Tag: Cluster (Page 1 of 2)

LLOYD COLE Violins

LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS were the kings of Glum Rock.

But for a 2015 German tour,  Lloyd Cole announced: “I’m calling these shows LIVE ELECTRONICS, and I should be clear here – there will be none of my songs performed, I will not be singing at all, or playing guitar. My instrument will be my modular synthesizer, along with some effects units and maybe a keyboard.”

Despite being a purveyor of jangling poetic indie tunes like ‘Perfect Skin’, ‘Rattlesnakes’, ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?’ and ‘Brand New Friend’, Cole had actually been experimenting with electronics since 2001’s ‘Plastic Wood’ and recorded an album ‘Selected Studies Vol 1’ with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER in 2013. Released by Bureau B, custodians of the Sky Records back catalogue including works by Michael Rother, Conny Plank and Harald Grosskopf amongst others, there was also a solo instrumental collection entitled ‘1D Electronics 2012-2014’.

But Cole has been putting that modular knowhow into a song based format with a charming new synthy single ‘Violins’ in which he seems to have turned into OMD! However, not totally alienating his main fan base, guitars make their presence felt amongst all the machinery about two thirds of the way through.

‘Violins’ is from Lloyd Cole’s new album ‘Guesswork’ which has been self-produced in Massachusetts and mixed by German producer Olaf Opal. Despite reuniting with two former bandmates Neil Clark and Blair Cowan for the first time since 1987’s ‘Mainstream’ long player, ‘Guesswork’ credits ‘synthesizers’ and ‘programming’ rather a lot while the man himself has recently talked of his guitar as “going, going but not quite gone”.

As well as referencing CHINA CRISIS and PREFAB SPROUT, Cole has also expressed a love of SUICIDE, ULTRAVOX, PET SHOP BOYS and LCD SOUNDSYSYTEM, while stating that ‘Guesswork’ is predominantly an electronic album, fashioned from classic and modern keyboard, modular and drum synthesizers with occasional guitar.

Asked whether the remaining songs on ‘Guesswork’ would be of a similar vein to ‘Violins’, he replied on Twitter: “No. The instrumentation is similar. Hopefully the songs go together nicely.”

While some will not necessarily appreciate Cole’s new direction, he has no qualms about the joy of his artistic diversion: “When I was 27, the concept of the washed up older guy seemed very entertaining. Now I’m starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun. Because really what have we got to lose?” 


‘Violins’ is from the new album ‘Guesswork’ released on 26th July 2019 by earMUSIC in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

http://www.lloydcole.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Lloyd.Cole.1961

https://twitter.com/Lloyd_Cole


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th June 2019

OBLONG The Sea At Night

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

OBLONG formed out of a friendship between Benge (synths + drum programming), Dave Nice (synths, bass + drums) and Sid Stronarch (piano, synths + guitars) which eventually resulted in an album ‘Indicator’ in 2006. And now with their second album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio deliver a rustic electro-acoustic record of organically farmed electronica!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband

https://myblogitsfullofstars.blogspot.com/

https://open.spotify.com/album/5IWlf3H2kcwHjL3CjtJ1Cd


Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th March 2019

CONNY PLANK The Potential Of Noise

“With this noise, I can try to find if it is possible to make music out of it…”

‘The Potential Of Noise’ is a touching insight into the late Conny Plank, undoubtedly one of the most innovative and important studio exponents in popular music.

Directed by his son Stephan with Reto Caduff, the film sees him embarking on a journey to rediscover his father’s impact and his importance in music history.

As the studio in the converted farmhouse in Wolperath, half an hour’s drive from Cologne, was also the family home, Stephan grew up around the artists who his father worked with.

John Foxx is one artist who considers Conny Plank to be the most important record producer since George Martin, having recorded ULTRAVOX’s ‘Systems Of Romance’ album with him in 1978. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK also has spoken to a number of the musicians who Conny Plank worked with and all had nothing but affectionate memories of him.

Eberhard Kranemann, a one-time member of KRAFTWERK who later recorded an album ‘Fritz Müller Rock’ with Plank said: “He was a very important man, for me in the last century he was the most important producer, engineer and mixer in the whole world, THE BEST! He was so great that he even turned down David Bowie and U2. He was very honest, he didn’t want to work with them.”

DAF drummer and instrumentalist Robert Görl who made four albums with Plank went further, saying “He was almost like a father to me, we lived at the studio so it was all very familiar. We had a room and slept there, we would go down in the morning and he would be making breakfast while his girlfriend Christa Fast would make cakes. It was a very homely feeling that we remember most. And this made it easier for us to feel good and create without having a heavy head.”

“To work with him was always a pleasure” said Bodo Staiger of RHEINGOLD, “he was relaxed, very competent and had the talent to listen what the artist wants. And he also brought some good ideas and inspiration. For example, the percussive synth sound on ‘Dreiklangsdimensionen’ was his idea.”

Michael Rother remembered “he was so valuable… we wouldn’t have been able to record NEU! or the second HARMONIA album or my solo albums without Conny, so he’s all over the place in my music… thank you Conny.”

With such compliments, any film featuring prominent figures such as Midge Ure, Daniel Miller and David A Stewart recounting their memories of working with Conny Plank was likely to be fascinating. But for his son Stephan who was only 13 years old when Plank passed away in December 1987, this bittersweet film has been a journey to understand more about his father while confronting his demons of being neglected.

The key to Plank’s success was undoubtedly his personality rather than his actual technique and his ability to get the best out of the people, something he felt he wouldn’t be able to do working with David Bowie or U2. Today, Plank’s custom hand-built 56 channel mixing desk is owned by David M Allen, another producer known for his warm outlook and gift for providing an environment for artists to excel.

For those who perhaps only know Plank’s work through KRAFTWERK and ULTRAVOX, the soundtrack that accompanies ‘The Potential Of Noise’ is an education, with the instrumental music of NEU! and CLUSTER & ENO being particularly effective. Among the interviewees are the late Holger Czukay, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Michael Rother, Robert Görl, Karl Hyde, Jaz Coleman, Annette Humpe, Gianna Nannini and many more.

Daniel Miller describes Plank’s work as experimental but still musical, while Robert Görl and Annette Humpe recall how Plank was particularly good at capturing the right mood for recording with “no rules”. And while Plank only produced the debut EURYTHMICS album ‘In The Garden’, David A Stewart applied that hippy with technology philosophy to their breakthrough second album ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, mixing electronics with brass in a converted church studio.

Although recorded at RAK Studios in London, Midge Ure remembers after playing the demo of ‘Vienna’, ULTRAVOX talked musically about the plans for recording while Plank thought in terms of sound; he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years. And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered for the now iconic track.

For Plank, money and tapes were things that passed through his life, but his generosity is apparent throughout this documentary, both financially and in spirit. Michael Rother talks of how Plank helped to fund the recording of the first NEU! album to ensure that the duo had as much independence as possible to create, while it is also known he had offered to finance the recording of the first Midge Ure fronted ULTRAVOX album before the band signed to Chrysalis Records.

The most emotional recollections of Conny Plank come from hip-hop duo WHODINI who consider Conny’s Studio to be the best facility that they have ever recorded in, while also glowing about the effort which Plank made towards providing a recording environment that was as comfortable as possible, something the pair never experienced again after that visit to Germany.

But despite the generosity to his artists, the film tells of how Plank was not exactly the perfect father to Stephan, with Holger Czukay remembering that Plank treated Stephan as Christa Fast’s son, rather than his own.

It’s a point also highlighted by Annette Humpe who tellingly, actually asks Stephan on camera whether his father ever took him out into the countryside; it turned out he did… but for just one afternoon.

Resigned to the fact that few photos exist of them together, Stephan reflects that the best memento of his father now is his vast catalogue of work. Plank’s own end is sad, with him becoming too ill to mix EURYTHMICS ‘Revenge’ album following returning from a concert tour in South America with Dieter Moebius.

Despite Christa nursing him back to near health with a new diet regime, Plank’s need to work ultimately consumed him and worsened his condition, eventually leading to the cancer to which he succumbed to.

The film concludes with Stephan taking his own young family to Wolperath to see his former home, reminiscing about the bathroom where the gold and platinum discs used to hang, as well as the dining area where the family and the visiting artists used to sit. With the final words of the documentary, Midge Ure summarises that the music Plank made was timeless and ultimately outlived him.

Described by KILLING JOKE’s Jaz Coleman as “a revolutionary”, when the end credits roll of ‘The Potential Of Noise’, it’s rather appropriately to the proto-punk of ‘Hero’ by NEU!


‘The Potential Of Noise’ is released on DVD by Cleopatra Entertainment

The 4CD box set ‘Who’s That Man: A Tribute To Conny Plank’ is available via Grönland Records ‎

https://www.facebook.com/Conny-Plank-21971244034/

http://cleopatra-entertainment.com/conny-plank-the-potential-of-noise/

http://groenland.com/en/artist/conny-plank-2/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th January 2019

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about JEAN-MICHEL JARRE or VANGELIS who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with BRIAN ENO. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections.

Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as DAVID BOWIE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

A one-time member of TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, ‘Timewind’ was Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using equipment such as the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ was the breakthrough record for TANGERINE DREAM which saw them using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism to produce a fine meditative electronic soundtrack.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Having released their first long player together in 1969, their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

ASH RA TEMPLE’s Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and what was to become his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style of PINK FLOYD’s David Gilmour, this template was particularly evident on New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

One-time member of GONG, solo artist and an in-house producer at Virgin Records, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived in a sound-world that Eno had created via his various instrument treatments. With Budd improvising live, Eno would occasionally add something but his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions to the moon, one of the inspirations was to react against the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes and news reels of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

By 1986, the former JAPAN front man wanted to get away from singing as reflected by the ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals. Sylvian found a willing conspirator in CAN’s Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly, it was partly inspired by his admiration of COCTEAU TWINS whom he collaborated with on the 1986 4AD album ‘The Moon & The Melodies’.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric collection of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. Alongside the three new pieces, there was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger and its various missions.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing techniques, the sleeve notes recommended it was best heard using headphones while stating “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In that respect, a collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not really miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originally released as part of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the ambient companion progressively got quieter and quieter. The emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. ‘After the Night Falls’ and ‘Before the Day Breaks’ were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie’s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s self-explanatory titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s most recent collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape with its Edward Hopper inspired title. Meanwhile, the earlier ‘Translucence’ from 2003 was a close relative and classic Budd, partnered with the more subdued overtures of ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen; not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree in South London’s Asylum Chapel. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound worthy of the ambient pioneers Statham was influenced by, especially on the gorgeous closer ‘Ascend’.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

NOISE REDUCTION SYSTEM Formative European Electronica 1974-1984

Last year’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ was a Cherry Red Records compilation which collected together many of the formative roots of UK electronic music, with recognised artists like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, BLANCMANGE, BEF, OMD and THROBBING GRISTLE side-by-side with those that didn’t get the same level of recognition and/or commercial success.

Now from the same label comes ‘Noise Reduction System’…

Subtitled ‘Formative European Electronica 1974-1984’, this 4CD set spreads a wider net and encompasses artists from countries which have an established heritage in electronic music (eg Germany and Belgium) through to those that don’t (eg Spain and Latvia).

DAF are represented here with their track ‘Ich Will’ which follows their usual template of bass sequencer driven music with live drums and guttural vocals.

The early YELLO song here ‘Glue Head’ is barely recognisable as the act that latterly went onto success with fully synthetic / sampled tracks such as ‘The Race’ and ‘Oh Yeah’. Full of dense live instrumentation including drums and guitars (and very little synth), it almost sounds like a completely different band.

One of the gems here is ‘Caramel’ by CLUSTER, a nifty monosynth and drum machine driven synthpop track from the 1974 album ‘Zuckerzeit’ which has an ending which sounds like a town hall meeting of The Clangers.

‘Krematorien’ by UNIVERSALANSCHLUSS has a rather wonderful minimalist early Mute Records aesthetic; pretty well mixed for its age and combining lo-fi drum machine, sequencer patterns and punky female vocals. The intro to the track also features a couple of Romanian flutes being bashed together to add to the rhythm of the piece, but mostly this is primitive electronics all the way.

The Swiss duo SCHALTKREIS WASSERMANN provide one of the better produced tracks here, utilising a Prophet 5, ARP 2600, Roland System 100M and an MC4 Sequencer, the track has a tightly programmed Giorgio Moroder feel to it.

Originally released in 1982, the track featured on the album ‘Psychotron’ which went Top 10 in the Melody Maker’s electronic chart.

Another worthy inclusion is ‘Multitrack Suggestion’ by VANGELIS, taken from the 1980 album ‘See You Later’, it sees a very different VANGELIS sound to the lush polysynth driven one we are familiar with. Almost KRAFTWERK-ish in conception with a Roland CR5000 drum machine, the overdubbing of live percussion sounds hints at the sound that was to come and features a vocal by Peter Marsh.

Unsurprisingly, much of the material here is pretty uncompromising, from the 21 minute plus ‘Geld’ by Berlin’s MALARIA, the 24 minute ‘Love You Generator’ by VAN KAYE & IGNIT and the 26 minute long ‘Zitternde Luft’ by GIANCARLO TONIUTTI; all of which vary very little over their running times.

On CD3, KLAUS SCHULZE’s ‘1984’ only just provides some light relief from a selection of tracks which mostly bear comparison with the darker experimental side of THROBBING GRISTLE.

‘1984’ is a beat-less pad-driven instrumental with Mellotron textures that recall some of the work of mid Virgin-era TANGERINE DREAM, Schulze’s former band.

On the final CD, ‘Principles’ by Belgium’s FRONT 242 recalls an early monosynth-driven DEPECHE MODE but with added speech samples and improvised electronics and ‘Shai Hulud’ by BERNARD SZAJNER adds some welcome melody with a trippy/sequenced instrumental piece.

‘Noise Reduction System’ is at times a daunting but ultimately fascinating curio which pulls together a quiet revolution which simultaneously took place across Europe at a time when electronic music equipment started to become affordable.

The artists featured here adopted the DIY ethos of punk but channelled it into a far more experimental direction. So for that reason, those seeking melodic synthpop should really look elsewhere.

However, for fans of uncompromising lo-fi electronic music, this compilation proves to be a treasure trove of hard to find and genuinely obscure tracks, which when researching certain pieces even Google failed to bring forth much in the way of information on some of the artists featured!

If you have an interest in the early roots of European electronic music, then ‘Noise Reduction System’ is worth seeking out. But for most synthpop fans, most of the material here will be a little too impenetrable…


Special thanks to Matt Ingham at Cherry Red

‘Noise Reduction System’ is released by Cherry Red on 21st July 2017

Details of the full tracklisting can be viewed at: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/noise-reduction-system-formative-european-electronica-1974-1984/

https://www.facebook.com/closetothenoisefloor/


Text by Paul Boddy
20th July 2016

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