Tag: Benge (Page 3 of 11)

FADER In Shadow


Synth superduo FADER have followed up their 2017 debut album ‘First Light’ with a collection of slightly more minimal introspective songs appropriately entitled ‘In Shadow’.

Comprising of Neil Arthur from BLANCMANGE and Benge, best known for his work with WRANGLER and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, this is a less aurally harsh proposition than modern day BLANCMANGE.

Delicate in disposition, darker and moodier overtones exude with the spectre of insomnia a dominant factor.

Allowing more time for deeper thinking and worry, Neil Arthur’s lyrics play with the disturbed consciousness, while from his Memetune Studios in the Cornwall countryside, Benge concocts a minimal underground aesthetic to surround it.

With the frantic powertrain of ‘Always Suited Blue’ and its obvious state of the nation commentary, all appears business as usual for FADER but it’s something of a red herring. The phrase “the psycho in you, in me” is anger fuelled by a dislike of politicians, particularly the worldwide rise of the right wing.

Although upper mid-tempo, ‘Midnight Caller’ with its primitive drum machine is quite minimal, naturally nocturnal in air, sombre in its bass structure. Taking a steadier stuttering pace, ‘What Did It Say’ also follows the minimal path, with Arthur deep in thought, asking lots of questions and seeking lots of answers.

The solemn ‘Youth On A Wall’ with an electronic processed vocal template asking “why is everyone sick on TV?” features some fabulous buzzing reverberant synths which act as an appropriate backdrop to whatever is “fading from our view”. Taking to 6/8 time, ‘Whispering’ is stark and stripped with Arthur doing as it says on the tin, accompanied by haunting sweeps of synths.

With an ‘Aspirational’ lift, the second half screeches to life with wobbly squelches and dystopian counterpoints providing a Cold Wave air reminiscent of Eric Random and John Foxx. ‘Enemy Fighter’ diverts to a bit of drum n bass, even sounding hand played for a looser feel while swathed in mysterious electronic voice treatments. But the mood subsides on ‘Mindsweeper’ and the ‘In Shadow’ title track with sparing guitar appearing on the latter.

With a hypnotic arpeggio, ‘Every Page’ alters the palette and adopts some subtle metallic rattles next to sharp Klingklang percussion blips, but is very bare in its exquisite presentation, haunted by a recurring ghostly chant of “No1”. Closing with the pressure drop of ‘Reporting’, Arthur displays a total air of resignation like the aural equivalent of The Bends.

A by-product of the gloomy world that we currently live in, ‘In Shadow’ reflects an understated anger that will be seen by future generations as a time capsule capturing one of the most bizarre periods in modern British history, a time when the working classes backed disaster capitalists like turkeys voting for Christmas…


‘In Shadow’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th October 2019 as a CD and download, pre-order from https://fader.tmstor.es/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th October 2019

A Short Conversation with FADER

Photo by Piers Allardyce

Together, Neil Arthur and Benge are FADER. While Arthur is front man of BLANCMANGE, Benge is best known for his work with WRANGLER, CREEP SHOW and JOHN FOXX &THE MATHS.

Following the critical acclaim for their 2017 debut long player ‘First Light’, a second FADER album entitled ‘In Shadow’ is about to be unleashed for public consumption at the end of October.

Perhaps musically more introspective than its predecessor, ‘In Shadow’ however finds Neil Arthur expressing an understated frustration and anger with the world at large.

Neil Arthur and Benge kindly spoke bout their latest collaboration and its more minimal approach.

How do you look back on the making and reception of the debut FADER album ‘First Light’?

Neil: The making was more or less the same approach, in terms of how we work. That is, initially remotely, exchanging files and a number of conversations online and by phone.

The reception seemed to be favourable, although it would have been good to sell a few more I guess. Creating the first album was an exciting step into the unknown, as we’d not worked together before, but after a couple of FADER and a brace of BLANCMANGE recordings, I’m constantly surprised, in a positive way, at Benge’s approach and the results therein.

Benge: The first album was a bit of an anomaly for us both really. It came out of a very unusual situation, and the results took us both by surprise, which is always a good thing.

On that album, I had written 90% of the music beforehand, on a trip to LA a few years before I had met Neil. The tracks had been sitting on a hard drive waiting for someone to put vocals on them. I was lucky enough to meet Neil one day and the idea was suggested that we collaborate on an album project, and FADER was born.

The reception was really great to the debut – maybe because no one was expecting it, and maybe also because it had a fairly unique and original sound to it, which was the result of the unique process we had gone through to get it made.

The follow-up ‘In Shadow’ as the title suggests, appears to be darker and moodier in tone?

Neil: When Benge sent over his initial instrumental ideas, I thought the tracks were more melodic than those on ‘First Light’, which I thought would lead to a lighter tone and feel, but when it came to doing the lyrics, I just followed my noise and went down a moodier path!

Benge: The second album also came about in quite an odd way, because neither of us had sat down together and decided to write new material for it really. It was another case of me sending a whole bunch of tracks over to Neil, and him listening to them all and hearing a sonic theme and then working on the vocals and lyrics and responding to my tracks.

I have a way of working sometimes where I will set up a synth and a sequencer or drum machine in the corner of the studio and leave it there for a week or so, with a tape to record any little sketches I might come up with while I am exploring. After several months, I found I had a bunch of tracks that sounded like they might work as new FADER material, because they had a certain simple melodic structure to them that I thought Neil would get his head round and twist it all up with his vocals. So as I say, I sent them all over to him in a zip file and waited for a response. A few days later these amazing songs started popping up in my in box. It was really exciting for me.

Has insomnia been a factor and given more time for deeper thinking?

Neil: Well, for various reasons I don’t sleep to well or when I do get some rest, I don’t sleep for long. That does lead to some early morning mind wanderings.

Is the core of the creative dynamic to be in the same room for each song’s conception, or is remote working the fastest, most practical method?

Neil: The practicals dictate on the whole how we work. That said, I like this method, at first working remotely, exchanging ideas, as the project starts to take its shape. It’s like getting a musical present or surprise, each time I see a WeTransfer arrive from Benge. As I mentioned earlier, always a surprise!

But when you do get together at the MemeTune base in remote Cornwall, it must be a wonderful place to work with no city distractions?

Neil: It’s a brilliant studio to work in and when the perspective is needed, there’s always the dog to be walked up on Bodmin, the pub, the coast or a bike ride.

Benge: Yes, that’s my favourite bit of the process, when you get together in the studio and you can hear an album take shape. It’s a magical thing. The songs begin to make sense (if that’s possible with Neil’s lyrics!), and the things that need to be done on each song reveal themselves all of a sudden.

Sometimes it’s a case of maybe adding a synth line, tweaking an arrangement, or maybe taking things away and simplifying the track as much as possible.

Is ‘Always Suited Blue’ fuelled by a dislike of politicians maybe?

Neil: I have a dislike for some politicians, the careerist, self-serving, bullying type, who are no use, to man nor beast, but no, it’s not fuelled by that.

Some of the album’s vocals are deeper than say the more recent BLANCMANGE work, like on ‘What Did It Say’ and ‘Reporting’? The latter just captures a total air of resignation…

Neil: I think from memory, I did some of the vocals sitting down. That could have got me taking a more intimate and deeper tone. I’ve always had a pretty low voice, maybe it’s breaking!

The approaches to ‘Midnight Caller’, ‘What Did It Say?’ and ‘Whispering’ are quite minimal?

Neil: Benge and I spend a lot of time editing out during the mix stage, to see how little is needed to complete the track. Sometimes there’s a tendency to add layers, because you can and maybe there’s an idea that seems to work with the one that’s already there. But if the original sound, or part is standing up for itself, why add to it? So we don’t, we save that idea for another song, another time.

‘Enemy Fighter’ pulls out a bit of drum n bass, but what might it be referring to, is it literal or metaphoric?

Neil: Lyrically, it centres on a characters moment of reflection, while in the heat of a battle and in a certain death situation. The tuned vocals seemed to fit.

What sort of instruments were you largely turning to for ‘In Shadow’, had there been any particular paint palette set behorehand?

Benge: The songs were each borne from a handful of monosynths and polysynths as I mentioned before, all of them being from the late 1970s or early 80s. If I remember correctly, the main ones were Korg DV800, Roland Jupiter 6, Oberheim Xpander, Roland SH101 and then some early digital drum machines, like the Casio RZ1, Korg DDD1 and Roland TR505.

So what was this Butler 100 synth Neil was referring to in his last BLANCMANGE interview that Benge later commented didn’t exist? *laughs*

Neil: Ha ha, I think when we did the interview you misheard. We had been using a Buchla synth. It got Benge and I inventing imaginary synth names – the Jeeves 2000, Wooster V2. PG 808 etc.

Benge: My favourite synth of all time – the Lambert & Butler Sound Modulator 400

NEAR FUTURE have done and CREEP SHOW + KINCAID are going out live, would that be a possibility for FADER in the future?

Neil: We do talk about that. It would be great. How about the Minack theatre?

Benge: Or the Eden Project gift shop?


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to FADER

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘In Shadow’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th October 2019 in CD and download formats, pre-order from https://fader.tmstor.es/

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th September 2019

OBLONG The Sea At Night

Every now and then, the world needs a lively unpretentious synth instrumental album to provide a temporary route of escapism; OBLONG’s ‘The Sea At Night’ is that record.

OBLONG formed out of a friendship between Benge (synths + drum programming), Dave Nice (synths, bass + drums) and Sid Stronarch (piano, synths + guitars) which eventually resulted in an album ‘Indicator’ in 2006.

And now with their second album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio deliver a rustic electro-acoustic record of organically farmed electronica!

The beautifully spacey opener ‘Planetesimal’ conjures up widescreen images of the countryside with a wonderful musicality, something that is very prevalent throughout ‘The Sea At Night’. Starting with acoustic and bass guitar, ‘Frost Pocket’ uses the electronics more sparingly while the six string rings in a Michael Rother fashion. Meanwhile cut from a not dissimilar cloth, ‘Cool Calm & Connected’ does what it says on the tin, gently swinging and making effective use of double bass.

‘The Sea At Night’ title track adopts a propulsive Motorik stance, string synths and percussive accents vying for the high ground in an enjoyable cosmic duel. With a glorious groove, ‘Robot Dan’ puts vocoder into the mix, this futuristic jazz funk being Huggy Bear’s theme for the 22nd Century.

The pretty ‘Siphonophore’ and the equally pleasing ‘Phosphorescence’ soothe while ‘Fast Radio Burst’ ups the tempo which sees some funk and electronic bass in unison with sweeps of synths, all counterpointed by ringing melodies and a whirring solo.

Keeping up the pace, ‘Echolocation’ is a classic synth instrumental with its crystalline textures and charming slightly offkey blips while with its brilliant title, ‘Romford Suzuki’ acts as a fun funky interlude recalling Richard O’Sullivan’s opening title tune to ‘Robin’s Nest’.

With the glorious overtones of CLUSTER, ‘Weird Sugar’ takes things onto a more gentler pace towards the home straight as ‘The Sea At Night’ concludes magnificently with ‘Number Nine’; here Stronarch lets rip with his strummed acoustic while Nice complements with his double bass alongside rich layers of synths from all persuasions.

Reflecting the remote moorland location in Cornwall where it was recorded, ‘The Sea At Night’ captures the atmosphere of the nearby coastal landscapes.

While primarily synthesizer driven, the use of traditional instruments like acoustic guitar and double bass alongside the electronics adds an unusual but accessible focal point, like a more animated development of the 1981 Virginia Astley record ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’.

‘The Sea At Night’ is proof that instrumental albums can still be wonderfully charming and melodic, there’s no Eurorack tutorials like those fashioned by Martin Gore for his ‘MG’ solo folly or formless meandering synthwave present here.


‘The Sea At Night’ is released by Memetune Recordings on 22nd March 2019 in vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-order via https://oblong.tmstor.es/

OBLONG will be special guests of JOHN GRANT at the following 2019 shows in Ireland:

Limerick University Concert Hall (27th March), Cork Opera House (28th March), Galway Leisureland (30th March), Dublin Born Gals Energy Theatre (31st March)

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband

https://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th March 2019

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2018

2018 was a year of good songs rather than good albums, with many of long players not as consistent or as of high a standard as the bumper crop from the Class of ’17.

However, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had plenty of material to choose from for its 30 SONGS OF 2018 and for obvious reasons, cannot include everything that was in this year’s shortlist…

So worthy mentions go to ANI GLASS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, BRÜCKEN FROESE, DANA JEAN PHOENIX, DISQO VOLANTE, DUBSTAR, EKKOES, FAKE TEAK, FRAGRANCE, THE FRIXION, GUNSHIP, HILTIPOP, IAMX, LIZETTE LIZETTE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and WITCH OF THE VALE. Interestingly, three graduates from the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ made it into the final list, thus highlighting the longevity of that particular vinyl showcase some 37 years on!

So with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, here are our 30 SONGS OF 2018 presented in alphabetical order…


AFTERHERE Breaking Rules

AFTERHERE is the brand new project of HEAVEN 17 singer Glenn Gregory and live keyboardist Berenice Scott, but with their roles reversed. Exploring their inner GOLDFRAPP but in a funkier vein, with groovy reminisces of ‘Twist’ and ‘Yes Sir’, the song seductively boasted a captivating sexually charged electronic energy. Berenice Scott said: “We always wanted to have a driving track on the album that you could hopefully move your feet to, party to… possibly get in a little trouble!”

Available on the AFTERHERE album ‘Addict’ via Manners McDade

https://afterhere.co.uk/wp/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Utopia

While the Clarke was strong with this one, the first impression that came across with ‘Utopia’ was that things became a slight bit darker in the world of JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM. Despite that, there was a rousing chorus and percolating sequences to savour as he pointed out the futility of seeking that perfect future, when life has so much more on offer. “I wouldn´t describe the album as dark though” the DAILY PLANET synthesist helpfully added, “it´s absolutely a pop album.”

Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM album ‘Utopia’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


BLANCMANGE Distant Storm

For BLANCMANGE, ‘Distant Storm’ was rather unusual with its dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic. With a rousing, almost spiritual quality and elements of JAMES’ ‘Come Home’ creeping in for good measure, it displayed Neil Arthur’s comfort in working with producer Benge on effectively their third album together. “I wanted to sing it as though it was really detached with my voice being synthesized” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ via Blanc Check Records

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


B-MOVIE Stalingrad

Veteran Mansfield quartet B-MOVIE made their most electronic pop single to date with the chilling aesthetics of ‘Stalingrad’. Complete with an infectious synth melody, an eerie mezzo-soprano and using the crucial Second World War battle as a metaphor for a doomed relationship, it was possibly Steve Hovington, Paul Statham, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey’s  best song since their 21st Century reformation; appropriately, its B-side was called ‘Something Cold’…

Available on the B-MOVIE EP ‘Repetition’ via Loki Records

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


CHVRCHES Graffiti

‘Get Out’ may have acted as a superb launch single, but starting off their ‘Love Is Dead’ album was the wonderful ‘Graffiti’. This was a classic kaleidoscopic CHVRCHES tune that punched the sky with some rousing vocals. It was also a supreme singalong showcasing Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Docherty in full bouncy Taylor mode. Despite the downcast lyrical demeanour on lost youth and the passing of time, this was still a grand pop statement.

Available on the CHVRCHES album ‘Love Is Dead’ via Virgin Records

https://chvrch.es/


CONFIDENCE MAN Don’t You Know I’m In A Band

Australian duo CONFIDENCE MAN were a ray of sunshine in 2018 with their own brand of campy dork pop, being everything SCISSOR SISTERS should have been. ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’ was an amusing satire on ego and sense of entitlement in the music industry. With an electro take on the groovy swoop of WAR’s ‘Low Rider’, a pitch shifted Sugar Bones came over like an inebriate Teddy Pendergrass while Janet Planet delightfully counterpointed in her alluring girly manner.

Available on the CONFIDENCE MAN album ‘Confident Music For Confident People’ via Heavenly Records

https://www.confidenceman.com.au/


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound

CREEP SHOW is the meeting of minds between eclectic singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER whose members comprise Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter. On ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER hybrid to reveal gradually some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon. The project led to Benge also working on Grant’s ‘Love Is Magic’ album also released in 2018.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Mr Dynamite’ via Bella Union

http://creepshowmusic.com


RODNEY CROMWELL Comrades

Driven by a meaty electronic bassline and metronomic backbone, the marvellous vocoder-laden ‘Comrades’ by RODNEY CROMWELL captured a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, bathed in an ensemble of sweeping synth oboes and cosmic string machines. “I ended up thumping at the MicroKorg and came up with the opening riff” he said. Rich with melody and a panoramic resonance, it surreally captured the sound of Moroder being played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system.

Available on the RODNEY CROMWELL EP ‘Rodney’s English Disco’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/rodney-cromwell


EMIKA Promises

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family in her most personal statement yet. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the EMIKA album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com/


FARAO Marry Me

Taking in more synthetic ambitions, FARAO’s second album ‘Pure-O’ was a playful bleep forward. While ‘The Ghost Ship’ saw Kari Jahnsen focussed on her forlorn little girl lost lyrics, the wonderfully uptempo ‘Marry Me’ offered an accessible PET SHOP BOYS flavour and romantic layers of vocals masking a deep scepticism of the institution of marriage, while the lush backing and chugging electronic backbone carried the air of her compatriot SUSANNE SUNDFØR.

Available on the FARAO album ‘Pure-O’ via Western Vinyl

http://www.farao.info/


FIAT LUX It’s You

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” – their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ is expected in 2019.

Available on the FIAT LUX single ‘It’s You’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


IONNALEE Fold

The ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ album was easily equal to Jonna Lee’s work with IAMAMIWHOAMI. Best of the set was possibly the marvellous closing number ‘Fold’. Featuring exotic cascading timbres and spacey pulsars, distorted string synths added tan appropriate chill as Lee’s passionate vocals completed the filmic vibe. Less mysterious, the IONNALEE transition was a triumph, especially with one of the best value-for-money live presentations of 2018.

Available on the IONNALEE album ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ via To Whom It May Concern

https://ionnalee.com


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of ASSOCIATES’ Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by CHRIS PAYNE’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the KATJA VON KASSEL EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LET’S EAT GRANDMA Donnie Darko

Despite their age, LET’S EAT GRANDMA have a feisty but mature musical ambition, as successfully realised on ‘Donnie Darko’, an 11 minute tribute to the troubled teenager haunted by a monstrous rabbit-like figure. Utilising a sedate start before morphing into a wonderful movement of cascading electronics set to a metronomic beat, there were passionate reflections on the subject of human suffering. It all went a bit “batsh*t crazy” into a glorious synthony before calming to its conclusion!

Available on the LET’S EAT GRANDMA album ‘I’m All Ears’ via Transgressive Records

http://letseatgrandma.co.uk


CHRIS LIEBING featuring POLLY SCATTERGOOD And All Went Dark

Noted techno exponent Chris Liebling teamed up with Mute label mate POLLY SCATTERGOOD on a stark polyrhythmic number appropriately titled ‘And All Went Dark’. The brooding minimalist electronic piece with its eerily poetic spoken contribution from Miss Scattergood saw the Essex songstress haunted by a “dark shadow on my shoulder” and telling how “a sickness took hold early on”.

Available on the CHRIS LIEBING album ‘Burn Slow’ via Mute Artists

http://www.chrisliebing.com/


MECHA MAIKO False Memories

With the name transcending Toronto based Hayley Stewart’s fascination with Japanese culture, cyber space and a love of vintage synthesis, ‘Mad But Soft’ was her first album as MECHA MAIKO. The magically crystalline ‘False Memories’ could have been part of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. Uncomplicated on the surface yet multi-layered and airy, this day-glow pink neo-instrumental concoction was well-thought through and deliciously produced.

Available on the MECHA MAIKO album ‘Mad But Soft’ via New Retro Wave

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/


MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette

One-time RÖYSKSOPP collaborator Ryan A James continues to hone and develop his hybrid mix of luxuriant synthetics and subtle guitar textures as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY. He said about the gorgeous electronic bubblebath of ‘Lafayette’: “It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard.”

Available on the MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY album ‘Infinity Mirror’ via Killing Moon Records

https://manwithout.country/


NIGHT CLUB Scary World

“Beware! It’s a scary world” and with their BRITNEY SPEARS fronting NINE INCH NAILS template, NIGHT CLUB took their sweet but sinister synth rock sound to its zenith with the title track of their second album. And when the children’s choir joined in the chorus to sing of demons everywhere, this was a musical trick or treat that no parent would want their offspring to be part of, the message being “they only love you if you swallow”!

Available on the NIGHT CLUB album ‘Scary World’ via Gato Blanco

http://nightclubband.com/


NINA 80s Girl

A fabulously optimistic closer to NINA’s debut album, ‘80s Girl’ came beaming over like some missing song from the film ‘Mannequin’. With big Simmons drums, sampled orchestra stabs and driving synthbass triplets, it was however delivered with subtlety and restraint so that it wasn’t a HEART or STARSHIP pastiche. Dedicated to her mother, it had a telling message of “don’t let the past hold you back”.

Available on the NINA album ‘Sleepwalking’ via Aztec Records

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/


SARAH NIXEY Journey

Perhaps best known as the alluring if slightly blunt chanteuse of BLACK BOX RECORDER, Sarah Nixey released her best solo album to date in ‘Night Walks’, a quality record with air and presence, collecting everything she has ever been musically, all rolled into one. One of its key tracks was the delightful ‘Journey’, a glorious number of the type that Marc Almond has often been so good at, laced with crystalline synths and gorgeously breathy vocal tones à la Jane Birkin.

Available on the SARAH NIXEY album ‘Night Walks’ via Black Lead Records

http://www.sarahnixey.com/


GARY NUMAN It Will End Here

The ‘Savage’ album turned out to be both an artistic and commercial vindication for Gary Numan. ‘It Will End Here’ from ‘The Fallen’ EP was a natural progression from that, exploring a heavy but melodic electronic sound without relying on the predictable backing of rock guitars. With and anthemic chorus and the apocalypse is looming over the aural desert, there was even a soaring vocal pitch shift up at the song’s conclusion which added an extra eerie vampiric quality.

Available on the GARY NUMAN EP ‘The Fallen’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


NYXX featuring AESTHETIC PERFECTION Voodoo

NYXX is very much her own woman, like the Greek goddess of night she is named after, a figure of power and beauty with a Britney-like vocal presence that sweetly offsets some of her darker overtones. A collaboration with Daniel Graves of AESTHETIC PERFECTION who contributed a glorious evangelical middle eight, she said “It would not be what it is without him. I came in with a sketch of a song, a melody and lyric of another song… Daniel heard nuances in it and we built what is now ‘Voodoo’.”

Available on the NYXX single ‘Voodoo’ via Close To Human Music

http://www.nyxxnyxxnyxx.com/


PAGE Nere För Räkning

Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko initially came together in PAGE releasing their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983. Since then, the pair have parted and reunited on a number of occasions but the mission for the ‘Start’ EP was to party like it’s 1979 when GARY NUMAN was No1. ‘Nere För Räkning’ was an urgent slice of pulsing synthrock with a piercing vibratoed lead line akin to the keyboard interventions heard on ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

Available on the PAGE EP ‘Start’ via Energy Rekords

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop/


PLASMIC Baby Machine

From Mission Viejo in California, PLASMIC describes herself as an “Orange County one-woman dervish” and in a vivid haze that’s pretty in pink, “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”. Combining J-Pop with CRYSTAL CASTLES and DEVO, the undoubted standout from her ‘Validation Nation’ EP was ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenged the expectations of women to bear children.

Available on the PLASMIC EP ‘Validation Nation’ via Devour Records

http://www.plasmic.rocks


REED & CAROLINE Entropy

Championed by none other than Vince Clarke, Reed & Caroline successfully combine tunes with electronic experimentation. The haunting ‘Entropy’ was a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching GARY NUMAN homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie electric piano, courtesy of a Buchla modular synth, was complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.

Available on the REED & CAROLINE about ‘Hello Science’ via Very Records

https://www.reedandcaroline.com/


FIFI RONG Red Moon Voyage

Weird and wonderful, ‘Red Moon Voyage’ was a ghostly 10 minute epic comprising of glitchy voices and varying rhythm constructions recorded especially for Halloween. Free of album concepts and the pop song format, this was Fifi Rong at her most adventurous yet, delightfully adding her native Mandarin language towards the third part. “Having a long journey means you can get very deep and lots of moods and transitions” she told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

Available on the FIFI RONG single ‘Red Moon Voyage’ via https://fifirong.bandcamp.com/track/red-moon-voyage-full

http://fifirong.com/


SOFT CELL Northern Lights

Marc Almond and Dave Ball were the boys who came back-back-BACK as SOFT CELL in 2018. ‘Northern Lights’ reminisced about their days at the Wigan Casino and recaptured the pop essence that led to the duo having five consecutive Top 10 hits! Despite the grittiness and energetics, the duo always had melody and that came back in abundance on their welcome recorded return. The darker B-Side ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ affirmed that as a creative force, SOFT CELL still had it.

Available on the SOFT CELL EP ‘Northern Lights’ via Universal Music

http://www.softcell.co.uk/


STOLEN Turn Black

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be possibly the most exciting band he has seen since NEW ORDER. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive and one of the best of 2018, with ‘Turn Black’ being one of the standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the STOLEN ‘Fragment’ via MFS

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


U96 + WOLFGANG FLÜR Zukunftsmusik

Ingo Hauss and Hayo Lewerentz handed back the BOYTRONIC brand to Holger Wobker and returned to being U96, teaming up with former KRAFTWERK percussionist Wolfgang Flür for the best track by either party in recent years. Stark and Teutonic with stark robotic vocoder aesthetics, the union of two German musical heavyweights from different generations was equal to Flür’s ‘Activity Of Sound’ collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.

Available on the U96 single ‘Zukunftsmusik’ via UNLTD Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


HILARY WOODS Jesus Said

Combining piano, synths, field recordings, drones, occasional beats, old string instruments and Hilary Woods’ wonderfully forlorn voice in the vein of Julee Cruise, ‘Jesus Said’ questioned the existence of God. Described by the Irish songstress herself as “a song that seeks catharsis”, her child-like expression over the drifting synthesized tones and hypnotic drum machine to augment her beautiful piano playing gave ‘Jesus Said’ a gentle meditative quality.

Available on the HILARY WOODS album ‘Colt’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.hilarywoods.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd December 2018

JOHN GRANT Love Is Magic

 


For those familiar with JOHN GRANT’s previous body of work, from ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ onwards there started to be a bipolar nature to his music, swinging from electronic-based tracks being in the minority through to them now being the main focus of his latest work ‘Love is Magic’.

The choice of main producer and CREEP SHOW band mate Benge has obviously been a major factor in this synthetic shift.

This will either be a welcome move or could leave fans of Grant’s more acoustic-based material wondering what the hell has happened to the man who penned the downtempo AIR-esque songs such as ‘It’s Easier’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter to Him’… Also rather tellingly, the cover to ‘Love is Magic’ pays homage to FAD GADGET’s ‘Gag’ album with Grant covered in feathers and striking an upwards pose (albeit wearing vintage Y-fronts and with a bird cage on his head).

Challenging album opener ‘Metamorphosis’ lurches wildly from minimalist 909 kick driven monosynths through to lush VANGELIS and CR78 textures, whilst Grant’s quirky alter-ego voice intones a randomised shopping list of lyrics: “Earthquakes, forest fires, hot Brazilian boys… yeast infection, synthesizers, demisemiquavers, who created ISIS?”

The eponymous ‘Love is Magic’ is a lot more accessible affair, with songwriting harking back to Grant’s earlier work; it’s debatable however whether the synthetic production really does the song proper justice though. The stabbed brass synth, oddly reminiscent of THE POLICE’s ‘Spirits in the Material World’ gives way to a tail-end chorus chord progression straight out of cheese-masters THE CARPENTERS’ songbook.

‘Tempest’ is all triplet delayed synths (which reference KRAFTWERK’s ‘Neon Lights’) and detuned saw bass / pads; the song itself however is pretty forgettable but does feature a rather wonderful outro comprised of 8 bit arcade sounds in a nod to the game featured in the title. ‘Preppy Boy’ takes its cues initially from FAD GADGET’s ‘Love Parasite’, although lyrically we are in SCISSOR SISTERS territory until a trademark Grant synth solo stamps a bit more individuality on the piece.

After the Donald Trump-baiting ‘Smug C*nt’, the tempo is raised for ‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’. Surely one of the more commercial tracks on ‘Love is Magic’ it features a welcome injection of live bass, funk and classic polysynths. Throughout the album, Grant’s lyrics are wonderfully witty, dark and as sharp as a knife; ‘… Mother’s Hips’ is a perfect example with the brilliant opener “I think Colonel Mustard did it in the billiard room / They say his salsa workshops / Are a harbinger of doom”.

‘Is He Strange’ harks back to Grant’s earlier work (albeit with a minimalistic electronic drum pattern rather than acoustic percussion) and a beautiful descending piano and Solina string synth line straight out of ‘Airport’ by THE MOTORS. The album ends with ‘Touch & Go’, an evocative mixture of rippling arpeggiators, piano and live drums.

JOHN GRANT has been quoted as saying “Each record I make is more of an amalgamation of who I am. The more I do this, the more I trust myself, and the closer I get to making what I imagine in my head.”

If that is the case then his musical metamorphosis is pretty much complete with ‘Love is Magic’; this work is poles apart from ‘The Queen of Denmark’ and could potentially lose him some fans as in the main, it is SO different to the musical aesthetic he started with.

There is no pandering to commerciality or laurel-resting here and the willingness to experiment means that ‘Love is Magic’ is not always an easy listen.

It is however a brilliant example of an artist who refuses to compromise and has the spirit of adventure to take listeners on an unpredictable musical journey throughout.


‘Love Is Magic’ is released by Bella Union in the usual formats

http://johngrantmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/johngrantmusic

https://twitter.com/johngrantmusic

https://www.instagram.com/johngrantofficial/

http://bellaunion.com/


Text by Paul Boddy
15th October 2018

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