moment for us, not least because it was the first time any of our songs had been officially released. We wrote ‘Shanghai Metro’ with the simple idea of celebrating the city and its modern development. We first had the idea after a day out together at the Oriental Pearl Tower which is a radio tower that overlooks the city. The next morning, we went out again to travel around on the metro system and record some announcements. We knew someone who owned a Speak & Spell machine, so we borrowed it to spell out ‘Shanghai’ for the chorus.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have described themselves as “using home-made electronic sounds played by hand”, how much of that manifesto have you been able to maintain in the final realisation of ‘Signs Of Life’?

Our recording style stems from when Leon first started to create music in his youth. His first keyboard was an old second-hand Roland W-30 and most of the buttons and functions were broken. He therefore learnt to create songs without being able to use or learn any of the basic technical features.

His songs were simply layers of live recordings played entirely by hand. Even the metronome didn’t work, so he first had to play a freehand drum track to serve as the basis for the rest of the song. Later on, Yao and I also inherited the same recording method. When affordable software came along, it offered us the opportunity to record songs ‘properly’ for the very first time.

Some aspects, such as being able to programme the drums, were a welcome relief but, for the most part, we didn’t want to let go of the old recording style. The challenges and limitations had actually become part of the creative process and it gave us the intimacy of being ‘physically present’ at every little moment of a song.

When it comes to designing our own sounds; this is something we enjoy just as much as making the music. We distort basic electronic sounds and manipulate sounds from our field recordings as a way of recreating imagined atmospheres.

Of course, we occasionally used some standard sounds and other samples too on the album but, for the most part, we preferred to rely our own palette of sounds.

What are your tools as far as producing the music is concerned, are you vintage synth or software users?

We didn’t have the budget or space to acquire vintage synths and recording equipment, so we just embraced a modest set-up. We use software, mainly for the track recorder and the effect modules which enable reverbs and sound manipulations etc. We also use the software to programme basic percussion; we then add additional percussion sounds by hand as we record. For performing, we use midi keyboards and a microphone – that’s about it. With such limitations, it can sometimes be frustrating and we had to use a lot of trial and error to make things sound the way we wanted.

‘Arcade Eighty – Five’ opens and has a bouncy chiptune backbone, but that is almost a red herring for the album as it steadily slows and becomes more understated. What inspired this unusual concept as most albums are either primarily fast or primarily slow, or at least mix the tempos up within the tracklist?

Initially, we did think about mixing the tempos but, in the end, we decided that we preferred the songs to be surrounded by an appropriate context. We also wanted the album to build, or perhaps subside, towards a certain feeling. Although there are some exceptions, the songs are roughly in the order that we recorded them so, in that sense, there is a vague personal narrative which takes the album in a particular direction.

‘The Land Of Lost Content’ was inspired by a AE Housman poem, but it works on so many levels as a track…

Housman’s poem manages to express so much about the nature of memories and the passing of time. He laments the ability to remember a state of being that he can never return to. These are the types of themes which interest us because they seem to say something of life’s deeper meanings and mysteries.

When we adapted the poem into a song, we also wanted to include a notion of uncertainty about dreams and memory. The development of Shanghai has been spectacular over the past decades and many familiar old streets and buildings have now disappeared. When you can no longer revisit and verify particular things that you remember, you’re sometimes left wondering if it was just a dream.

‘The Land of Lost Content’ was actually the most difficult song on the album to record and mix. We seriously considered giving up on it at one point. Aside from mastering the album, Stefan Bornhorst also kindly mixed this track for us and performed some additional synths. It is entirely thanks to him that the song survived and made it onto the album.

The interlude side of your music provides an important aspect of ‘Signs Of Life’ which has coincidentally fallen into that ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack realm, is it a TV show that you have seen and followed? 

With many of our songs, we try to convey certain images and moods that we imagine. I suppose we approach things a bit like a soundtrack because we are trying to capture a particular atmosphere. This was certainly the case with the interludes and also the later songs on the album.

Are QUIETER THAN SPIDERS influenced much by TV or cinema??

Soundtracks certainly do inspire us, whether it’s just the pure use of sounds or beautiful pieces of music from people such Angelo Badalamenti, Johann Johansson and Max Richter etc. We hadn’t seen ‘Stranger Things’, but we recently had the opportunity to watch all three series in one go. We really enjoyed it and, needless to say, we absolutely loved the wonderful synth soundtrack by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon!

On ‘Brave New World’ and ‘The Statues’, Vangelis is looming…

For all of us, our first real experience of electronic music was mostly through artists such as Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. For Leon especially, these were the kinds of artists which made him first dream of having a synthesiser. As a child, he had a compilation album of instrumental synthesiser music and, looking back, those songs must have formed his first ideas of what electronic music should sound like and what components it should have.

‘Hibakusha’ is a haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, had this been a difficult song to write?

Whenever we have an idea for a song theme, it usually takes several attempts to find the right song melody and structure. However, with ‘Hibakusha’, it all seemed to develop and fit together quite naturally. In terms of the lyrics, Leon wanted to link them to small details which appeared in the hibakusha’s testimonies. He also wanted the words to form a double narrative so that they could be from both the perspective of a hibakusha but also from the perspective of someone reading the testimonies and fearing them to be a premonition. We have no desire to ever include any politics in our songs; we just like to focus in on human feelings and the thoughts they inspire, that’s all.

Musically, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK can hear SOLVENT and the solo work of Michael Rother from NEU! in ‘Hibakusha’. Had they been reference points in the final arrangement?

It is a real honour to be compared with either of them but I must admit that we didn’t consciously have any particular reference points for ‘Hibakusha’. We generally approach our songs in a very abstract and intuitive way but I think it’s inevitable that many music influences from across the years will weave themselves into the fabric of anything we do.

What inspired you to produce a piece of music about the tragic cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov? There’s one hell of a backstory behind Soyuz 1 with him and Yuri Gagarin, both literally prepared to die for the other, knowing that this mission was likely to fail?

As with ‘Hibakusha’, we were moved by the human story behind it all together with the haunting backdrop of primitive space experimentation.

I can’t actually remember how I came to be reading about Komarov in the first place but, when I shared the story with Leon and Yao, they were equally captivated by it. We actually recorded ‘Komarov’ during the same autumn that we recorded ‘Hibakusha’.

There is a lot of sadness in the album, but is ‘The Signs Of Life’ song referring to something much more personal?

‘The Signs of Life’ was written as a personal memorial for a special person we knew. It was also a way for us to process our feelings in relation to the nature of loss. There are so many little signs of life which go unnoticed because they seem mundane or unimportant. When they suddenly disappear, they take on a heart-breaking significance.

While writing the song, Leon went for an evening walk and saw a rusty old vintage car hidden away in the long grass near the edge of a forest. It made him think about things disappearing from everyday life but still secretly existing somewhere else. Although songs such as ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ are melancholy, they also convey a deep sense of hope; a feeling that all is not lost somehow.

What have been your own highlights on ‘Signs Of Life’?

We are really pleased with the whole album but, if we have to choose, I think that ‘Hibakusha’ and ‘Komarov’ are the songs that we are most pleased with. We felt very deeply immersed in the feelings and imagery of the subjects when we recorded those and it felt a bit like re-entering a vivid dream each time that we returned to work on them. The same was also true for ‘The Signs of Life’ and ‘The Statues’ which had the added dimension of having a personal connection. They will always be very precious songs for us because they captured the way things felt at a specific moment of time.

It’s been a long time coming, but ‘Signs Of Life’ has been worth the wait, how do you look back on the journey?

Yes, quite a long time has passed since we originally recorded the songs. When we listen to the album now, it lets us retrace our footsteps but in the comfortable knowledge that we arrived safely in the end despite the setbacks.

The main feeling we have when looking back is ‘gratitude’ simply because, without the kindness of people such as Stefan Bornhorst and Marc Schaffer, we would probably never have made this album. Along with Steve Lippert who designed the artwork, they all put so much love and effort into the project to ensure that it reached the light of day. We are now inspired to write more songs to keep the journey going; but let’s wait and see!


Special thanks to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records

‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records in 2CD and double vinyl LP formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – please email orders@annaloguerecords.com

Information on prices and postage at https://annaloguerecords.blogspot.com/p/shop-mail-order.html

Also available from https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-2cd-version-master



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th November 2019


After first breaking cover in 2013, Shanghai synthpop trio QUIETER THAN SPIDERS mysteriously disappeared despite having previewed numerous tracks on YouTube and Soundcloud.

But in 2018 there were ‘Signs Of Life’ as QUIETER THAN SPIDERS officially released their first track ‘Shanghai Metro’ on a compilation via Amour Records. And now, the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao finally release their long awaited debut album on Anna Logue Records, promising “Electric sound-waves that pulse through our sleep… and our dreams”,

It is a body of work that has a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously futuristic and classic, just like the electronic pop of yore. ‘Signs Of Life’ begins with the bubbling chiptune inspired ‘Arcade Eighty – Five’; both rigidly rhythmic and richly melodic, it is exactly what KRAFTWERK would be sounding like today if they could be bothered to make new records. With a harsher robotic tone, ‘No Illusion’ keeps up the standard with its sharp hooks and recalls the endearing homemade indie electro of WHITETOWN.

As well as ten actual compositions, ‘Signs of Life’ also features eight conceptual interludes, the first of which being the self-explanatory ‘Disorientation’ which in 2019 falls into that ‘Stranger Things’ territory. Also accidently falling into current music trends, ‘Night Drive’ would probably be considered Synthwave although the chipmunk voice samples and sectional structure keep it firmly within the classic synthpop template.

The very short ‘2139’ looks ahead courtesy of Jean-Michel Jarre derived arpeggios and string machines to act as a intro to the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’. Inspired by an AE Housman poem, it glides with a glacial beauty that not only is appealing to the ear, but can be danced to as well.

The soothing piano on ‘Distant’ provides respite from all the beats before ‘Shanghai Metro’, a whirring tune that would be exactly what OMD would sound like if they formed in the 21st Century.

But while the strong melodic elements recall Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey’s more recent work, particularly 2013’s ‘English Electric’, there is a fresh dynamic slant with the train station announcements and robot voices acting as catchy hooks.

The music box sequence of ‘Chang’e’ has a European arthouse air about it, which is appropriate as the following ‘Fessenden Grove’ is a solemn piano piece that incorporates ‘Scenes From Childhood’ by German composer Robert Schumann. But its eerie voice samples stating “this young man’s dead” prepare the listener for the loss and despair expressed in ‘Hibakusha’.

A beautifully haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, it is a thoughtful merging of SOLVENT and Michael Rother which as far as subject matter and melody goes, is up there with ‘Enola Gay’. Fittingly in that unsettling ‘Stranger Things’ vein, the horror of ‘Silent Centre’ comes afterwards.

That fatalistic air continues with ‘Komarov’, an instrumental eulogy to the cosmonaut of Soyuz 1 who was the first man to die on a space mission; capturing the tragedy in music, it is a hairs on the back of the neck moment, swathed in chilling but melodic sadness; OMD would be rather proud if this was one of their own…

And as the album becomes much more downbeat, ‘Brave New World’ does as title suggests, dressed in dense Vangelis sweeps. More personal and introverted, ‘The Signs Of Life’ stares mortality in the face and reflects on the difficult emotions that come when the end is nearer than the beginning, “when the light begins to fade”.

The longest track on the record, the slow expansive drama of ‘The Statues’ could not be more different from ‘Shanghai Metro’, the mournful choir boy melancholy standing alone in the cinematic synthesized atmosphere. The funereal instrumental ‘Zara In The Stars’ closes ‘Signs Of Life’ with a glorious heavenly ambience perhaps not heard since MOBY closed ‘Hotel’ with ‘Homeward Angel’.

In common with records such as ‘Low’, ‘Closer’ or ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder. And with its conceptual interludes and emotive avant pop in various tempos, it is a direct descendent musically of OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’.

A document of melancholy and uncertainty through its difficult gestation over the last six years, ‘Signs Of Life’ is one of the best electronic pop albums of 2019. Its understated artistic perseverance has been well worth the wait.

‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records on 4th October 2019 in double CD, double vinyl LP and download formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – to pre-order, please email orders@annaloguerecords.com

Information on prices and postage at https://annaloguerecords.blogspot.com/p/shop-mail-order.html

Audio previews at https://annaloguerecords.bandcamp.com/album/signs-of-life-preview-snippets



Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th August 2019, updated 2nd September 2019

ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84

From Cherry Red Records, the makers of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy showcasing formative and experimental electronic music from the UK, Europe and North America, comes their most accessible electronic collection yet.

Subtitled ‘Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’, ‘Electrical Language’ is a lavish 4CD 80 track boxed set covering the post-punk period when all that synthesizer experimentation and noise terrorism morphed into pop.

Largely eschewing the guitar and the drum kit, this was a fresh movement which sprung from a generation haunted by the spectre of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction and closer to home, the Winter of Discontent.

As exemplified by known names like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, FAD GADGET, SECTION 25 and BLUE ZOO included in the set to draw in the more cautious consumer, this was pop in a very loose manner with melodies, riffs and danceable rhythms but hardly the stuff of ABBA or THE BEE GEES!

‘Red Frame/White Light’ by OMD was a chirpy ditty about the 632 3003 phone box which the band used as their office, while Thomas Dolby’s ‘Windpower’ was a rallying call for renewable energy sources. Then there was the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL based around two noisy notes and lyrically based on JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia.

While those acts’ stories have been rightly celebrated for putting the electronic avant pop art form into the mainstream, with any truly great compilation or collection, the joy is in finding the lesser known jewels.

Made primarily by the idealistic outsiders and independent experimenters from the lesser known side of Synth Britannia, ‘Electrical Language’ has plenty of synthetic material to rediscover or hear for the first time. Indeed, the more appealing tracks appear to fall into three categories; forgotten songs that should have been hits, oddball cover versions and largely unknown archive wonders.

Those forgotten gems include the exotic ‘Electrical Language’ title track by BE BOP DELUXE, documenting the moment Bill Nelson went electro. His production on the gloriously emotive ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by FIAT LUX is another welcome inclusion to the set.

But the two best tracks on ‘Electrical Language’ are coincidentally spoken word; ‘Touch’ by LORI & THE CHAMELEONS about a girl’s Japanese holiday romance is as enchanting and delightful as ever, while there is also THROBBING GRISTLE refugees CHRIS & COSEY’s wispy celebration of Autumnal neu romance ‘October (Love Song)’, later covered in the 21st Century in pure Hellectro style by MARSHEAUX.

Merseyside has always been a centre for creativity and this included synthpop back in the day. ‘I’m Thinking Of You Now’ from BOX OF TOYS was a superb angsty reflection of young manhood that included an oboe inflected twist which was released on the Inevitable label in 1983. From that same stable, FREEZE FRAME are represented by the atmospheric pop of ‘Your Voice’

Jayne Casey was considered the face of Liverpool post-punk fronting BIG IN JAPAN and PINK MILITARY; the lo-fi electronic offshoot PINK INDUSTRY released three albums but the superb ‘Taddy Up’ with its machine backbone to contrast the ethereal combination of voice and synths lay in the vaults until 2008 and is a welcome inclusion. The ‘other’ Wirral synth duo of note were DALEK I LOVE YOU whose ‘The World’ from 1980 remains eccentric and retro-futuristic.

Scotland was in on the action too despite many local musicians preferring THE BYRDS and STEELY DAN; although both ‘Mr Nobody’ from Thomas Leer and ‘Time’ by Paul Haig were detached and electronic, they vocally expressed minor levels of Trans-Atlantic soul lilt compared with the more deadpan styles of the majority gathered on ‘Electrical Language’.

Under rated acts form a core of ‘Electrical Language’ and while THE MOBILES’ ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across like a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in 3/4 time!

NEW MUSIK’s ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ probably would have gone Top 20 if had been done by Howard Jones, although band leader Tony Mansfield had the last laugh when he later became a producer working with the likes of A-HA and NAKED EYES. The brassy arty synthpop of ‘XOYO’ from Dick Witts’ THE PASSAGE was immensely catchy with riffs galore, while POEME ELECTRONIQUE’s ‘She’s An Image’ offered stark European electro-cabaret.

Cut from a similar cloth, one-time ULTRAVOX support act EDDIE & SUNSHINE inventively (and some would say pretentiously) presented a Living TV art concept but they also possessed a few good songs. The quirkily charming ‘There’s Someone Following Me’ deserved greater recognition back in the day and its later single version was remixed by one Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, the 4AD label could always be counted on more esoteric output and COLOURBOX’s ‘Tarantula’ was from that lineage, but then a few years later perhaps unexpectedly, they became the instigators of M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

These days, modern synth artists think it is something an achievement to cover a synthpop classic, although it is rather pointless. But back in the day, as there were not really that many synthpop numbers to cover, the rock ‘n’ roll songbook was mined as a kind of post-modern statement. The synth was seen as the ultimate anti-institution instrument and the cover versions included on ‘Electrical Language’ are out-of-the-box and original, if not entirely successful.

Take TECHNO POP’s reinterpretation of ‘Paint It Black’ which comes over like Sci-Fi Arthur Brown while the brilliant ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES (which features half of HARD CORPS) is like PJ Proby with his characteristic pub singer warble fronting SILICON TEENS with a proto-GOLDFRAPP stomp.

Having contributed a T-REX cover for the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, THE FAST SET recorded another. Whereas ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ on the former was frantic electro-punk, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is far more sombre and almost funereal. Least desirable of the covers though is ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by HYBRID KIDS.

Of the obscurities worth checking out, the rousing standout is ‘Lying Next To You’ by Liverpool’s PASSION POLKA. A brilliant track akin to CHINA CRISIS ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ but with more synths and drum machine, it was recorded in 1983 but never actually saw the light of day until 2011 via a belated release on Anna Logue Records.

Delightfully odd, the VL Tone and organ infused ‘Bandwagon Tango’ from TESTCARD F is swathed with metallic rattles and possesses a suitably mechanical detachment. But with piercing pipey sounds and a hypnotic sequence, the metronomic ‘Destitution’ by cult minimal wavers CAMERA OBSCURA with its off key voice is one of the better productions of that type. Cut from a similar cloth, the perky ‘Videomatic’ by FINAL PROGRAM throws in some lovely string synths to close.

Swirlingly driven by Linn and her sisters, ‘Baby Won’t Phone’ by QUADRASCOPE comes from the Vince Clarke school of song with not only a great vocal, but also the surprise of a guitar solo in the vein of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!

‘The Secret Affair’ from JUPITER RED is a great ethereal midtempo synthpop song also using a Linn, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing club friendly instrumental that was largely the work of the late Martin Lloyd who later was part of OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

Produced by Daniel Miller, ALAN BURNHAM’s ‘Science Fiction’ from 1981 takes a leaf out of DALEK I LOVE YOU, while tightly sequenced and bursting with white noise in the intro, ‘Feel So Young’ by LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH has bubbling potential but is spoiled by some terribly flat vocals.

One of the weirder tracks is ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE’s filmic ‘It Happened Then’ which recalls Parisian art rockers ROCKETS; backed by a brilliant ensemble of synths, it sees the return of the cosmic voice from Sparky’s Magic Piano and remember in that story, it could play all by itself!

Of course, other tracks are available and may suit more leftfield tastes… packaged as a lavish hardback book, there are extensive sleeve notes including artist commentaries, archive photos and an introductory essay by journalist Dave Henderson who cut his teeth with ‘Noise’, a short-lived ‘Smash Hits’ rival that featured a regular ‘Electrobop’ column covering the latest developments in synth.

While worthy, the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy could at times be very challenging, but ‘Electrical Language’ provides some accessible balance, allowing tunes and beats in. It captures an important developmental phase in music, when technology got more sophisticated, cheaper and user friendly, that can be directly connected to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Yes, this story is the unlikely seed of the later dance revolution, like it or not! And at just less than twenty five quid, this really is an essential purchase.

‘Electrical Language’ is released as 4CD boxed set on 31st May 2019 and can be pre-ordered from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019


Little is known about the mysterious combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, other than they are to have their debut album released by Anna Logue Records, home to the Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA, and that VILE ELECTRODES have done a remix of a forthcoming single release.

Further investigation has uncovered that QUIETER THAN SPIDERS appears to be the project of Leon Robinson-Zhang.

Piloting a brand of “Shanghai Synthpop… using home-made electronic sounds played by hand”, the first track unveiled back in 2013 was ‘Shanghai Metro’.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK reader Si Wooldridge remarked “You could put this on the last OMD album and no one would notice it was by QTS…”, but while the obvious melodic elements recall Messrs Humphreys and McCluskey’s recent return to form, the beautiful electronics certainly come with a fresh, dynamic slant on the station announcer sample laden tune.

The dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ merges the sounds of FOTONOVELA, SOLVENT and MICHAEL ROTHER while a modern, processed masculine twist is proof that male vocals on electronic songs do not have to be off-key monotone whines and snarls. Another positive that sets QUIETER THAN SPIDERS apart in male fronted electro is that Dave Gahan impersonations, both vocally and physically, are absent.

The simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ just glides with a glacial beauty that not only is appealing to the ear, but can be danced to as well. ‘No Illusion’ keeps up the standard but has a harsher, robotic tone that is at times, reminiscent of Jyoti Mishra’s WHITETOWN.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS are a prime example of how to get things right when starting out… compose a body of work, record the songs as well as possible, edit together some accompanying videos and let the music do the talking without spamming Facebook with some grandiose manifesto and poorly designed artwork.

A few bands could learn from this process… how can you be taken seriously if you shout like you are the best thing since sliced bread after just one song and have never played live? Funnily enough, the title ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ seems to sums things up 😉

With thanks to Marc Schaffer at Anna Logue Records




Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th March 2014, updated 5th August 2015

TWINS NATALIA The Destiny Room

Following the debut single ‘When We Were Young’ b/w ‘Kleiner Satellit’ in 2008, TWINS NATALIA finally release their first album ‘The Destiny Room’.

The Anglo-German ensemble comprises Anna Logue Records supremo Marc Schaffer, graphic designer Steve Lippert, synth wizard Dave Hewson and vocalists Sharon Abbott and Julie Ruler, the latter three from cult combo POEME ELECTRONIQUE. Using vintage synths and “working together in order to create some beautiful, catchy yet melancholic and substantial electropop”, TWINS NATALIA have captured a pristine technostalgic journey through Europe of real life and postcard views.

Touchingly melancholic with classic Weimar Cabaret melodies and vibrant Kling Klang interplay, the soundtrack conjures memories of holiday romances with pretty German Frauleins and flirty French mademoiselles. With classic Roland drum machines, the metronomic structures of TWINS NATALIA’s songs are the backbone to a wonderfully emotive soundtrack of elegance and decadence.

Like with other dual female fronted combos such as PROPAGANDA, LADYTRON and MARSHEAUX, the combination of sweet wispy countenance together with the occasionally half spoken intonation makes things rather appealing. Sharon Abbott’s deeper, Dietrich-like vocals and Julie Ruler’s more ABBA-esque demeanour are complimented further by a two way counterpoint courtesy of Dave Hewson and vocoderizations by Marc Schaffer.

Previewed on ‘The Anna Logue Years 5th Anniversary Compilation’ in 2010, the gorgeously arpegiated opener ‘Destiny’ is beautifully melodic and simply outstanding. Rich, vibrant soloing from Dave Hewson on a Roland Jupiter 6 acts as a wonderful dressing, as it does throughout the album.

Second song ‘Into My Arms Again’ features the type of octave pulse familiar to lovers of ‘Rent’ and ‘Blue Savannah’ which will provide a pretty entry point into the classic style of synthpop on display.

‘I Avoid Strangers’ ups the tempo with a frantic HI-NRG romp. Featuring Dave Hewson on lead vocals and lyrics by Steve Lippert, you could be forgiven that this might be the CHVRCHES blokey moment of the album. But Herr Hewson possesses a voice that suits the song perfectly and the end result is not at all out of context. Meanwhile ‘Scary Monster’ and its vocodered robots add a more mechanised outlook to proceedings.

On ‘Don’t Fade Away’, the pace steadies before the glorious ‘Bear Me Up’. This one is not unlike GINA X PERFORMANCE reconstructed with a romantische Eurovisionary chorus… but don’t let that put you off; after all, the Belgian synth pioneers TELEX did Eurovision in their time. The United Europe theme continues with ‘C’est Le Weekend’ and would be what GRACE JONES would sound like if she represented Luxembourg. This is what being in the EU is all about… so stick that up your Nigel Farage!

‘My Little Battery Boy’ features some wonderful bouncy highs and electro-metallics coupled with some saucy innuendo; Abbott announces she has been having “so much pleasure, so much joy!”… mais oui! Chugging sequences permeate ‘Freedom In Your Hand’ where another marvellous polyphonic solo run by Hewson adds to the fun before the PET SHOP BOYS styled neo-orchestrated statement of ‘Set Love Free’. It climaxes like a pomped up ‘Rent’ and is a wonderful slice of joie de vivre to end ‘The Destiny Room’.

Now while the debut single is not featured on the vinyl LP, both sides come as welcome bonus tracks on the CD version. The appeal of ‘When We Were Young’ and ‘Kleiner Satellit’ are that they are endearingly familiar yet equally futuristic at the same time. TWINS NATALIA’s fiercer cover of MARSHEAUX’s ‘Radial Emotion’ is also included along with a Special Extended Night Version of ‘I Avoid Strangers’. Overall as a CD package, ‘The Destiny Room’ and its rich textures will satisfy electronic music enthusiasts of a time when people actually played synths and explored the capabilities of their drum machines. It’s been a long time coming but the wait in ‘The Destiny Room’ has been worth it.

‘The Destiny Room’ is released by Anna Logue Records on 1st March 2014. For information, please visit: http://annaloguerecords.blogspot.de/p/releases.html




Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2014