Tag: BEF (Page 2 of 4)

A Beginner’s Guide To MARTYN WARE

It was June 1978 when a 7 inch aural artefact dressed in an iconic sleeve was issued by Bob Last’s Edinburgh based Fast Records.

Subtitled ‘Electronically Yours’, it featured the magnificent ‘Being Boiled’ backed with the amazing ‘Circus Of Death’, it heralded a new dawn in pop music.

The band behind it was THE HUMAN LEAGUE; comprising of Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh and Philip Oakey, they stated that their records would feature “synthesizers and vocals only”. Bob Last became THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s manager and so began the illustrious career of Martyn Ware.

With economic recession decimating their industrial heartland in Sheffield, aspirational computer operators Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh experimented with newly affordable synthesizers from Korg and Roland as THE FUTURE with vocalist / guitarist Adi Newton to create sounds would eventually form part of a new musical movement. When Newton departed, Ware recruited his school friend Phil Oakey as his replacement and they became THE HUMAN LEAGUE. And to further reinforce that this was no ordinary band, Philip Adrian Wright joined as the non-playing Director of Visuals.

The band gained enough attention to be signed by Virgin Records. But before their first major label release, ‘The Dignity Of Labour’ was unleashed by Fast Records in May 1979.

Financed and distributed by Virgin, the four part avant instrumental 12 inch EP confused both audiences and the record label who had been expecting another ‘Being Boiled’.

But then, THE HUMAN LEAGUE had that air of provocation about them. Occasionally, their acts of subversion could push a little too far… they were thrown off a support slot for the 1979 TALKING HEADS tour when it was advertised they were intending to feature “specially taped songs and rhythms with synchronised moving pictures and snapshots instead of The League”.

The original line-up of THE HUMAN LEAGUE who would record two albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’, but the lack of sales success would be frustrating and creative tensions were driving the band apart. Last eventually took matters into his own hands and played a game of divide and rule.

So in Autumn 1980, Martyn Ware left the band with Ian Craig Marsh joining him and together, they formed a production company called BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION (BEF).

The idea was to undertake a variety of projects, one of which was a pop group called HEAVEN 17 fronted by singer Glenn Gregory; their first album ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ album was a landmark achievement.

Combining a natural electronic development of ‘Travelogue’ on the ‘Penthouse’ side while an electro funk hybrid emerged on the ‘Pavement’ side, in Ware’s words, it was “a 100% serious attempt to be incredibly popular”.

And indeed it was… following the success of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, ‘The Luxury Gap’ was accorded a bigger budget. There came the purchase of more sophisticated equipment and the opportunity to hire some of the best musicians in the business.

With their seventh single ‘Temptation’ becoming a huge international hit, HEAVEN 17 took over more of Ware’s time, although he was still able to maintain a lucrative production career that has included Tina Turner, Jimmy Ruffin, Terence Trent D’Arby and Marc Almond as well as HOT GOSSIP, ASSOCIATES, THE COUNCIL COLLECTIVE and ERASURE.

With the latter, the ‘I Say I Say I Say’ album project brought Martyn Ware and Vince Clarke to work together for the first time. It produced a number of hit singles for ERASURE like ‘Always’ and ‘I Love Saturday’, but it also led to some interesting artistic diversions for both parties. They eventually formed Illustrious to explore and market the possibilities of 3D sound systems.

At this point, HEAVEN 17 was in hiatus, but the friendship led to an invitation to support ERASURE on the 1997 ‘Cowboy’ tour and became the band’s entry as a regulars on the live circuit.

While ‘Temptation’ has been ubiquitous on compilation albums and whenever HEAVEN 17 are able to get on TV, be it on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ or a Plusnet advert, there are many examples of Martyn Ware’s work as an artist and producer that also deserve recognition. Some have been big hits while others have been more obscure but no less valid.

So what tracks would make up an imaginary 20 track double CD retrospective as an introduction to Martyn Ware’s work?

With a restriction of one track per album project, this list is not a best of as such, but a chronological compendium of historic and artistic adventures that capture the career diversity of a man who used technology to realise creative musical ideas as a non-musician, as opposed to using technology for technology’s sake.

Please note, Ware’s work with BIlly MacKenzie has been covered in greater detail within a separate Beginner’s Guide to the larger than life singer, so is not featured in this list…


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled – Fast Version (1978)

The first song Oakey wrote with Ware and Marsh, the original version of ‘Being Boiled’ was recorded in mono using Ware’s Korg 700s and Marsh’s Roland System 100 as the rhythmical powerhouse, intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones. Oakey’s bizarre lyrics were a result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism. Forming part of a demo tape sent to Bob Last at Fast Records, it impressed enough for him to release the track “as seen”.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dance Like A Star (1978 – officially released 2002)

THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s early demo tapes were accompanied by a written manifesto and these sentiments occasionally ended up within the music itself. “This is a song for all you bigheads out there who think that disco music is lower than the irrelevant musical gibberish and tired platitudes that you try to impress your parents with” Oakey profoundly announced as part of the preamble to ‘Dance Like A Star’: “We’re THE HUMAN LEAGUE, we’re much cleverer than you!”

Available on THE FUTURE + THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ via Black Melody

http://www.the-black-hit-of-space.dk/


THE MEN I Don’t Depend On You (1979)

“We never wanted to be KRAFTWERK” said Phil Oakey on ‘Synth Britannia’, “we wanted to be a pop band!”. Despite having signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 1978, Virgin Records were still having trouble getting their head round the band’s “synthesizers and vocals only” rule and wanted them to use a real drummer. This eventually led to a disco flavoured experiment ‘I Don’t Depend On You’ under the pseudonym of THE MEN, often been cited as the seed of HEAVEN 17.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/27502-Men-The


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Blind Youth (1979)

‘Reproduction’ finally put THE HUMAN LEAGUE into battle against Gary Numan, but sales were disappointing. Ironically, with its cry of “dehumanisation is such a big word”, ‘Blind Youth’ was Ware’s attack on the colder, machine-like style of electronic music that was being spearheaded by Numan. The human aspect was an important thing for Ware and it had been with this philosophy that the name THE HUMAN LEAGUE from the Starforce Sci-Fi board game had originally been chosen.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/BlindYouthHumanLeague


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dreams Of Leaving (1980)

“Some of the best creative work I’ve ever been involved with was writing with Phil, he’s a brilliant lyric and leadline writer” said Martyn Ware of his former sparring partner. ‘Dreams Of Leaving’ was a fantastically emotive slice of prog synth in four distinct movements. The tale of an anti-Apartheid activist escaping persecution in South Africa, but meeting with indifference in their new adopted home, is still sadly resonant today while the final quarter’s sweeps and whistles on Ware’s Roland Jupiter 4 are simply grand.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.humanleague.dk/


BEF Uptown Apocalypse (1981)

When THE HUMAN LEAGUE split in Autumn 1980, Ware and Marsh formed a production company called the BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION (BEF) and released ‘Music For Stowaways’, an instrumental album only available on cassette that foresaw the advent of modern day iPod headphone culture. ‘Stowaway’ had been the original name of the Sony Walkman. Illustrating the concept of a rolling film soundtrack to one’s day-to-day life, ‘Uptown Apocalypse’ reunited the pair with former bandmate from THE FUTURE, Adi Newton. This metronomic dystopian piece did exactly what it said on the tin.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


HEAVEN 17 Fascist Groove Thang (1981)

With his hand being forced on leaving THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Ware was fired up. HEAVEN 17’s opening salvo was the now iconic and self-explanatory ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’. Guest artist John Wilson brought in bursts of bass and rhythm guitar to add a new dimension to a synthesizer sound that was still rooted in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Banned from Radio1 on its release, the song is still sadly poignant as Europe heads toward being “an unhappy land” again…

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com


BEF featuring TINA TURNER Ball Of Confusion (1982)

‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ was conceived as a high-tech covers project featuring guest vocalists with Ware as musical director. ‘Volume 1’ most notably saw the recorded return of Tina Turner on a blistering reworking of THE TEMPTATIONS’ ‘Ball Of Confusion’, featuring musicians as diverse as guitarist John McGeoch and Paul Jones on harmonica! Although impressively co-ordinated, ‘Volume 1’ did not sell in huge numbers but the working relationship with TINA TURNER gelled.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records

http://www.facebook.com/BritishElectricFoundation/


ALLEZ ALLEZ Flesh & Blood (1983)

Belgian pop funk outfit ALLEZ ALLEZ were led by the vivacious Sarah Osbourne who later married Glenn Gregory. Their debut EP ‘African Queen’ had featured a very loose groove, but to polish up their sound for their major label debut on Virgin, Martyn Ware came into the fold as producer. While featuring no synths, ‘Flesh & Blood’ featured an exquisite vocal from Osbourne alongside a catchy chanty refrain by backing vocalist Roland Bindi, augmented by lush orchestrated strings.

Available on the ALLEZ ALLEZ album ‘Promises / African Queen’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule and the compilation album ‘Methods Of Dance’ (V/A) via Virgin Records

http://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/promises_african_queen_twi086cd.html


HEAVEN 17 Lady Ice & Mr Hex (1983)

With a Roland MC4 Micro-composer and Linn Drum driving HEAVEN 17’s System 100 and System 100M plus the addition of a Roland TB303 Bassline, the idea of programmed parts inspiring musicians who weren’t used to programmed material to syncopate off them was floated by Ware. Featuring noted sessioners Simon Phillips on drums, Nick Plytas on piano and Ray Russell on rhythm guitar, ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ was a successfully surreal marriage of synthesizers with jazz.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/12340-Heaven-17


TINA TURNER Let’s Stay Together (1983)

One of the songs Martyn Ware had wanted to do on ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1’ was AL GREEN’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’. So when the opportunity came to work with Tina Turner again, Ware suggested it as a way of re-establishing her back into the soul realm. Co-produced by Greg Walsh who had worked on ‘The Luxury Gap’, Linn Drum and Fairlight were used as the programmed backbone while Nick Plytas and Ray Russell were recalled to embellish the soulful electronic hybrid.

Available on the TINA TURNER album ‘All The Best’ via EMI Records

http://www.tinaturnerofficial.com/


HEAVEN 17 And That’s No Lie (1984)

At over 10 minutes, ‘And That’s No Lie’ was an adventure in sound that threw in everything from Ware’s abstract sonic experiments a la early HUMAN LEAGUE, the jazz inflections of ‘The Luxury Gap’, modern Fairlighted electropop and the gospel tinged vocals of ARFRODIZIAK. Far too short as a single but possibly far too long in its album form, ‘And That’s No Lie’ signalled a creative zenith before a wider dampening of spirit within the graduates of ‘Synth Britannia’.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘5 Classic Albums’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.de/


TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY Sign Your Name (1987)

HEAVEN 17’s 1986 album ‘Pleasure One’ used a conventional guitar / bass / drums template and had not been a big success. But Ware found himself reinvigorated from working with a flamboyant former GI named Terence Trent D’Arby. From an album that featured four hit singles, ‘Sign Your Name’ was a superb bossa nova ballad that captured some of the more sensitive side of D’Arby’s sometimes brash, but loveable persona that had been apparent on ‘If You Let Me Stay’ and ‘Dance Little Sister’.

Available on the TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY album ‘Introducing The Hardline According To…’ via Sony Music

http://www.sanandamaitreya.com


BEF featuring GREEN GARTSIDE I Don’t Know Why I Love You (1991)

HEAVEN 17’s 1988 album ‘Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho’ was according to Ware “the nail in the coffin; we’d completely lost our way by then!”. Putting HEAVEN 17 into hiatus, he decided to curate his second ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ volume, but this time aiming for the mainstream Trans-Atlantic market with an emphasis on his love of soul music. One of the best numbers was a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ voiced by SCRITTI POLITTI’s Green Gartside. “I still play it” says Ware.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records

http://www.scritti.net/


ERASURE Tragic (1994)

Now imagine if Ennis Morricone and Wendy Carlos had worked with THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE in their fledging years on a collaborative film soundtrack? Then the wonderful melancholy of ‘Tragic’ would have been the end result. With music by Vince Clarke and production by Martyn Ware,  ‘Tragic’ was a fine example of how music did not necessarily need words to convey emotion. Andy Bell did add a vocal for an as live version later but it wasn’t really necessary.

Available on the ERASURE single ‘Always’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


HEAVEN 17 Designing Heaven (1996)

Making their full return with ‘Bigger Than America’, ‘Designing Heaven’ was the first fruit of the reformed trio going back to their electronic roots. It was classic HEAVEN 17, with echoes of ‘Sunset Now’ and ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ set to a modern European club friendly format. And as if to make that link more pronounced, Claudia Brücken translated the lyrics into German for a bonus track  entitled ‘Den Himmel Designen’ while Giorgio Moroder contributed a typically throbbing remix.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Bigger Than America’ via Cleopatra Records

http://martynwareblog.blogspot.com/


THE CLARKE & WARE EXPERIMENT The East Is Falling (1999)

Inspired by Brian Eno’s ‘Music For Airports’ opus and in particular, the track ‘1/1’, ‘The East Is Falling’ allowed Clarke to indulge in his more ambient fantasies last heard on the B-side ’91 Steps’ while Ware shaped the soundscape into a mind bending binaural format that was best listened to on headphones. With a striking piano motif bolstered by layers of sweeping, synthetic strings, the haunting atmospheres made for a fine development of the environmental music tradition.

Available on THE CLARKE & WARE EXPERIMENT album ‘Pretentious’ via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk


HEAVEN 17 Are You Ready? (2005)

With HEAVEN 17 now playing live on a semi-regular basis, one of the additional band members has been singer Billie Godfrey. ‘Are You Ready?’ was  co-written by her after being presented with a backing track by Ware. Essentially a love song, there were however some darker undercurrents. “There’s a slavish servant to master / penitent soul to preacher idea behind it with the spurned lover almost begging to be redeemed or converted by the object of their desire” Godfrey said in 2010.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Before After’ via BEF Records / Alpha Engineering

https://twitter.com/heaven17bef


BEF Featuring KIM WILDE Every Time I See You I Go Wild (2013)

The third volume of ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ featured some of Ware’s most starkly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. This striking cover of the Northern Soul favourite was best known in a version by JJ Barnes but was written by Stevie Wonder. Arranged by THE MODIFIED TOY ORCHESTRA’s Paul Duffy, ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ featured just Kim Wilde and a Roland System 100. And what’s there not to like about an electronic Northern Soul cover…

Available on the BEF album ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3: Dark’ via Wall Of Sound

http://www.britishelectricfoundation.com


HEAVEN 17 Pray (2014)

H17-pray‘Pray’ was sonically closer to early HUMAN LEAGUE in its metronomic first three minutes before regular H17 sidemen Julian Crampton and Asa Bennett cut-in brilliantly with their respective slap bass and rhythm guitar runs. Glenn Gregory continued his recent Bowie impersonation trip with HOLY HOLY, but this time via ’Young Americans’ as a saxophone made its presence felt to complete the connection. It was a tremendous avant synth / soul hybrid that undoubtedly outshined much of the material that appeared on ‘Before After’.

Available on the compilation album ‘Fly –Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ (V/A) via Universal Music

https://twitter.com/martynware


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Martyn Ware
28th March 2015, updated 17th April 2018

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2013

In one of the most productive years ever for electronic pop music, it has been extremely difficult to whittle down the list to 30 songs.

The standard has been extremely high and songs which would have made the listing in previous years have been left off. This has meant the controversial omission of DEPECHE MODE.

Despite being as popular as ever, grossing over $99 million during the ‘Delta Machine’ tour, once a shortlist for 2013 was drawn, the competition was so stiff that nothing from the album even scraped in!

Yes, 2013 has been that good and wonderful songs by the likes of KELLI ALI, ELEVEN:ELEVEN, GAZELLE TWIN, GHOST CAPSULES, GOLDFRAPP, HANNAH PEEL, IAMX, KOVAK, MOBY, NIGHT ENGINE, NINE INCH NAILS, SAY LOU LOU, and SOFT METALS have just missed inclusion too!

So the songs on this alphabetical list have been released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year with a limit of one song per artist moniker.


ADULT. Idle (Second Thoughts)

The new ADULT. album ‘The Way Things Fall’ was fittingly described by one observer as “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell”. The fears of relationships and the outside world have very much fuelled the dystopian demeanour of ADULT. While still retaining their distinctive edge, their mutant love songs have a magnetic charm. This was particularly evident on the fabulous single ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’, a vibrant electro hybrid of GINA X PERFORMANCE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES which showcased a strange blend of menace and melody.

Available on the album ‘The Way Things Fall’ via Ghostly International

http://adultperiod.com/


ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away

Moving away from the industrial battleground in which they made their name, ANALOG ANGEL began the year with the enjoyably immediate ‘We Won’t Walk Away’, a laudable tribute to OMD’s classic ‘Organisation’ era. Complete with primary chord structures, one-fingered melodies and motorik rhythm programming, there was even a hint of the dulcet tones of Andy McCluskey in John Brown’s vocal. But just one thing though… Paul Humphreys wants his Prophet 5 back 😉

Available on the download EP ‘Pride’ via Carbon 12 Records

http://www.analog-angel.com/


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw KARL BARTOS conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. The most straightforward pop song on the ‘Off The Record’ album, its autobiographical resignation was not unlike ‘Life’ from ‘Communication’. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat”, a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him to madness and out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEF feat DAVID J ROCH Same Love

The concept of BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ is dark interpretations of perceivably upbeat songs using a variety of guest vocalists. One of the beauties of this type of project is how seemingly incongruous elements are fused together for a blissful whole. Here, melodramatic Sheffield singer/songwriter DAVID J ROCH tackles BILL WITHERS’ ‘Same Love’ via Martyn Ware’s wonderful arrangement blending a neo-acapella intro into a meaty electro-disco tune with spacey whistles and haunting invader games like GIORGIO MORODER producing SPACE’s ‘Magic Fly’.

Available on the album ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ via Wall Of Sound

http://www.britishelectricfoundation.com


MARGARET BERGER I Feed You My Love

Co-written by Swedish electro songstress KARIN PARK, Norway’s Eurovision Song Contest 2013 entry came fourth. ‘I Feed You My Love’ was like ROBYN and KELLY CLARKSON fronting ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ era DEPECHE MODE. In fact, its performer MARGARET BERGER came second in the 2004 series of Norwegian Idol so the description was quite apt. The on-paper incongruous outcome was leftfield by Eurovision standards but perhaps not entirely shockingly, it got nul points from the United Kingdom; it summed up mainstream tastes in the UK and the country’s general Euro scepticism if nothing else!

Available as a download single via Macho Records

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Berger/101820056564427


CHVRCHES The Mother We Share

The saviours of synthpop had an amazing year with sold out club shows and five dates supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe. CHVRCHES‘ most accessible track ‘The Mother We Share’ was synthpop perfection with the concept of TAYLOR SWIFT gone electro having uprooted to Berlin. It deservedly scooped Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Music Prize for best UK single. Despite its wonderfully catchy chorus, it was not wholly bubblegum with its plethora of futuristic sounds and strange noises! Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty delivered on their promise with an impressive debut album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, save the two incongruous indie synth numbers sung by Doherty!

Available on the album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ via Virgin Records

http://www.chvrch.es/


ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are led by Chris Payne, the keyboard and viola virtuoso who was a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979 to 89 and featured prominently on the Top10 single ‘Complex’. He notably co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ which became a huge international hit for VISAGE. With his adopted home surroundings very much the backbone of ‘Roundabout’, the track itself possessed a sexy and authentic Gallic charm, courtesy of Chris’ wife Dominique. The exquisite, almost naïve vocals over the most incessant synth riff either had listeners dancing with delight or irritated to the point of submission… the seemingly banal words were actually a very clever metaphor for midlife!

Available as a download single via Coverdrive Records

http://www.electronic-circus.com


FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent

It had to happen and the world found its female DEPECHE MODE! Led by vocalist / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, the sound was probably more like post-apocalyptic BANGLES or BELINDA CARLISLE with gothic overtones in hindsight. The first single ‘Land Of The Innocent’ was a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ and driven by a hard incessant beat. Possessing an industrial gloom with an enlightening pop sensibility, it was what LADYTRON would have sounded like if they had formed in a Texan desert rather than spectre of Merseyside!!

Available on the album ‘If All Now Here’ via http://feathers.bandcamp.com/

http://www.feathers.fm/


FOTONOVELA feat MIRRORS Our Sorrow

Not content with producing MARSHEAUX and collaborating with OMD on ‘Helen Of Troy’, Greek production duo FOTONOVELA unveiled a new sophomore opus which was more song based using a number of prominent international vocalists. One of the numbers ‘Our Sorrow’ featured the majestic voice of James New from the missing-in-action MIRRORS. The string synth laden ditty was in the vein of classic OMD and with the South Coast combo calling it a day in 2013, this was a fitting way to depart The Hall Of Mirrors.

Available on the album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records

http://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela

http://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline

JOHN FOXX and JORI HULKKONEN had worked together previously but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their latest collaboration took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly. The title of the parent EP said it all…

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica 6

Nobody really knows for sure who are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS but names like Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner and Bruce LeeFax are commensurate with their manifesto “to thrive on causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. ‘Jessica 6’ is a tribute to the cult Sci-Fi favourite ‘Logan’s Run’. The eerie post-punk cacophony laced with icy Yamaha string machine makes it the perfect belated choice for the soundtrack. Add in a frantic reverbed backbeat and it all comes over like THE PIPETTES fronting collaboration between JOY DIVISION and OMD.

Available as a download single via Squirrel Records

http://www.squirrelrecords.co.uk/girl-one-and-the-grease-guns/


GOLDFRAPP Thea

From a long player with distinctly orchestrated and acoustic overtones, ‘Thea’ was the most overtly electronic song on ‘Tales Of Us’. Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal soared angelically, surrounded by very subtle synthetic dance textures and layers of percussive craft. While the beat was mechanical, it didn’t sound out of place on the very organic parent album.

Available on the album ‘Tales Of Us’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com


KID MOXIE The Bailor

kid moxie-the bailorKID MOXIE is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles based Elena Charbila. Her first full length album ‘Selector’ was bolstered by a MARSHEAUX remix of its best song ‘Medium Pleasure’. Always sounding her best when adopting a breathy continental vocal style, Elena Charbila recorded possibly her best song yet as KID MOXIE with ‘The Bailor’, a dreamy and sexy tunes that glistened in the Aegean Sea. The Wayfarer remix of the song was also issued later in the year in aid of The David Lynch Foundation .

Available as a download single via Kid Moxie

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


MARNIE The Hunter

LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her long awaited debut solo album ‘Crystal World’ in the summer. Recorded in Iceland, it suitably captured the island’s beautifully relaxed but volatile atmosphere. Its opening track ‘The Hunter’ was a tremendous calling card and the vibrant electropop single that LADYTRON never quite got round to releasing. Very pretty and delectably glacial, the tune was vocally and musically expansive like an Arctic escapist fantasy, melancholic but free of doom.

Available on the album ‘Crystal World’ via Les Disques Du Crespuscle

http://www.facebook.com/helen.marnie.official


MARSHEAUX August Day

MARSHEAUX’s fourth album ‘Inhale’ had been a long time coming. And it appeared as though the Greek financial crisis had loomed heavy over its making, resulting in moodier, midtempo numbers taking centre stage. ‘August Day’ though was a grower, developing on the maturer outlook apparent on the album’s concept, with a hint of CHVRCHES’ steadier paced output. Less immediate but overwhelmingly dreamy, it captured the senses after multiple listens.

Available on the album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records

http://www.marsheaux.com


MESH The Way I Feel

MESH’s founders Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn know their audience so the lattice of danceable electro-rock continued on their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. But the beautiful ‘The Way I Feel’ showed a more sensitive side with hints of Ennio Morricone. Shaped by acoustic guitar and string machine washes, the atmospheric maturity that MESH were now showcasing was a welcome surprise.

Available on the album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent

http://www.mesh.co.uk/


MONARCHY feat DITA VON TEESE Disintegration

MONARCHY’s ‘Disintegration’ featured the sexy burlesque queen DITA VON TEESE on vocals. With its vampish disco crashing into elements of GIORGIO MORODER, it sounded like the SCISSOR SISTERS gone right and even threw in a few VISAGE frequency warbles! ‘Disintegration’ was a rather excellent, stomping floor filler of the first degree with some hook laden energy and cooing feline appeal.

Available as a download single via Hacan Sound

http://www.monarchysound.com/

http://www.dita.net/


GIORGIO MORODER Racer

GIORGIO MORODER is now 73 years old but is as vital as ever having produced the dance track of the year! Commissioned by Google Chrome for their online game ‘Racer’, the piano line was like ULTRAVOX reworked for Studio 54 while the whirring synths and trancey elements made it come over like history of modern electronic dance music squashed into 4 minutes. But as these ideas were mostly borrowed from Da Maestro himself, it was now his time to grab it all back. Moroder easily rivalled any young hopeful with a set of double decks and a laptop.

Available as a free download single via Google Play

http://www.moroder.net/


ALISON MOYET Changeling

AlisonMoyet-changelingALISON MOYET made a return to the electronic experimentation that made her famous as one half of YAZOO on her new album ‘the minutes’. With contemporary synthesized backing over a powerful rhythm construction and stuttering guitar textures courtesy of new collaborator Guy Sigsworth, Moyet’s deep emotional vocal resonated on ‘Changeling’ with a confidence and energy that dispelled the public’s perception of her as just a jazz singer!

Available on the album ‘the minutes’ via Cooking Vinyl.

http://www.alisonmoyet.com


NIGHT CLUB Poisonous

NIGHT CLUB Love CaSUALTYPositively feline but dysfunctionally dark like Britney gone emo, NIGHT CLUB‘s cutely subversive ‘Poisonous’ based itself, like STEFY’s lost 2007 single ‘Chelsea’, around the riff of ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. This superb slice of catchy electronic pop from the LA combo of Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks roused with a huge crossover potential while possessing a sinister edge.

Available on the download EP ‘Love Casualty’ via Gato Blanco

http://nightclubband.com


NOBLESSE OBLIGE Hotel California

NOBLESSE OBLIGE are French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp who specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. NOBLESSE OBLIGE’s lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlights the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer interpretation of the original song’s iconic twin guitar solo will either be seen as total genius or sacrilege!

Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records

http://www.noblesseoblige.co.uk/


GARY NUMAN Who Are You?

‘Who Are You?’ is one of those great uptempo anthemic songs in the vein of ‘Listen To My Voice’ from 2000’s ‘Pure’ that confirms when GARY NUMAN hits the target, he hits bulls-eye! Written for a film about a musician with schizophrenic personality, it fitted well with the parent album ‘Splinter’ and its ‘Songs From A Broken Mind’. The album wasn’t just one-dimensional riff monsters and the varied material was some of Numan’s best work for years.

Available on the album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ via Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl

http://www.numan.co.uk


OMD Stay With Me

OMD-English-ElectricThe standard of ‘English Electric’ was so high that any one of its song based tracks could have made the list. But ‘Stay With Me’ is the album’s hidden gem. The first Paul Humphreys lead vocal for OMD since 1986’s ‘Forever Live & Die’, the song was originally demoed as ‘Idea 3’ and voiced by Andy McCluskey. Ever the master of melody and inspired by events around him, Humphreys reworked it into a more straightforward love song but added a beautiful cinematic resonance. It came over like ‘Love Theme From St Elmo’s Fire’ meets ‘Souvenir’ with subtle lashings of white noise!

Available on the album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

https://www.omd.uk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Fluorescent

“Incandescent…”; yes the hypnotic ‘Fluorescent’ was basically a buzzy dancefloor makeover of ‘Fade To Grey’ with the chilling Polymoog string preset from VISAGE’s original remaining in the mix while waves of synth sirens attacked it like a Martian invasion. The parent album was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature, and easily the PET SHOP BOYS‘ best body of work since ‘Very’. It more than made up for 2012’s lame duck ‘Elysium’…

Available on the album ‘Electric’ via X2 / Kobalt Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk


QUEEN OF HEARTS United

A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder who previously has remixed JOHN FOXX, DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS, QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provides the heat! Yet ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side of the less satisfactory ‘Secret’. However, if songs like this are being seen as outtakes, this is all a good sign for her debut album in 2014 which is eagerly awaited…

Available on the download EP ‘Secret’ via Night Moves

http://iamqueenofhearts.com/


REPUBLICA Christiana Obey (TENEK remix)

Originally, written by Saffron with noted producer Andy Gray, ‘Christiana Obey’ had been doing the airplay rounds in 2012 but finally secured a formal release to coincide with REPUBLICA’s touring comeback this year. With its suitably big chorus, Saffron was on good anthemic form while a meaty remix from TENEK enhanced the song even further and made it ready to go!

Available on the EP ‘Christiana Obey’ via Republica Music

http://www.republicamusic.co.uk/


POLLY SCATTERGOOD Wanderlust

POLLY SCATTERGOOD made her debut in 2009 with a self-titled album released on the iconic Mute Records. With key influences such as BJORK and KATE BUSH, it combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. From her second album ‘Arrows’, ‘Wanderlust’ realised her potential with a slice of deliciously wired avant pop in the GOLDFRAPP vein, although closer scrutiny revealed it to be more like electronic COCTEAU TWINS with that rousing air of fragility.

Available on the album ‘Arrows’ via Mute Artists

http://www.pollyscattergood.com/


SIN COS TAN Moonstruck

The Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen swiftly followed up their acclaimed eponymous debut of 2012 with ‘Afterlife’. Hulkkonen told The Electricity Club back in 2011 that it was being a fan of PET SHOP BOYS that inspired him to make music. ‘Moonstruck’ is a fine melancholic beat ballad in the Tennant/Lowe tradition where Paalosmaa’s emotive lost boy demeanour blends wonderfully with the sweeping drifts and building swathes of synth strings. It is also possibly the best song of its type that Neil and Chris never recorded.

Available on the album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records

http://sincostan.net/


VILE ELECTRODES Damaged Software

Like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ORBITAL, ‘Damaged Software’ was an enticing piece of electro from Anais Neon and Martin Swan which affirmed their status as Britain’s premiere independent synth duo. With a tour supporting OMD in Germany where they encountered the likes of Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür backstage, their vile adventure of meeting former KRAFTWERK members continued when they shared the bill with Michael Rother at Elektrofest. Three years in the making, the parent album ‘The future through a lens’ was well worth the wait.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-through-a-lens

http://www.vileelectrodes.co.uk


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, the album’s magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ was not actually a celebration of illicit substance use. Voiced brilliantly by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler, WESTBAM himself said it was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. From a brilliant album that also featured vocalists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Bernard Sumner, Brian Molko, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, ‘Götterstrasse’ was the surprise electronic release of the year.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music Germany

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2013

End Of Year Review 2013

The Correct Use Of VCOs

The year started appropriately enough with an electronic number ‘2013’ by Belgian duo METROLAND.

For the first six or seven months of 2013, it proved to be one of the most productive periods in electronic pop music. Not since the Autumn of 1981 when had so many significant releases coincided. It was strangely quality and quantity, a rare occurance in modern times for music, especially of the synth propelled variety.

That time saw THE HUMAN LEAGUE ‘Dare’, GARY NUMAN ‘Dance’, ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’, DEPECHE MODE ‘Speak & Spell’, SOFT CELL ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’, HEAVEN 17 ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, SIMPLE MINDS ‘Sons & Fascination’, NEW ORDER ‘Movement’, JAPAN ‘Tin Drum’ and OMD ‘Architecture & Morality’ all coming out within weeks of each other!

Interestingly from that list, only JAPAN and SOFT CELL are missing as currently performing entities although MARC ALMOND himself made a number of concert and theatrical appearances during the year.

OMD got back to their Kling Klang roots with their best album in 30 years entitled ‘English Electric’. Although enthusiasts of the band’s pioneering work were satisfied, fans of OMD’s pop phase were confused as to why Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys had recorded an electronic album influenced by KRAFTWERK! This was an indicator of how the band have mutated and been perceived over the years.

But that was nothing compared with DEPECHE MODE whose single ‘Soothe My Soul’ was remixed by ZZ TOP’s Billy F Gibbons… although recognisably reworked, listeners could barely notice the join, thus fully confirming DM’s development into the world’s premiere stadium electro blues combo. Their album ‘Delta Machine’ was a big improvement on 2009’s ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, but it was no ‘English Electric’.

Among the other evergreens with new long players in 2013 were PET SHOP BOYS, ALISON MOYET and BEF.

Messrs Tennant and Lowe finally worked with the ubiquitous Stuart Price to produce an album that was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature.

Meanwhile Moyet found her most musically compatible partner since Vince Clarke in Guy Sigsworth for the stunning return to form of ‘the minutes’.

Over at BEF, Martyn Ware assembled his most impressive cast of guest vocalists yet including ERASURE’s Andy Bell and CULTURE CLUB’s Boy George for the third volume of the ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ covers series; subtitled ‘Dark’, it featured some of Ware’s most starkly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Another welcome return came from electronic disco pioneer GIORGIO MORODER. The icon is now 73 years old yet with his stomping track ‘Racer’, he proved could mix it with all the young pretenders. Indeed, his autobiographical contribution to DAFT PUNK’s tribute ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ reflected the respect and admiration he holds within the dance world.

Although only a few years younger, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter showed no real signs of moving his iconic brand forward despite the 3D spectacle of ‘Der Katalog 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8’ live retrospectives in Düsseldorf, London, Tokyo and Sydney.

With the various hosting art spaces still seeing their ticketing systems collapse, was this really just an elaborate publicity stunt? After all, how many heritage acts get on the news for sending websites into meltdown?

It certainly didn’t do KRAFTWERK any harm as a headlining slot at Latitude Festival and its resultant BBC TV coverage proved. However, new material was still not forthcoming but such is the demand that several unscrupulous eBay dealers in Russia were passing off CD-Rs of three tracks from METROLAND’s 2012 album ‘Mind The Gap’ as KRAFTWERK demos!

Meanwhile, former colleague KARL BARTOS exorcised his Kling Klang ghost with ‘Off The Record’, a collection of his unreleased KRAFTWERK-era compositions which made a fine companion to OMD’s ‘English Electric’; his upcoming 2014 world tour is eagerly anticipated.

visage2013

Photo by David Levine

ULTRAVOX opened for SIMPLE MINDS but with Midge Ure spending most of the year doing the rounds with solo acoustic gigs, their synth lynchpin Billy Currie released his ninth solo offering ‘Balletic Transcend’.

Meanwhile in a revival of a project that both had been involved in, a fragmented VISAGE unleashed their first album in nearly 30 years to a mixed reception.

With just Steve Strange remaining from the original line-up, ‘Hearts & Knives’ was essentially a solo project.

There were heated exchanges on social networks between Strange and his estranged Blitz Club partner Rusty Egan about misappropriated royalties and the validity of the reconfigured brand. Whatever, the raw video recording of the new VISAGE performing ‘Fade To Grey’ live at London’s Hoxton Bar and Kitchen stood as possibly the most embarrassing moment of the year.

Artists who made their name during Electroclash such as ADULT. and MISS KITTIN made welcome returns in 2013 while also from that era, LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her first solo offering ‘Crystal World’ crowd funded via Pledge Music.

It was a novel but effective way of securing a promotional budget that involved fans in the process by offering exclusive updates and an opportunity to purchase exclusive memorabilia. In MARNIE’s case, items on sale ranged from hand written lyric sheets to her Mini-Cooper and a bikini!

Meanwhile, former SNEAKER PIMPS sparring partners IAMX and KELLI ALI also went down the Pledge Music route, pointing the way forward to a music industry future without interference from record label middle men. But the failure of several crowd funding campaigns proved the model was not for everyone.

The Britpop era was not particularly known for its use of electronics but two acts who did indulge, REPUBLICA and DUBSTAR, made formal comebacks on the live circuit in 2013.

mesh-webSeeded from around the same time, Bristol’s MESH made possibly their best album yet in ‘Automation Baby’. Celebrating 30 years in the business, techno icon WESTBAM assembled a diverse cast including IGGY POP, LIL’ WAYNE, THE STRANGLERS’ Hugh Cornwall, NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner and THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler for an intriguing set called ‘Götterstrasse’. It was the surprise electronic release of the year.

There were also sophomore albums from LITTLE BOOTS, HURTS and AUSTRA which all drew muted responses from fans following their well received debuts; the promising spark had been present in all three acts appeared to have faded although each album had strong highlights. But there were impressive debuts in 2013 by GHOST CAPSULES, COLLINS and MODOVAR; and all this happened before the summer had started!

On the more guitar driven end of the spectrum, NIGHT ENGINE pursued an art rock aesthetic that would have made Berlin-era DAVID BOWIE proud. And of course, The Dame himself returned with ‘The Next Day’ headed by the touchingly reflective ‘Where Are We Now?’.

Adopting a more post-punk attitude, GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS showed how battered synths, clanky guitars and motorik drums could still come together in perfect harmony while maintaining an air of mystery.

Meanwhile, WHITE LIES continued their New wave odyssey into how THE TEARDROP EXPLODES would have sounded had Julian Cope not got upset by BLANCMANGE’s ‘Happy Families’; they even borrowed a snatch of ‘Fade To Grey’ for the title track of their third album ‘Big TV’. This was despite the mainstream music media’s attempt to downplay their use of synths although the band countered that by declaring TEARS FOR FEARS, TALK TALK and THE BLUE NILE as kindred spirits rather than INTERPOL or EDITORS.

The second half of the year brought the much anticipated debut from CHVRCHES entitled ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. The trio have moved the goalposts as far as modern synthpop is concerned but they were not without their flaws such as the inexplicable decision to use dreary indie-styled male lead vocals on a pair of tracks.

But despite this, with sold out club tours, gigs supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe and the might of Virgin Records behind them, world domination surely beckons and with it, a new raised profile for the synthesizer overall.

Virgin Records themselves celebrated 40 years in the business with a series of London concerts and its legacy in electronic music was represented by CHVRCHES, HEAVEN 17, SCRITTI POLITTI and SIMPLE MINDS. Although the label is now owned by the Universal Corporation (having been under the control of EMI since 1992), its colourful history remains associated with the championing of new and unconventional music forms during its fledgling years.

And in a diversion from music, one-time Virgin signee THOMAS DOLBY produced and directed ‘The Invisible Lighthouse’, a documentary on a monument local to his childhood home. In a novel style of presentation, the film went on a tour accompanied by a live narration and soundtrack from TMDR with some of his songs dispersed in between.

GARY NUMAN’s long delayed ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ finally became a reality. A move to LA relaxed him to the point where he was posting his holiday photos on Twitter!

Musically though, he was as intense as ever but luckily, ‘Splinter’ was not the one dimensional riff monster that had been threatened and contained some of his best work in over ten years. Interestingly NINE INCH NAILS, who have been a major influence on Numan and vice versa, also returned after a period of absence with ‘Hesitation Marks’.

Over at Mute, there was another Sorcerer versus Apprentice battle when GOLDFRAPP and POLLY SCATTERGOOD both released new records in the same month. Now no longer on Mute but very much still part of the extended family, MOBY released the impressive ‘Innocents’ which didn’t tinker too much with his well established formula and included a great collaboration with Wayne Coyne of FLAMING LIPS that sounded like GARY NUMAN in a Pentecostal church!

In 2013, North America appeared to be turning into a new haven for synth talent. There was LA pop duo NIGHT CLUB while also based in the region, SOFT METALS continued their Detroit Techno inspired progression with ‘Lenses’. Slightly eastwards, Texan based FEATHERS made an impressive statement with their debut long player ‘If All Now Here’; a European tour supporting DEPECHE MODE in January 2014 was fine recognition of their talent.

Fellow Texans ELEVEN:ELEVEN finally got their debut album ‘Through The Veil’ out too. New Yorkers HOLY GHOST! sprung the enjoyable electronic disco of ‘Dynamics’ while also from the area, AU REVOIR SIMONE returned with their fourth album ‘Move In Spectrums’ after an extended break.

But one slow burning combo were Canada’s TR/ST; led by the enigmatic and moody Robert Alfons, at times he sounded like a young LEONARD COHEN updating the sleazy demeanour of SOFT CELL. They toured extensively and garnered some more well deserved attention for their grower of a debut ‘Trst’ which actually came out back in January 2012!

However, all the good work was undone by a ticket lottery fiasco for an end of year London gig in which unsuccessful applicants were not notified until three hours before the concert, this despite communications to the contrary telling people to arrive at the door with ID. In this ever more challenging music industry, artists have to be innovative with promotion. But restricting availability and tricking fans into what was effectively a marketing scam for a larger London concert in May 2014 only alienated audiences.

Like in previous years, Europe was again a centre of creativity. Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX were back with their maturer fourth album ‘Inhale’.

Meanwhile, their production team FOTONOVELA gathered DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood, MIRRORS’ James New, KID MOXIE and SECTION 25’s Bethany Cassidy for ‘A Ton Of Love’ while riding on a crest of a wave from ‘Helen Of Troy’, their acclaimed collaboration with OMD.

The song ‘Our Sorrow’ featuring James New turned out to be particularly poignant as after a year of minimal activity, MIRRORS called it a day.

From their Berlin HQ, NOBLESSE OBLIGE delivered an ‘Affair Of The Heart’ with its stark funereal cover of ‘Hotel California’ while Slovenian trio TORUL impressed audiences opening for MESH. Still fiercely independent and uncompromising, THE KNIFE divided opinion with their performance art presentation of their experimental double opus ‘Shaking The Habitual’. From Demark, TRENTEMØLLER delivered his third album ‘Lost’, an adventurous blend of real and electronic instruments that more than proved his suitability as a future prospective DEPECHE MODE producer.

With the critical acclaim still resonant for her 2012 album ‘Highwire Poetry’, KARIN PARK continued to tour the world but found time to co-write Norway’s Eurovision entry ‘I Feed You My Love’. Sung by MARGARET BERGER and leftfield by pure pop standards, it came a respectable fourth but predictably, the UK gave it nul points! Following their wonderful eponymous debut album in 2012, SIN COS TAN swiftly followed it up with the more organic but still synth friendly ‘Afterlife’.

Never one to sit still, the duo’s JORI HULKKONEN also released an EP ‘European Splendour’ with JOHN FOXX which sounded every bit as good as its title. Foxx didn’t sit still either and collaborated with THE BELBURY CIRCLE while also curating a covers EP of his own songs featuring GAZELLE TWIN and I SPEAK MACHINE.

Back in the UK, ANALOG ANGEL, AUTOMATIC WRITINGF.O.X, GAPTOOTH and MAPS flew the flag for the domestic scene.

But best of the local crew though were VILE ELECTRODES; they snagged a prestigious support tour with OMD in Germany where the local crowds connected with Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s analogue electricity and opened for JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in Brighton on their return. Their long awaited debut LP ‘The future through a lens’ did not disappoint and from it, the closer ‘Deep Red’ was easily the best OMD song that Humphreys and McCluskey never recorded.

As with last year, attempts were made within the industry to centralise electronic pop and dance music. But as the cancellation of the Playground Festival due to poor ticket sales proved, the two factions do not mix. Scheduled to appear on the Saturday, despite the technological influence of GARY NUMAN, JOHN FOXX and WOLFGANG FLÜR on the dance scene, the fans of those artists generally loathe the lifestyle and attitude of club culture.

Most just want to see the headline act and go home… the idea of paying an extra premium on the ticket price for a couple of DJs tagged on the see out the early hours of the morning simply doesn’t appeal! And those who are there for the DJs and larging it certainly aren’t interested in live bands. The sooner promoters and record labels realise that electronic pop and dance music are NOT the same thing, the better. That said, it was a difficult time for live events generally with a number of name acts playing to half full venues.

Elsewhere, the music press were on the backfoot with rumours that the once mighty Q Magazine and NME were in trouble. But lazy journalism and lack of adventure by both were as much to blame as any proliferation of the internet or smart technology. That aside, 2013 was a superb year where the music spoke for itself. Many of the veterans gave the best up-and-coming artists a real run for their money.

And while the amount of new electronic music was at an all time high and the finest exponents rewarded with assorted high-profile opportunities as a result, a number of lesser accomplished acts suffered from the comparison with the best.

MARNIE said: “I think it’s great that electronic music is on a high right now but it’s so saturated as well. Everyone’s going it’s great cos it’s electronic and I’m like ‘I’m not so sure’… but there’s lots of good stuff”.

In fact, the standard was so high in 2013 that some of the acts who ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featured in 2012 probably wouldn’t have got a look in this year. From those who sounded like the middling bands featured on the Janice Long Show circa 1985 to 21st Century synthpop reincarnations of HUE & CRY, the volume of music available in many ways made it quite easy to distinguish the excellent from the pleasant but ordinary material that was, as the dreaded ‘Say Nothing Auntie Of Landfill Indie’ Jo Whiley would say, “alright”!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK accepts the continuing mission to maintain a degree of quality control in 2014 as it has done since its inception.

As @TheRobMo put it on Twitter: “gatekeepers / tastemakers… it’s what we go to you for”. Meanwhile on the site’s Facebook, regular reader Brian O’Malley correctly added: “Not all synth music is great, and not all guitar music is rubbish”.

But the final word on 2013 must go to BEF and Glenn Gregory (or HEAVEN 17 if you prefer) via their electronic cover of an Ervin Drake song made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes:

“And it poured sweet and clear… it was a very good year”


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2013

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAPS Vicissitude
Best Song: MAPS Built To Last (Free School Remix)
Best Gig: ALISON MOYET at London Royal Festival Hall
Best Video: HOLY GHOST! Dumb Disco Ideas
Most Promising New Act: JUVENILES


KAREN BUXTON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens
Best Song: HURTS Someone to Die For
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Leipzig Haus Auensee
Best Video: OMD Night Cafe
Most Promising New Act: MARTYN BAILEY


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: GARY NUMAN Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)
Best Song: COVENANT Last Dance
Best Gig: GAZELLE TWIN at London Roundhouse Studio Theatre
Best Video: TRUST Bulbform
Most Promising New Act: TRUST


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: CHVRCHES The Bones Of What You Believe
Best Song: MARGARET BERGER I Feed You My Love
Best Gig: BAS 2013
Best Video: IAMX I Come With Knives
Most Promising New Act: TORUL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: OMD English Electric
Best Song: FOTONOVELA feat MIRRORS Our Sorrow
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Cologne E-Werk
Best Video: FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent
Most Promising New Act: FEATHERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ALISON MOYET the minutes
Best Song: SPACEBUOY Breathe
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Copenhagen Parken
Best Video: DEPECHE MODE Soothe My Soul
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: PET SHOP BOYS Electric
Best Song: OMD Dresden
Best Gig: KARIN PARK at The Lexington
Best Video: MONARCHY featuring DITA VON TEESE Disintegration
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2013

BEF Live At Shepherds Bush Empire

BEF finally played the first of two special concerts featuring an impressive line-up of guest vocalists to celebrate the three volume high-tech covers series ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ and in particular, the latest release subtitled ‘Dark’.

Announced on stage by its musical director Martyn Ware as “the last ever BEF concerts”, the production company made its live debut as part of a dual weekender with its most successful subsidiary HEAVEN 17 in Autumn 2011.

Taking place at The Roundhouse in London, it was a gloriously ambitious outing which included the likes of Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Kim Wilde and Midge Ure. Tonight’s show was in the slightly more intimate confines of Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

It provided an opportunity to showcase a number of songs that had not been aired at the last BEF show. It is always to their credit that the BEF / HEAVEN 17 umbrella always give value for money to their loyal followers by varying setlists, something which other acts from the Synth Britannia era who still tour could learn from.

Naturally, Glenn Gregory opened proceedings with a song that could be seen as 2013’s electronic music scene theme tune ‘It Was a Very Good Year’.

With its eerie HUMAN LEAGUE meets THE FUGEES breakbeat arrangement, it was a fine opening that reflected Martyn Ware’s electronic roots with his love of contemporary soul and classic songwriting.

But there were surprises from the off…

First guest Andy Bell from ERASURE gave an emotive rendition of QUEEN’s ‘Love Of My Life’ in addition to his contribution to the impressively diverse ‘Dark’, KATE BUSH’s ‘Breathing’.  Then one of the ‘Dark’ album’s best numbers ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ got its premiere courtesy of COMMUNARDS singer Sarah Jane-Morris.

The contrast of her deep blues with the blippy electronics came over like a darker gothic version of YAZOO. Slightly more laid back but no less dramatic, her version of ‘Family Affair’ also highlighted the funkier standpoints of the BEF sound.

HEAVEN 17’s contemporaries SCRITTI POLITTI’s Green Gartside and PROPAGANDA’s Claudia Brücken took their turns on the stage with Green reprising his raspy tones on ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’ and ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’. Meanwhile Claudia (who didn’t actually appear on the ‘Dark’ album as she was recording her own covers LP ‘The Lost Are Found’) gave a beautifully Germanic edged realisation of ‘The Look of Love’ that recalled ‘Felt Mountain’ era GOLDFRAPP and a finger-clickin’ good ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’.

But there were a trio of amazingly heartfelt performances; first Glenn Gregory performed ‘Party Fears Two’ which he first sung at this very same venue in 2007 for the Billy Mackenzie 50th Birthday Tribute Concert.

It was a fitting remembrance of the late vocalist from THE ASSOCIATES who sang on Volumes 1 and 2. Trained undertaker and singer/songwriter David J Roch gave his Moroder-esque spacey disco take of Bill Withers’ ‘Same Love’, one of the stand-out tracks on ‘Dark’.

However, the biggest surprise of the evening came when regular HEAVEN 17 / BEF live band member Berenice Scott stepped out from behind her keyboards for a dazzling cinematic rendition of BLONDIE’s ‘Picture This’.

Endearingly sung by “possibly the sexiest lady ever to have got behind a synthesizer”, the crowd was aghast with her vocal abilities; it came as such a surprise that it almost stole the show. The extremely modest Miss Scott though had actually ventured back to her keys before the lengthy song’s conclusion, so didn’t quite feel the full weight of applause that acknowledged her performance.

On the final stretch, The Swiss Family Wilde took to the stage with Kim joined by her niece Scarlett and brother Ricky for a Motown triple tribute. Beginning with the magnificent but little known Stevie Wonder composition ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’, the spine tingling industrial backdrop suited Ms Wilde’s vampish demeanour. Then it was a pair of Hitsville classics that featured on the first volume of ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ series ‘There’s A Ghost in My House’ and ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ which Kim had a hit with herself back in 1986.

With Tamla influences very much dominating this section of the show, it was appropriate that to finish was an extended workout of ‘Temptation’. Centred around the band’s two backing vocalists Billie Godfrey and Kelly Barnes, the pair had already demonstrated their power particularly on their respective interpretations of ‘Smalltown Boy’ and ‘Just Walk In My Shoes’. The spectacle of the pair engaged in a battle of the disco lung smiths was a wondrous delight

This evening of fun and frolics was a marvellous achievement on the part of Martyn Ware and the BEF band Asa Bennett, Julian Crampton and Berenice Scott for their abilities and professionalism in learning and playing so many songs for effectively a one-off event. It is a shame that there will be no more BEF events such as these but they are an extremely big logistical undertaking. But then again, for anyone who attended this or the Sheffield Academy show, or The Roundhouse back in 2011, these will be special memories to be cherished for a long time.


Setlist:

It Was A Very Good Year (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Breathing (featuring Andy Bell)

Love Of My Life (featuring Andy Bell)

Don’t Want to Know (featuring Sarah Jane Morris)

Family Affair (featuring Sarah Jane Morris)

Smalltown Boy (featuring Billie Godfrey)

Free (featuring Billie Godfrey)

Co-Pilot The Pilot (featuring Kelly Barnes)

Walk In My Shoes (featuring Kelly Barnes)

Party Fears Two (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time (featuring Green Gartside)

I Don’t Know Why I Love You (featuring Green Gartside)

Picture This (featuring Berenice Scott)

The Look Of Love (featuring Claudia Brücken)

These Boots Were Made For Walking (featuring Claudia Brücken)

Every Time I See You Go Wild (featuring Kim Wilde)

There’s A Ghost In My House (featuring Kim Wilde)

You Keep Me Hanging On (featuring Kim Wilde)

Boys Keep Swinging (featuring Glenn Gregory)

Temptation (featuring Glenn Gregory, Billie Godfrey and Kelly Barnes)


‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3 – Dark’ is released by Wall Of Sound and available as a CD and download

‘Martyn Ware Presents…’ takes place as part of the Virgin 40 celebrations at London’s Koko on Monday 11th November 2013.

Material spanning his entire career will be performed including HEAVEN 17 and from his time as a founder member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Please visit  http://www.koko.uk.com/listings/martyn-ware-presents-heaven-17-11-11-2013 and http://www.virgin40.com/ for more details

http://www.britishelectricfoundation.com

http://www.facebook.com/BritishElectricFoundation/

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
9th October 2013

The Electronic Legacy of VIRGIN RECORDS

Virgin Records celebrates its 40th Anniversary.

Although the label is now owned by the Universal Music Group, its colourful history is forever associated with the championing of new and unconventional music forms during its fledgling years.

Virgin founder Richard Branson started his empire in 1970 with nothing more than a mail order outlet, selling discounted records. The name Virgin came from the fact that Branson and his team of directors were all new to business. There then came a small record shop in London’s Oxford Street a year later.

Not not long after, a residential recording complex in an Oxfordshire mansion which became the now-famous Manor Studios was established. Further shops opened so with the success of the retail arm and studio, a record label was launched in 1973.

Recognising he had no real working knowledge of music, Branson appointed his second cousin Simon Draper (who had been Virgin’s buyer) as Managing Director to seek out new talent for the new A&R led company. Beginning with Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ and the catalogue number V2001, progressive acts such as GONG along with cosmic Germans FAUST and TANGERINE DREAM soon followed, all with degrees of varying success.

But with the advent of punk and keen to shake off its hippy image, Virgin gained notoriety by signing THE SEX PISTOLS in 1977 and releasing ‘God Save The Queen’ in the process. The label courted further controversy when they issued the album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols’ to great fanfare. Virgin ended up in the dock under the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act over a poster in their Nottingham record shop.

But Branson and defending QC John Mortimer had an ace up their sleeve; Reverend James Kingsley, a professor of English Studies at Nottingham University was called as a witness. Under questioning, Kingsley was asked for the derivation of the word “bollocks”. Apparently, it was used in the 19th century as a nickname for clergymen who were known to talk rubbish and the word later developed into meaning “of nonsense”.

Wearing his clerical collar in court, Kingsley confirmed: “They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary”. The case was thrown out by the judge… after that, the label reinvented itself as a centre of post-punk and new wave creativity, signing bands such as THE RUTS, XTC, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, MAGAZINE, THE SKIDS, DEVO and PENETRATION.

When David Bowie declared THE HUMAN LEAGUE as “the future of pop music” after seeing them at the Nashville in 1978, Virgin Records were quick to snap them up. Meanwhile, OMD were initially signed to Virgin’s Factory styled subsidiary Dindisc Records under the directorship of Carol Wilson; but their success had been an embarrassment to Richard Branson, particularly in 1980 when following the international success of ‘Enola Gay’, OMD had outsold every act in the parent group!

Despite massive sales of ‘Architecture & Morality’ in 1981, the Dindisc ran into difficulties and was closed by Branson with OMD gleefully absorbed into the Virgin fold. The label threw in its lot with the synthesizer revolution and gave homes to SPARKS, JAPAN, SIMPLE MINDS, JOHN FOXX, HEAVEN 17 and CHINA CRISIS as well as more conventional acts of the period such as PHIL COLLINS, BRYAN FERRY and CULTURE CLUB.

In 1982, on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ having been a No 1 in the UK and USA, Virgin had made a profit of £2 million but by 1983, this had leaped to £11 million! Virgin Records was sold by Branson to Thorn EMI in 1992 reportedly for around £560 million to fund Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Under new management, the label became less visionary and more corporate with SPICE GIRLS, LENNY KRAVITZ, THE ROLLING STONES, MEAT LOAF and JANET JACKSON being examples of the brand’s continued global success, while many of the innovative acts who had helped build the label were surplus to requirements. Despite this, Virgin Records still maintains a tremendous back catalogue.

Over the years, Virgin Records have been in the fortunate position of having a critically acclaimed act on its roster at each key stage of electronic music’s development and its electronic legacy continues today with the recent signing of Glaswegian synth trio CHVRCHES.

So here are twenty albums from the iconic label which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK considers significant in the development of electronic music. Restricted to one album per artist moniker and featuring only UK releases initially issued on or licensed to the Virgin label, they are presented in chronological order…


TANGERINE DREAM Rubycon (1975)

‘Phaedra’ may have been the breakthrough album but the much under rated ‘Rubycon’ consolidated TANGERINE DREAM’s position as leaders in the field of meditative electronic music with a wider palette and more focussed direction. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of VCS3 and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons and organic lines added to the trancey impressionism.

‘Rubycon’ was released as V2025

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

Guitarist Manuel Göttsching had been a member of ASH RA TEMPEL but looking to explore more progressive voxless territory on ‘New Age Of Earth’, he armed himself with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and his signature keyboard, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of a more transient soloing style,  he used the guitar for texture as much as for melody. The wonderful 20 minute ‘Nightdust’ and the gently percussive ‘Sunrain’ were just two of the jewels in this beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ was released as V2080

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

Already an established member of the Virgin family as a member of GONG, solo artist and in-house producer, 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 vibe to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ was released as VR1

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


SPARKS No1 In Heaven (1979)

Following the inspirational success of ‘I Feel Love’, SPARKS were put in contact with its producer Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band. The resultant album saw Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitting well with the electronic disco template. ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ hit the UK charts a few months before TUBEWAY ARMY’s seminal ‘Are Friends Electric?’ while the follow-up ‘Beat The Clock’ actually got into the Top 10. However ‘No1 in Heaven’ overshadowed by the success of Gary Numan.

‘No1 In Heaven’ was released as V2115

http://www.allsparks.com/


JOHN FOXX Metamatic (1980)

“I want to be a machine” snarled John Foxx on ULTRAVOX’s eponymous debut and after he left the band in 1979, he virtually went the full hog with this JG Ballard inspired seminal recording. ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ were surprising hit singles that underlined the dystopian nature of Foxx’s mindset at the time while the fabulous ‘A New Kind Of Man’ and the deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ were pure unadulterated Sci-Fi driven by the cold mechanics of a Roland CR78 Compurhythm.

‘Metamatic’ was released as V2146

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980)

Dropped in 1980 by Ariola Hansa despite the Roxy-ish sound on their third album ‘Quiet Life’ being palatable with the emerging New Romantic scene, JAPAN found a refuge at Virgin. As one of the best numbers, ‘Swing’ succeeded in out Roxy-ing ROXY MUSIC while the haunting ‘Nightporter’ was the ultimate Erik Satie tribute. A new found interest in Japanese technopop saw Sylvian collaborate with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Ryuichi Sakamoto on the splendid closer ‘Taking Islands In Africa’.

‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ was released as V2180

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION Music For Stowaways (1981)

When they left THE HUMAN LEAGUE in Autumn 1980, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh formed BEF, releasing ‘Music For Stowaways’, an instrumental album only available on cassette to accessorise Sony’s brand new Stowaway portable tape player. However, the name of the new device was changed to Walkman! With economic recession decimating the industrial heartland of Sheffield, the futurist horror of ‘Music To Kill Your Parents By’ and the doom laden ‘Uptown Apocalypse’ connected with the album’s concept of a walking soundtrack to life.

‘Music For Stowaways’ was released as TCV2888

http://www.heaven17.com/bef/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare (1981)

After two albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ containing “synthesizers and vocals only” failed to set the world alight, manager Bob Last played a game of divide and rule on the original line-up. Vocalist Philip Oakey and Director of Visuals Adrian Wright would recruit Ian Burden, Jo Callis, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall to record the now classic ‘Dare’ album under the auspices of producer Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK with the heart of ABBA, it was a dreamboat collection of worldwide hits.

‘Dare’ was released as V2192

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


HEAVEN 17 Penthouse & Pavement (1981)

HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary about yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven by the then new Linn Drum Computer and embellished by the guitar and bass skills of youngster John Wilson while the ‘Penthouse’ side was more like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’.

‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was released as V2208

http://www.heaven17.com/


SIMPLE MINDS New Gold Dream (1982)

“You want to be with Virgin so bad that you’ll sign anyway” said Richard Branson to SIMPLE MINDS when they wanted to defect from Arista Records. And sign they did after the promise of US tour support. SIMPLE MINDS lost their intensity and recorded a great album filled with pretty synthesized melodies, textural guitar and driving lead bass runs. The titles like ‘Someone Somewhere In Summertime’, ‘Colours Fly & Catherine Wheel’ and ‘Hunter & The Hunted’ made investigation essential.

‘New Gold Dream’ was released as V2230

http://www.simpleminds.com/


DEVO Oh, No! It’s Devo (1982)

By 1982, DEVO had become much more of a synth based act with programmed percussion to boot. Under the helm of producer Roy Thomas Baker who had worked with both QUEEN and THE CARS, their sound moved away from the guitar dominated art rock of their Eno produced debut ‘Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!’ As quirky as ever, the album’s concept was a response to criticism from the press about their imagery… thus they asked “what would an album by fascist clowns sound like?”

‘Oh, No! It’s Devo’ was released as V2241

http://www.clubdevo.com/


OMD Dazzle Ships (1983)

For OMD’s first album for Virgin, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys delivered ‘Dazzle Ships’, a brave sonic exploration of Cold War tensions and economic corruption. Although it featured some of the band’s best work like ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’, ‘International’ and ‘Radio Waves’, ‘Dazzle Ships’ sold poorly on release. The band were strictly A&R’ed after that and never the same again, but this fractured nautical journey has since been vindicated as an experimental landmark.

‘Dazzle Ships’ was released as V2261

http://www.omd.uk.com


RYUICHI SAKAMOTO Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983)

Being the best looking member of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, it was almost inevitable that Sakamoto San would turn to acting. His first role was alongside none other than David Bowie in ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ and with it came his soundtrack. The main title theme tune resonated with emotion and traditional melody, even without the voice of David Sylvian whose dulcet tones featured on the single version retitled ‘Forbidden Colours’ while ‘The Seed & the Sower’ was also a highlight.

‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ was released as V2276

http://sitesakamoto.com/


CHINA CRISIS Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2 (1983)

Produced by Mike Howlett, ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ allowed CHINA CRISIS to deliver a more cohesive album following the four producers who steered their debut ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms – Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’! Best known for the brilliant Emulator laced hit single ‘Wishful Thinking’, the album is much more than that with melancholic synth melodies and woodwind counterpoints over a combination of real and programmed rhythm sections.

‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ was released as V2286

https://www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


DAVID SYLVIAN Brilliant Trees (1984)

By 1984, Sylvian had a lucrative solo deal that gave him total artistic control. Side one of his debut solo offering adopted more of a laid back jazz feel as on ‘The Ink in the Well’ and ‘Red Guitar’. Meanwhile the second side had synthetic Fourth World overtones with avant garde trumpetist Jon Hassell and sound painter Holger Czukay as willing conspirators, with echoes of Sylvian’s previous work with JAPAN in the funky ‘Pulling Punches’ and the emotive ‘Weathered Wall’.

‘Brilliant Trees’ was released as V2290

http://www.davidsylvian.com/


BRIAN ENO Thursday Afternoon (1985)

When CD was launched, Brian Eno’s inquisitivity asked: “what can be done now that could not be done before? What kinds of music does that suggest?”. ‘Thursday Afternoon’ was a 61 minute ambient journey that could be listened to uninterrupted on CD and the lack of surface noise meant it could also be very quiet. Using a Yamaha DX7 and minimal sustained piano, it soundtracked video paintings of the model Christine Alicino in vertical portrait format, so the TV had to be turned on its side to view it!

‘Thursday Afternoon’ was released as EGCD64

http://brian-eno.net/


PHILIP OAKEY & GIORGIO MORODER Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (1985)

‘Together in Electric Dreams’ did better than any singles from THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s lukewarm ‘Hysteria’ album. So Virgin swiftly dispatched Oakey to record an album with Moroder and it remains one of the most under rated pieces of work that either party has been involved in. The segued first side was a total delight featuring the rousing ‘Why Must The Show Go On?’ while the Donna Summer aping ‘Brand New Love (Take A Chance)’ was another highlight, along with the stupendous ‘Now’ on side two.

‘Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ was released as V2351

http://www.moroder.net/


THE BLUE NILE Hats (1989)

The Blue Nile hatsWhenever THE BLUE NILE are mentioned, it’s their 1983 album ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ that is always discussed in breathless awe. But actually, the follow-up ‘Hats’ is the trio’s crowning glory. Both albums were licensed to Virgin Records through a deal with Linn, the high quality Hi-Fi manufacturer. ‘Hats’ featured more synthesizers and drum machines. With hopeless romanticism and rainy drama, the glorious centrepieces were ‘Headlights On The Parade’ and ‘The Downtown Lights’.

‘Hats’ was released as LKH2

http://www.downloadhome.co.uk/thebluenile_dlc/thebluenile.html


THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON Lifeforms (1994)

THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON became flag bearers of avant garde electronic music and seen as successors to TANGERINE DREAM and Eno. Signing to Virgin in 1992, the duo invested in some Akai S9000 samplers and given free rein to experiment, resulting in the complex sweeps and rhythmical collages of ‘Lifeforms’. A double opus of downtempo electronic soundscapes, the influence of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop loomed heavy in the sonic playground.

‘Lifeforms’ was released as V2722

http://www.futuresoundoflondon.com/


MASSIVE ATTACK Mezzanine (1998)

Despite band relations being at an all-time low, MASSIVE ATTACK produced some of their finest work on ‘Mezzanine’. With dark undercurrents and eerie atmospherics, the album’s highpoints featured the vocals of COCTEAU TWINS’ Elizabeth Fraser on the hit single ‘Teardrop’ and the spy drama magnificence of ‘Black Milk’… Heavy on samples, the collective were sued for the unauthorised use of MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND’s 1972 song ‘Tribute’ on ‘Black Milk’!

‘Mezzanine’ was released as WBRCD4

http://www.massiveattack.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th August 2013, updated 18th February 2018

« Older posts Newer posts »