While the most decent electronic music is being turned out in Sweden these days, the Norwegians do their best to keep up.
ELECTRO SPECTRE came into existence in 2009 in the Norwegian capital, Oslo with Isak Rypdal, in the role of producer and writer, and Alexander Björneboe, as co-writer and vocalist.
A few albums went by since, and many a fan of electronica started recognising the Norwegians alongside the likes of CAMOUFLAGE, DE/VISION, BEBORN BETON or MESH.
‘Beautiful Lies’ is their fifth release, recorded in Prague and promising an intoxicating experience of synthpop at its best. ‘The River’ opens the production, luring with luscious vocals over CAMOUFLAGE-esque combinations of grandiose synth. DEPECHE MODE influences are palpable all over the flow of the track, with its gentleness and fragility.
The voice resembles BRYAN FERRY’s off-centre pitch, which really transpires in the track number two, ‘The Human Stain’. Exquisite drum rolls added onto a stacked synth, at times sounding very ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’, which indeed, is being quoted as one of the band’s favourite records.
‘Never Let Go’, vocally a mix of Ferry and Bowie, interspersed with magnificent strings and digital synthesisers is a larger than life production that makes a fabulous calling card. ‘She Runs Again’ slows the tempo somewhat, turning into a Marcus Meyn song once more; it’s a pleasing ballad with excellent guitar, leading into ‘With A Devil At The Start’. A multi-layered track, with structured elements congealing heavy and soft textures over a strong, deep vocal of Björneboe’s, it’s harsh, trashy, subtle and velvety all at the same time.
‘Faith’ continues the theme of luscious extravaganza of synth, ending in a very familiar way to any hardcore fan of DEPECHE MODE, while ‘A Kingdom Alone’ magnificently changes direction, at times bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Texan duo IRIS’ production on their second album ‘Awakening’. The ‘Beautiful Lies’ title track transports into an ambient, atmospheric world, veiled with mystery and suspense of being “under the spell of you and me”, while the closing ‘Strangesuit’ ushers the era of a heavy synth to sustain the feeling of gloom and nostalgia interwoven with anguish and pain.
ELECTRO SPECTRE certainly did their homework; proficient sounding tracks, excellently produced and mastered, and this unusual vocal, making the finished pieces sound interestingly noteworthy, are all features of a decent synth album. To some, the fact that sometimes the tracks sound uncannily like DEPECHE MODE or CAMOUFLAGE may be a turn off, but, overall, this is a very desirable production and its easy listening element means that it can be enjoyed by fans across all genres.
Back in May 2015, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s radar pointed to a German band from Frankfurt, which formed in 2012 and promised to “revolutionise the Electronic Pop music sector”, SYNTHDECADE.
Self-proclaimed as “the next generation of synth”, which always invites interest and curiosity; the band, who already seem to have lost a member in Marc Renard on keyboards (perhaps he got tired of waiting!) is now consisting of the vocalist Rick Pleasant and programmer/keyboardist Sean Dexter.
Three years is a fair amount of time to write a decent album, especially one that has been heavily pushed on social media, with the accompanying photographs of immaculately groomed band members, pouting away at the camera, as if advertising a new aftershave.
Both tracks, which have been released with accompanying videos for the enjoyment of hungry electronica fanatics, ‘Lighten Up The Darkness’ and ‘Facing My Fears’ enjoyed more than moderate success, establishing the direction in which SYNTHDECADE had been heading. Heavily influenced by DEPECHE MODE, CAMOUFLAGE and DE/VISION, with these guidances clearly palpable on both songs, the hope was for ‘Syndicator’ to sound more original and fresh, and, indeed, to usher “the next generation of synth”.
‘Warm Welcome’ creates an interesting intro to the production, with steady, authentic beats, promising a dose of “the good stuff”, but is immediately followed with the, by now, familiar, ‘Lighten Up The Darkness’, totally CAMOUFLAGE-d up. The clean sounding ‘Perfect Day’ is an apt attempt at immaculate production, as is the following ‘Love & Understanding’. The latter, an electronic ballad, is skilfully executed, both musically and vocally, leads into the second previously issued track, ‘Facing My Fears’.
FRONT 242 meets PET SHOP BOYS on ‘Your Soul’, whereas ‘Back Again’ floats seamlessly over the sound of the harp, interwoven within magnificent synth. ‘Change Your Life’ is ultimately synthpop in a bottle. Melodious and dancey, it is much like its follower, ‘Open Your Mind’. The guitar is introduced on ‘Sons Of The Broken Bottle’ with some more or less harsh, trashy sounds. The track comes across as an eclectic mix of many genres and is messy at times, creating confusion and a departure from the otherwise electronic feel of this record.
‘Angels Are Calling Me’ opens with an über interesting sequence, returning to the elegant synth dominated template. It’s possibly the most interesting track on the album, with DE/VISION, CAMOUFLAGE and DM influences audible. This time, however, the song is as original as it gets; nothing is pushed to sound like something else and French horns wrap up the track, adding to the deepened mood magnificently.
The twelfth track, ‘Home’ brings back the uptempo feel, perfect for dancing, punctuated with a clever drum pattern and gentle piano. The closing ‘Facing My Fears’, this time in the ‘Hypnotic Mix’, concludes the production, thanks to a magnificent synth and cleverly enhanced vocal, at times sounding as if DE/VISION’s Steffen Keth bumped into the boys from Italy’s EIFFEL 65.
Anyone claiming that they’re reinventing the electronic music is perhaps dreaming, and maybe “all men are dreamers”. The claim that “the new generation of synth” is ushered is also a far-fetched fantasy.
All this said, SYNTHDECADE have pleasantly surprised; while one expected a blueprint of CAMOUFLAGE with added elements of DEPECHE MODE, shamelessly delivered with a ‘Syndicator’ sticker on it; one has got a grown-up, well produced and excellently balanced album, which is worthy of recognition of, clearly, hard work and proficient studio skills.
Well done SYNTHDECADE, you’ve obviously done your homework.
‘Syndicator’ is released by 15c Avenue via the usual digital outlets
Amidst the flood of superb electronic music from Sweden, which has become the “new Germany” in the realms of synthpopia, few German bands are fighting on to keep their pedestals standing erect, or doing a great job of it.
BEBORN BETON formed in 1989 in Essen, and to date Stefan Tillman, Michael B Wagner and Stefan Netschio have enjoyed great success with numerous studio releases as well as remixes for DE/VISION, CLAN OF XYMOX, CAMOUFLAGE, IN STRICT CONFIDENCE, WOLFSHEIM and many others.
The band have kept everyone waiting since 1999 for the release of their latest album ‘A Worthy Compensation’, carefully planning, writing, engineering and producing the tracks with the help of celebrated producer Olaf Wollschläger, the very man behind the creations of MESH, YELLO, SEABOUND and IN STRICT CONFIDENCE. BEBORN BETON have immodestly hailed the production as “the best album we will probably ever make”, which raises the bar of expectations to the maximum for the “concrete” boys from urban Essen and promises to deliver a hearing experience like no other.
In such a fashion, the release is kicked off with ‘Daisy Cutter’ with its beefy synth and CAMOUFLAGE-like vocals of Netschio. Haunting and deep, monumental and marked, it is all laced with the “carousel of life” mark that the band want to portray in this production. ‘I Believe’ bears the stamp of the good old German electronica; untainted, magnificently programmed and produced, it is above all, musical and full of the melancholy so loved by the followers of the genre.
’24-7 Mystery’ speeds up into a dance track of the future, while ‘Anorexic World’ hits with poignant lyrics (“what if Jesus doesn’t care”, “we don’t mind at all this anorexic world is going down”) sung Steffen Keth style across the extravaganza of synth.
Taking its lead from CAMOUFLAGE, the title track emerges with futuristic images of a floaty world of tomorrow with an added dose of guitar and perfectly programmed drum patterns. A modern ballad of “the highs and lows, the happy moments”, the “carousel” has certainly now begun. ‘Last Day On Earth’ enters, grooming the listener with sensual male vocals painted on the canvas of consistently ingenious digital action.
A truly perfect electronic dance tune, ‘She Cried’ follows with a sharp club track feel. But a slightly predictable production can be fully excused, especially when there’s no time to stop dancing and getting lost in this uplifting harmony.
The first and only track performed in their native German, ‘Was Immer’ due to the choice of tongue, sounds as inviting as WOLFSHEIM’s gems. The track itself bears strong resemblance to Steve Naghavi’s performances on AND ONE’s ‘Virgin Superstar’; with wonderfully layered vocals, it embraces sensational synths and a skilfully constructed melody.
‘Terribly Wrong’ opens with the ominous “there’s something wrong with the world, I don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind”, but although something is “terribly wrong”, the track has a positive feel and brings a projection of hope while “standing at the edge of the world”.
The closing ‘Who Watches The Watchman’, while bearing a twisted title, promises some eerie content, which it indeed features on the track in bunches.
It has an eloquent musical substance covering a wide symphony of strings, drums, piano and elements of obscure synth interspersed with slight drum and bass. It is definitely a suitable track to round up the production.
There’s something earthy in German synth music, something which has been present since bands like CAMOUFLAGE, NEUROTICFISH, DE/VISION and WOLFSHEIM. This elusive element, when used by certain artists, makes them sound timeless and proves that Germany remains “über alles” in the electronic field. It may sound pompous and arrogant to call your creation ‘A Worthy Compensation’ and risk the obvious critique; however, the trio have hit the spot with this long awaited album.
The production bridges the pause between 1999 and now beautifully, with the songs having been written over many years and perfected to the point, where no more improvements could be made.
So, all in all, it is indeed “a worthy compensation” for the break in the Beton trade.
Although PRESENCE OF MIND released recordings as early as 1995 on the cult synth compilation ‘Circuit One’, the Swedish trio only released their debut album proper in the summer of 2014.
Their first recordings borrowed from the Vince Clarke school of synth programming but today, PRESENCE OF MIND are a much darker but no less song based proposition.
Influenced by the likes of MESH, DE/VISION and inevitably ‘Violator’-era DEPECHE MODE, childhood friends Christoffer Lundström, Johannes Ambros and Anders Wallroth have taken their time.
But without the pressure of constant touring, they’ve utilised a developing songcraft and life experience to pay dividends on the resultant long player entitled ‘Interpersonal’. Utilising the crisp production ethos of Wallroth and Ambros, ‘One Step I’ takes some killer squelch bass and places it alongside the strong, melodic vocals of Lundström.
Just accorded a new promo video, the track is a great bleep forward from their earlier work and the interim ‘Between Emotions’ EP from 2005. Another good example of their passionate synth rock is ‘Queen Of Redemption’, an obvious second cousin of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ but with a Svenske twist.
PRESENCE OF MIND are an enticing live proposition, as proven by their impressive appearance at the pre-party of Electronic Summer 2015 in Gothenburg. Lundström in particular, is a charismatic and engaging frontman with a lively but controlled stage presence that contrasts the dark, but danceable electronic soundtrack.
With excellent uptempo songs such as ‘Alive’ and sensitive ballads like ‘In My Dreams’ in their repertoire, the threesome from Mariestad are already at work on a second album to maintain their new-found momentum with tracks such as ‘Brittle Bones’ already having received public premieres. PRESENCE OF MIND are now finally knocking on the door of Northern Europe and making a positive impression on its independent electronic pop scene.
Thomas Adam and Steffen Keth have been making music under the DE/VISION umbrella since 1988.
Numerous albums later, they are still very successful in many countries, including their native Germany but also throughout Europe, the US and South America.
In Deutschland, they have achieved superstar status, but remain friendly, approachable and fun to be around.
Having fought DEPECHE MODE comparisons throughout their career, they found a unique sound which prevails across their albums from ‘World Without End’, through ‘Fairyland’, the superb ‘Devolution’, ‘Noob’ and the critically acclaimed ‘Popgefahr’. Writing albums in between the extensive touring diary including their recent US gigs, looking after their own record label and having families on top of it all, keeps the duo grounded and humble. With the DE/VISION sound, there’s always “time to be alive, to be alive”, as they’re forever “the flavour of the week”…
Having been an enthusiast of their music for years, Monika Izabela Goss had the pleasure to first meeting the band backstage at their Berlin gig in 2010 and on numerous occasions since. Following ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Lost Albums feature on ‘6 Feet Underground’, it is a great pleasure for her to be able to speak to Thomas Adam of DE/VISION…
You formed in 1988, much has changed in the music industry since then?
Yes, indeed, much has changed… and undoubtedly the internet had the most significant impact on the music industry. It had both positive and negative effects… illegal downloads, for example, plunged the industry into a grave crisis…
I know that many people out there still buy CDs, I’m one of them. But CD sales will be going down sooner or later, CDs will become more and more insignificant, most of the kids don’t buy CDs anymore, they’re downloading music…
Back in the old days, you had to have a record label if you wanted your music to be heard. Nowadays, you can become a star on the internet and you don’t need a label or a lot of money to achieve that. Yes, times have changed…
Do you mind being described as a synthpop band, or would you rather be labelled differently?
No, we don’t mind at all… whatever you prefer… although I think synthpop describes perfectly what we do: we make pop music that is based on synthesizers. But there are many labels for this kind of music. It also depends on where you are, people label us differently in different parts of the world. When we came to the USA for the very first time in 2008, I was rather surprised when people called us a Goth / Industrial band…
Around ‘Void’ (2000) and ‘Two’ (2001), your sound changed incorporating more rocky sounds. It certainly caters for more discerning tastes. Why did you take that direction around those two albums?
Why not? We’re not the kind of guys who want to do the same thing over and over again. In my humble opinion, most of our album releases vary significantly, but especially around ‘Void’ we wanted to do something we had never done before… we wanted to present DE/VISION in a new and different light by broadening the band’s musical horizon… there are enough bands out there who keep repeating themselves. For us, it is important to reinvent ourselves every once in a while…
‘6 Feet Underground’ is my personal favourite of yours. Any thoughts on how the album was conceived?
I don’t remember what the idea behind ‘6 Feet Underground’ was, or if we ever had a concept for it. But usually we don’t have a plan when we start working on a new album. We might have a rough idea of where we want to go, but it’s not that we develop a strict concept which is then translated into music. It rather works the other way round. We start writing songs and after a while we take a look at what we have, then we think about what we can do with it.
I think most of our albums are quite homogeneous, ‘Fairyland’ on the other hand is rather eclectic… it offers a variety of different electronic music styles… ’Unputdownable’ for example is a mainstream pop song, but songs like ‘Beside You’ and ‘Take Me To Heaven’ are the exact opposite. But like I said before, I don’t remember if there was a concept behind that album or if we simply picked the songs we liked most.
Between ‘Noob’ (2007) and ‘Popgefahr’ (2010), you had a three year break, so far longest between albums. What was the reason for this?
Until 2007 we released a new album every 18 months. The fans were glad about that constant output, but for us it’s been quite exhausting. Once we had finished one album, we started working on the next. It was time to break this routine… we needed a break… time to collect new ideas. I’m not saying that we tried to avoid music. We played a lot of shows in those three years. In 2008 for example, we toured North and South America for the very first time. Then we started our own label Popgefahr Records in 2009, I think… we were quite busy during this break.
Germany is packed with interesting and innovative synth acts, who do you rate the most?
Thomas: My all-time favourite electronic band is KRAFTWERK. The older I get, the more I’m impressed by their timeless and visionary art. CAMOUFLAGE is also a band I always adored. Another German band I warmly recommend is called MODERAT. I love their analogue sound… they’re quite famous in the club scene… check out ‘A New Error’ from their first album… this is probably the best piece of electronic music I have heard in years.
How is Popgefahr Records working for you?
There’s no need to complain… after all, it was a very wise decision to start our own label. Until recently, we released exclusively our own music on Popgefahr Records but the label was never meant for DE/VISION only. In January, Popgefahr Records released the single ‘Save Me’ by the American singer/songwriter GARRETT MILES, a beautiful and very melodic synth pop song. And a few weeks ago we released the new album ‘Pieces Of Machinery’ of the German synthpop band BEYOND OBSESSION. Fortunately the label is busy…
Any news on a follow up to ‘Rockets And Swords’ (2012)?
We are already working on a new album which will be released in 2016, but this project is still at an early stage of development, that’s why I can’t really give you any further information. We don’t know yet where our journey will take us this time…
On your latest Soundcloud release, your sound goes back to your beginnings. Is that what we are to expect from the new album?
I guess you’re talking about our latest single release ‘Brothers In Arms’ and the B-sides… these songs were written about two years ago and have nothing to do with the new album… the new album is something else entirely… although I don’t know what it will be like, you shouldn’t conclude the sound of our new album from a couple of songs we released more than a year ago.
Finally, your relationship with the UK. We don’t see enough of DE/VISION here. Why is that? Certainly the fan base is plentiful…
We have some very devoted fans in the UK, there’s no doubt about that… however, the UK has never been our strongest market… I don’t know what the problem is, but we never really managed to become established in the UK…
Your last London gig was with MESH in 2013. Can we expect more presence in the UK with the new album release?
We will play a show in Basildon at a festival called ‘More Than A Party’ on the 27th of June… that’s all I can say at the moment…
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to DE/VISION
A selection of DE/VISION’s back catalogue is available on CD and download from Amazon