Tag: Ashbury Heights


Like Germany and the UK, Sweden has an established history in electronic music.

With a melodic tradition rooted in traditional Nordic folk music and the region’s long dark nights causing bouts of melancholy, the Swedes are more than well suited to stay indoors and further the art of synthpop.

In addition, Clavia Digital Musical Instruments, founded in 1983 and based in Stockholm, have emerged as a world leader in modern virtual analogue subtractive synthesizers with its distinctive red Nord Lead series as well as its digital stage pianos.

The iconic Energy Rekords provided a platform for modern electronic music in the country while today, labels such as Progress Productions, Labrador and Wonderland have maintained their support for domestic talent. Meanwhile, COVENANT maintain an audience across the Atlantic for their resonant futurepop and ROBYN has become so much part of the mainstream that her songs are regularly murdered by reality TV talent show wannabes.

Probably the most influential act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Their influence internationally on countless acts such as GAZELLE TWIN, GRIMES, AUSTRA, THE HORN THE HUNT and BECKY BECKY to adopt darker colours and mess with the very fabric of sound, has held a flag for inventive artful experimentation.

As KITE lead the way with their upcoming second tour of the US, Swedish synthpop continues to impress with acts like TRAIN TO SPAIN, 047, PRESENCE OF MIND, SILENT WAVE, THE SOUND OF ARROWS and COMPUTE among those with the potential to breakout of their domestic scenes.

So what’s so special about Sweden then? Listed chronologically and then alphabetically from its UK perspective with a restriction of one song per moniker, here are 25 SVENSKA SYNTH SONGS…

LUSTANS LAKEJER Diamanter (1982)

With a shortened title, ‘Diamanter’ was a more synth driven re-recording of their second single. LUSTANS LAKEJER were labelled Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN and like the Birmingham combo, Johan Kinde and Co were heavily influenced by JAPAN. Their third album ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri with Mick Karn popping up with his sax on three of its tracks.

Available on the album ‘En Plats I Solen’ via Universal Music


PAGE Dansande Man (1983)

Founded in 1980 by Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko, PAGE are often credited with bringing the more purer form of synthpop as pioneered by Vince Clarke to Sweden. Their debut single ‘Dansande Man’ was a frantically percussive excursion suitable for dancing to as the title suggested. Bengtsson and Schiptjenko were to become key figures on the Swedish music scene in many guises, as we shall see…

Originally released as a single via Eskimo, currently unavailable


THE MOBILE HOMES Feeling Better (1989)

With their name inspired by a JAPAN song, THE MOBILE HOMES were another Swedish band adopting purer synthpop colours . For their second single ‘Feeling Better’, they signed to Sonet, a Scandinavian independent who coincidentally handled the early publishing of Martin Gore and Vince Clarke. Eschewing the quirkiness of PAGE, THE MOBILE HOMES reflected the more pessimistic side of life often associated with Sweden.

Available on download bundle ‘Feeling Better’ via Universal Music


ARMY OF LOVERS Obsession (1991)

An almost cartoonish trio originally comprising of Alexander Bard, Jean-Pierre Barda and La Camilla, ARMY OF LOVERS countered their outlandish visual presence with catchy electronic dance tunes influenced by the hippy musical ‘Hair’. While the epic ‘Crucify’ was the huge worldwide hit, the musically more subtle ‘Obsession’ offered a softer side while still maintaining the cinematic drama.

Available on the album ‘Massive Luxury Overdose’ via China Records


S.P.O.C.K Never Trust A Klingon (1992)

In parallel with PAGE, Eddie Bengtsson joined vocalist Alexander Hofman  to write and perform some ‘Star Trek’ themed songs for a friend’s Trekkie themed birthday party. . Originally called MR SPOCK, the band name was changed to an acronym for ‘Star Pilot On Channel K’ after threats of legal action from Paramount Studios. ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is still their crowning moment, a genius combination of deadpan vocals, bubbling synthpop and samples from Captain James T Kirk.

Available on the album ‘Five Year Mission’ via Energy Rekords


ELEGANT MACHINERY Hard To Handle (1993)

Founded in 1988, ELEGANT MACHINERY were another act who preferred a purer synthpop stance; they even covered SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ in the style of Vince Clarke for an excellent 1995 Energy Rekords tribute collection of the same name. Many consider ‘Hard To Handle’ their finest song, an excellent blend of dance friendly beats and blippy melodies.

Available on the album ‘Shattered Grounds’ via Energy Rekords


COVENANT Bullet (2002)

Formed in 1986 in Helsingborg, the Eskil Simonsson fronted COVENANT managed to gain a footing in both synthpop and EBM camps, achieving great success in North America from touring the alternative electronic club network established following the stateside success of DEPECHE MODE. Still going strong, 2016 saw the release of their ninth long player ‘Blinding Dark’.

Available on the album ‘Northern Light’ via Metroplis Records


THE KNIFE Pass This On (2003)

Sibling duo THE KNIFE are probably the acclaimed electronic act to emerge from Sweden. Their uncompromising approach has won them many plaudits. But there was a time when with their experimentation came a tune too. The wonderful ‘Pass This On’ took Karin Dreijer’s unsettling pitch shifted vocals and placed them over brother Olaf’s soundtrack of primitive string machine and uplifting steel drums. Things got much darker after this…

Available on the album ‘Deep Cuts’ via Braille Records


ROBYN Who’s That Girl? (2005)

Tired of her label BMG trying to turn her into the Swedish CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ROBYN took began taking an interest in the electronic movement closer to home. Inspired by THE KNIF, she collaborated with them to produce what is now possibly the key song which transformed Robin Miriam Carlsson into the successful independently minded artist she is today.

Available on the album ‘Robyn’ via Konichiwa Records


EMMON Rock D’Amour (2007)

Best known as a member of the cult Swedish indie band PARIS, singer and keyboardist Emma Nylén had aspirations to produce something that was more decisively electronic. Her first recordings immediately showcased a catchy dance friendly sound as exemplified by ‘Rock D’Amour’. Subsequent albums ‘Closet Wanderings’ and ‘Nomme’ have maintained the standard, although EMMON is currently on a career break to raise a family.

Available on the album ‘The Art & The Evil’ via Wonderland Records



Eddie Bengstsson’s solo project, also referred to as SMPJ, saw him unafraid to mine his Synth Britannia influences. ‘Allt Är Klart’ was an ULTRAVOX tribute and effectively a Swedish vocal version of the instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard, staccato synth bassline was borrowed from the original, but the track was bolstered by some superb whirring synths in the tradition of Billy Currie’s adventures with the ARP Odyssey.

Available on the album ‘Tredje Våningen’ via Energy Rekords


ASHBURY HEIGHTS Spiders (2008)

Combining dual male / female vocals with a danceable electro goth backdrop, Anders Hagström and Yasmine Uhlin achieved success in Germany as well as Sweden with ‘Spiders’. ASHBURY HEIGHTS came out of hiatus in 2015 with a new female vocalist Tea F Thimé and a new album ‘The Looking Glass Society’ after a settling a despite with their label Out Of Line.

Available on the EP ‘Morningstar In A Black Car’ via Out Of Line Records


BWO Lay Your Love On Me (2008)

BODIES WITHOUT ORGANS or BWO saw PAGE’s Marina Schiptjenko teaming up Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in a project that has probably come closest to exploiting the musicality of ABBA for the 21st Century. Fronted by the extremely handsome Martin Rolinski, the classic pop tradition of the original Super Swedes was more than obvious on the mightily bonkers ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ which they entered for Eurovision.

Available on the album ‘Pandemonium’ via Capitol Records


KLEERUP Longing For Lullabies (2008)

Producer Andreas Kleerup hit paydirt with ‘With Every Heartbeat’, a collaboration with ROBYN. A marvellous self-titled album followed with ‘Longing For Lullabies’ featuring Neneh Cherry’s sister Titiyo being the tearful highlight. Despite being driven with raw mechanical beats, the simple vocal melody was simple, almost keyboard-like going up and down the ivory scale in the best tradition of OMD while Titiyo’s vocal range made it a bit Agnetha and Annifrid too!

Available on the album ‘Kleerup’ via EMI Records


KARIN PARK Ashes (2009)

One established artist who made a volte face in the wake of THE KNIFE was KARIN PARK. It was on more her ROBYN-esque third album ‘Ashes To Gold’ that she sowed the seeds of her current electronic template. The synthpop disco of ‘Ashes’ fused electronic counterpoints and a live bass guitar with an incessant groove while Miss Park provided her enticing vocal presence.

Available on the album ‘Ashes To Gold’ via Young Aspiring Professionals


NIKI & THE DOVE DJ, Ease My Mind (2010)

Another act formed under the spectre of THE KNIFE, Stockholm duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf released ‘Mother Protect’ as a free download to launch NIKI & THE DOVE. Then came ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’; shaped by a ritualistic percussive mantra and whirring sub-bass, Dahlström’s witchy mannerisms provided the surreal scenario of what the Dreijers might have sounded like if they had decided to enter Eurovision.

Available on the album ‘Instinct’ via Mercury Records


DAYBEHAVIOR Silent Dawn (2011)

Having issued their first album ‘:Adored’ in 1996 and their second ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’ in 2004, ‘Silent Dawn’ was a single released as part of DAYBEHAVIOR‘s much vaunted comeback. The song was an exploration in laid back filmic pop and breathy continental vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Italian art movie. Indeed their most recent single ‘Change’ was also released in an alternative Italian language version, naturally titled ‘Cambiare’.

Available on the album ‘Follow That Car!’ via Graplur


KITE Step Forward (2011)

KITE have been called “Sweden’s best kept pop-secret”; Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg have undoubtedly been producing some of the best electronic pop of the last few years. Only releasing EPs, things started to truly come together on their fourth release ‘IV’. From it, ‘Step Forward’ with its sharp percussive drama and pentatonic overtones was the undoubted highlight. More recently, the duo have been commissioned to provide a song for a new Steven Segal film.

Available on the EP ‘IV’ via Progress Productions


CLUB 8 Stop Taking My Time (2013)

With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline from Johan Angergård, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds with ‘Stop Taking Time’ that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor. Formed in 1995 as a more conventional pop act, CLUB 8’s most recent album ‘Pleasure’ celebrated 20 years for the duo.

Available on the album ‘Above The City’ via Labrador Records


MACHINISTA Molecules & Carbon (2014)

MACHINISTA are seasoned hands, John Lindqwister was part of CAT RAPES DOG while Richard Flow was in VISION TALK with the late Krister Petersson. Their mantra is produce synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge. Like THE CURE gone electronic, or ALPHAVILLE crossed with SUICIDE, ‘Molecules & Carbon’ is both catchy and danceable with some suitably rousing elements too.

Available on the album ‘Xenoglossy’ via Analogue Trash


IAMAMIWHOAMI Chasing Kites (2014)

First launched via a set of mysterious viral videos with alphanumeric code titles, IAMAMIWHOAMI helmed by vocalist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund premiered a delightfully odd cinematic electronic sound. From the second album ‘Blue’, the rich Scandipop of ‘Chasing Kites’ sees Jonna Lee hitting those ABBA-esque high notes with ablomb before adopting a huskier register for the second half.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via To Whom It May Concern


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, JOHAN BAECKSTROM said “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the EP ‘Come With Me’ via Progress Productions


TWICE A MAN High In The Clouds (2015)

Founded by Dan Söderqvist and Karl Gasleben, TWICE A MAN were the opposite to many Swedish acts in that they used synths and electronic effects for more sombre atmospheric soundscapes rather than performing outright pop. Still operating as a unit, their 2015 album ‘Presence’ featuring epic environmental message songs like ‘High In The Clouds’ showed their talents have not waned over the years and indeed have become more accessible.

Available on the album ‘Presence’ via Ad Inexplorata


VANBOT Trooper (2015)

After her inconclusive self-titled debut album in 2011, VANBOT aka Ester Ideskog had a rethink and started venturing into artier climes with the dreamy and enigmatic ‘Trooper’. With layers of vocals and rushes of lush synth, it started a journey towards the otherworldly template of IAMAMIWHOAMI. Her icy journey continues on her next album ‘Siberia’ which was written and recorded on a 17 day trip aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Available on the album ‘Perfect Storm’ via Lisch Recordings


REIN I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You (2016)

Feisty, ambitious and not to be messed with, REIN has certainly caused a stir with Europe’s male dominated EBM scene. A true Rebel Girl as suggested by one of the highlights from her self-titled debut 2016 EP, even within the inherent shouty nature of the genre and Joanna Reinikainen’s debut song ‘Can’t Handle Me’ effectively being a mission statement, things are ramped up to 11 on ‘I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You’. She’s an artist to watch for sure…

Available on the single ‘I Don’t Get Anything but Shit from You’ via Playground


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th February 2017, updated 3rd November 2018

A Beginner’s Guide To JOHN FRYER

Having started his career at London’s Blackwing Studios in 1980 as an assistant engineer, JOHN FRYER had a very basic knowledge of recording technology.

Employed by Eric Radcliffe, he promptly progressed from engineering into production and became the very reason for the first two COCTEAU TWINS albums sounding as sui generis as they did.

FAD GADGET and DEPECHE MODE; freshly discovered by Daniel Miller, were two of the first acts Fryer co-engineered on a rather limited studio equipment with the pressures of time. Technology started to progress fast and Daniel Miller would often bring the newly released toys into the studio.

The second DM album, ‘A Broken Frame’, written by the newly appointed chief songwriter Martin Gore, used the likes of PPG Wave 2 and Roland TR808 amongst others. The freshly formed YAZOO, with Alison Moyet and ex-Depeche member Vince Clarke, decided to record simultaneously.

To avoid any friction between the acts, John continued at Blackwing, while Eric looked after YAZOO from his home. Fryer did work on ‘Only You’ for them however. Soon enough Fryer’s growing sound manipulation would lend itself to his side project THIS MORTAL COIL with 4AD kingpin Ivo Watts-Russell, named after Monty Python’s ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’. The idea behind the venture was to create music as collaborations with artists signed to or associated with 4AD.

Fryer continued his career in Blackwing, producing MODERN ENGLISH, DEAD CAN DANCE, THE WOLFGANG PRESS, CLAN OF XYMOX and notably HE SAID, whose track ‘Pump’ Fryer still reminisces with fondness.

He has described his time as “a blur”, having worked on multiple projects simultaneously and producing one artist after another. In ten years, he only had five days off sick and worked incredibly long hours, an example being a 36 hour session with Alison Moyet, followed by “the next band”. Outsiders thought Fryer was indeed the owner of the studio, having spent all his time there!

Nine years after the start of his love affair with Blackwing, Fryer decided to go freelance. Truth being, if an artist wanted to work with him, they would approach him anyway. And that was certainly the case with NINE INCH NAILS, Trent Reznor having admired what Fryer had done for HE SAID. Fryer proudly recalls the feeling after finishing the album’s production, upon re-playing it to NIN’s record company boss, who had thought the record was ruined.

For Fryer, the desired effect had been achieved. The production work rolled in and notable clients included HIS NAME IS ALIVE, PARADISE LOST, LUSH and THE GO-BETWEENS.

Having not been in a band as such before, in 2011 Fryer decided to head his own project DARKDRIVECLINIC. 2014 brought the hungry listener SILVER GHOST SHIMMER while in the recent months, Fryer has indulged in the softer, ethereal offerings of two MURICIDAE EPs accompanied by the LA based Louise Fraser. 

With such wealth of experience, Fryer surely deserves a break. Living in Oslo, the master does not rest on his laurels however; hungry to produce, in his stripped down studio, he will no doubt work with some amazing acts again.

In the meantime, let’s imagine what a John Fryer retrospective would look like, made up from a choice of his best work as an engineer, co-producer and producer. The list is not comprehensive and the tracks are not necessarily the best songs on their respective albums, but they certainly showcase Fryer’s production and engineering skills, which evolved over the years, giving him a signature sound of his own.

With a restriction of one track per album project, here are eighteen songs choices in a Beginner’s Guide to the studio legend that is John Fryer, with additional choice commentary from the man himself.

FAD GADGET The Box (1980)

‘The Box’ was the B-side to ‘Back To Nature’, the second ever single on Daniel Miller’s Mute Records. Later appearing in re-recorded form on the magnificent ‘Fireside Favourites’ album released in 1980, interestingly enough, the vocals were recorded with Frank Tovey being uncomfortably locked up in a flight case. This was to signify the “boxed” feel of the vocals. John fondly remembers the collaboration: “Yes, Frank wanted to get a claustrophobic close sound and we just happened to have a big flight case sitting there in the live room, big enough to fit him inside. So we decided to record the vocals in the flight case to get the authentic box sound”

Available on the FAD GADGET album ‘Fireside Favourites’ via Mute Records


DEPECHE MODE Tora! Tora! Tora! (1981)

Not having the digital luxuries of the world we know today, ‘Speak And Spell’ was solely recorded on a 8 track tape machine, but Fryer made do with anything which came to hand, as long as it could make some sort of noise. ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ was one of two songs written by Martin Gore on the Vince Clarke dominated ‘Speak And Spell’. A clever love song about a decaying relationship, crying out for help, hidden within highly political lyrical content, it was fabulously intertwined in a steady beat to which Dave Gahan has performed some of his best early dances live.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Mute Records


DEPECHE MODE Leave In Silence (1982)

‘Leave In Silence’ was DEPECHE MODE’s sixth single. Taken from ‘A Broken Frame’, it was written by Martin Gore, who suddenly got elevated into being the band’s chief songwriter, upon Vince Clarke’s departure. After the previous pop slanted singles ‘See You’ and ‘The Meaning Of Love’, it introduced the darker, more melancholic tones of what was to be in store for DEPECHE MODE – John: “Martin took to writing like a duck to water, he always had in it him, it just had to be coaxed out of him. Once Vince had left, the new DM was born”

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Mute Records


COCTEAU TWINS From The Flagstones (1983)

From COCTEAU TWINS’ third EP ‘Sunburst & Snowblind’, the Fryer produced ‘From The Flagstones’ was recorded by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie as a duo, after Will Heggie left the band. There was a feeling of improvisation, including Fraser’s distinctive, yet “wordless” vocals and Guthrie’s effected guitar riffs. Those two elements intertwined and went on to become the band’s signature sound on the eventual ‘Head Over Heels’ album – John: “We recorded up in Scotland where the band felt more at home. The album wasn’t improvised, it was written and we just played around with sounds and over dubs. Why do people think Liz never sang words? She sat for hours with a dictionary writing lyrics for the album, she just has a unique way of singing and phrasing, that’s all”

Available on the COCTEAU TWINS album ‘Lullabies To Violaine – Volume 1’ via 4AD Records


THIS MORTAL COIL Song To The Siren (1983)

Originally released by TIM BUCKLEY on his 1970 album ‘Starsailor’, the song has become his most famous, mainly due to the numerous cover versions, THIS MORTAL COIL’s take being one of the most prominent. The single featuring Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie was released in 1983, peaking at No66 on the UK singles charts. Due to its cult popularity, it also spent 101 weeks on the UK Indie Charts. ‘Song To The Siren’ was included on the 1984 debut album ‘It’ll End In Tears’. None other than David Lynch appreciated the version to such an extent, he featured it on his 1997 ‘Lost Highway’ film and the first two JULEE CRUISE albums are said to be inspired by the production – John: “‘Song To The Siren’ was originally recorded as a B-side to the tracks ’16 Day’ and ‘Gathering Dust’; that was the start of the epic journey THIS MORTAL COIL went on”

Available on the THIS MORTAL COIL album ‘It’ll End In Tears’ via 4AD Records


M/A/R/R/S Pump Up The Volume (1987)

M/A/R/R/S could be considered the ‘dance’ version of THIS MORTAL COIL, with Watts-Russell suggesting a union of COLOURBOX and AR KANE, two 4AD acts who had each suggested to him independently about making records inspired by the emerging American House scene. Engineering the sessions, Fryer found himself an unwilling referee between the conflicting factions. So the two parties worked separately with the COLOURBOX led ‘Pump Up The Volume’ coming out on top in white label club trials. With Fryer utilising an Akai MPC / S900 combination for the programming plus scratch effects by DJs CJ Macintosh and Dave Dorrell, the rest became history…

Available on the compilation album ‘Pump Up The Volume’ (V/A) via Universal Music


THIS MORTAL COIL Acid, Bitter & Sad (1987)

With THIS MORTAL COIL, the likes of Elizabeth Fraser, Gordon Sharp, Tanya Donelly, Heidi Berry and Lisa Gerrard were recruited amongst others, to perform either cover versions or original material. However, much of the latter comprised of enigmatic instrumentals steered by Fryer and Watts-Russell. A good example was ‘Acid, Bitter & Sad’ which featured the abstract vocals of Alison Limerick and turned up on the ‘Lonely Is An Eyesore’ compendium. The three studio albums that surfaced from the project ‘It’ll End In Tears’, ‘Filigree & Shadow’ and ‘Blood’ were all highly acclaimed. The idea continued as THE HOPE BLISTER with Louise Rutkowski on vocals for two albums before Watts-Russell retired from the music industry in 1999.

Available on the compilation album ‘Lonely Is An Eyesore’ (V/A) via 4AD Records



‘Sin’ was the third single from the critically acclaimed NINE INCH NAILS’ debut LP ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ which achieved triple platinum certification in 2003, having sold three million copies in the US alone. Still a live favourite, ‘Sin’ peaked at number 35 in the UK Singles Chart in 1990. The song’s sexual connotations are clearly portrayed in its video, which features the “Short” remix of the track. Fryer engineered, mixed and produced the song and fondly remembers working on the album, which went to become a huge commercial success – John: “‘PHM’ was a slow burner, it took a while for it to catch on but once it did, there was no stopping it or the band…”

Available on the NINE INCH NAILS album ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ via Island Records


JESUS JONES Right Here, Right Now (1990)

Led by Mike Edwards, JESUS JONES’ ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was released in September 1990 and peaked at No31 in the UK Charts at the height of the indie dance ‘baggy’ craze. However in the US, it went to No2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Inspired by the Russian Perestroika changes, as well as other events in Eastern Europe, the tune is still used in adverts and video games alike – John: “Mike had a unique approach to writing pop music, it was great to work with him on that album. Great poptastic record”

Available on the JESUS JONES album ‘Doubt’ via Food Records


CHAPTERHOUSE Falling Down (1991)

Remixed by Stephen Hague, ‘Falling Down’ appeared on the band’s EP ‘Freefall’ and Fryer-produced LP ‘Whirlpool’. The band was placed into “Shoegazing” genre, a name invented by NME and Melody Maker describing the performance style based on being not engaged with the audience and simply “staring downwards at their shoes”. Of course, this could have been the outcome of constantly looking downwards while using the effects pedals! John: “The NME has been great at making up labels for types of music. CHAPTERHOUSE was, and still is a live awesome band. The first thing the band did on starting the recordings, was take off their shoes…”

Available on the CHAPTERHOUSE album ‘Whirlpool’ via Cherry Red Records


SWALLOW Peekaboo (1992)

From their album ‘Blow’, it was the only record SWALLOW put out on 4AD. Sometimes described as part of the Shoegazing genre, the Camberwell based band came together in 1990. ‘Blow’ was later remixed by the band itself, breaking down the Fryer production and releasing it under the name of ‘Blowback’. Louise Trehy and Mike Mason joined forces with Rough Trade Records afterwards to release ‘Hush’ EP before disbanding – John: “I don’t really know why they were called shoegaze, they should be called more art-gaze, more of an arty CURVE”

Available on the SWALLOW album ‘Blow’ via 4AD Records


HIM Join Me In Death (1999)

‘Join Me In Death’ was from the band’s second album out in 1999 ‘Razorblade Romance’. It was also released as ‘Join Me’ in the US, as they were not able to use the word “death” in the title. Although the song’s title provoked widespread controversy, it has become the fifteenth best-selling song in Finland and was used in the European version of the soundtrack for ‘The Thirteenth Floor’. There are four versions of the song’s video and a vague ‘Romeo & Juliet’ theme was also associated to the song – John: “Yes, they had a lot of trouble in the US with the lyrical content for this album. The Americans thought it was a lawsuit waiting to happen with all the teenage suicides and shootings at school, but it was just a romantic love album”

Available on the HIM album ‘Razorblade Romance’ via BMG Finland


DOPE STARS INC 10,000 Watts (2005)

DOPE STARS INC Neuromance‘10,000 Watts’ was positively received by critics and audiences alike, mainly thanks to aggressive vocals by Victor Love. The parent ‘Neuromance’ album was backed up with numerous festival appearances and sold out in no time. Victor Love has always praised John Fryer’s style of production, admitting his technical knowledge had improved drastically upon working with the magic maker – John: “Pop music comes in various forms and this was another one of them. Victor knows how to write a great pop song and give it a provocative edge”

Available on the DOPE STARS INC album ‘Neuromance’ via Trisol Music Group


RABIA SORDA Methods Of Chaos (2006)

‘Methods Of Chaos’ was from the 2006 album of the same title in Spanish ‘Metodos Del Caos’. RABIA SORDA has been described as a gentler version of Erk Aicrag’s other project, Mexican Hardfloor legends HOCICO. The word “gentler” needs to be used with care, however, as to a standard listener, it is aggressive, loud and violent. RABIA SORDA’s style is characterised by a very industrial goth sound that has been hugely popular in his native Mexico and Europe – John: “I liked working with Erk and it’s a shame we aren’t working together any longer. He makes interesting kinda industrial pop music and is a very nice guy , I would love to work with him again”

Available on the RABIA SORDA album ‘Metodos Del Caos’ via Out Of Line Records


ASHBURY HEIGHTS Derrick Is A Strange Machine (2007)

From the critically acclaimed ‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ in 2007, the Swedish duo has come through many changes, including disbanding and returning; this record remains one of their best however. ASHBURY HEIGHTS were hailed around 2006 as the hottest newcomers onto the electronic music scene, having played the big German and Swedish festivals. They have remixed endless amounts of artists including RABIA SORDA, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, GOD MODULE, and SPACEBUOY as well as many others – John: “ASHBURY HEIGHTS should have gone on to be one of the biggest electronic bands around with their super slick pop sound. It was a joy to work with them”

Available on the ASHBURY HEIGHTS album ‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ via Out Of Line Records


DARKDRIVECLINIC Silhouettes (2011)

‘Silhouettes’ was released a year after Fryer started collaborating with STRIPMALL ARCHITECTURE vocalist Rebecca Coseboom. Ethereal and textured, yet a catchy pop tune, it stands out on the ‘Noise In My Head’ album production. On this record, Fryer decided to be personally involved in a band member’s capacity, giving it celestial and sublime endorsement, and that certainly comes across – John: “‘Noise In My Head’ is the culmination of 25 years of work. It had been worked on over that time in-between producing other people’s records, but it was something I really wanted and needed to do for myself”

Available on the DARKDRIVECLINIC album ‘Noise In My Head’ via Metropolis Music


SILVER GHOST SHIMMER Soft Landing (2014)

‘Soft Landing’ was released on 30th October 2014 to launch his “over the pond” collaboration with über talented LA based vocalist Pinky Turzo. This twinkling gem, which opens the album of the same title, is hints at the 1962 hit by JAY & THE AMERICANS ‘She Cried’. The songs on ‘Soft Landing’ can be easily described as a marriage of Dave Gahan’s solo projects and Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals, with the song itself being a masterpiece and a proud moment for Fryer. September 2015 will see gigs from Fryer and Turzo showcasing ‘Soft Landing’ to the hungry audiences – John: “The ‘Soft Landing’ album is more of a homage to the girl groups of the sixties. We wanted to marry that vocal sound of the girl groups to my electronic noise pop and I think we succeeded, in my opinion anyway”

Available on the SILVER GHOST SHIMMER download album ‘Soft Landing’ via Silver Ghost Shimmer


MURICIDAE Strange (2015)

‘Strange’ comes from Fryer’s latest EP with Louise Fraser, an LA based vocalist. An exquisite continuation from the first EP entitled ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’, the production on ‘Strange’ cunningly resembles Alan Wilder’s (did he learn from the best?) on his RECOIL gems, yet it’s even softer and powerful, which proves why John Fryer is THE PRODUCER of now. The droplets of synth perfection are skilfully intertwined with airy vocals of Fraser, sounding almost JULEE CRUISE-like – John: “MURICIDAE is a project that I’m proud of. It compares to my roots of a 4AD sound, capturing the ambient, ethereal soundscapes and bringing them up to date with my own twists and noise”

Available on the MURICIDAE download EP ‘Tears Are Stronger Than Waves’ via Muricidae Music


Text by Monika Izabela Goss with grateful thanks to John Fryer
8th August 2015

ASHBURY HEIGHTS The Looking Glass Society

AshburyHeightsTheLookingGlassSocietyThe Swedes seem to rule the roost these days, as far as turning out the best electronic gems is concerned, with the most decent tunes coming out of this cold, Nordic land.

The starting point of the Swedish Invasion may as well have been with the birth of ASHBURY HEIGHTS in Sundsvall, Sweden in 2005. The rather talented songwriter Anders Hagström, who also produces, programmes and sings, joined forces with Yasmine Uhlin on vocals, releasing a few demos prior to turning out an album, which rocked the electronic genre in 2007.

‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ was hailed as the best thing since sliced bread (or DEPECHE MODE) and the band enjoyed a brief period of popularity all over Europe, gigging at festivals and such like, until Yasmine decided to depart the AH camp. Hagström replaced Yasmine with opera singer Kari Berg, who recorded ‘Take Cair Paramour’, the duo’s second album, in 2010.

ASHBURY HEIGHTS02-Photo by Josefine Jonsson photographyDue to ongoing disputes with the band’s label Out Of Line, ASHBURY HEIGHTS disbanded the same year, until a settlement in 2011. The work on the third album did not start however until 2013, when Kari was replaced by alternative model Tea Thimé.

Tea, having a degree in English Literature, co-wrote the lyrical content of ‘The Looking Glass Society’, the name of which was taken from the works of the pair’s beloved Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There’.

The attraction with the weird, unusual and twisted seems to continue throughout the album, with elements of the bizarre re-surfacing from time to time, punctuating the record periodically.

The opening ‘Masque’ is essential ASHBURY HEIGHTS in a tin, Hagström’s recognisable vocals over interesting synth rhythms resemble both previous releases, promising a decent listening sensation. This feeling continues with the über compelling ‘Heart Of Darkness’, stimulating a combination of sounds, textured beats and striking concoction of vibrations.

The superb drum and bass laced ‘Glow’ sits over clever synth combos and is spelt out with Hagström’s evocative vocal techniques in a perfect manner, while ‘Hollow’ opens with ‘Alice In Wonderland’-type weirdness, progressing into a magnificent electronic extravaganza of excellence, with the pair’s voices interwoven within catchy sounds, just to be wrapped up with more oddness of Carroll-like utopia.

‘Phantasmagoria’ and its perfect strings is what it says on the tin; describing life as “phantasmagoria”, imagining ever-changing, moving, full of illusion, shifting of the scenes in some extraordinary fashion. ‘Piano’ is characterised by the loud pop production, it’s larger than life, while ‘Leave Off At Seven’ shows off the vocal skills of Tea, who had never performed as a singer before, yet here shows off as a fast learner from her partner-in-crime. The predictable production accents the track, similarly with ‘The Number 22’, which strikes as a desperate shot to hit the charts, while still being a formidable tune. Hagström’s vocals at times resemble DE/VISION’s Steffen Keth.

‘Gravitational Man’ features Melodine enhanced vocals from both Hagström and Thimé rushed by speedy, heavy synth that comes over like a Goth paradise. ‘Ghost Spirit Mother’ comes in with a Eurovision worthy sequence, marked with, yet again, rather predictable production, somehow unimaginable, while ‘Starlight’ improves with excellently marked musicality. ‘November Corrosion’ closes the record providing a heavy dose of the “good stuff”, the type of which one grew to expect from ASHBURY HEIGHTS. LADY GAGA’s style vocals, as utilised on her 2013 ‘Artpop’ can be distinguished and seem to suit Tea marvellously. With the additional weight from Hagström, this is a perfect track to close the production.

ASHBURY HEIGHTS01-Photo by Josefine Jonsson photographyIt’s fair to say that any self-respecting synth pop, industrial and new wave music fan will appreciate this latest offering by the Swedish duo.

Tea brings certain freshness into the mix and all the previous elements of greatness are preserved. The songs are well written and certainly top anything else ASHBURY HEIGHTS have turned out to date.

The production however, comes across as rather foreseeable and given; clearly wanting to appeal to wider audiences and aimed at chart success. One wonders what the album would sound like, if it had been produced more imaginatively and less predictably. The songs amalgamate into one, continuous, indistinguishable mass, which surely could have been avoided.

The charm of ‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ might not be repeated. However, ‘The Looking Glass Society’ provides an ample amount of fantastic songs. They easily pass the club test due to their danceability factor, and have enough electronica to satisfy synth lovers too.

Sweden does it once again!

‘The Looking Glass Society’ is released by Out of Line Music on CD and download



Text by Monika Izabela Goss
Photos by Josefine Jonsson Photography
28th July 2015