Tag: Ashra (Page 1 of 2)

HARALD GROSSKOPF Interview

Harald Grosskopf is the German drummer who entered the world of electronic music while still maintaining his percussive role behind the kit.

Grosskopf made his name in the rock band WALLENSTEIN, but legend has it that a hallucinogenic adventure led to a voice telling him to stop trying to sound like Billy Cobham or Ginger Baker, as he realised he had been imitating other musicians.

With his mind free from having to drum within a set role, he realised rock music was not the best medium for this mode of artistic expression. Two musicians who were members of the Berliner kosmische combo ASH RA TEMPEL Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching were to become key in paving Harald Grosskopf’s path into the world of electronic music.

Schulze was a fellow drummer who had served an apprenticeship with TANGERINE DREAM and went on to wholly embrace the meditative synthesizer aesthetic; he invited Grosskopf to play drums on his 1976 masterpiece ‘Moondawn’.

Meanwhile Manuel Göttsching had developed a more transient guitar style to compliment his more electronically-based instrumental backdrop as showcased on the classic long player ‘New Age Of Earth’ as ASHRA. Looking to expand his vehicle to a more-band oriented format, the guitarist asked to Grosskopf to join him for the recording of what became 1979’s ‘Correlations’.

Harald Grosskopf took the plunge to go solo with the mind bending album ‘Synthesist’ which was released on the iconic Sky Records in 1980.

A work comprising of eight instrumentals that blended a sonic tapestry of synthesizer soundscapes with drumming that provided colour as opposed to dominance, it musically followed in the exquisite tradition of his Berlin electronic friends.

More recently, Grosskopf has been recording and performing live, both solo and with Eberhard Kranemann with whom he released the experimental cosmic rock album ‘Krautwerk’ in 2017.

For the 40th anniversary of ‘Synthesist’, Bureau B are reissuing the album as a deluxe edition with new remixes provided by the likes of Steve Baltes, Thorsten Quaeschning, Paul Frick and Stefan Lewin among others. From his home in Berlin, Harald Grosskopf kindly spoke about how his career was liberated by electronics.

You started as a drummer, so what got you interested in synthesizers and electronics?

That‘s a long story until I got there. When my friend and colleague Udo Hanten (of YOU who unfortunately died two years ago) asked me in August ’79 “Why don`t you produce solo albums?“… I was astonished and my first thought was “Who will be interested in an album with a line-up of tracks with solo drumming?”

He of course meant working with synthesizers, which I did not have in mind at all. I told him “I‘m a drummer, I don‘t own synthesizers. All I have is a drum kit, an 8-Track reel-to-reel tape recorder and part of the fee from my work on Klaus Schulze‘ ‘Bodylove‘ album”.

So Udo invited me to come to his home, using his equipment. In exchange, he asked for my 8-Track to record his own album.

I must point out that ASHRA never met regularly, like a rock band to rehearse or produce. We never said “We are a band now forever!“. ASHRA always was based on spontaneity in all concerns. There were quite some breaks in between touring and studio sessions. So I had lots of time and my desire for making music was killing me during 1979.

After a few days thinking about Udo‘s proposal, I decided to do it. To tell the truth, I had no clue how to record nor how to operate synthesizers, even though I had worked with Klaus Schulze, one of the godfathers of electronic music. During studio sessions I never had to, nor did I care about studio techniques. The only thing I occasionally operated was a volume fader during mixing.

In that entire era, I felt I was a drummer, nothing else. Even after ‘Synthesist‘ was done and out. Putting it live on stage seemed technically impossible in 1980. So my first album was kinda born out of an emergency situation; no band activities and left behind with a huge unsatisfied desire to making music.

The beginnings of those recording sessions were technically pretty rough. I had to learn all about recording from scratch while I was recording. But conversely, operating synths was an easy challenge. At the end I wasn`t even sure, almost very insecure whether an audience would share the joy and trouble I went through in the process. And what I emotionally and music wise had put into it. But the naivety and emotional innocence behind that album might be the main reason why it seems to have touched people right up to today.

Working with Klaus Schulze on ‘Moondawn’ must have been interesting, given he started as a drummer. What was your brief from him for the recording?

No briefing at all! After my time in the rock band WALLENSTEIN, it was a very unfamiliar experience. WALLENSTEIN, typically German, was very (!) structured and disciplined. We used to work extremely hard on details. Program music at its best! It never reached the satisfaction and joy I felt working with Klaus and Manuel Göttsching. Klaus gave no advice at all. Never ever! He liked my drumming I guess and he trusted me more than I did doing the right thing.

Other than from Klaus and Manuel, I was not used getting positive feedback from any of my colleagues in those rock ’n‘ roll times. After ‘Moondawn’, I decided to leave WALLENSTEIN and rock music.

The first ‘Moondawn’ take ended abruptly after 5 minutes, I somehow didn‘t feel well. Klaus and I started talking about what happened. After only one sentence Klaus spontaneously said: “I see you know where we going, let‘s do again!”

The second take led to what is heard on the ‘Moondawn’ A-side under the title ‘Floating‘, one long 25 minutes lasting improvisation. No emotional break or technical mistakes. Joy in the clearest mind. After the last note faded, we met in the control room and hugged each other.

‘Correlations’ saw Manuel Göttsching expand ASHRA into a band format, how did you come to be involved?

We first met at Dierks Studios around 1971 and I visited him occasionally when WALLENSTEIN had a Berlin performance. There was ASH RA TEMPEL, TANGERINE DREAM, POPOHL VUH and some other important formations who were on the same record label (Ohr and Pilz) as well as WALLENSTEIN.

Compared to my experience in the German rock business, these Berliners had an extraordinary self-confidence, friendly and relaxed dudes.

My drumming style and emotional presence seemed to have impressed them. Klaus was the ASH RA TEMPEL drummer at the time, after he had left TANGERINE DREAM and he just had announced his split from ASH RA TEMPEL to start his solo career which didn‘t seem to shock anyone. So Manuel invited me to put my drums on ‘Starring Rosi‘. Rosi was his girlfriend and she´s been a New Yorker since 1982. I had a few gigs in New York and we met there after a 30 year break. When I left Klaus in 1975/76 to live in Berlin, my first activity was to visit Manuel. That was the beginning of my ASHRA involvement.

One thing that is quite interesting is that the tracks on ‘Correlations’ were generally shorter than other ASHRA works, had this been a conscientious decision?

We never talked about commercial intensions. Our main interest was having fun and producing something original. I liked the freedom of not thinking about whom we could reach or sell to what we had made. The combination of the three of us simply made it what it was. Everybody had ideas and had the chance to put them into the album. Manuel played a very melodic guitar. In those days. Maybe Carlos Santana was a bit of an influence on him. Lutz Ulbrich had another music background than electronics. He was and still is a brilliant rhythm guitarist and for a change, he liked playing with delays and was open to experiments, even though his main goal was traditional guitar music.

Lutz was in love with Nico of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and they lived together in Paris, New York and Berlin. He was the only person among all her other famous friends (Bowie, Cale, Alain Delon) that brought her body to Berlin, after she had tragically passed away on Ibiza island, struck by an Aneurysm while riding on her bike. A doctor that was called just said: “I do not treat addicts!”…

The follow-up ‘Belle Alliance’ added vocals and was more aggressive, with your voice on ‘Kazoo’; how do you look back on the approach of that album now?

From my point of view for some reason the “good alliance“ wasn`t as powerful as on ‘Correlations‘. In retrospect, it lacked homogeneity in style. Maybe the reason behind that Virgin Records didn`t want to release ‘Belle Alliance‘ in the first place.

So the three of us went to south France to visit the MIDEM in Cannes, that huge music industry fair, to either sell it to another company or have a conversation again with Virgin Records. The Sony Walkman was just invented and everybody was able to listen to music wherever you were. The visit ended with a longer conversation with Richard Branson who owned the label at the time. Seemed we charmed him, resulting in the release. It‘s still a good album and I liked putting my intensions on ‘Kazoo‘.

As a drummer, how did you feel about the advent of programmable drum machines?

First, I was shocked that machines could replace and endanger my profession as drummer. I could not stand their artificial sounds either. Very unreal and artificial, especially the Roland TR808 that later became cult in techno and rap. More and more studio session drummers used Linn and Oberheim e-drums to stay in the business and make a living from fast productions, mostly pop productions. Linn and Oberheim used samples for their e-drums and those sounded quite real. It still took quite some time to programme a fill that a real drummer could do in a minute.

I never really got into programming drum machines until the first machines came up that could be played like an analog drum kit (Simmons and D-Drum). I could not afford a Simmons but bought three Simmons e-modules and built one myself by using old Bongo drums as trigger. You can hear them on ASHRA album ‘Tropical Heat‘. By discovering the fascination of techno music, I suddenly understood the magic machine drums can have like the Roland TR808. I bought a D-Drum but its dynamic and limitation on sound bored me after a while.

I started editing drums parallel to the invention of digital recording in the late 80s. The Atari 1040 was a first step in that direction. I was in my 40s when most people my generation could or would not cope with computers. A few years later, when digital recording of analog signals became a possibility, I felt a huge release. It freed me from dreaming about hiring expensive analog studios as the only possibility to get creative the way I wanted. I couldn´t have afforded such studios anyway. In the beginning, it was pretty complicated getting into controlling the recording software, but once I managed it, it was a revelation that continues today.

The artwork of ‘Synthesist’ sees you pictured with a Prophet 10, which were your favourite synths and keyboards to work with on this album?

The Prophet 10 was an investment of my manager (R.I.P. Peter) and was bought after ‘Synthesist’ was released. On ‘Synthesist’, you can hear a Korg PS3200 and a Minimoog. The Moog was triggered by an ARP 16-Step Sequencer or used for solo melodies. That was it!

The Moog permanently slipped out of tune and many times, it was more than a pain in the ass to get the bitch stabilized. I had to record the same sequences over and over again.

How did it come together in the studio?

All the basics were recorded during 6 weeks in August and September 1979 at Udo Hanten‘s home in Krefeld, an industrial town in Northern Westphalia, the River Rhine area. Additional tracks were laid at Panne Paulsen studio in Frankfurt, which I knew from the sessions with Klaus and ASHRA. It was perfect for recording my drums and the solo melodies. All on 16 tracks after the basic 8 tracks were transferred.

‘Transcendental Overdrive’ had some distinctive arpeggios but also those very frantic but understated drums?

I take that as a compliment. My intensions lay more on composition and creating magic sounds than drumming. I financially had a week to get it done. It took just 2 days to record all drum parts. There was not much time to think. It just happened.

How do you now look back on ‘Synthesist’ as a whole?

As I mentioned, I was very insecure about what I had done. A negative highlight was a visit to Edgar Froese‘s home where my manager and I asked Edgar to listened to ‘Synthesist‘ before it was released. Edgar listened patiently but did not say a word afterwards. Either he was stunningly shocked or could not stand it. I never found out and the situation led to a bunch of negative speculations.

Back home, I was devastated. The sales after 5 or 6 months also were not super, just around 10,000 vinyl copies. Today that would almost be a hit, but in 1980, it was a massive flop. I did not listen to the album for a very long time until I had several offers from different labels. Young people seemed to have discovered ‘Synthesist‘. DJs all over the world put it on and since I re-released it, they still do. I needed the distance in time to finally to understand and enjoy what I had done.

There is a 40th Anniversary double vinyl and CD package being released by Bureau B featuring remixes, so is remix culture something you embrace and what do you think of the end result here?

40 years flew by! Unbelievable! The remixes on that double album are great. I was surprised about the spontaneous involvement of young musicians. ‘Synthesist‘ had an influence on them and their own music.

I met Steve Baltes in 1994. He was 27 years old, a techno DJ, producer and fan of electronic music, whom I had invited to join in with ASHRA for our first Japan tour in 1997. He made a brilliant remix of ‘Earth’.

Thorsten Quaeschning who toured with Edgar Froese and TANGERINE DREAM for 15 years and is now head of the actual TD line-up did a fantastic remix of ‘So Weit, So Gut‘. Paul Frick remade ‘Synthesist‘, he is member of the well-known trio BRANDT BRAUER FRICK from Berlin which I am a great fan of.

Some famous old Krautrock colleagues who are also on Bureau B. label did a great job too. To mention here: PYROLATOR and KREIDLER. Stefan Lewin, an old friend, musician and quality analog synthesizer producer (ACL) worked on the ‘Synthesist‘ title track. Beside these, a few very young label musicians like TELLAVISION, LOVE SONGS and CAMERA also brought some interesting fresh air on their remix versions.

Your second solo album ‘Oceanheart’ didn’t appear until 1986, were there any reasons for this? How does this album stand up for you compared with ‘Synthesist’?

There was no pressure to put out one album after the other. Like others, I did not want to repeat myself over and over. I also had no equipment to experiment the way I needed. Remember it was the pre-computer time. In the meantime, I had a trio named LILLI BERLIN; I owned a Tascam 8-track reel to reel tape recorder and Manfred Opitz, the keyboarder had a Minimoog and a Roland JX-3P. I used those to lay basics. Drums and other sources were added at Christoph Franke‘s studio. The final mix and master was done there too. I think ‘Synthesist‘ has this first time innocence.

In 1997, you reunited with ASHRA to do some concerts in Japan. The live recordings became the ‘@shra’ album, ‘Twelve Samples’ was a particularly glorious track, how much of the performance was pre-prepared and was there much flexibility for improvisation?

We usually met a week before touring or for studio sessions to prepare some basics. In between, we played ‘Hype‘, a game that was based on the development of rock bands.

From putting a line up together, to low level touring and album recording. The player who first had a hit album won. The game was created by Virgin Records. Manuel and Lutz rehearsed some basic harmonies and melodies, mostly without even being amplified in Manuel’s flat (Studio Roma).

I had a pair of drumsticks, listened and hit on my knees. As I mentioned before had we long breaks in between such meetings. Sometimes for years. So I never knew what will happen next with ASHRA. But I was positively surprised to receive Manuel`s phone call, asking me to join in performing in Japan. A little tour including 4 gigs. Wow! Japan! Great! My second reaction was of technical concerns, which I did not speak out about.

You must know, touring in the 70s was technically quite basic. On stage, it could take Manuel more than 5 minutes in between the titles to tune his sequencer for the next piece, while I was getting nervous just sitting waiting and staring into the audience. That was the reason I wanted Steve Baltes to join in. I knew he was able to recreate all the basic ASHRA sequences and original keyboard sounds we needed with his skills about sampling and sound design.

After I had introduced Manuel and Steve, Manuel liked him from the first minute, so Steve started producing all the required bass and sequencer loops that enabled us to improvise on stage as we always did in the past, with the difference that Manuel was released from that tuning burden. Steve did a brilliant job. We even sounded much better than ever before. The Japanese audience really liked it. We performed twice in Tokyo and twice in Osaka.

You teamed up with Eberhard Kranemann for the 2017 album ‘Krautwerk’, how would you describe your dynamic with regards creating and performing ?

I met Eberhard Kranemann for the first time in 2016 on a local festival at a castle. We performed on different locations. I did not know him, not even that he was an original KRAFTWERK member.

I was very curious about what he did on stage and as we performed at different times, I was able to sneak into his gig. After one minute, I left the performance! Pure loud guitar noise and mumblings with his voice! I could not stand it!

Two weeks later he phoned me, obviously very excited by my performance. He asked me what I thought of a collaboration. Wow! My enthusiasm was not very high but I thought what the f*ck, let‘s try, if turns out bad, I can leave.

Eberhard recorded our session we made in his home, located around the corner where I live with my family. The session output was mainly poor, but in between had some great original parts. I took the session back home, dragged it into my Ableton recording software, extracted those parts I liked and produced loops. In a next step, I took it back to Eberhard where we added some material here and there. He really liked the way I had edited the material.

The result was the ‘Krautwerk‘ album released on Bureau B. We did live performances in England, Sweden and on a festival in China. A second album is ready to be released, but Eberhard preferred to concentrate on his solo work again. Meanwhile Ralf Hütter of KRAFTWERK ordered his lawyers to threaten me in case I would not withdraw my ‘Krautwerk‘ name ownership.

You have new works ready for release, how would you describe them? What musical direction are you heading in?

I work intensely on new material and will soon release an album in co-operation with my old friend and colleague on guitar Axel Heilhecker. Sequencer, guitar loops, melodies. Very atmospheric! The album will be named ‘Are You Psyched?‘. Parallel to that, I work on new solo material which I hope to release next year.

No rush as always. I do not think in terms how to style my music. It`s always spontaneous and unpredictable decisions. The main intention is that I must like it. Even that can change after a few hours, days or weeks and it is always possible to push a piece in another direction.

It’s very hard for me to finally decide when something is finished. I do not listen much to music from others. Mainly only when someone says to me “You got to listen to that!“ That does not mean I´m ignorant but I love most to work on my own stuff.

What are your own favourite tracks and memories from your career?

Definitely ‘Moondawn‘. All the tracks I ever recorded are like own children. You love them all but they are different!

When you entered this world of synthesizers back in the day, did you think that you and your contemporaries would have such a big impact in the popular culture of today?

Not at all. Compared to fast and massive internet activity today, we had very little feedback in those days. National and international. Just a few music magazines existed. And they mostly wrote about pop music or the stars. The only measure we had were sales or live performances. But other than KRAFTWERK, we had no hits.

Andy McCluskey from OMD two years ago shook my hands and said “Did you know how much your music changed my life!?“. I had no idea about that influence when I was sitting in my small Berlin flat trying to figure out how to finance the next week. Since I connected to the internet around twenty years ago, I receive wonderful daily feedback from all over the world. It is a great pleasure to specially get it from a younger generation.

Last year, I had my first DJ appearance in a well-known techno club in Berlin. Right now, all live performances are cancelled or postponed. But isolation is not unusual for me and most artists. That‘s the space where we enable output. I still miss to be on stage. Hopefully it will be soon possible again.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Harald Grosskopf

Additional thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Synthesist’ is reissued as a 40th Anniversary deluxe edition double CD and transparent sun yellow double vinyl LP by Bureau B on 5th June 2020

https://www.haraldgrosskopf.de/englisch/home.html

https://www.facebook.com/Harald-Grosskopf-121526524593386/

https://www.instagram.com/harald_grosskopf/

http://www.bureau-b.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th May 2020

ALICE HUBBLE Interview

Over four songs and four instrumentals on her impressive debut album ‘Polarlichter’, ALICE HUBBLE makes the perfect synth earth mother.

Behind ALICE HUBBLE is London-based musician Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting cult favourites like ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES.

Despite her roles as a lead vocalist, this is the first time she has ventured out musically on her own.

With her forlorn vocal presence and endearing instrumental charm, courtesy of her array of vintage keyboards, ‘Polarlichter’ is an impressive solo debut that is a soundscape of pastoral solace.

Released on Happy Robots Records, home of RODNEY CROMWELL and TINY MAGNETIC PETS, the first single ‘Goddess’ has already been declared one of the singles of 2019 by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, while the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’ with its the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody is wonderfully glorious.

Alice Hubley chatted about the genesis of ‘Polarlichter’ and much more…

‘Polarlichter’ as a title is perfect for the album, but what inspired you to use that particular word, as opposed to other variants and languages?

The title track initially came from the artwork from the LP which I bought in a flea market in Berlin a few years ago. I like the way it sounds and rolls off the tongue, I probably don’t do the best job of pronouncing it though!

Some would say this is the album people have been waiting for from you since ARTHUR & MARTHA? Who were your key influences for this record?

That’s very nice of you to say. I do think this LP is very self-indulgent and it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had recording and putting out a record.

The tracks were generally influenced by places and people / personal interactions. I don’t necessarily set out to borrow from other artists, I enjoy seeing what people pick up on when reviewing the record.

There are definitely some surprises and Googling I’ve had to do, but I know I do wear my heart on my sleeve.

Was it the intention to make a half song / half instrumental album? What do you get as a musician from one form that you can’t get from the other?

I didn’t set out for that initially. When I first started the project, I was really looking to do more instrumental tracks and attack the writing process in a different way to how I have approached song writing in the past. I got a lot out of changing round my processes.

The song tracks developed along the way, mainly ‘cause they just come out of me. I think my instrumental tracks are representative of what I’m trying to get across when writing them, but it’s definitely easier to tell as a story with a song.

You began the compositional process on an iPad before bringing in analogue synths, which particular instruments did you use?

The main apps I’ve used are Tabletop and the Moog Model 15 synth app along with Garage Band and a few effects.

Where do you sit on that hardware versus software debate?

Ha, it is a contentious debate, I created a hushed silence in a room with a band (I won’t divulge who!) once when I said I liked the Moog iPad app! The thing I like about some apps is that they encourage a different way of thinking to playing a keyboard, recording can be quite immediate and you can come up with different ideas when things are more off cuff.

I personally feel if the sound fits the track and is good enough quality then why not use an app sound. I think I re-recorded the majority of the Model 15 tracks ‘cause they sounded better on the Prodigy, but the Tabletop sounds are very prominent on the LP.

‘Ruby Falls’ is a lively opening statement that paints pictures in the listener’s mind. When you go travelling, what sort of places do you like to visit and how does it stimulate your music?

I like to visit places of natural beauty and those more off the beaten path; this year, for contrast this year I’ve visited the Alhambra in Granada and a nuclear bunker in Prague. It’s nice to be taken out of the familiar, I’ve found travelling is inspiring and also triggers creativity for me.

The single ‘Goddess’ has had a very positive response, what was its genesis?

‘Goddess’ was one of the first tracks I wrote for the LP. I’d always liked the idea of writing a song called ‘Goddess’, it’s a word that is bold, beautiful and distinctly female. Through thinking about Goddesses and goddess worship came the idea of the destructive nature of the male gaze when taken to extremes, which the song explores lyrically.

I think the bass riff came in first before the song, it was written over such a long time. I then wanted to go for this chorused / filtering synth sound, which I remember worrying after it was done that it was too intense to listen to on headphones. I’m really delighted by the response it has got though, so I guess I was wrong!

The choral laden ‘Atlantis Palm’ is rather gorgeous…

Thank you!

The key track on the album is ‘We Are Still Alone’, it’s a bit like OMD meeting ASHRA?

That’s very kind, both bands are big touch points for me.

The main melodic theme of ‘We Are Still Alone’ reoccurs on ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘Still Polarlichter’, is this all part of a bigger story?

Ha, well spotted. The solo from ‘We Are Still Alone’ was at one point quite prominent in ‘The Golden Age’. It wasn’t intentional but it does help to pull the record together.

‘Kick The Habit’ goes all electro-glam, like a synthy Suzi Quatro?

Totally! I wrote the track after coming off tour supporting the psychedelic rock band BLACK MOUNTAIN, they have a lot of songs with big guitar riffs in them and this was my attempt at writing a big riff song.

Other touch points for me were second / third LP GOLDFRAPP and LADYTRON.

There’s a lot of flute sounds on the album, are they real ones?

I wouldn’t be adverse to a real flute on a record, but it’s all the beautiful sound of the Mellotron.

Which tracks on ‘Polarlichter’ are your own favourites and why?

I like them all for different reasons, though I’m particularly fond of ‘Still Polarlichter’ and ‘Atlantis Palm’. ‘Still Polarlichter’ because we went on such a journey in the studio with that song, it’s so sinister and also I love playing it live. With ‘Atlantis Palm’, it just feels so different from anything I’ve done in the past, it’s so simple but a big statement.

You are undertaking a headlining tour having opened for DAMO SUZUKI and TINY MAGNETIC PETS earlier in the year. How were those experiences and how will your approach change as you move into the role of headliner?

Both shows were a lot of fun, it was such a great experience playing with Damo and TINY MAGNETIC PETS and they were both very sweet to me.

It is a bit daunting but I am looking forward to the headline shows, I’m not planning on bringing anyone into the band as of yet, but I am looking to expand the set in some ways. Come along and see for yourself!

Will there be more from ALICE HUBBLE in the future, how has the solo experience been for you compared to being part of a band?

Yes, there is definitely more ALICE HUBBLE in the works, I’m actually in the middle of preparing to go back into the studio in September to start recording for the next release.

The whole ALICE HUBBLE process has been a dream, being solo means you can work at your own pace and can be quick at making decisions. It can get lonely at times, but I make a point of working with people I enjoy being around and try to have fun with it.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to ALICE HUBBLE

‘Polarlichter’ is released as a vinyl LP and download by Happy Robots Records, available from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

ALICE HUBBLE 2019 live dates include:

Manchester Salford Eagle Inn (3rd October), Glasgow Nice N Sleazy (4th October), Sheffield Hatch (5th October), London Servants Jazz Quarters (5th November)

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4NWmEXIOna3UpoCp1FQxuP


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th September 2019

ALICE HUBBLE Polarlichter

ALICE HUBBLE is the new solo project of Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES.

Taking in the influence of Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and Sally Oldfield, the avant pop heart of Hubley is now set free on her debut long player ‘Polarlichter’, literally translated in Deutsch as “polar lights” or auroras.

Recorded with analogue synths at home before being mixed at Big Jelly Studios under the co-production supervision of Mikey Collins who also contributed drums and guitar, ‘Polarlichter’ is undeniably escapist.

In keeping with the aura of varying colour and complexity projected by the album’s title, the opening instrumental ‘Ruby Falls’ offers mysterious octave shifts and pagan flutes while picturing North Sea islands painted by hand played keys.

Laced in Korg and Juno, her forlorn vocal presence makes its first appearance on the wonderful ‘Goddess’, a song about male obsession which has already been declared one of the singles of 2019 by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq. With its moody vintage synths and primitive drum boxes, there are also hints of BOOK OF LOVE, THE CURE, SPARKS and OMD.

Channelling German trailblazers Manuel Göttsching and Harald Grosskopf, both in their solo guises and together as ASHRA, the pulsing cosmic overtones of ‘Atlantis Palm’ offer beautiful synthetic choirs and airy fluty textures for a superb seven minutes of melancholic ambience.

Hubley’s earthy demeanour returns on the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’, where the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody are glorious.

But when the synth strings respond in that ASHRA style, it becomes perfect avant pop where Hubley sadly resigns to herself that she “couldn’t find the way to make me better”.

‘Kick The Habit’ takes a jump in tempo and schaffels with live percussion for a charmingly enjoyable slice of electro-glam. Meanwhile keeping things to waltz time, ‘Hunt For The Blood Red Moon’ is electronic folk, solemnly dancing around a maypole of Moog.

Filmic instrumental ‘The Golden Age’ has its synths set to toy town, but more haunting Mellotrons weave their way into the wicker lattice with brilliant vibrato swirls before progressing into mutant funk and a collage of album segments to create an uneasy schizophrenic feel.

The chimes of ‘Still Polarlichter’ sees Hubble still alone, again echoing OMD with the string machine playing a variation on the ‘We Are Still Alone’ theme, but with more of a psychedelic vibe. At over nearly seven minutes, the mighty bubbles of synth, drum breaks and Germanic demeanour concoct a recipe of feisty feminine prog.

With the language of melody in common, ‘Polarlichter’ makes a fine voice-assisted companion to OBLONG ‘The Sea At Night’, an instrumental album of rustic organically farmed electronica released earlier in this year.

Over four songs and four instrumentals, ALICE HUBBLE makes the perfect synth earth mother with her endearing array of vintage keyboards. This is an impressive solo debut that is a soundscape of pastoral solace.


‘Polarlichter’ is released as a vinyl LP, CD and download by Happy Robots Records on 27th September 2019, pre-order from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/alice-hubble-polarlichter-new-12-lp-pre-order

ALICE HUBBLE 2019 live dates include:

Bristol Radio / ON (14th September), Manchester Salford Eagle Inn (3rd October), Glasgow Nice N Sleazy (4th October), Sheffield Hatch (5th October), London Servants Jazz Quarters (5th November)

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st August 2019

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about JEAN-MICHEL JARRE or VANGELIS who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with BRIAN ENO. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections.

Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as DAVID BOWIE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

A one-time member of TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, ‘Timewind’ was Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using equipment such as the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ was the breakthrough record for TANGERINE DREAM which saw them using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism to produce a fine meditative electronic soundtrack.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Having released their first long player together in 1969, their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

ASH RA TEMPLE’s Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and what was to become his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style of PINK FLOYD’s David Gilmour, this template was particularly evident on New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

One-time member of GONG, solo artist and an in-house producer at Virgin Records, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived in a sound-world that Eno had created via his various instrument treatments. With Budd improvising live, Eno would occasionally add something but his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions to the moon, one of the inspirations was to react against the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes and news reels of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

By 1986, the former JAPAN front man wanted to get away from singing as reflected by the ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals. Sylvian found a willing conspirator in CAN’s Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly, it was partly inspired by his admiration of COCTEAU TWINS whom he collaborated with on the 1986 4AD album ‘The Moon & The Melodies’.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric collection of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. Alongside the three new pieces, there was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger and its various missions.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing techniques, the sleeve notes recommended it was best heard using headphones while stating “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In that respect, a collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not really miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originally released as part of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the ambient companion progressively got quieter and quieter. The emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. ‘After the Night Falls’ and ‘Before the Day Breaks’ were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie’s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s self-explanatory titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s most recent collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape with its Edward Hopper inspired title. Meanwhile, the earlier ‘Translucence’ from 2003 was a close relative and classic Budd, partnered with the more subdued overtures of ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen; not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree in South London’s Asylum Chapel. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound worthy of the ambient pioneers Statham was influenced by, especially on the gorgeous closer ‘Ascend’.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2015

Dance To The Future…

 Düsseldorf paid homage to its electronic music history with a three day event of lectures, discussions and live music.

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE celebrated the work of pioneers like KRAFTWERK, DAF, RIECHMANN, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF, as well as reflecting the city’s worldwide influence on bands such as NEW ORDER, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DEPECHE MODE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, VISAGE and OMD.

A year in the planning, organisers Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert assembled an impressive line-up of artists, musicians and academics which read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music.

Daniel Miller-Carsten SiewertIt included names such as Benge, Gabi Delgado, Ralf Dörper, Rusty Egan, Harald Grosskopf, Peter Hook, Stephen Mallinder, Andy McCluskey, Daniel Miller, Mark Reeder, Michael Rother and Martyn Ware.

Also present was Dr Uwe Schütte, whose academic conference ‘Industrielle Volksmusik for the Twenty First Century – Kraftwerk & the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany’ at Aston University helped inspire the seeting up of the event.

While there have been numerous books about Germany and in particular KRAFTWERK, few have been written by people who were actually there at the time. Esch’s own book ‘Electri_City: Elektronische Musik aus Düsseldorf’ was published in 2014 and provided a much needed eyewitness account.

It fully related the Cold War tensions within Der Bundesrepublik that inspired many young Germans into pursuing adventures in art, music and cinema as a matter of self-expression and cultural identity.

The book’s success in Germany provided much of the impetus and momentum to curate this lavish gathering of kindred spirits. The first of the special guests taking part was Peter Hook who talked to Rob Keane about German influences on the UK’s post-punk scene and in particular, JOY DIVISION.

It was Ian Curtis who first introduced the others to KRAFTWERK. After the charismatic vocalist’s passing, the surviving band members became NEW ORDER and as they became more electronic, they acquired five Prophet 5s costing £2000 each.

This had only been made possible by the posthumous success of JOY DIVISION.

“God bless him, Ian… without him, we wouldn’t have been able to afford these machines to make electronic music…” Hooky said, “what happened in NEW ORDER was as the technology developed, it enabled you to buy the machines that KRAFTWERK were using. I’d love to watch them do something, I really would. Because for all the coverage you get of KRAFTWERK, you never actually know HOW they did it!”

But despite KRAFTWERK being the pioneers of electronic music, Ralf and Florian had been so impressed by ‘Blue Monday’, they arranged to meet its engineer Michael Johnson at Britannia Row Studios where it was recorded. “They wanted to book into the studio we used…” remembered Hooky, “and they wanted to use our engineer, because they wanted their next record to sound like ‘Blue Monday’, which is most ironic because we spent years trying to sound like them!”

KRAFTWERK had a look round Britannia Row but unimpressed with the old fashioned, faded grandeur of the studio, they cancelled the session. “I took that as quite a compliment” quipped the Salford Bass Viking playfully.

Hooky also reminisced about how he was very impressed by fellow Mancunian Mark Reeder’s mastery of speaking German while on JOY DIVISION’s only visit to Berlin in 1980.

But when he asked how Reeder had become fluent so quickly, the then Factory Records representative in Germany answered: “you can learn any language when you’re starving!”

Mark Reeder himself formed part of panel discussion on the German impact of the Düsseldorf Schule to give his ‘Englishman in Berlin’ point of view. As the man often credited with introducing Italo disco to NEW ORDER, Reeder’s recent film ‘B-Movie – Lust & Sound In West Berlin 1979-1989’ captured the spirit of the divided city and highlighted how a similar document about Düsseldorf would now be quite timely.

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was not just about lectures and talks, but about live music too. Cologne’s EMOTIKON opened proceedings with some incongruous generic pop funk, so it was a welcome relief when HEAVEN 17 took to the stage at Zakk for the sold-out show.

Headlining their first ever concert in the German art capital, HEAVEN 17 gave one of their now famous electronically focussed sets which also featured material that had spawned from THE HUMAN LEAGUE Mk1 when Martyn Ware was a member.

Inviting him to join the band, Phil Oakey remembered how Ware turned up at his house with ‘Trans-Europe Express’ under his arm and told him “Look, we can do this!”. The song that best summed up the occasion was ‘I’m Your Money’, a synthetic train ride with multi-lingual business phrases that captured the essence of a European Union.

To follow a fine performance from HEAVEN 17, Daniel Miller’s aftershow DJ set reflected his influences and subsequent signings for Mute Records to conclude an excellent first day.

With a packed second day, Friday’s numerous academic and theoretical proceedings were concluded with a Krautrock discussion in German by a panel of veteran musicians that included one-time ASHRA member Harald Grosskopf, Michael Rother from NEU! and WALLENSTEIN’s Jürgen Dollase.

Whereas Germany has usually been associated with purer forms of electronic music, its kosmische outlook has influenced many rock and alternative bands too.

However, Dollase’s continual ranting about the joys of LSD proved tiresome and was exemplary evidence to children as to why they shouldn’t do drugs!

The panel was later opened up to questions from the audience so ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took the opportunity to ask Michael Rother about his first three solo albums.

‘Flammende Herzen’ , ‘Sterntaler’ and ‘Katzenmusik’ were produced by the late Conny Plank and featured CAN’s Jaki Liebezeit on drums. Did he have a favourite?: “I don’t really have favourites, there are individual tracks I enjoy more, it depends on mood and circumstances. It would be unfair really to have a favourite album” Herr Rother replied, “Of course, I try to highlight Conny Plank’s contribution, he was so valuable… we wouldn’t have been able to record NEU! or the second HARMONIA album or my solo albums without Conny, so he’s all over the place in my music… thank you Conny”

Opening the second evening’s musical line-up, Dublin’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS have been championed by Rusty Egan and their appearance in Düsseldorf was their first in Europe.

The trio’s main strength was their engaging lead singer Paula Gilmer, while Sean Quinn’s synth soloing was also enjoyable. But the occasional rattle of an acoustic drum kit was a distraction and the trio sounded much better when Eugene Somers took to exclusively electronic percussion.

WRANGLER, fronted by Stephen Mallinder who had lectured earlier in the day, delivered a screeching set of dystopian vibes and cold wave mechanics, demonstrating how the Düsseldorf gene has mutated into marvellous pieces such as ‘Lava Land’. Mallinder’s drowning gargoyle vocal was particularly striking within the venue’s effective stereo panning capability.

Incidentally, the trio’s incumbent synth collector extraordinaire Benge has recently relocated his MemeTune studio to rural South West of England, in an echo of Conny Plank’s legendary countryside complex which KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF all recorded in.

Michael Rother delivered a career spanning set of his works including NEU! evergreens like ‘Hallogallo’, ‘Neuschnee’ and ‘Seeland’.

There was also the welcome airing of material from his HARMONIA days too. Accompanied by Hans Lampe, formally of LA DÜSSELDORF, the drummer was unbelievably metronomic throughout, providing the hypnotic heartbeat to these much loved numbers. With assistance on bass and synth from a computer, the glorious symphony of ‘Karussell’ from ‘Flammende Herzen’ was a joy to behold. Watching enthusiastically in the crowd was OMD’s Andy McCluskey who remarked in passing to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK that ‘Flammende Herzen’ was the most played album on his iPod!

With another fine evening of live music over, proceedings then moved over to the famous club Dr Thompsons for the aftershow party featuring Rusty Egan.

Originally a location for a factory making floor wax, Egan’s DJ set reflected electronic music’s past and present, much to the approval of both TINY MAGNETIC PETS and METROLAND whose tunes got an airing on the dancefloor.

Day three featured SØLYST aka Thomas Klein who warmed up early attendees with an ambient percussive soundtrack that suited the time of day perfectly. Meanwhile, the Rusty Egan vs ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK discussion about the influence of Düsseldorf, Berlin and Bowie on the New Romantics brought up some amusing anecdotes from his Blitz Club and VISAGE days. “KRAFTWERK was all in time!” he retorted in a fascinating and at times, hilarious chat. On DAFT PUNK, he said “The reason why DAFT PUNK wear robot helmets is cos they can’t show their faces… cos THEY STOLE EVERYTHING! But they did it brilliantly!”

The conversation even turned to THIN LIZZY’s Phil Lynott who frequented the scene and recorded the synth friendly single ‘Yellow Pearl’ co-written with Midge Ure that featured Egan on drums. Also featuring Billy Currie, Egan confirmed that it was a VISAGE song in all but name. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was heavily influenced by LA DÜSSELDORF and was to later gain iconic status as the theme music to ‘Top of the Pops’ from 1981 to 1986, showing just how far reaching the influence of German electronic music had become.

Wolfgang Flür’s now famous video messages on the world wide web have been a delight to many in electronic music circles and in his absence, a special broadcast was prepared by the former KRAFTWERK percussionist for the conference.

Following on, Andy McCluskey and Rudi Esch presented some light hearted but music fan friendly banter in what was billed as The Electri_City Show.

Discussing a variety of records Esch had brought along from his own personal collection, the OMD frontman mentioned how he was a big fan of LA DÜSSELDORF: “Thinking about LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! – the biggest loss to the scene is Klaus Dinger”. Following his death in 2008, Klaus Dinger was hailed as a legendary drummer, having popularised the Motorik beat.

But as Michael Rother once pointed out, before 2004 nobody cared about NEU! “It’s great that people are thinking about NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF” said McCluskey, “they should be up there with KRAFTWERK”. However as documented in Esch’s ’Electri_City_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ book, Dinger was known to be a difficult character and that didn’t help his reputation. “It’s the Van Gogh thing” added McCluskey, “you have to bloody die before people think you’re a genius”

Of course, OMD combined various influences to achieve their distinctive template. But what is not often realised is that it is closer to LA DÜSSELDORF than it is to KRAFTWERK, especially on ‘Architecture & Morality’: “It is great that the city of Dusseldorf has woken up to the fact that KRAFTWERK and other musicians changed the world. Whilst KRAFTWERK cement their position in the pantheon of the museums and the books, LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! were very important. They also did something that was beautiful and different. And OMD unconsciously were combining the two, the electronic sound with the organic…”

The Techno / Industrial panel in Deutsch fittingly included DAF’s Gabi Delgado and DIE KRUPPS’ Ralf Dörper as well as Ramon Zenker, the man behind FRAGMA.

It would be fair to say that neither sub-genre could have had its roots in any country other than Germany.

Delgado caused some amusement when he casually lit up a cigarette in the middle of the discussion, reinforcing the rebellious and confrontational aura of DAF.

During the interlude, many went to take a look at the Monster Formant modular synthesizer, owned by local enthusiast Siegfried Brückner, which was being demonstrated in the foyer. Six years in the making and featuring a gobsmacking sixteen VCOs plus many other features too numerous to mention, it was an impressive sight that looked like one of those vintage telephone exchanges.

To begin Saturday night’s live music proceedings were Zurich based combo LEN SANDER; their languid style of trip hop has become a favourite of Rusty Egan who also lists LONDON GRAMMAR among his current favourites.

They provided a cerebral build before the appearance of two of the most impressive synthesizer duos in Europe at the moment.

With the amount of equipment VILE ELECTRODES possess, they could fill Klingklang itself. Using their more streamlined European touring set-up, the Home Counties couple are now effectively adopted Germans having impressed enough during their tour of Germany supporting OMD in 2013 to land two Schallwelle Awards. Splendid new songs like ‘Pulsar Timing Array’ and ‘Stark White’ from the just released EP were evidence of their continuing progression.

With a more minimalist set-up, METROLAND were the perfect act for the weekend to honour the artistic legacy of Düsseldorf. Their second long player ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a conceptual audio installation themed around das Staatliche Bauhaus.

The perfect realisation of Walter Gropius’ theory of uniting art with technology, with a combination of crisp electronics and art school visuals, the Belgian duo gave a wonderful presentation that was appreciated by all those present including Andy McCluskey and Rusty Egan.

Closing the event, escapist trio DELTA turned out to be the most disappointing of all the bands participating, their landfill indie totally at odds with the weekend’s ethos.

Meanwhile Düsseldorf duo BAR fared much better, their synth laden dreampop augmented on occasion by singer Christina Irrgang’s use of a recorder.

However, these two acts highlighted the lack of a clear headliner to finish the weekend on a true high.

Overall though, the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE was fabulous weekend with representation from both sorcerers and apprentices of the Düsseldorf scene. With the English translation of the ’Electri_City_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ book due in 2016, the story of what the city has contributed to the world can only spread further.

French icon JEAN-MICHEL JARRE said recently: “Electronic music has a family, a legacy and a future…” and there was nothing more truer than over these three days by der Rhein.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Additional thanks to Tom Steinseifer, Roger Kamp and Tapio Normall for the use of their photos

‘Electri_City: The Dusseldorf School of Electronic Music’ is due to be published in English by Omnibus Press sometime in 2016

The ‘Electri_City – Elektronische_Musik_Aus_Düsseldorf’ compilation is released by Grönland Records.

http://www.electricity-conference.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai except where credited
8th November 2015

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