Tag: Benge (Page 1 of 11)

A Short Conversation with CREEP SHOW

CREEP SHOW are back and their second album ‘Yawning Abyss’ is possibly more accomplished than their acclaimed debut ‘Mr Dynamite’.

An electronic supergroup comprising of John Grant, Stephen Mallinder, Ben “Benge” Edwards and Phil Winter, ‘Yawning Abyss’ was produced in Cornwall at Benge’s MemeTune studio.

John Grant is a successful singer / songwriter in his own right while Stephen Mallinder first found fame as a founder member of industrial dance pioneers CABARET VOLTAIRE before joining Benge and Phil Winter in WRANGLER.

While ‘Yawning Abyss’ began as a bunch of sonic experiments using mostly Roland and Moog synths before being taken to Iceland for Grant and Mallinder to record their vocals, what particularly comes across in this sophomore CREEP SHOW adventure is its sense of fun and camaraderie, despite the tensions and menace captured within the resultant music.

With Stephen Mallinder slightly distracted by TikToker Rachel and her amusing posts about being disturbed by hearing CABARET VOLTAIRE’s ‘Soul Vine (70 Billion People)’ on a “cursed” mispressing of the Taylor Swift album ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’, he took time out from his Twitter account and sat alongside John Grant to have a quick chat with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of ‘Yawning Abyss’…

How do you look back on the making of ‘Mr Dynamite’ and its reception with your relative fan bases?

John Grant: I just remember that we had a lot of fun in the studio and didn’t really have a specific vision for the record. It was just friends seeing what they could come up with and we all had pretty hectic schedules at the time, so it wasn’t terribly easy to get together.

Stephen Mallinder: I think on reflection it was such a joy because we had no intention other than exploring all the ways the four of us connected artistically and refusing to have anything but a good time doing that. I’m glad people liked it but with respect, we did what we thought was right for us and figured that’s what people would want.

You all met up in Cornwall to lay down the musical bones of ‘Yawning Abyss’, was all the material created from scratch or were there ideas that you didn’t use in your own various guises and productions which were brought in?

John Grant: It was all from scratch.

Stephen Mallinder: It was all us from the very first note…

With this being your second album together, were there any new methods or roles in the creative dynamic that were consciously altered since ‘Mr Dynamite’? Were things even more relaxed this time round as sophomores?

John Grant: I would say we all pretty much played the same roles. Things were even more relaxed this time around. I even fell asleep a few times. While I was singing ‘Yahtzee!’ for example.

Stephen Mallinder: It was a big soup each of us adding ingredients until it tasted perfect. Yes, I had to shake the man awake in ‘Yahtzee!’

Which was everyone’s favourite synths or devices that they used on the album?

John Grant: Maybe the Serge or Mod Cam modular.

Stephen Mallinder: The modular to play hi-hats… old school wrangling…

The lyrics were written and recorded in Iceland, what did that vibe provide that wasn’t possible in Cornwall?

John Grant: I don’t think Iceland made anything possible that wasn’t possible in Cornwall. Except maybe working with engineer Kurt Uenala who has a deep knowledge of Ableton which is what we worked in during the session in Iceland. So he always has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Stephen Mallinder: Iceland was a result of needing to make the most of our available time but it did give things a twist and as John said, Kurt was great to work with and, for me, time in one of the most stunning places on earth.

‘The Bellows’ opens the album and features an array of vocal treatments and Middle Eastern resonances to set the scene?

John Grant: I’m pretty sure this is not a question.

‘Moneyback’ features an alternating avant-rap on crypto currency, how was that inspired?

John Grant: We’re always thinking about the myriad ways the money system sucks as one confronts that all day every day.

Stephen Mallinder: It was a nice way to bounce our voices together and the track pushed it into to the pacey electro vibe.

How did ‘Yahtzee!’ come into being, it’s quite bonkers!?

John Grant: It’s a meditation on the state of things in the US. Pretty much wrote itself. It’s just what came into my head for that music in that moment.

Stephen Mallinder: Pure energy from John and pulls no punches. A response from the gut to the times we live in.

It’s interesting how varied the tracks are with the trancier house influences on ‘Wise and the darker funkier territory of ‘Matinee’ as well?

John Grant: This is also not a question…

Stephen Mallinder: Variety is the spice … we ain’t one trick ponies, nor could ever be.

‘Bungalow’ is possibly the most conventional song on the album, it’s like electronic Bond theme?

John Grant: That sounds about right.

Stephen Mallinder: I think it’s the most beautiful and evocative track on the album – the perfect marrying of one of today’s greatest voices with lush, creeping electronics. An honour to do.

Do you each have a favourite track from ‘Yawning Abyss’? Would you like to do a third CREEP SHOW record?

John Grant: I love the melancholy of ‘The Bellows’ and how haunting the vocoded vox are. We definitely want to do another record.

Stephen Mallinder: I’m with John on ‘The Bellows’ but also think the title track captures what we achieved with the album.

There are a number of live dates coming up this summer, what will be the set up for that and what’s next after?

Stephen Mallinder: Come along and see… who knows what’s on the next page?


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to John Grant and Stephen Mallinder

Additional thanks to Zoe Miller at Zopf PR

‘Yawning Abyss’ is released by Bella Union, available in the usual physical and online formats via https://ffm.to/yawningabyss

CREEP SHOW 2023 UK live dates:

Blue Dot Festival (21 July), Hebden Bridge Trades Club (22 July), Latitude Festival (23 July), London, Village Underground (25 July)

http://creepshowmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/

https://twitter.com/CreepShowMusic

https://www.instagram.com/creepshowmusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chris Bethell
14 July 2023

CREEP SHOW Yawning Abyss

A supergroup comprising of John Grant, Stephen Mallinder, Ben “Benge” Edwards and Phil Winter, CREEP SHOW released their acclaimed debut album ‘Mr Dynamite’ in 2018.

The histories of the individuals involved have been more than well documented and since then, John Grant has released two solo albums ‘Love Is Magic’ and ‘Boy From Michigan’ while Stephen Mallinder had two of his own ‘Um Dada’ and ‘Tick Tick Tick…’.

Busy boy Benge co-produced all of those bar ‘Boy From Michigan’ while he has also been working with Neil Arthur in BLANCMANGE and FADER, as well as John Foxx. Not to be left out, Phil Winter has been back with his experimental folk band TUNNG for two albums.

All this without forgetting the regular Mallinder / Benge / Winter project WRANGLER who released their third album ‘A Situation’ in 2020. However, there was always this sense that the Bella synth union which was CREEP SHOW had more to offer…

Produced in Cornwall at Benge’s MemeTune complex as a bunch of sonic experiments using vintage synths before the tracks were taken to Iceland for Grant and Mallinder to record their vocals, the new album’s title ‘Yawning Abyss’ was inspired by “a cosmic event horizon” that Mallinder observed from his attic window while standing on a chair!

Opening proceedings with a punchy backing track, ‘The Bellows’ is like a blippy PET SHOP BOYS with layers of treated and vocodered vocals before being countered by enticing Middle Eastern resonances in the synth solo. A commentary on crypto currency, ‘Moneyback’ offers avant rap alternating between Grant and Mallinder which echoes the former’s ‘Voodoo’ while the accompanying vorsprung durch technik is rather engrossing.

The futuristic-flavoured ‘Yawning Abyss’ title track takes the pace down to a grooving midtempo with slight voice filtering on Grant’s delivery. ‘Matinee’ sees Mallinder get growly and as the track builds in size and tempo to a darker art-funk, it enters a close encounter of a different kind and becomes particularly ominous in the middle eight.

Moving into trancier house, ‘Wise’ is mysterious and minimal, bolstered by a barrage of synthetic noise. There comes another eccentric twisted rap on ‘Yahtzee!’ and despite the inherent weirdness, there are hooks within the squelchy sonics and frantic machine rhythms. ‘Bungalow’ though is conventional in comparison and perhaps comparable to a John Grant solo ballad; dressed with ivory flashes, harp runs and a synthetically sourced choir, with echoes of John Barry, this is akin to electronic Bond theme.

With schizophrenic voices penetrating from all sides indicative of the band name, ‘Steak Diane’ is an abstract experiment featuring bass guitar and reggae inflections to head into the final straight. To conclude, ‘The Bellows Reprise’ offers a shorter drum-less instrumental take on the album opener that adds the dramatic ‘Blade Runner’ sweeps of Vangelis.

Despite the tensions and menace captured within the music, the fun and camaraderie that was quite obviously had by the quartet in making ‘Yawning Abyss’ comes across, making ‘Mr Dynamite’ seem guarded in retrospect. Even the group photos for this album are more relaxed with everyone comfortable with the sophomore dynamic that now ensues. Straightforward in its approach with no egos or pretensions, ‘Yawning Abyss’ is an excellent experimental joyride.


‘Yawning Abyss’ is released by Bella Union on 16 June 2023, available in the usual physical and online formats via https://ffm.to/yawningabyss

CREEP SHOW 2023 UK live dates:

Exeter Phoenix (15 June), Brighton ACCA (16 June), Jodrell Bank Blue Dot Festival (21 July), Hebden Bridge Trades Club (22 July), Latitude Festival (23 July), London Village Underground (25 July)

http://creepshowmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/

https://twitter.com/CreepShowMusic

https://www.instagram.com/creepshowmusic/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chris Bethell
10 June 2023

BLANCMANGE Private View


The 15th long player from BLANCMANGE sees a return to London Records who issued their debut ‘Happy Families’ in Autumn 1982.

Originally a duo comprising of Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe, the pair released a further two albums ‘Mange Tout’ and ‘Believe You Me’ before going on a lengthy hiatus.

They returned in 2011 with ‘Blanc Burn’, but with Luscombe unable to continue due to health reasons, BLANCMANGE has since become a prolific solo adventure for Arthur.

‘Private View’ presents a collection of synthesised art-pop that finds a significant role for guitarist David Rhodes, BLANCMANGE’s very own Carlos Alomar who has regularly applied his talents with Peter Gabriel as well as a live stint with JAPAN.

Continuing FADER partner Benge as producer who worked on the recent BLANCMANGE albums ‘Unfurnished Rooms’, ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Mindset’ and ‘Commercial Break’, ‘Private View’ presents a striking opener in ‘What’s Your Name’; not a cover of the 1981 DEPECHE MODE tune, despite a sparse vibey start, it strums and crashes into action while Arthur uses a manipulated voice treatment to give a sense of other worldly alienation away from the indie rock track that this could easily be.

‘Some Times These’ also retains a fuzzy kerrang element although the chorus keyboard theme has an immersive Eno-esque air that echoes his work on “Heroes”. More sequencer driven, ‘Reduced Voltage’ echoes CAN in its groovy kosmische precision but the guitars are turned up in the second half, contrary to the title.

Waking up with an idea seeded in 1980, ‘Here We Go Go’ is a song that could have come from the ‘Quartz’ album from FADER but with louder percussion, before it marvellously morphs into the artier drama of OMD for its conclusion. The energetic ’Chairs’ pulses along with a strong throbbing drive and Arthur announcing in frustration at those easy triggers that “we keep getting excited about things beyond our control”, when all he needs is a “cup of tea”…

With more ragged six string and mechanised pulsing, ‘Who Am I?’ sees our hero lost and forlorn while ‘Everything Is Connected’ offers a strange kind of eerie indie electro-funk but while not a reprise of ‘Feel Me’, it is as the title suggests, part of the lineage.

With a steadfast pulsing motorik, ‘I Tried To Be You’ features several glorious synth sections which are very pleasing to the ears. Then using a swirling cacophony of electrickery, the ‘Private View’ title number borrows the punchy drum mantra from NEW ORDER’s ‘Leave Me Alone’ to present a sardonic angle on a world where “you know you can’t let go now”.

Brilliantly taking cues from the forest-laden atmospheres of CLUSTER, ‘Take Me’ features some wonderful piano and guitar work. It’s a sumptuous motorik ballad where Arthur declares he is “lost without love” although this ending provides the best song on ‘Private View’.

40 years on from BLANCMANGE’s debut album on London Records, ‘Private View’ shows Neil Arthur can still spring some surprises.

He continues as a creative force to be reckoned with, using his brand to open doors and satisfy while eschewing the more nostalgic tendencies of some of his peers.


‘Private View’ is released on 30th September 2022 by London Records in the usual formats

2022 BLANCAMANGE UK live dates include:

London Rough Trade East (1 October), Cambridge Junction (7 October)^, Stroud Subscription Rooms (8 October)^, Colchester Arts Centre (13 October)^, Cardiff University Y Plas (14 October)^, Frome Cheese and Grain (15 October)^, Reading Sub 89 (20 October)^, Nottingham The Level (21 October)^, Gillingham Glassbox Theatre (22 October)^, Bristol Fleece (27 October)+, Guildford Boileroom (28 October)+, Wimborne Tivoli Theatre (29 October)+, Exeter Theatre (4 November)*, Southampton The Brook (5 November)*, Birmingham The Mill (10 November)+, Lancaster Kanteena (11 November)+, Barrow-in-Furness Forum Theatre (12 November)+, Diss Corn Hall (17 November)*, Manchester Gorilla (18 November)**, Liverpool Hangar 34 (19 November)**, Leeds Wardrobe (24 November)**, Sheffield Leadmill (25 November)**, Newcastle Riverside (26 November)**, Aberdeen Lemon Tree (1 December)**, Edinburgh Liquid Room (2 December)**, Glasgow Queen Margaret Union (3 December)**, Brighton Concorde 2 (9 December)**, London Islington Assembly Hall (10 December)**

Support acts: ^Oblong +Alice Hubble *Rodney Cromwell **Stephen Mallinder

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

https://www.instagram.com/blancmange_music/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Helen_Kincaid
28th September 2022

FADER Quartz

Having released the debut FADER album ‘First Light’ in 2017, Neil Arthur and Benge now present their third long player ‘Quartz’.

As with previous FADER works, Benge worked alone on the instrumentation at his Memetune Studios complex in Cornwall while Neil Arthur did his lyrics and vocals at his home studio. ‘Quartz’ is an understated artistic statement inspired by incidental atmospheric music used in vintage TV shows. With minimalistic structures started by manipulating and sampling sounds used on Benge’s past recordings, organic yet electronically derived textures provide a reflective and elegiac backdrop.

Benge had no titles for his compositions so sent them over to Arthur identified with names from various paint pots as he was also decorating his home. “I didn’t expect Neil to use them as the basis for the song lyrics” the producer said, “but he is so good at letting his imagination go and he came up with all these amazing lyrics as a result”. The end result is a series of vivid stories and fractured images from a partially obscured viewpoint to provide a dreamy aesthetic.

The icy waltz ‘Serpentine’ opens with its sparse keys like Gary Numan meeting Brian Eno and reminiscent of the former’s ‘Dance’ album from 1981. ‘Porcelain’ retains this stripped down approached but is more sinister, Arthur given a monolithic pulpit for his impassioned semon. But ‘Olympia’ recalls the filmic textures of Ryuichi Sakamoto as the cerebral setting hauntingly sucks the listener in.

Upping the tempo slightly, ‘Gargoyle’ adds shuffling drum machine reinforced by a synthbass squelch as spacey counterpoints and electronic pulses complement the vocal expression. The more gothic ‘Prussian’ snaps along over its spacey atmospherics with Arthur “observing the night” as “all the stars are out!”. A relative of ‘Olympia’, ‘Mondo’ continues the minimal stance while the funereal ‘Manilla’ cleverly uses the photocopying process as a metaphor for life, “A4, foolscap, manila…”.

Utilising a number of spiralling sequences, the ‘Quartz’ title song bursts with mechanised rhythm and icy string machine. Then with a subtle gallop, ‘Lazuli’ dramatically announces rather prophetically “There’s been a scene” with “all hell let loose” before “a final curtain” as the mournful closer ‘Poison’ poignantly confirms “we can’t go back” and must “never return to where we came from”.

‘Quartz’ is FADER’s best album yet, shaped by the clockwork elegance of its title. With its subtlety in detail, it is strangely futuristic while projecting a distinctly timeless quality.


‘Quartz’ is released on 13th May 2022 by Blanc Check Records as a CD ad cassette, pre-order from https://fader.tmstor.es/

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader

https://twitter.com/WeAre_Fader

https://www.instagram.com/fader_2022/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th April 2022

BLANCMANGE Commercial Break

Never one to sit still, Neil Arthur explores a new direction for BLANCMANGE’s 14th album ‘Commercial Break’.

While the synthesizer framework remains, the unexpected textures of acoustic six string and various field recordings permeate on this reflective work co-produced by Benge at his Memetune Studios in Cornwall. To add some of that air and atmosphere that can be missing from many modern productions using computerised media, Neil Arthur has absorbed audio captures of electric saws, seafronts, conversations, bird song and old water pumps into the backdrop.

To a background of sea breezes, a lone bass synth squelches from ‘Share Out The Light’. In the frustrated vein of the classic Northern English comedy show ‘Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads?’, Neil Arthur decides that “A knock on the door, I don’t want to know the score” as the mood envelopes over 5 and a half minutes as “we learn from mistakes”. Cut from a similar cloth, ‘Endless Posts’ is harsher, adding electric guitar in a cutting percussive attack on social media obsession.

Offering something more in the vein of classic OMD, ‘This A State’ sees Neil Arthur still as dry as ever with his wordplay, declaring “this is the state we’re in”! But as our hero is switching channels due to a ‘Commercial Break’, he declares “It’s five to five and it’s Crackerjack” over an a stepped lattice of pulse and throb! Meanwhile with a hypnotic rhythmic backbone behind creepy minimal texturing, ‘Dog Walk In A Cloud’ requests listeners to “make something of it”

But after all the electronics, ‘Empty Street’ surprises with an acoustic guitar instrumental! With a solemn monologue and accompanied by field recordings, ‘Strictly Platonic’ takes the minimal guitar structures further while it electrifies them on the instrumental ‘On A Ride’.

‘Duo’ is stripped down even further with tape manipulations and lone arpeggios but with basic percussive clatter and occasional six string picking, ‘Long Way Road’ adopts a sigh of resignation as its surroundings slowly build with an array of subtle synths in all frequencies.

‘Looking After Aliens’ could be THE DURUTTI COLUMN with its layers of guitars in a neo-classical style, and is an instrumental that can be as far away from ‘Feel Me’ or ‘Living On The Ceiling’ although an understated set of ARP2600 generated pulses are a reminder that this artist is still BLANCMANGE.

The second half may come as a shock to long standing BLANCMANGE fans but it shows Neil Arthur’s appetite to evolve and try something different. He remains the most prolific member of the Synth Britannia generation and one of its most interesting, using the enforced slower pace of the last 18 months as a creative spur.


‘Commercial Break’ is released by Blanc Check on 24th September 2021 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

Other works by BLANCMANGE are available as digitally direct from https://blancmangemusic.bandcamp.com/

BLANCMANGE’s rescheduled 2021 ‘Mindset’ tour includes:

Tunbridge Wells Forum (11th September), Colchester Arts Centre (16th September), Norwich Arts Centre (17th September), Birmingham Institute 2 (18th September), Gloucester Guild Hall (23rd September), Exeter Phoenix (24th September), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (25th September), Blackburn King George’s Hall (29th September), Newcastle Riverside (30th September), Edinburgh Liquid Room (1st October), Glasgow Oran Mor (2nd October), Southampton The Brook (13th October), Bristol Fleece (14th October), Northampton Roadmender (22nd October), Manchester Club Academy (27th October), Leeds The Wardrobe (28th October), Liverpool Grand Central Hall (29th October), Brighton Concorde 2 (17th November), Harpenden Public Halls (18th November), Cardiff Portland House (25th November), London Under The Bridge (26th November), Shrewsbury Buttermarket (27th November)

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

https://www.instagram.com/neilarthur/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th September 2021

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