Tag: Boytronic (Page 1 of 3)

A Beginner’s Guide To GARETH JONES

Gareth Jones was born in Lancashire and while he played a number of instruments as a youngster, his interest soon turned to music technology with the purchase of a tape recorder.

He gained his formal training at the BBC and began working as an engineer in various recording spaces including Pathway, a small 8 track studio in North London which was frequently used by Stiff Records and where THE DAMNED recorded ‘New Rose’ in 1976. It was there that he worked on MADNESS’ debut single ‘The Prince’ in 1979. But it was his work with former ULTRAVOX front man John Foxx and his 1980 long playing debut ‘Metamatic’ that was to be his breakthrough.

This led to work producing esoteric acts such as TUXEDOMOON and TAUCHEN-PROKOPETZ; it was while working with the latter on the 1983 ‘DÖF’ record in Vienna that it was suggested that Jones mix the album at Hansa Tonstudio in West Berlin. At the time, it was the most high-tech complex he had ever worked in and prompted to his relocation to die Mauerstadt.

Many British bands began recording and mixing in Berlin as the exchange rate made things highly cost effective. It was while Jones was engineering the recording of the third DEPECHE MODE album ‘Construction Time Again’ at John Foxx’s own studio The Garden in Shoreditch that he proposed mixing the record in Berlin. He had been initially reluctant to work with DEPECHE MODE who he considered lightweight but was eventually persuaded by Foxx to become their Tonmeister.

Gareth Jones was a pioneer in the use of state of art digital equipment including the NED Synclavier and AMS digital delays; among his techniques was using the big ballroom at Hansa to capture atmospheres created by sounds being played through large amplifiers which were then recorded with microphones, creating a huge cavernous sound.

Although chiefly known for his work with synths and sampling, Jones also worked with more guitar driven bands such as WIRE, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, INSPIRAL CARPETS and MOGWAI as well as dark lord Nick Cave. After the fall of The Iron Curtain, Jones later returned to London where he remains today at his current base theArtLab within The Strongroom complex in London.

Having fought cancer in 2008, he continues to produce, mix and compose with a third SUNROOF album with Daniel Miller currently in progress. Meanwhile Jones had also provided his expertise and guidance to emerging studio personnel via the Red Bull Academy.

With a restriction of one track per album project and in chronological order, here are 20 tracks which form ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Beginner’s Guide to the innovative career of Gareth Jones.


JOHN FOXX Plaza (1980)

Having departed ULTRAVOX, when John Foxx recorded his debut solo record, Gareth Jones was the engineer at Pathway, a studio known for its reggae sessions. While the aim was a starker vision of electronic music, both Foxx and Jones absorbed dub influences where things would be stripped back but one sound given all the power. As well as the surprise hit single ‘Underpass’, this aesthetic suited the dystopian ‘Metamatic’ opener ‘Plaza’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metamatic’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


TUXEDOMOON Incubus (1981)

Impressed with the sound of ‘Metamatic’, TUXEDOMOON had originally sought John Foxx to produce their next album ‘Desire’ but unavailable, he put the American art rockers in touch with Gareth Jones. “Gareth was brilliant, fabulous” said the band’s Blaine L Reininger, “He was able to teach us; kind of organise us”. On one of the highlights was  ‘Incubus’ which used the same Roland CR-78 Compurhythm used as on ‘Metamatic’.

Available on the TUXEDOMOON album ‘Desire’ via Crammed Discs

https://www.tuxedomoon.co/


JOHN FOXX Dancing Like A Gun (1981)

With a second album and studio both named ‘The Garden’, Gareth Jones was again working with John Foxx to realise both. After the colder overtures of ‘Metamatic’, Foxx had thawed out considerably after a holiday in Italy and as a result, traditional instrumentation returned. ‘Dancing Like A Gun’ contradicted its “Oppenheimer waltzing” line but blended synth with art rock to recall ‘Quiet Men’ from his ULTRAVOX days.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Garden’ via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic


DEPECHE MODE Two Minute Warning (1983)

Working alongside Daniel Miller who continued as producer, Gareth Jones had DEPECHE MODE sampling found sounds around the-then derelict surroundings of Shroreditch to create a new sonic template in pop. Songs like ‘Everything Counts’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘More Than A Party had socio-political themes while the Alan Wilder composed ditty ‘Two Minute Warning’ reflected the heightened Cold War angst of the time.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Construction Time Again’ via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


FAD GADGET Collapsing New People (1984)

Frank Tovey had been intrigued by the sound of German industrial band EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN whose name translated into English as “collapsing new buildings” and their use of industrial equipment and found objects. So while recording at Hansa, he got Gareth Jones to record a large printing press nearby as the basis for a loop rhythm that became ‘Collapsing New People’, one of the best FAD GADGET singles.

Available on the FAD GADGET album ‘Gag’ via Mute Records

https://www.instagram.com/fadgadgetofficial/


BLAINE L REININGER Mystery & Confusion (1984)

For his first second solo album, Blaine L Reininger was reunited with Gareth Jones at the production helm. Using Roland’s portable pre-MIDI holy trinity of the TB-303 Bassline, the SH-101 monosynth and the TR-808 Rhythm Composer synced via a customised cable, its highlight was the cinematic synthpop of ‘Mystery & Confusion’ which saw the TUXEDOMOON leader exude a distinct Eurocentric spirit.

Available on the BLAINE L REININGER album ‘Night Air’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule

https://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/blaine_l_reininger.html


PALAIS SCHAUMBURG Beat Of 2 (1984)

An influential Neue Deutsche Welle band from Hamburg, PALAIS SCHAUMBURG were on the bill with DEPECHE MODE at the 1981 Mute Night at the London Lyceum. Their members included Thomas Fehlmann who went on to join THE ORB as well as produce ERASURE and experimental producer Holger Hiller. The percussive ‘Beat Of 2’ turned out to be their final single and was produced by Gareth Jones alongside Inga Humpe.

Available on the PALAIS SCHAUMBURG album ‘Parlez-Vous Schaumburg?’ via Mercury Records

http://palaisschaumburg.com/


HUMPE HUMPE Yama-ha (1985)

A slice of quirky Neue Deutsche Welle from sisters Annette and Inga Humpe, ‘Yama-ha’ was produced by Roma Baran who had worked on Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’. The “shopping list” synth and sample number listing a number of Japanese tech and vehicle manufacturers was remixed by Gareth Jones. Incidentally the B-side ‘Memories’ was produced by Conny Plank. In the UK, the duo was known as SWIMMING WITH SHARKS.

Available on the HUMPE HUMPE album ‘The Platinum Collection’ via Warner Music Group Germany

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063561587623


EINSTURZEN NEUBAUTEN Yü-Gung (1985)

With their early albums characterised by harsh shouting and screaming, when Gareth Jones was brought in to work with EINSTURZEN NEUBAUTEN, it was to provide a sense of order to the West Berlin group’s experimental metal-bashing. Using sampling technology to provide an avant-dance palette to accompany Blixa Bargeld’s fierce chant of “FÜTTER MEIN EGO”, the sinister rhythm was inspired by the sound of chopping up speed!

Available on the EINSTURZEN NEUBAUTEN album ‘Halber Mensch’ via Potomak

https://neubauten.org/


BRONSKI BEAT Hit That Perfect Beat (1985)

Featuring new BRONSKI BEAT singer John Jøn Foster following the departure of Jimmy Somerville, ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ was a frantically paced HI-NRG track helmed by Adam Williams of THE SELECTER who had been co-producer on EURYTHMICS’ singles ‘The Walk’ and ‘Love Is A Stranger’. Impressed by his work for DEPECHE MODE, Gareth Jones did the final mix which replicated the pumping presence of ‘Master & Servant’.

Available on the BRONSKI BEAT album ‘Truthdare Doubledare’ via London Records

https://www.facebook.com/bronskibeatband


DEPECHE MODE Stripped (1986)

Rising from Tonmeister to co-producer during ‘Some Great Reward’, Jones continued in the role for ‘Black Celebration’. By now, Martin Gore’s songs had got bleaker and Bleaker. Inspired by German film director Werner Herzog, Daniel Miller wanted a dystopian intensity and the album to be lived, a feeling which ramped up when the band finished the album in Berlin. ‘Stripped’ was the “remarkable” single that heralded this darker direction.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Black Celebration’ via Sony Music

https://www.facebook.com/depechemode


MINISTRY Just Like You (1986)

Having debuted with the synth-oriented ‘With Sympathy’ album in 1983, by 1986 MINISTRY had become more abrasive with industrial elements creeping into their sound. Engineered by Gareth Jones but produced by Adrian Sherwood of On-U Sound, the beat driven ‘Just Like You’ featured a Fairlight CMI which mainman Al Jourgensen had been able to acquire as a part of the deal with Sire Records.

Available on the MINISTRY album ‘Twitch’ via Rhino Records

https://ministryband.com/


NITZER EBB Let Your Body Learn (1987)

Founded by Bon, Douglas McCarthy and David Gooday, with their musical premise of “muscle and hate”, NITZER EBB took the seed of DAF to develop a danceable industrial finesse. While Phil Harding of PWL fame produced and mixed most of their debut long player released by Mute, Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller teamed up to remix their energetic single ‘Let Your Body Learn’ which had bee originally independently issued in 1986.

Available on the NITZER EBB album ‘That Total Age’ via Mute Records

https://www.nitzerebbprodukt.com/


ERASURE Blue Savannah (1989)

After his DEPECHE MODE Berlin trilogy, Gareth Jones remained in the Mute family and began a long-standing working relationship with ERASURE. The concept of ‘Blue Savannah’ was Roy Orbison doing electronic pop. As co-producer with Mark Saunders, he provided an uncluttered backdrop to showcase the soaring optimism of what was to become one of the most universally loved songs by Andy Bell and Vince Clarke.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


IRMIN SCHMIDT Gormenghast Drift (1991)

When Mute Records licensed the CAN back catalogue in 1990 via their manager Hildegard Schmidt’s Spoon imprint, there came the opportunity to work on new solo recordings with their keyboard virtuoso Irmin Schmidt. With Gareth Jones as co-producer, while there were vocals and contributions from bandmates Jaki Liebezeit and Michael Karoli, the closing instrumental ‘Gormenghast Drift’ was an atmospheric delight.

Available on the IRMIN SCHMIDT album ‘Impossible Holidays’ via Spoon Records

https://mutebank.co.uk/collections/irmin-schmidt


ERASURE Grace (1995)

An attempt at prog synth which Andy Bell referred to as ‘Bright Side Of The Sun’, the seventh ERASURE album saw Gareth Jones and Thomas Fehlmann work together as producers on the ambitious if flawed self-titled opus. While there was the brilliant under rated single ‘Fingers and Thumbs (Cold Summer’s Day)’, there were also beautiful emotive neo-classical moments such as ‘Grace’ among the highlights.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Erasure’ via Mute Records

https://www.facebook.com/erasureinfo


BOYTRONIC Living Without You (2002)

The 21st Century incarnation of BOYTRONIC saw the return of original frontman Holger Wobker. The anthemic ‘Living Without You’, which was one of two songs produced by Gareth Jones for the parent album ‘Autotunes’, utilised an impressive array of instrumentation including electronics, filmic orchestrations and rock guitars as well as Wobker’s impassioned vocals.

Available on the BOYTRONIC album ‘Autotunes’ via Strange Ways Records

https://www.facebook.com/BoytronicOriginal/


MESH No Place Like Home (2006)

When it suggested that MESH work with Gareth Jones, the band were initially reluctant because of the inevitable DEPECHE MODE comparisons. But Rich Silverthorn remembered “He was a really nice guy. We spent about 10 days locked in eating Chinese food, laughing and mixing ‘We Collide’”. Of the six tracks Jones mixed, ‘No Place Like Home’ proved to be one of the most poignant songs of MESH’s career.

Available on the MESH album ‘We Collide’ via Dependent Records

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


GARETH JONES Safe Travels (2020)

On the milestone of his 65th birthday, Gareth Jones’ released ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘, his first album under his own name. Most of the tracks began as improvisations around a modular patch, then crafted in a blend of humanity and electronics. While in Detroit, he developed the subtle rhythmic pulse and absorbing keyboard overtures of ‘Safe Travels’, one of several poignant tracks commemorating his recently passed mother and mother-in-law.

Available on the GARETH JONES album ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ via Calm + Collect

https://www.instagram.com/garethgeniusjones/


SUNROOF 1.8 – 2.3.19 (2021)

A studio collaboration between Gareth Jones and Daniel Miller, while this project mostly produced covers such as ‘Hero’ for ‘A Homage to NEU!’ in 1998 and assorted remixes, SUNROOF started playing live shows and finally released a debut long player ‘Electronic Music Improvisations Vol1’. It featured a collection of improvised modular experiments recorded in 2019, of which the energetic ‘1.8 – 2.3.19’ was the most immediate.

Available on the SUNROOF album ‘Electronic Music Improvisations Vol1’ via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/sunroof


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1 April 2024

CURSES Presents: Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX

Berlin-based musician and DJ Luca Venezia, better known as CURSES, presents ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’, his second curated compilation exploring the darker side of club music though the decades. The first volume had been a lockdown inspired exploration of his own record collection.

Released by Eskimo Recordings and featuring 49 tracks, the music is split into three distinct chapters with more than half being previously unreleased; “Many of these songs come from friends close of mine, or artists I perform with and tour with a lot, whose music and craft I admire and champion.” Luca Venezia told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the set, “We are all making a very niche style of music, and everyone is approaching it in their own unique way, it is only natural we migrate to be friends and share the stage together… like a primal instinct.”

Conceived with his ideal night out in mind, compiling such an compilation was not without its headaches; “Fortunately with the help of Eskimo and N.E.W.S., the licensing team are an absolute powerhouse” recalled Venezia, “It wasn’t easy, especially the older material, like Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Madame Butterfly’… and yes, there was SO much music I wanted but couldn’t get the rights to. Not because the artists said no, but because it was impossible to find WHO owned the rights now. Members in bands split up, some pass away, some vanish… it’s a puzzle at times to license the 80s underground electronic gems”.

Chapter 1 contains the pioneering acts of the past that were occasionally signed to major labels and even flirted with the mainstream pop charts. The set opens with ‘Distant Dreams Pt 2’, a wonderful suitably obscure 1980 B-side from THROBBING GRISTLE, while another lesser known gem comes from BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE with ‘The Big V’, the instrumental variant of the 1986 single ‘V. Thirteen’.

The first name likely to be recalled when dark club music comes to mind, especially to Taylor Swift fans, are CABARET VOLTAIRE and they fit like a glove on this compendium with ‘Blue Heat’ from ‘Micro-Phonies’, as do Dutch band CLAN OF XYMOX with ‘Obsession’, an excellent example of classic electro-goth disco.

Of course, NITZER EBB are present and correct with ‘Hearts & Minds’ while DAF stand firm with their declaration as ‘Brothers’ in their appealing but less heralded English language disco phase.

Collecting superb tracks from various acclaimed cult acts, ‘The Murder Of Love’ by PROPAGANDA and the I Dream Of Jeanne Mix of ‘Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes)’ by BOOK OF LOVE demonstrate how the developing digital technology enabled powerful sampled sounds effectively at the flick of a switch. However, best of all are former SOFT CELL backing singers VICIOUS PINK who really should have had a huge worldwide hit with the brilliant Tony Mansfield produced ‘Cccan’t You See’

Chapter 2 moves the night on starting with ‘Voloczny’, an unreleased song from back in day by BOYTRONIC towards the present with modern day electronic producers such as Jennifer Touch and Kris Baha. In a new 2023 version, THE KVB come over like THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN with synths on ‘Still Warm’ while YEARS OF DENIAL capture plenty of stark menace on ‘It Sucks.

Canadian wife-and-husband duo ESSAIE PAS provide enigmatic prose en Français over a cascade of pulsing synths on ‘Retox’ while Berlin-based trio DINA SUMMER update the gothic disco template on ‘Darkness’. Affirming the international cast of ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’, Spain’s DAME AREA go on a heavier industrial club excursion via ‘Buon Cittadino’ but on the opposite side of the coin and Atlantic, DESIRE offer enigmatic coyness on ‘Love Races On’ outside of their Italians Do It Better stable.

Chapter 3 is the part of the night you probably should go home but don’t… a wilder, harder and more aggressive energy is here if you so desire. There is naturally a Dark Remix of ‘Machina’ from BOY HARSHER with guest vocals by Mariana Saldaña. But utilising tense triplets and brassy melodramatic stabs, CURSES revamps J.W.B. HITS THE BEAT’s ‘Body On Body’. CURSES returns to remix NUOVO TESTAMENTO’s ‘Heartbeat’ and there is an enjoyable instrumental in ‘Non Fiction’ by SILENT SERVANT.

Two of the best tracks come via Australia; ‘Burning Eyes’ is a Hi-NRG romp with wispy voice ad-libs courtesy of NEU-ROMANCER and ZANIAS’ ‘Tryptamine Palace’ is a tremendous textural dance track. ANDI VS RANDOLPH & MORTIMER make their presence felt with big beats on ‘Formidable Truths’ while Michel Amato aka THE HACKER does not disappoint with the previously unreleased ‘Monopoly’. To end, Greek synth duo PARADOX OBSCUR make a beefy contribution in ‘Evo-Devo’ that recalls French art pop duo LES RITA MISOUKO.

On the spiritual and musical thread that helped make this cohesive collection, Luca Venezia surmised: “Every artist involved has their own personal and unique take on the timeless love affair between human and machine. All the music on ‘DEUX’ also embraces the punk and DIY raw energy of live music into electronic music; artists LIKE YEARS OF DENIAL, BOY HARSHER, NUOVO TESTAMENTO, NITZER EBB, BOYTRONIC and DINA SUMMER are all good examples of how the music is very personal, verse chorus verse song-based concert music, yet can also be DJ’d in a club at 4am in a dusty thriving warehouse rave.”

Music from the past and present can sit comfortably together in the same place and ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ proves it.


With thanks to Luca Venezia and Mirren Thomson at Eclectica

‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ is released by Eskimo Recordings, available now as three separate chaptered double vinyl albums, a three chapter vinyl combo pack, a triple CD box set and high quality download direct from https://cursesforever.bandcamp.com/album/next-wave-acid-punx-deux-2

https://link.eskimorecordings.be/NWAPDEUX

http://www.cursesforever.com

https://www.facebook.com/cursesforever

https://www.instagram.com/cursesforever

http://www.eskimorecordings.be

http://www.facebook.com/eskimorecordings

https://www.instagram.com/eskimorecordings


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7 November 2023

TRANS-GLOBAL EXCESS Volume 1


Ever since the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’ in 1966, various artists compendiums have been a major part of the music industry fabric.

In particular, curated various artists albums based on a theme, be they around a record label roster, sub-genre or lifestyle experience, such as ‘Methods Of Dance’, ‘Modern Dance’, ‘Some Bizarre Album’, ‘Retro:Active’, ‘This Is Not The 80s’ or ‘Electri_City’ have been enthusiastically received with the opportunity to discover new artists or obtain rare material.

‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ is the first compilation by Specchio Uomo, the independent label run by James Knights of SCARLET SOHO and KNIGHT$ fame specialising in Italo, nu disco and synthpop. He said “It’s a celebration of the independent spirit and the free movement that brought us all together in the first place” containing “music by friends we’ve met on the road and at shows over the years”.

Any good compilation has several star names to draw a potential audience in, but also features a wealth of quality material largely unknown to a wider audience and this one importantly manages to have both.

It begins in an energetic fashion with ‘You Can’t Get Fooled By Love’ by the rebooted BOYTRONIC featuring original frontman Holger Wobker and James Knights himself, the ANT PEOPLE remix providing some tribal enhancement on its bed of sparkly arpeggio-laden Europop. Presented as a Dark Italo mix courtesy of Jens Plöger of RUN:, the German producer takes PYSCHE’s 1987 single ‘Uncivilized’ into territory which isn’t actually that far off BOYTRONIC.

Meanwhile ITALOCONNECTION’s ‘Now Or Never’ is naturally a more modern twist on the classic Italo form by Fred Ventura, but it really does party likes it is 1987! A comparatively new name but with experienced intuition behind it, ‘Discoboom’ is by SNS SENSATION, the solo vehicle of Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK; his throbbing Moroder-esque attack, laced with some unexpected heavy metal guitar, could easily be mistaken for his duo with Ali Renault.

‘Soldiers Of Love’ by ITALOVE will conjure sunny nostalgia with visions of perms and mullets despite being a demo from 2012, while ‘If There Was No Gravity’ by THE HOOLIGAN takes the collection into jazz flavoured citypop territory and Vienna’s BROKEN EGO provides some whimsical electropop with ‘When The Lights Go Out’.

Another interesting inclusion is the moody electro of LAKESIDE X with ‘Wonder’ which first appeared in 2012 when the Czech combo performed as part of a RECOIL event when Alan Wilder visited Prague for a showing of his concert film ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’.

But the highlights on ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ come from three unknown acts. Best of all is the crashing beats and attitude of PLASMASCHWARZ with ‘Mein Kopf’. Cut from a not dissimilar cloth, ‘Stingray’ by CAPITAL X is a bit feistier, but Düsseldorf husband and wife duo MÄNGELEXEMPLAR offer some wonderfully cool Teutonic detachment.

‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ is a diverse collection; the galloping rock of BROKEN LINKS and the spiky snarl of CONTINENTAL LIAISON might confuse KNIGHT$ fans, but they will be far happier with a slice of girly popwave entitled ‘Drifting’ from Roxi Drive which contains the now almost obligatory sax solo and the future disco of KOMPUTER KID’s ‘Summer Again’.

The most poignant track on ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ comes with the previously unreleased ‘So Agitated’, a chiptune-inspired number by TRADEMARK, a trio comprising Oliver Horton, Stuart Meads and Paul Soulsby who opened for THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 2004. Stuart Meads sadly passed away in 2013 and although there was a final self-titled album in 2014, the inclusion as a fitting tribute.

Featuring 17 eclectic tracks, ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ has something for most electronic pop fans and in PLASMASCHWARZ, MÄNGELEXEMPLAR and CAPITAL X, it showcases some promising talent for the future. If you are a fan of KNIGHT$, SCARLET SOHO, BOYTRONIC, ITALOCONNECTION or HEARTBREAK, then there is a good chance that you will like a fair portion of this.


‘Trans-Global Excess Vol 1’ is released by Specchio Uomo as a CD and download on 4th December 2020 direct from https://specchiouomo.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/specchiouomo


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd December 2020

2019 END OF YEAR REVIEW

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business. That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic… MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again.

HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour. Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths.

DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019. It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount. This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever. It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after attending two of its live events: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019, updated 29th Janaury 2021

BOYTRONIC The Robot Treatment

Holger Wobker, the man who many consider to be the original BOYTRONIC is back after 10 years with a new album ‘The Robot Treatment’.

Interestingly to assist his recorded return, Wobker has partnered up with BOYTRONIC’s former vocalist James Knights.

Never before in the history of pop music has a predecessor collaborated with their replacement to make a new album, try to imagine John Foxx and Midge Ure working on a new ULTRAVOX album together?

Vintage flavoured HI-NRG and Italo reigns supreme on ‘The Robot Treatment’. Best known for the German Top10 hit ‘You’ in 1983, Wobker’s aim was to return with a record that was as BOYTRONIC as possible and when he met Knights in 2018, they found a common bond both personally and musically.

‘Under The Red’ exudes Wobker’s enthusiasm, but the album really takes off with ‘All You Can Eat’, a spirited falsetto duet by Wobker and Knights that doesn’t sound unlike members of NEW ORDER jamming along to BRONSKI BEAT’s ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’!

Also particularly good is ‘You Can’t Get Fooled By Love’, a great tune with more than a nod to PET SHOP BOYS ‘West End Girls’, while the bubbling ‘She Gave Me Money’ is authentic Eurodisco for the cassette player of any Opel Manta owner; both are classic BOYTRONIC.

‘Smell Of Fire’ takes on a moodier Italo stance with a digital slap bass, but ‘No Sad Songs’ is singalong Europop, laced with synth brass stabs which could easily mutate into a KNIGHT$ solo tune. The spacier ‘Venus Covers Mars’ has a good verse although the chorus is not quite as appealing. Bright and breezy with simulated guitars, ‘Wayward Sister’ perhaps needs more of a bass drum kick but the synthetic choirs and bells are pretty.

Closing with ‘Can’t Wait A Second’, the track’s immediate bounce might have benefitted being placed earlier in the sequence.

But as with the arpeggio laden ‘Bark’, Wobker’s vocals are a bit raw and wayward at times, which might be off-putting for listeners not previously into the charms of BOYTRONIC.

However, the objective of making a BOYTRONIC album that sounds like BOYTRONIC has been achieved. And with live shows coming up, the big speaker environment of a club and the vibrant extrovert personality of a front man with something to prove may well see ‘The Robot Treatment’ really come into its own.


‘The Robot Treatment’ is released by Wuff Records on 6th September 2019 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-ordered direct from https://boytronic01.bandcamp.com/album/the-robot-treatment-album

BOYTRONIC play Berlin ORWOhaus on Saturday 7th September 2019 with support from !DISTAIN

http://www.boytronic.eu

https://www.facebook.com/BoytronicOriginal/

https://twitter.com/boytronicorigi1

https://www.instagram.com/boytronicoriginal/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd September 2019

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