Tag: Bernholz (Page 1 of 2)


Neil Arthur and Jez Bernholz are NEAR FUTURE, a project featuring the BLANCMANGE front man and the Brighton based artist who also co-founded the Anti Ghost Moon Ray art collective that spawned GAZELLE TWIN , ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY and ANNEKA.

Their debut album ‘Ideal Home’ has been several years in the making, constructed through the modern medium of remote collaboration, although the pair have shared a stage on numerous occasions, notably on BLANCMANGE’s Semi Detached’ tour.

With both Arthur and Bernholz being vocalists as well as musicians, the pair experiment with voice-derived textures in NEAR FUTURE perhaps more than with their other work. Opening with the delightfully sombre ‘Ideal Home’ title track, it is a fractured number which takes a detached dual vocal into Eno-produced TALKING HEADS territory with a gently tribal rhythmic feel and asks “should I be full of regret?”

Meanwhile, ‘Field This’ is centred around a hypnotic bass mantra and a bleeping backbone surrounded by an impressionistic fourth world choir, as Arthur points to a period “pre-Madonna” while surreal lyrics recall “I remember when you were freshly peeled” before asking to “try semaphore”.

‘Overwhelmed’ captures shrill strings cocooned in an aural cavern with a claustrophobic Neil Arthur lead vocal that while recognisable, is quite different from anything by BLANCMANGE. The appropriately titled ‘Thought Terminating In Your Night’ sees Arthur’s voice raw and exposed before an eerie metronomic backdrop builds around him. The instrumental ‘Come And Play’ adopts a quite menacing atmosphere of synthetic chorals.

Based around a repetitive synth line, the spoken word art piece ‘Dawn’ features a skewed Bernholz reciting images of “coffee headaches” over sustained guitar sweeps and a building percussive rumble alongside uneasy thoughts of “teeth that felt like glassware”. But there’s the most amazing and chilling lead shimmer on ‘Gap In The Curtain’; driven by a primitive drum box, it comes over slightly like a contemplative OMD reimagining ‘Sad Day’… yes “you couldn’t make it up”.

Another spoken-word piece ‘Kites Over Waitrose’ is almost poetry over electronic backing with some exotic acoustic sounding Oriental textures where Arthur talks of the “scattering masses”, before closing with the sub-drone drama of ‘Bulk Erase’. Laced with a melancholic droll where “so much needs fixing but so little time”, Arthur takes the Eno-esque atmosphere into his own green world for “one thing at a time”, with the closing synthesized heartbeat echoing ULTRAVOX’s ‘Just For A Moment’.

‘Ideal Home’ is a fine debut record from NEAR FUTURE, and it’s one that sits well next to Neil Arthur’s BLANCMANGE and FADER as well as Jez Bernholz’s own brand of eccentric pop. It’s an extremely prolific period for Neil Arthur and with another BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ on the way in the Autumn, there will be even more escapist expressionism to come.

‘Ideal Home’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th May 2018, available in vinyl LP and CD formats, pre-order from https://nearfuture.tmstor.es

A NEAR FUTURE live show plus Q & A with Neil Arthur and Jez Bernholz takes place at The Institute of Light, 10 Helmsley Place, London E8 3SB on Thursday 6th September 2018



Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th May 2018, updated 20th May 2018


Photo by James Styler

Swelling in sonic density, NEAR FUTURE’s ten-track debut album ‘Ideal Home’ is an enjoyable experimental collection of songs and soundscapes.

From the art pop of the album’s title track and the serene ‘Gap In The Curtain’, to spoken word set pieces like ‘Dawn’, all blended in with assorted field recordings and neo-instrumentals, the album showcases the music combination of Neil Arthur and Jez Bernholz.

Arthur is best known as the front man of BLANCMANGE, while Bernholz will be remembered by some as the opening act on 2015’s ‘Semi Detached’ tour, having issued his first long player ‘How Things Are Made’ the year via the Anti Ghost Moon Ray art collective he co-founded with GAZELLE TWIN.

Having been involved in five albums since 2015, Neil Arthur is probably at the most prolific stage of his career. As well as juggling BLANCMANGE, there has also been FADER with Benge, resulting in the ‘Ideal Home’ album being several years in the making.

NEAR FUTURE kindly took time out to chat about their first full length fruit of labour and described how their partnership has allowed each of them to think outside of their regular artistic boxes to produce a quite unusual but accessible body of work.

Photo by GMB18

How would you each describe NEAR FUTURE compared with other projects you’ve been involved in?

Neil: Freeform. Good to share the work load. Half the pain, twice the gain!

Jez: Definitely. It’s been freeing as well, from a songwriting perspective. A lot less pressure than I put on myself as a solo artist.

You’ve shared live bills together but how was the bones of this album constructed? Has it been a lot of remote work?

Jez: I felt that it evolved from the email exchanges and anything goes approach, to when we prepared for our first live performance at Sensoria. Those rehearsals cemented everything for me, it gave the songs more structure and coherence.

Neil: Mainly by remote, with other parts on our meetings. The Sensoria cementing experience, followed by a trip to the home of gravity.

Being musicians of different generations, where did you find your common ground in influences and motivations?

Neil: No boundaries, anything goes. Discussions on lack of sleep and emergency repairs. Mundane everyday tasks, often became the detail of our focus I think.

Jez: The lyrics for me, ending the poetry in the everyday. We exchanged music by others and I discovered something new. I felt that subliminally we were both thinking of Michelson, NEU! and HARMONIA, but we never explicitly talked of other artists, it seemed to just gel naturally. Maybe I shouldn’t think too hard for fear of breaking the magic!

Photo by Richard Price

With you both being vocalists as well as musicians, how did you decide who would sing lead on particular tracks?

Neil: I think we only once discussed who would do the vocals on one song, ‘Dawn’.

We’d send ideas to each other, eventually it’d be time for a voice and somehow one appeared. A bit like choosing another synth sound really, oh yes, except there’s the words too.

Jez: My own view originally was that whoever wrote the music, the other person would eventually add a vocal to it. It didn’t quite end up that way but it definitely started in that way. I actually remember the track ‘Ideal Home’ coming more musically from Neil as a starting point and I finished it with the lyrics and vocals. ‘Overwhelmed’ came more from an inspired Neil vocal in response to some music that I had written. But in the end, it was just going instinctively with what felt right and trying out different things.

As a result of that, there appears to be a lot more experimentation in NEAR FUTURE with vocal texturing and processing?

Jez: Without any pressures with this project, I was definitely a chance to take that process further. I enjoyed the idea of Neil’s voice being so familiar to so many people and perhaps producing it in a way that would be totally unexpected, like on the track ’Thought Terminating’ where, as Neil says, it definitely fits with the music and the lyrics.

Neil: It seemed to fit not only the music and field recordings, but also the lyrics on some tracks.

The album’s title track ‘Ideal Home’ was also the first single, what do you remember of its genesis?

Neil: Jez started this idea off and wrote the lyrics. I chopped stuff up and moved the arrangement around a bit to fit the sounds added. Oh hold on… scrap that, it must have been another song. I’ll have to look through my hard drive, to find the origins of this. No doubt the title would have been changed knowing me.

Jez: I remember it completely the other way around! This was the first project that we did together and Neil had the basis track written and I did chop it up a lot and added the vocals and lyrics. Neil responded by adding his vocal and some other synth parts.

Neil: I found it. Of course, Jez is correct, I started it off and it was called ‘Pallet’ and stuck in my BLANCMANGE hard drive.

Photo by Richard Price

There’s a tribal rhythmic feel on a number of tracks?

Neil: As Jez mentions, it just felt right. Sometimes as you listen through to the song or parts that make up the track, you start to hear other stuff, that isn’t physically recorded, but is suggested by the interplay of what has been printed.

Jez: I think it just felt right, particularly on ‘Dawn’, like an angry pagan army coming over the hills with the sunrise behind them, some kind of reckoning; it somehow seemed appropriate.

You got a most amazing and chilling lead shimmer on ‘Gap In The Curtain’?

Jez: It’s a very, very heavily stacked combination of sounds from a PSS-170, about 40 different layered guitars, sax and a synth made from vocals and it just keeps building. Lots of reverb too. It really turned out nicely and it’s one of those elements that keeps the track unique to us, I don’t think it would be easily replicated.

‘Kites Over Waitrose’ is a great title and almost poetry over electronic backing, what inspired that?

Neil: Pincer movement panic buying! Jez sent some music over and we weren’t sure if it would be best left as an instrumental as I thought it worked without words. A while later, rifling through notes, I had these words and tried it out with the music, and our field recordings.

Jez: I love Neil’s lyrics for this. Again, I think he just captures the poetic mundanity of these otherwise forgettable moments. The title really does capture the duality of that.

Another spoken-word piece is ‘Dawn’…

Neil: I couldn’t sleep, so went to do some writing and heard this amazing early dawn chorus, that I recorded on the phone.

When I listened back to it, there in the background was this mechanical throbbing rhythm. I enhanced that with synths, then Jez took over and came back with these wonderful words. Last, we added the feedback sounds.

Jez: I’d had some words for a while which I could never really make fit without them sounding rushed.

When I saw Neil’s working title ‘Dawn’ for the music, it made me think about how my life had changed since the birth of my son, and I revisited those words with more clarity about what they meant, added more to them referring not only the past, but also the near future. The pace of the music gave me the impetus to speak slowly, and they worked nicely.

‘Field This’ has a quite mechanical backbone, is the “prima-donna” referring to anyone in particular and where is this “car park” that was?

Neil: Ha ha! Yes well, last thing first, the car park was in Leeds and first thing last, the story line is set in the time before Madonna. So it’s pre-Madonna. Not though, pre-Maradonna!

The neo-instrumental ‘Come & Play’ has a quite claustrophobic atmosphere?

Jez: It is definitely about that, like being allured to stay somewhere that’s maybe not quite right, there’s something sinister underneath it all.

Is NEAR FUTURE likely to hit the road alongside your other commitments?

Neil: No doubt.

Jez: ASAP.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to NEAR FUTURE

Special thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘Ideal Home’ is released by Blanc Check Records on 25th May 2018, available in vinyl LP and CD formats, pre-order from https://nearfuture.tmstor.es



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
28th April 2018


ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY is the multi-faceted Russian musician and artist Diana Burkot.

Part of the Anti-Ghost Moon Ray collective that brought the world GAZELLE TWIN, BERNHOLZ and ANNEKA, Burkot’s debut album is entitled ‘❤’, because in Burkot’s own words, it is “an image that cannot be spoken, at a time when visual aesthetics are the priority”.

Like with OMD’s recent single ‘Isotype’, it is a sardonic commentary on how communication has now been reduced to emojis and likes, thanks to the soulless overreliance on social media.

As if to reinforce this concept, the previously unveiled ‘Purr’ is shaped by a gentle conceptual slice of leftfield while its accompanying video challenges “Self-identification through social networks” ?

ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY first came to wider attention via the ‘Annual General Meeting Record – Volume 2’ cassette which featured her label mates as well as I SPEAK MACHINE and NEAR FUTURE, a side project of BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur.

That particular track ‘Play or Pay’ features on ‘❤’ and like an artier LADYTRON circa ‘604’, it’s a brilliantly screechy percussive set piece with eerie vocal stylings from Burkot that add mystery and intrigue. Meanwhile, the GRIMES-like ‘Plastic Soup’ continues with that mood.

‘❤’ actually starts with ‘Røst’, an enigmatic instrumental comprised of unsettling atmospheric layers, but this is not wholly representative of the rest of the album.

‘Drumly’ does what it says on the tin but with drum machine and kooky rolled vocals, while the explicitly titled intensity of ‘Spring’s Sh*t’ actually comes over as a joyous piece of reverberant electronic experimentation.

Beginning with a big bass drone, this artful intent is also omnipresent on ‘A Song for Theo’s Animals’; the buzzes and electric shrills over a noisy percussive collage are offset by Burkot’s soprano and a swimmy string machine. Not to be left out, the dramatic boom of ‘Debris’ sits well within its surroundings.

Although not for everyone, ‘❤’ is a promising debut from ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY that captures today’s darkness while also projecting a witty angelic innocence.

Delightfully odd, short but sweet, this is a work of stranger things to savour.

‘ is released as a cassette and download by Anti-Ghost Moon Ray, available from https://antighostmoonray.bandcamp.com/album/-




Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th August 2017


With a manifesto that “explores common ground in a strong aesthetic approach towards art, film, music, technology, science, and nature”, the Brighton based artistic co-operative Anti-Ghost Moon Ray founded by GAZELLE TWIN, BERNHOLZ, ACQUAINTANCE and GREAT PAGANS have released a new compilation of music made by themselves and like-minded friends, entitled ‘Annual General Meeting Record – Volume 2’.

‘Volume 1’ was in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières, raising £535 and ‘Volume 2’ proceeds will go to Refugee Action (UK) who provide advice, support and guidance to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

The international cast contribute 14 tracks emcompassing dark electronica, lost soundtracks and field recording experiments. ITAL TEK’s ‘To Dust’ provides a deep synthy rumble as an introduction to proceedings while Russian artist ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offers ‘Play or Pay’, a slice of screechy Euro-rythmics that comes over like an artier LADYTRON circa ‘604’

TIMERON’s ‘Risers’ blips and swirls in an enjoyable experimental cocoon, but it’s I SPEAK MACHINE and ‘Blood From A Stone’ that is possibly the highlight of the collection, the mysterious workshop electronica recalling the eerie overtones of early GOLDFRAPP. The project of Tara Busch, the track is perhaps nearer to the song based solo work of her excellent ‘Rocket Wife’ EP than the other material on her soon-to-be-released soundtrack to ‘Zombies 1985’.

The wacky LONE TAXIDERMIST does her bit on the scary avant house of ‘Red Kiss’ with a mixture of weird noises and horror film vocal stylings coupled to a 4/4 beat. Much gentler, ‘These Lands’ by ANNEKA showcases the glorious vocal talents of the young songstress with a quality equal to a Morricone soundcsape in the vein of ‘Ecstacy Of Gold’.

Adding some supernatural spectres, Anti-Ghost Moon Ray’s best known artist GAZELLE TWIN contributes the ritualistic ‘Smash’ which recalls a more electronic RAIN TREE CROW, while FOG SCHOOL’s ‘You Were Born for Chilling Deeds’ with its ghostly voice pitch shifts is self-explantory.

The lengthy ‘We’ve Got to Have Some Music On The New Frontier’ from ACQUAINTANCE and the woodwind laden ‘Sweetness’ from GREAT PAGANS’ Alex Painter both explore more artier climes.

Following a similar path, ‘Divides At’ is a stark railroading instrumental from NEAR FUTURE, the duo comprising of BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur and BERNHOLZ; the latter also provides his own solo experiment ‘58’ which sits comfortably with the aural sculpture of LIGHGHT’s ‘Gutter’. Closing with soundtrack composer Nick Sutton and the uneasy ambience of ‘Prayer’, ‘Annual General Meeting Record – Volume 2’ is another inventive and well curated collection.

It showcases some varied interpretations of electronic music, providing an assorted degree of cerebral fulfilment while also supporting a highly worthy cause.

‘Annual General Meeting Record – Volume 2’ is released by Anti-Ghost Moon Ray as a digital download and limited edition cassette in aid of Refugee Action (UK), available exclusively from https://antighostmoonray.bandcamp.com/album/annual-general-meeting-record-vol-2




Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th June 2017

A Short Conversation with NEAR FUTURE

NEAR FUTURENeil Arthur and Jez Bernholz are NEAR FUTURE, a new project featuring the BLANCMANGE front man and the Brighton based musician, sculptor, film-maker and co-founder of the Anti Ghost Moon Ray art collective that also spawned GAZELLE TWIN.

With plans for a full-length album to be released in 2017, the first single is the delightfully sombre ‘Ideal Home’.

Beginning with futuristic ship klaxons, it’s a fractured number which takes a detached dual vocal and attaches it to a steadfast rhythmic backdrop, with hints of Eno-era TALKING HEADS in its ethnically influenced textures.

Meanwhile, the sub-three minute flip ‘Overwhelmed’ has shrill strings cocooned in an aural cavern with a claustrophobic Neil Arthur lead vocal that while recognisable, is quite different from anything by BLANCMANGE. Setting the scene as an introduction to the project, Jez Bernholz kindly chatted about the genesis of NEAR FUTURE.

You opened for BLANCMANGE at the Red Gallery shows in 2015, but what led you to making music together?

Neil and I had a really positive connection when we met in London for those shows. I’d already said how much I loved ‘Irene & Mavis’ which, if I’m honest, was my first real introduction to the band when reissued through Minimal Wave.

Neil had said some very encouraging things about the experimental aspects of my music. As a result, I was invited to join them on a full UK tour as support this year and it was suggested that we could exchange some loose ideas, work on each other’s tracks separately and see what the results were.

It was all initially just a loose but interesting way to promote the tour, but it was also a nice way of seeing how our individual approaches to music-making worked together, flex our compositional muscles in a way. It’s worked out better than we hoped and we’re introducing each other to a wide variety of things outside our own comfort zones I’d like to think.

‘Ideal Home’ has an experimental air of BRIAN ENO about it?

Experimental, certainly, but Eno for me wasn’t a conscious inspiration though I love his work and studio ideas. Vocally, it’s certainly possible that ‘Another Green World’ or ‘Before and After Science’, had some kind of subconscious influence, but then, only as much as his work with JON HASSELL or DAVID BYRNE.

In the back of my mind, the vocals are always inspired in some way by Bowie so there is the ‘Low’ connection there, but it wasn’t intentional and I don’t think I ever considered it a formative part of the music. However, Neil may see things differently of course. His initial idea and field recordings laid the groundwork for the austere, detached quality, but they were rooted in other electronic histories.

How does a younger generation artist such as yourself come to discover and be influenced the original innovators?

I’m a music-obsessive. I’ve had a staple collective of artists that I’ve loved since growing up and becoming a musician.

And if you’re a nerd like me, those artists tend to have a rhizomatic effect. KATE BUSH, PRINCE, DAVID BOWIE, KRAFTWERK, the usual suspects.

I’m drawn to the certain kind of electronic sounds pioneered from the 60s, wobbling, bending and very detached, almost lonely sounds that the post-punk and New Pop artists all seem to use, culminating in some kind of golden age of experimental pop. It seemed to dispel of certain hierarchies which exists a lot in certain places now, where often you find either a kind of classist or an inverted snobbery; I like music which bridges those gaps between experimentalism and populism.

I’ve worked with some very inspiring people in other bands over the years who’ve drawn me into unusual music by ‘innovators’, those who may not be household names but are important artists. I also found that really good music journalism, those who wrote profoundly about the effect music had on them, would draw my attention to artists that someone who grew up with Britpop as their soundtrack might have otherwise neglected; ‘This is Uncool’ by Garry Mulholland, ‘Rip It Up and Start Again’ by Simon Reynolds.

NEAR FUTURE-artwork‘Overwhelmed’ sees Neil taking the lead vocal. How do you produce a work that has his distinctive style without it necessarily coming over like BLANCMANGE?

Neil is an inspired artist and a uniquely gifted lyricist. His approach to the piece of music I wrote really reflected the contemplative sounds.

The vocal melded with the music as if it had been there all along and when I heard it I was floored.

That’s his gift and he can apply it just about anywhere.

The way that I compose comes from a very different place, and having the music composed before the vocal gave it a space to move somewhere of its own. Even though Neil and I share similar interests, our frame of reference is not the same.

What do you think you provide to the partnership that Neil hasn’t had before, and what does Neil add to your artistic ethos?

I’m not sure about what he hasn’t had before, necessarily, that would be implying a lot on my behalf. I certainly think that I’ve taken it partly down the road of early, naive experimenting, the ‘hitting pots and pans’ and reversing cassettes at slowed-down speed approach. My production tends to be quite ambient at times; I’m inspired by artists such as TIM HECKER, ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER and ROLY PORTER. That’s potentially something that will have been liberating for Neil, to make music away from the expectations of a band with BLANCMANGE’s legacy.

Working with Neil has given me a real impetus to be a bit freer, encouraged me to think more considerately but at the same time be less precious with ideas, and that’s helped the project to avoid the potential stagnation you can get as a solo producer when you spend too long overworking ideas. Neil is very inspired, works quickly, executes great judgement and as I said before, is lyrically intuitive and sensitive. It’s been a long time since I’ve written collaboratively with someone, but it feels like we are on to a very good thing.

BERNHOLZ How things are madeYour debut BERNHOLZ album ‘How Things Are Made’ was well received, how will you juggle Near Future with recording your own second long player?

Well, juggling both these projects with my own little biological project (a baby due any day now!) will be very interesting. I’ve been working on my half of the NEAR FUTURE album and my own record ‘The Innermost Surfaces In Eggshells’ in tandem, and I really enjoy it.

Sometimes I’ll be inspired to work on one as it will fit with my thought pattern at the time. They are very different in terms of mood and execution.

My own solo album is a complete departure from my debut, more like an art soundpiece rather than songs, whereas the NEAR FUTURE tracks, even though they retain that experimentation, are a lot more focussed on collaborative songwriting. It’s hard to rein in all the ideas I have floating around sometimes, I release other music as part of an ongoing ‘Consequences’ project too. I’m quite lucky that I can put my eternal distractions and procrastination to good use.

Parts of ‘How Things Are Made’ were reminiscent of DALEK I LOVE YOU; as they were heavily inspired by Eno too, this is maybe not entirely surprising. What was your reaction to hearing DALEK I LOVE YOU for the first time?

I remember ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK have drawn those comparisons before, but honestly, they’d never been on my radar before! I look forward to delving into the catalogue more, but recollecting hearing them the first time, I remember thinking, “Great!”

Are you and Neil likely to perform live together in the NEAR FUTURE?

We certainly hope so. We are discussing a few shows potentially at the moment, we just have to work out the logistics (and a set list), but we have a new song, albeit a cover, due imminently.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Jez Bernholz

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random Music Management

‘Ideal Home’ b/w ‘Overwhelmed’ is released by Blanc Check Records and available as a download single via the usual digital outlets

Pre-order the NEAR FUTURE album ‘Ideal Home’ at https://nearfuture.tmstor.es



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
17th May 2015, updated 14th March 2018

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