Tag: Blancmange (Page 1 of 15)

BLANCMANGE Everything Is Connected

Celebrating 45 years of BLANCMANGE, ‘Everything Is Connected’ is a new career-spanning “best of” collection curated by co-founder and front man Neil Arthur covering between 1979 to 2024.

With Neil Arthur being one of the most prolific artists in the UK and BLANCMANGE having now released more albums since 2011 than in their hit heyday, it is appropriate that this compilation is a double and split into two distinct chapters.

The first half gathers tracks from when BLANCMANGE were originally a duo comprising of Arthur and Stephen Luscombe. They self-released their first EP ‘Irene & Mavis’ in 1980 where the duo took on the personas of the pensioners pictured on the artwork. Experimental in nature and very lo-fi, it is appropriate than a Eno-esque instrumental ‘Just Another Spectre’ ends this section.

But starting is Chapter One is their breakthrough ‘Sad Day’; a solemn instrumental with an almost-countrified guitar line and a bassline borrowed from Brian Eno’s ‘The Fat Lady Of Limbourg’, it was far more hook-laden than anything on ‘Irene & Mavis’. Pointing to how BLANCMANGE were developing, it was chosen for inclusion on the now-seminal ‘Some Bizzare Album’ which also showcased other then-unknown acts such as SOFT CELL, THE THE, B-MOVIE and DEPECHE MODE. It was support tours with the latter and JAPAN that led to BLANCMANGE signing to London Records in 1982.

Photo by Paul Slattery

The London Records phase is more than well documented, leading to three albums ‘Happy Families’, ‘Mange Tout’ and ‘Believe You Me’ as well as a string of hit singles. ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ brought in exotic Eastern flavours thanks to Luscombe’s love of music from the Indian sub-continent having lived in the London’s Southall.

‘Feel Me’ and ‘Blind Vision’ crossed TALKING HEADS with disco, the former remixed in 12 inch form by American dancefloor specialist John Luongo and the latter produced by him. Famously ‘Waves’ allowed Neil Arthur to indulge in his Scott Walker fantasies complete with string backing and drove Julian Cope round the bend in the process!

Photo by Deb Danahay

Meanwhile having immersed themselves in a cassette of ABBA’s ‘The Singles – The First Ten Years’ that Vince Clarke’s girlfriend had brought along while they were all holidaying in Tenerife, Arthur and Luscombe hit on the idea of covering the penultimate track; achieving a higher UK chart position than the original ABBA single, ‘The Day Before You Came is included on ‘Everything Is Connected’ in its superior 7inch single version produced by Peter Collins.

To put things into context, ABBA were considered passé at the time and not treated with the reverence they are today. BLANCMANGE’s take had more of a groove and added some cheeky Northern English melodrama. In some ways, this 1984 can be seen as the seed of the upturn in ABBA’s credibility and Clarke himself was to cover ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ with his new project ERASURE in 1985.

Arthur and Luscombe decided to amicably disband BLANCMANGE in 1986 and while both continued in music, it wasn’t until 2011 that a new album they had quietly made together ‘Blanc Burn’ was released; from it ‘Drive Me’ and ‘The Western’ showed the duo had not lost their touch. But almost immediately, Stephen Luscombe had to leave due to health reasons, unable to tour or work. It was mutually agreed that Arthur would continue with BLANCMANGE solo and so began Chapter Two.

The main selling point for fans here is the inclusion of ‘Again, I Wait For The World’, a song written in 1979 by Arthur’s art-school band L360; a vibrant slice of synth punk, it is a worthy addition to the BLANCMANGE tradition. Another treat is the previously unreleased ‘Wish’. The highlight though is 2018’s ‘Distant Storm’, an unusual but brilliant tune with its incessant dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic presenting an almost spiritual quality.

This solo phase of BLANCMANGE actually began with 2015’s ‘Semi Detached’ album, Neil Arthur’s first new material recorded without Stephen Luscombe and from this technostalgic offering is ‘The Fall’ which actually references Mark E Smith’s cult combo. Coming off 2020’s ‘Mindset’, ‘This Is Bliss’ provides a variety of percolating patterns and a deeper trance bass resonance with a repeated ranting chorus.

In 2022, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records with 15th long player ‘Private View’ and this occasion is best represented by ‘Reduced Voltage’; echoing CAN in its groovy kosmische precision, although sequencer driven, the guitars get turned up during the second half.

Since the hiatus between 1986 to 2011, Neil Arthur has issued 12 albums as BLANCMANGE, while also undertaking side projects such as NEAR FUTURE, FADER and THE REMAINDER; ‘Everything Is Connected’ provides a chance for those who liked BLANCMANGE’s hits back in the day to catch up with those 21st Century songs, while it also acts as an entry point into the highlights of the back catalogue for younger listeners. That this compilation is able to be a packed double CD is a wonderful achievement.


‘Everything Is Connected’ is released by London Records on 10 May 2024 as a 38 track double CD, 38 track download + 10 track coke bottle green vinyl LP, available from https://blancmange.tmstor.es/products

BLANCMANGE 2024 UK tour with support from THE REMAINDER:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Wylam Brewery (16 May), Glasgow Saint Luke’s (17 May), Birmingham O2 Institute (18 May), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (23 May), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (24 May), Manchester Academy 2 (25 May), Colchester Arts Centre, (26 May), Bristol Trinity Arts Centre (31 May), London Islington Assembly Hall (1 June), Hove Old Market (2 June), Southampton 1865 (3 June)

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

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 May 2024

THE ELECTRONIC LEGAGY OF 1984

1984 saw FM synthesis, sampling and computer controlled systems taking a more dominant role in not just electronic music making but within mainstream pop as well.

The ubiquity of the Yamaha DX7 with its realistic sounds and the dominance digital drum machines meant that inventive electronic sound design would take a backseat. This meant that the otherworldly fascination that had come with Synth Britannia was now something of a distant memory. But despite the popularity of the Emulator at this time for its factory disk derived symphonic strings, brass and choirs, the Roland Jupiter 8 remained the main analogue synth for the likes of THE BLUE NILE and TALK TALK as well as Howard Jones.

While Trevor Horn and his team were well equipped with all the state of the art equipment money could buy for the ZTT releases of THE ART OF NOISE and FRANKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD, OMD and HEAVEN 17 were among those who purchased the Fairlight Series II. SOFT CELL and Gary Numan chose the PPG system while THE HUMAN LEAGUE opted for the Synclavier II.

However, despite all the high tech, the most disappointing record of the year was undoubtedly ‘Hysteria’, THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s lukewarm follow-up to ‘Dare’ which departed from the supreme synthpop formula of its predecessor. ‘Dare’ producer Martin Rushent had left the troubled sessions following disagreements with the band but as the recording continued to be prolonged, his replacement Chris Thomas soon followed him through the door.  Hugh Padgham who had worked with Phil Collins on his key hit recordings was drafted in to finish the record.

Although the excellent ‘Louise’ saw the estranged couple from ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ cross paths again a few years on, the laudable attempt at political observation and guitar-driven dynamics ‘The Lebanon’ confused fans. Meanwhile the remainder of the album was underwhelming, with the reworked version of ‘I Love You Too Much’ sounding a poor shadow of the dynamic Martin Rushent original which had premiered on the Canadian ‘Fascination! EP in 1983.

Those pop acts who had topped the UK charts in 1983 like CULTURE CLUB and SPANDAU BALLET also suffered from lacklustre follow-ups and were superseded by the rise of WHAM! Despite the absence of a new studio album, DURAN DURAN managed to score a No1 with ‘The Reflex’ and a No2 with ‘The Wild Boys’, both in a creative union with Nile Rodgers while making an impact in 1984 was Nik Kershaw.

The split of YAZOO the previous year led to Alison Moyet issuing her first solo album ‘Alf’ but the new Vince Clarke project THE ASSEMBLY lasted just one single ‘Never Never’ featuring the vocals of Feargal Sharkey. Comparatively quiet in 1984, NEW ORDER released their most commercial single yet in ‘Thieves Like Us’.

With bands like A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS and U2 having achieved success in North America with a more rock derived template, the lure of the Yankee Dollar steered SIMPLE MINDS towards that less artful bombastic direction with the ultimately flawed ‘Sparkle In The Rain’. The purer synthesizer sound was now less desirable in terms of Trans-Atlantic marketability and pressure was put on acts to use more guitar and live drums, something that would become even more prominent in 1985.

So until then, here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK seen as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1984. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker


ALPHAVILLE Forever Young

Fronted by Marian Gold, German trio ALPHAVILLE broke through in the UK with a Zeus B Held remix of ‘Big In Japan’ and while that particular version is not included on the ‘Forever Young’ album, the original mix held its own alongside songs like ‘Sound Like A Melody’ and ‘Fallen Angel’. Meanwhile, the poignant title song has since become an evergreen anthem borrowed by the likes of THE KILLERS and JAY-Z!

‘Forever Young’ is still available via Warner Music

https://www.alphaville.earth/


THE ART OF NOISE Who’s Afraid Of?

From the off, THE ART OF NOISE were rattling cages. ‘Beat Box’ was the track which scared KRAFTWERK enough for them to delay the release of their ‘Technopop’ album and rework it as the underwhelming ‘Electric Cafe’. The crazy staccato sample cacophony of ‘Close (To The Edit)’ which was later borrowed by THE PRODIGY for ‘Firestarter’ still sounds as fresh and mad as ever while ‘Moments In Love’ heralded a new age in mood music.

‘Who’s Afraid Of?’ is still available via ZTT

https://www.facebook.com/artofnoiseofficial/


BLANCMANGE Mange Tout

On the back of hit singles in ‘Blind Vision’, ‘That’s Love That It Is’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’, the brilliantly titled second BLANCMANGE album ‘Mange Tout’ became their biggest seller. Another surprise came with a melodramatic cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’; considered an odd but daring decision at the time, it was something of a cultural prophecy with ABBA now fully reabsorbed into mainstream popular culture.

‘Mange Tout’ is still available via Edsel Records

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


THE BLUE NILE A Walk Across The Rooftops

Glum Scottish trio THE BLUE NILE had an innovative deal with Linn, the Glasgow-based high quality Hi-Fi manufacturer where their crisply produced debut ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ as used by dealers to demonstrate the sonic range of their products. ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ and ‘Stay’ got BBC Radio1 airplay and while they were not hits, the artful album became a favourite among the cognoscenti and other musicians.

‘A Walk Across the Rooftops’ is still available via Confetti Records

https://www.facebook.com/TheBlueNileOfficial


BRONSKI BEAT The Age Of Consent

When BRONSKI BEAT first appeared, they were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, melodic synth sound and Jimmy Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. ‘The Age Of Consent’ used their position as openly gay performers to make important statements such as ‘Smalltown Boy’, ‘Why’ and ‘Need A Man Blues’ as well as the anti-consumerist ‘Junk’ and the self-explanatory protest song ‘No More War’.

‘The Age Of Consent’ is still available via London Records

https://www.facebook.com/officialjimmysomerville


CABARET VOLTAIRE Micro-Phonies

Featuring the blissful ‘Sensoria’, the second Some Bizzare long playing adventure of CABARET VOLTAIRE saw Stephen Mallinder and Richard H Kirk at possibly their most accessible yet while still remaining alternative. With a Fairlight CMI now taking over from the previous tape experiments alongside the punchy rhythmic backdrop, tracks like ‘Do Right’ and ‘Slammer’ exemplified their alternative club direction.

‘Micro-Phonies’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/cabaret-voltaire


DEAD OR ALIVE Sophisticated Boom Boom

With Pete Burns now looking more and more like Gina X, it was no big surprise that her producer Zeus B Held was helming DEAD OR ALIVE’s electronic disco direction. An energetic cover of KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way’ was the hit breakthrough but there was also mighty sequencer dance tunes such as ‘Misty Circles’ and ‘What I Want’, as well as the Morrissey fronting ABBA serenity of ‘Far Too Hard’.

‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ is still available via Cherry Pop

https://www.discogs.com/artist/46720-Dead-Or-Alive


DEPECHE MODE Some Great Reward

Despite more adult songs with S&M metaphors about capitalism and doubts about religion, ‘Some Great Reward’ was the last innocent DEPECHE MODE album. With Gareth Jones now taking on a co-production role with Daniel Miller, the sampling experimentation was honed into the powerful metallic pop of ‘Something To Do’, ‘Master & Servant’, ‘If You Want’ and ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ while there was also the sensitive piano ballad ‘Somebody’.

‘Some Great Reward’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Welcome To The Pleasure Dome

The Trevor Horn produced ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ was a double album that should have been edited down to a single record but that would have missed the point. Featuring three supreme UK No1 singles in ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power Of Love’, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD had their place cemented in musical history, regardless of the radio bannings and controversial marketing stunts.

‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ is still available via ZTT

https://www.hollyjohnson.com/


MANUEL GÖTTSCHING E2-E4

Best known for his work as ASHRA and the album ‘New Age Of Earth’ in particular, Manuel Göttsching improvised an extended piece based around an understated Prophet 10 sequence and a gentle but hypnotic backbone as something to listen to on his recently purchased Walkman for an upcoming flight. Influenced by minimalist trailblazers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the end result was the hour long suite ‘E2-E4’.

‘E2-E4’ is still available via SpaMG.ART

https://www.manuel-goettsching.com


HEAVEN 17 How Men Are

The success of ‘The Luxury Gap’ brought money into HEAVEN 17 and this was reflected in the orchestrally assisted Fairlight jamboree of ‘How Men Are’. “I think it’s an underrated album and that was when we were probably in our most daring and creative phase” said Martyn Ware and that manifested itself on the sub-ten minute closer ‘And That’s No Lie’ and the outstanding Doomsday Clock referencing opener ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’.

‘How Men Are’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Zoolook

Having been an early adopter of the Fairlight CMI on ‘Magnetic Fields’, Jean-Michel Jarre utilised it further to create an instrumental palette sampled from 25 spoken languages on ‘Zoolook’. It also saw the use of notable musicians including Marcus Miller, Yogi Horton, Adrian Belew and Laurie Anderson who lent her voice to the delightfully oddball ‘Diva’. The magnificent highlight was the 11 minute ‘Ethnicolour’.

‘Zoolook’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.jeanmicheljarre.com/


HOWARD JONES Human’s Lib

‘Human’s Lib’ was the beginning of Howard Jones’ imperial phase, with four hit singles ‘New Song’, ‘What Is Love?’, ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Pearl In The Shell’ included on this immediate debut. But there was quality in the other songs with ‘Equality’ sounding like an arrangement blue print for A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and the title song about Ruth, David and Dennis touching on the complexities of love triangles!

‘Human’s Lib’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


GARY NUMAN Berserker

After the jazzier overtones of ‘Warriors’, ‘Berserker’ was conceived as “a science alternative album” by Gary Numan and therefore much more of an electronic proposition. Dominated by the PPG Wave system which had been the heartbeat of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, ‘My Dying Machine’ pumped like ‘Relax’ while the rhythmic title song and the exotic ‘Cold Warning’ provided other highlights.

‘Berserker’ is still available via Eagle Records

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Junk Culture

With its embracement of calypso, reggae, indie and mainstream pop, ‘Junk Culture’ was perhaps even more experimental than ‘Dazzle Ships’ and took OMD outside of the Germanic sound laboratory they had emerged from. Known for two slightly inane hits, ‘Locomotion’ put them back into the UK Top5 while ‘Talking Loud & Clear’ only just missed out on the Top10. However, the best single from the album ‘Tesla Girls’ stalled at No21!

‘Junk Culture’ is still available via Universal Music

https://omd.uk.com/


SECTION 25 From The Hip

Co-produced by Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER, ‘From The Hip’ followed founder member Larry Cassidy’s statement that “you can’t be a punk all your life”. Recruiting vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy, ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ with its clattering drum machine, pulsing hypnotism and ominous synth lines was the album’s standout while ‘Program For Light’ explored further electronic territory.

‘From The Hip’ is still available via Factory Benelux

https://www.section25.com/


SOFT CELL This Last Night In Sodom

If ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ was the difficult second SOFT CELL album, ‘This Last Night In Sodom’ was an even more challenging proposition with some tracks even mixed in mono! The thundering percussive cover of ‘Down In The Subway’ was a metaphor for Marc Almond’s mental state while ‘L’ Esqualita’ provided some fabulous gothic menace alongside the frenetic rush of ‘Soul Inside’, all aided by Dave Ball and his PPG Wave 2.2.

‘This Last Night In Sodom’ is still available via Some Bizzare

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TALK TALK It’s My Life

Now a trio, the second TALK TALK album saw them work with producer Tim Friese-Greene who would also have a songwriting role alongside Mark Hollis. Still reliant on synthesizers for its aural template, the initial five song sequence from ‘Dum Dum Girl’ to ‘Tomorrow Started’ was superb, taking in the title song, the magnificent ‘Such A Shame’ and the emotive ballad ‘Renée’. It sold well in Europe but was largely ignored in the UK.

‘It’s My Life’ is still available via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/talktalkfans


THOMPSON TWINS Into The Gap

Following their breakthrough record ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’, ‘Into The Gap’ was the most commercially successful THOMPSON TWINS studio album, putting the quirky trio into the US Top10. With Tom Bailey now taking on a co-producer role alongside Alex Sadkin, it featured the megahits ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’ while the neo-title song ‘The Gap’ offered an Eastern flavoured take on ‘Trans-Europe Express’.

‘Into The Gap’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.thompsontwinstombailey.com/


ULTRAVOX Lament

With self-produced sessions in the Musicfest home studio of Midge Ure, there were more obviously programmed rhythm tracks than previously while tracks ranged from the earnest rock of ‘One Small Day’ to the sequencer-driven ‘White China’. The apocalyptic Michael Rother influenced ‘Dancing With Tears In My Tears’ that gave ULTRAVOX with their biggest hit since ‘Vienna’ although the Celtic overtures of ‘Man Of Two Worlds’ was the album’s best song.

‘Lament’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24 February 2024

THE REMAINDER Interview

 

THE REMAINDER are an electronic trio comprising Neil Arthur (vocals, guitar + synthesizers), Liam Hutton (drums, guitar + synthesizers) and Finlay Shakespeare (synthesizers + vocals).

The credentials of Neil Arthur and his work in BLANCMAGE are well documented, but Liam Hutton has a portfolio that includes Neneh Cherry while Finlay Shakespeare is an artist in his own right who also builds synths via his Future Sound Systems.

THE REMAINDER recently released debut album ‘Evensong’ has been many years in the making. Although both Liam Hutton and Finlay Shakespeare are recurring members of the BLANCMANGE live family, the project began before either was involved in the headline act.

The sound of THE REMAINDER is crisp yet hazy, with Arthur relinquishing total control and relishing in the altered dynamic coming from two younger and very capable collaborators, as he has done previous in his other side-projects NEAR FUTURE, FADER and KINCAID.

‘Evensong’ is an immediately enjoyable affair that sits nicely in the wider Neil Arthur canon. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had the pleasure of a three-way online chat with Neil Arthur, Liam Hutton and Finlay Shakespeare to discuss THE REMAINDER and its creative dynamic.

How did the idea of actually writing and producing music together come about, as opposed to just performing together?

Neil: Liam and I started work on the album in 2015, shortly after my manager Steve Malins introduced us. It wasn’t until a few years later that Liam joined BLANCMANGE on tour. We asked Finlay if he’d like to get involved later still. When was that? At that point, although Finlay had been a special guest with us, he hadn’t played with the Blancs.

Finlay: It was 10th November 2018 backstage at The Cluny, Newcastle!

Were the bones of the songs written together or by necessity due to your schedules, THE REMAINDER needed to a remote project?

Neil: Liam sent me his ideas electronically and I responded likewise. In fits and starts, eventually we had a body of work that we presented to Finlay to let his machines loose on. It was only then that we realised, “oh, we’ve got an album’s worth of noise here”. I think Liam and I got together in person only once before finally we went to join Finlay at his studio to fine-tune and mix the album.

Finlay: COVID didn’t help. I remember the dates of the mix session being set quite precariously, and a lot of my dabbling with the projects beforehand had to be done remotely anyway.

Did you set out any rules or restrictions in the way the music was constructed to set THE REMAINDER apart from your other work?

Neil: No, I think the three of us would hopefully be able create something uniquely different in the way each of us reacted to information / music / files / suggestion we in turn received from one another. A mutualistic 3 way symbiosis I reckon.

Finlay: Not strictly, but I remember using the opportunity to try some new techniques out. There’s a moment where a keyboard got played with my feet in ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’!

Was there anything that was applied more consciously, like for example live drum feels?

Liam: The decision to add live drums was definitely a ‘conscious’ one. All of the tracks began with programmed drums but ‘Evensong’ and ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’ just felt like they needed that extra punch!

The ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’ title has a goth rock air about it and that comes across in the music?

Neil: Oh, I hadn’t clocked that.

The ‘Evensong’ title track has this motorik backbone, how did that piece itself together and what influences went into the pot?

Neil: There was an intention to attempt towards that motorik drive, with NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF being a reference to an extent.

Finlay: With the drum machine stem being sent over, I remember going straight for the sequencers at the studio, sending clock to as much stuff simultaneously as I could, then tweaking everything with each pass. Haswell’s Taiko, ARP 2600 clones, MS20, plenty of fun. That rigidly clocked feel definitely helps the motorik aspect.

Liam: I think we all had our eyes / ears on similar influences for this one! KRAFTWERK, CAN, NEU! et al. The idea started with the repetitive arpeggio played on an electric guitar, using that muted-harmonics technique everyone does when they first start learning to play. Then the drums were added at first using a Korg Vulca Beats which is quite a rudimentary but a fun little drum sequencer, and bass notes programmed on a computer. Neil then added vocals and synths and it took shape from there, going to Finlay for some grit and character!

The album opener ‘Broken Manhole Cover’ has this LCD SOUNDSYSTEM vibe, any thoughts?

Neil: Well, if you listen very carefully, you’ll hear me singing via a gated tremolo FX the words “LCD SOUNDSYSTEM” most of the way through the song. Maybe that’s got something to do with it. Subliminal suggestion. I can’t remember how I came to be singing that. Local amnesia possibly…

Finlay: The finger clicks and hand claps are pure Bowie, make of that what you will…

Was ‘Lift Music’ a track born out of frustration?

Neil: Lyrically, more monotonous repetition – hotels on tour. Forgetting where you are because once you’re in there, it may as well be anywhere or nowhere. Then there’s another level, get it? Lift music, to keep you calm in a small space. People get paid to curate a setlist of songs for lift travel. I want that job. CCTV watching your every move. Repeat and repeat.

Liam: I was messing around with the Ableton Looper and ended up making that sort of distorted, stuttery synth sound which you hear throughout. It has a sort of frustrated / anxious feel to it which wasn’t intentional, but it definitely informed the rest of the ideas that came after.

‘What Do You Want To Want’ asks existential questions?

Neil: Yes.

Jo Hutton provides electro-acoustic interludes between all the tracks on ‘Evensong’? How did that come about?

Liam: It was suggested that my Mum, being a sound artist / experimentalist and sound engineer, should make some interludes and she gladly obliged! She used the stems from each track to create their respective interludes.

Will THE REMAINDER perform live or will it be more likely that the occasional song might pop into the BLANCMANGE live set?

Finlay: We’d love to do it, it’s just a case of getting our heads together and existing in the same room for more than 20 minutes! It’s also a case of getting booked, though we could always do a small DIY tour. Tiny venues, 20 people, dancing shoes, job’s a good’un.

Liam: I hope so!

What is next for you each?

Neil: More recording, then a break before festivals in Europe.

Finlay: A studio move-out, then a potential studio build. A new album’s finished though, set for release in 2024.

Liam: Recording and touring mainly. Hoping to finish some new music before the year is up…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to THE REMAINDER

Special thanks to Steve Malins at Random Music Management

‘Evensong’ is released by Blanc Check Ltd as a clear vinyl LP, CD + digital download, available from https://theremainder.tmstor.es/

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

https://www.liamhutton.co.uk/

http://finlayshakespeare.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29 July 2023

THE REMAINDER Evensong

Another year and it’s another Neil Arthur side-project. Following on NEAR FUTURE, FADER and KINCAID comes THE REMAINDER.

As well as Neil Arthur, THE REMAINDER also comprises live BLANCMANGE percussionist Liam Hutton whose portfolio includes Neneh Cherry and Finlay Shakespeare, an artist in his own right who also builds synths and is another member of the BLANCMANGE performing family.

Initiated in 2015, the sound of THE REMAINDER is crisp yet hazy, with Arthur relinquishing total control and relishing in the altered dynamic coming from two younger and very capable collaborators. Additionally, Liam Hutton’s mother Jo, a radio audio recording engineer and composer provides sub-20 second ‘feedback and situation’ interludes slotted between the songs for a considered body of work.

Beginning with the excellent dance friendly ‘Broken Manhole Cover’, Neil Arthur deadpans about “eating immature peppers”, “calcium build-up” and other earthy observations and as a hypnotic synthy shine bursts through, it recalls LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. Taking on a more midtempo pace, ‘Hoarfrost’ is spacey electronic pop with engaging keyboard passages where Arthur exclaims “I don’t do nostalgia” as he ponders the passing of time.

The ‘Evensong’ title track is gloriously motorik and brings in live bass alongside a blippy backdrop before some ragged guitar joins in the second half in a celebration of the outsider. A cousin of ‘Hoarfrost’, like VISAGE and TALK TALK, THE REMAINDER have an eponymous song too and the use of digital claps provides a fitting upbeat.

More sombre and perhaps autobiographical, ‘Awake’ sees Arthur sounding particularly weary in the character of a “very very busy, a very busy person”. Of a similar tone and sounding not unlike THE CURE, the angsty ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’ makes subtle but effective use of synths on top of the driving rhythm section.

With more great synth lines and tongue-in-cheek references to the classic BBC comedy show ‘Are You Being Served?’, ‘Lift Music’ excels within a cavernous downtempo trip-hop setting. With eerie horror film vibes in a song about denial, ‘Forgotten’ sees Neil Arthur get more animated and angry before the closer ‘What Do You Want To Want’ recalls JOY DIVISION courtesy of its almost funereal mood as it asks existential questions inspired by the Yuval Noah Harris book, ‘Sapiens; A Brief History Of Mankind’.

This first album by THE REMAINDER is an immediately enjoyable affair that sits nicely alongside FADER and NEAR FUTURE as part of the wider Neil Arthur canon. But what is next? There’s the rumour of an as yet unnamed covers project with Benge and a certain Vince Clarke… versions of ‘Stuck In The Middle Of You’, ‘Goodbye To Love’ and ‘Rock On’ are said to be among the works-in-progress 😉


‘Evensong’ is released on 14 July 2023 by Blanc Check Ltd as a clear vinyl LP, CD + digital download, pre-order from https://theremainder.tmstor.es/

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

https://www.liamhutton.co.uk/

http://finlayshakespeare.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 July 2023

A Short Conversation with FINLAY SHAKESPEARE

With his third album, Finlay Shakespeare has produced his most pop work yet in ‘Illusion + Memory’.

Released by experimental musician Luke Younger’s Alter label, ‘Illusion + Memory’ is the follow-up to 2020’s ‘Solemnities’ which came out on Editions Mego, the independent record company established by the late Peter Rehberg to champion underground electronic music.

A graduate in audio engineering and an independent musical device manufacturer via his Future Sound Systems, Finlay Shakespeare is above all, an electronic pop fan with a love of KRAFTWERK, THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, ASSOCIATES, OMD and JAPAN that came via his parents’ vast record collection.

With a passionate heart for sonically immersive electronic pop, the vocal delivery of Finlay Shakespeare can be intense and anguished although ‘Illusion + Memory’ reveals a more romantic nature to his music.

He kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the new approaches he took in the production of his new album, his revived enthusiasm for live work and a new project with Neil Arthur of BLANCMANGE…

How do you look back on ‘Solemenities’ and its reception?

I think I’ve come a long way since that record, but it’ll always be special to me as it was my last album where Peter Rehberg from Editions Mego had a direct involvement. The release time coincided almost perfectly with Europe going into lockdown, so I remember it being rather stressful for all involved. The actual subject matter of the album, at least at the time of writing, seemed pretty sensational to me, always thinking “this end of the world stuff won’t happen”, though what we’ve seen over the last few years has gotten very close. It’s quite bizarre.

Does ‘Illusion + Memory’ have a theme?

Not directly, it’s influenced by a bunch of different things I’m into. Somehow it’s come out as the most “song based” thing I’ve done so far, though that wasn’t a particular aim. I remember wanting to play with structure more deeply, but I’m unsure I really got that far with it, just getting distracted with sequencers instead!

Did you alter your equipment set up to inspire different ideas and approaches?

To a degree, yes… I was able to finish off a lot of DIY synthesizer projects over lockdown, so I ended up going back into the studio with a lot more equipment, particularly patchable analogue stuff. Parts of that equipment make an appearance on most tracks of the album in fact, so there’s perhaps a shift in sound palette thanks to that.

‘Theresa’ reveals a romantic side to you that hasn’t been heard before and has led to you adopting different vocal delivery styles?

Perhaps… the subject matter of Theresa is rather dark, but also relates to strength in the face of brutality. I thought the vocals should reflect that, and I’ve always been a fan of big overdubbed vocal sounds. I think I’ve also gotten a little more confident with using my voice – it’s something I’m always trying to push further.

The opener ‘Your Side of the River’ is like the ultimate homage to Synth Britannia, what is it actually about?

I don’t know! I had a few of the lyrics bouncing around in my head for years and it was time to turn them into something real. The musical elements also grew out of how I used to open the live set. Ironically I moved round the corner from a river after writing the song – I have to cross it on my way to work – so it all felt quite suitable.

‘Always’ appears to recall elements of Peter Gabriel’s 4th album but how did it come together?

‘Always’ began life by playing with the small Buchla system I had DIY’d over lockdown – that’s the first thing you hear in that track. I had this little arpeggiated thing going with the really lovely Buchla oscillator and recorded some of that, then came back to it weeks later. I remember trying to make the drums sound big but not overpowering – trying to mimic the style Liam Hutton has when he plays with BLANCMANGE in fact! Also trying to make my song structures more interesting, although still relatively simple.

Although the album has more of a song-based pop element, ‘Climb’ is the more experimental one…

Well, ‘Climb’ started as a test recording. I had been building some Serge modular equipment for some friends, and the sequence running through is a test of a programmer I built to complement the system. I knew I needed to do something with it, so the recordings made their way to the studio and were augmented by all sorts… there are a lot of toy Casio keyboards in that track!

Talking of experimentation, is that guitar making its presence felt about a third into ‘Ici’ which mutates over the various sections of its six plus minutes?

No guitar on that one, but a fair bit scattered throughout the rest of the record! That part in ‘Ici’ is a Yamaha string machine hooked up to a semi-broken Fender amp.

‘I Saw You’ could be considered classic Finlay Shakespeare, does this have its roots in earlier material you hadn’t used?

Nope! Akin to ‘Climb’, the sequence that runs through came from the programmer I built, but this time controlling a TTSH, the ARP2600 clone. I wanted that track to feel like it was filling up to the brim, eventually overflowing. Every part is a little out of tune with the next, and by the end the mix itself pretty much gets overdriven.

You play with Motorik rhythms on ‘Ready Ready’ with some rather nice synth tones, what was its inspiration?

It’s an absolute rip off of OMD’s ‘2nd Thought’! Lyrically, I had been reading a lot about numbers stations, and there was a theory that one of the automated voices might have come from an agent’s wife. I thought it would be interesting to write a song based around that – feeling at home through just a voice on the shortwave, when in fact you don’t know where you are and you could be in the crosshairs at any time and place. Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘The Spy’ was another influence on this one.

Were you channelling your inner Vangelis on ‘Upcoming’?

Not quite, though of course I can hear the resemblance. If anything, I was going after a ‘Europe Endless’-esque top line. That part, once again, actually came from testing some equipment – a really cheap Alesis reverb that has this very evident echoing on long decay settings. You can hear that in the track from the offset, and that set the tempo of what became ‘Upcoming’.

A few years ago, you seemed to have become disillusioned with live work but you have been out and about performing again, most recently on a bill with Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones in their SUNROOF modular guise?

It’s tricky – I absolutely love playing live, but it’s becoming logistically and financially harder and harder to do so, especially in the UK. With Brexit, European promoters are understandably far more anxious to book any British acts. It’s a case of finding the right crowds at home too. Over the last year or so, it’s felt like I am finding an audience perhaps more suited to what I do, but there are still certainly times where I end up playing to the venue staff only. Getting people out of their homes to experience something that might be out of their comfort zone can be very difficult. The recent gig at Iklectik was easily one of the best UK experiences I’ve had though, particularly down south.

Your GOTO label has released some interesting stuff by people like Bella Unwin and the eponymous EP by LICKING ORCHIDS, is it progressing as you had hoped?

If anything it’s been somewhat overwhelming! I’m hugely grateful for the support the label’s received, and it’s great being able to put music I love into the world and share it with a wider audience. There’s more music in the pipeline, and really looking forward to seeing the roster grow.

What is next for you?

More recording – I already have the bones of an album that need fleshing out. The music is quite different I think, mainly because I’m trying to push my process and the equipment into different places. I also have some super exciting collaborative projects on the horizon – stay tuned!

One is THE REMAINDER; I was invited by Neil Arthur of BLANCMANGE to add some electronic elements and treatments to some tracks him and Liam Hutton had been working on. This slowly developed into a to-and-fro session sharing project that we made good progress on over the UK COVID lockdowns. At the point we realised we had an album up together, we found the time to meet at my studio in Bristol and get the whole thing mixed. As far as I understand, it’s been quite a long process – I only really came onboard halfway through, if not further in – so it’s quite an honour to be invited to work with Neil and Liam on all this! The album is called ‘Evensong’ and released 14th July 2023.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Finlay Shakespeare

‘Illusion + Memory’ released by Alter in vinyl LP and online formats via https://lnk.to/IllusionMemory

Finlay Shakespeare appears with Nik Void + Russell Haswell at Bloc in Glasgow on Wednesday 31st May 2023 and with Chain of Flowers + Beauty Parlour Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff on 1st June 2023

http://finlayshakespeare.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FinShakespeare/

https://twitter.com/FinShakespeare

https://www.instagram.com/finlayshakespeare/

https://www.futuresoundsystems.co.uk/

https://alterstock.org


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
28th May 2023

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