Tag: Electronic Circus (Page 1 of 2)

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits. But even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

Staying within theme on a compilation though is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Now while some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via twenty notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within.

Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records had the foresight to issue a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. As well as their two great hopes, among the outsiders on board were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. While XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, this was from the band’s synth experimentation period before going more acoustic on 1982’s ‘English Settlement’.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation had actually been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a new special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ acting as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette featured more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song in place of ‘The Art Of Parties’!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so the release of ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring superb singles from the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as synth trailblazers John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by little known combo THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era, the band themselves disappearing despite securing the services of Martin Hannett to produce their debut single ‘Danceable’, but it was never finished…

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years for people to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was, so how better than to celebrate it than a compilation named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring the all-star cast of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, other acts who also got entry into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering nineteen “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again even on SOFT CELL’s own compilations.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

A tie-in with Uncut magazine celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Giorgio Moroder and for the first time on CD, the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different compared to the ones that had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of thirty-eight “synth pop classics”. For once, this was a compilation documenting the different electronic pop phases including trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this modern collection brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions in various guises. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those helping to bring the sound of vintage electronic pop into the 21st Century for the club crowd.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of electronic music at the start of the 21st Century. However the “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend in the booklet highlighted the dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. But the music from the likes of FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, ZOOT WOMAN, LADYTRON, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT, CIRC and GREEN VELVET was mostly excellent, although DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in the ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Among the highlights were ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which satirically sent up ‘Frank Sinatra’ by MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO for his own Lucky Pierre imprint, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were the-then newly configured CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed the previously unreleased ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ pulled off the feat of gathering twelve classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. Longer takes of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ by A-HA and ‘Pretty In Pink’ by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support. But the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the synthpop duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE who co-released the compilation via their own Planet Clique label. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching themselves as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions. A bonus DJ mix by MANHATTAN CLIQUE also featured.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

Electronic music of a more downtempo disposition compiled by BLANK & JONES, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken guesting on the hosting trance DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Ghost Trains’, a solo tune by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE and RÖYKSOPP vocalist Erlend Øye was a livelier number that actually worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, SPOOKY, MARCONI UNION and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with Rudi Esch’s book about the German city of Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. Featuring RIECHMANN, DAF, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, HARMONIA, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS featuring a very young Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and combinations thereof, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Hooky.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

https://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

From the team that put together the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series, the 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE (2020)

Subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this boxed set collection explored the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception. Although this featured the expected big hitters from OMD, VISAGE and JAPAN, there were rarer tracks from ULTRAVOX and SPANDAU BALLET. Lesser known highlights included ‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo THE METRONOMES with its detached female vocal and the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’ from LA DÜSSELDORF, a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section.

‘Musik Music Musique’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-1980-the-dawn-of-synth-pop-various-artists-3cd/


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, what ‘The Tears Of Technology’ had was a heartfelt suite of music which captured the essence of its title. At its centre was OMD’s sub-eight minute adventure ‘Sealand’ alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in courtesy of Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020, updated 16th February 2021

CHRIS PAYNE Interview

Chris Payne is perhaps best known as a sideman to Gary Numan and co-writing ‘Fade To Grey’ with Billy Currie and Midge Ure for VISAGE.

But more recently, Payne released his second solo work ‘The Falling Tower’, an ambitious concept album with neo-classical stylings about “a social and political armageddon”, an all too possible prospect in the current work climate, with the twist of being sung in Latin, Esperanto AND English!

The Rouen-based Cornishman took time out to chat about ‘The Falling Tower’ and the various projects he is currently involved in…

‘The Falling Tower’ is your second solo album, but a significant part of it formed an ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album with the same title which came out in 2018?

Yes it is a rather unique situation whereby I released the album under the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS banner when it was clearly not ready. It was a bit of a disparate mix of songs as I was trying to fit the quirky synthpop songs such as ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Space Invaders’ with the more serious compositions like ‘In Red Fields Of Flanders’ and ‘Nocturne for Piano & Synths’. I decided to take a bit of an unprecedented step of redoing the album and dropping the synth pop stuff.

Do you still believe in the album as a concept and artform in this age of streaming and skipping?

Fundamentally yes. It’s true that with digital downloads and streaming etc, you don’t get the benefit of the classic album cover which is not only something that adds artistic merit to the music but also allows the listener to get information about who played on it, the lyrics etc.

Of course you can put all of that information and more on your website or social media page but it isn’t quite the same as having it directly associated with the disc, be it CD or vinyl.

Certainly ‘The Falling Tower’ has a strong message of “Look after the planet or nothing else matters”. In other words as a species that is part of this planet it’s about time to stop ego and thinking xenophobically about nations and politics and redress the damage we are doing. I know it’s a theme that is preached to us all the time, and believe you me I’m the last person to want to be preached to, but if we don’t take a different course soon the risks are colossal for the planets existence.

Whilst ‘Space Invaders’ didn’t fit in at all, ‘Direct Lines’ with its nuclear catastrophe storyline and ‘Roundabout’ with its midlife crisis metaphors weren’t that far off the “political collapse of the world” narrative you were aiming at with ‘The Falling Tower’?

I see your point, but they were still very upbeat. As I’ve mentioned before if you’re going to make an album about the collapse of the political and social global civilisation as we know it, you don’t want an album of “jigs and reels”

On ‘The Great Gates’, you perform your first lead vocal since ‘Turn’ with DRAMATIS on ‘For Future Reference’, what brought that on? How different were the two recording sessions which were 37 years apart! 😉

Well I was never a singer and it’s still something that bothers me to be honest. I’ve been told on numerous occasions by my wife Dominique that singing isn’t all about technique, it’s about emotion and although it took me a long time to appreciate this, she was right.

I have never felt comfortable about my own voice. It was always put down whilst I was at music college and as a result I really didn’t care that much. The DRAMATIS song ‘Turn’ was composed by me and I only recorded my own voice for either Denis Haines or RRussell Bell who were the principle vocalists on the album. But after I recorded it, everyone thought it fitted the track so we kept it.

For the recording of ‘The Great Gates’, Dominique had always told me that my voice had a more unique quality about it in a lower register, and I had had a couple of voice training sessions with a vocal trainer called Cecile Helene who used very imaginative vocal techniques to bring out the best in her pupils. She believes we all have the natural ability to sing, but the way we are structured as kids and taught in schools often condemns us to insecurity and a sense of non self-belief which inevitably blocks progression.

So this gave a certain confidence to sing the song which coincidentally happened to fall in a very nice key for my voice. The thing is, I’m not that interested in the continuing development of my singing career! So it’ll probably be a one off but it’s nice to get the feeling back of not being a vocal moron.

Speaking of DRAMATIS, what happened to the mooted reissue of ‘For Future Reference’ with those later non-album singles like ‘Face On The Wall’ and ‘The Shame’ as extras, which was trailed by the free download of a remastered ‘Ex Luna Scientia’?

Do you know what, I honestly don’t know. RRussell tracked down the owner of ‘For Future Reference’ which had been sold on so many times from our initial management team, who were a bunch of music business conmen! But RRussell bought the copyrights to the album back. As for the titles you mentioned, I’ve no idea if they were included or not. I’ll have to ask RRussell about that! Maybe they’re all for sale on eBay!!

‘Ex Luna Scientia’ was partly sung in Latin, as is ‘The Trapeze’ from The Falling Tower’ while the title track is in Esperanto, what inspired you to do that with those two tracks?

Well I know it sounds a bit musical elitist and trust me, I have no time for that nonsense! But Latin is a great language to sing in and I’m used to using it on my big orchestral choral works I’ve done in London and Prague over the years. It worked very well on ‘The Trapeze’ but when it came to ‘The Falling Tower’, I thought of Esperanto as it was created as a universal language to benefit mankind.

Now interestingly it didn’t work as a created language back in the 19th century and I’m sure that’s because a language isn’t a formal constructed thing from the outset, but a living growing and evolving form of communication that just happens on a gradual basis between us humans. Having said all of that, my wife and I looked at the language, realised it had similarities to Latin and went from there. We discovered that it’s a beautiful language to sing in and I’ve used it on the TULM project I’m working on with my daughter Marikay.

Will you do a song in Cornish next? Didn’t you work with Gwenno once upon a time on ‘Ysolt Y’nn Gweinten’, a version of which ended up on your ‘Between Betjeman, Bach & Numan’ solo debut ?

Well that’s another interesting thing about language. Take Cornish for example. It has been what I call a sleeping language for the last couple of hundred years and has recently, I guess post war, become a spoken and scholarly language once more with a lot of revivalist interest. It worked beautifully on the CELTIC LEGEND ‘Tristan & Isolde’ project.

Through a chance connection to Tim Saunders (Gwenno’s father and Cornish language expert), I got to work with Gwen. I remember her coming to Nigel Bates’ studio in Sussex and when she sang the instrumental I’d written with Tim’s lyrics and I thought “Wow! what an amazing sound!”, so emotive and full of expression.

Of course I had no idea what was being said, but Tim had given me a translation of it so I could follow the idea. Gwenno is also fluent in Welsh and I remember hearing her on the phone to her mother in Welsh and followed by a conversation with her father in Cornish.

Both languages are from the Brythonic Celtic branch, but to me have a difference in sonority. I really find this incredible and it values a language no matter how few people speak it. It would be a tragedy to lose the likes of Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Breton and any so called minority languages as they have so much to offer in music and literature.

I’ve lost touch with Gwenno over the last five years or so, but I know she is a huge exponent of the Cornish language and is incorporating it into her own music, which in my opinion is both brave and brilliant.

‘Nocturne for Piano & Synths’ and ‘Electro Vivaldio’ have given you the opportunity to realise some of your classical synth fusion ideas?

Yes the ‘Nocturne…’ was an experiment whereby I tried to get the same emotion of a string orchestral arrangement to back the piano with synths. At first I tried to emulate the strings with a far too complex arrangement and so stripped it down to a simple very analogue sound using the classic Elka strings. I also added some synth voices and there you go, it worked. I’m very happy with it as it’s a piece very much inspired by a great pianist Ludovico Einaudi, although the difference is he uses the real strings on his recordings plus he’s a bit good and puts me in my place.

The ‘Vivaldi’ was a way for me to express an idea which is simply this. Would the likes of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc have empathised with the synth and possibly changed their way of composing had it been around. I personally think yes. The ‘Vivaldi’ was just a sort of compositional metaphor to emphasise this idea.

This version of ‘The Falling Tower’ appears to be getting traction, do you think that’s because you’re actually using your own name and the exposure from The Skaparis Orchestral tour with Gary Numan?

I definitely think it helps. Having done the tour at the end of last year, it exposed me to a number of Gary’s fans again who probably thought I had retired or died! And just using my name rather than going under the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS banner probably helped as well as few would have connected EC to me.

How was that Numan tour incidentally for you?

Well you can imagine that it was totally amazing. Great venues including the Royal Albert Hall, being back on tour again and having my wife with me to share the experience.

Travelling on the tour bus with Gary and his band (plus crew of course) who incidentally are a brilliant bunch, and as I’ve said before outstanding musicians all of them.

Also the massive buzz of performing my own songs and instrumentals and Gemma (Gary’s wife) who is so kind and welcoming and unbelievably funny and straight away making us feel part of the family. My only regret was it lasted for ten days. I could have done a hundred!

You are writing an autobiography on your Numan days, how is that coming along?

I have been sketching it out and Erik Stein, singer from CULT WITH NO NAME, is helping to guide me through the process. It is quite daunting as I want to make it a historic book about my observations and perspective on events, but at the same time entertaining.

What has caught the imagination is my close involvement with Gary and the band members during this period from 1979 until 1990 (when I officially left) and it’s interesting writing it now from a very retrospective angle. If I had written this at the time, I don’t think it would be good. It would probably have been a bit like a diary and that’s the last thing I want it to be.

What’s perhaps not widely known is that on ‘The Pleasure Principle’, you and Gary shared the keyboard parts because from ‘Telekon’ onwards, he tended to handle the majority himself?

The difference between the two recordings was immense. ‘The Pleasure Principle’ was all of us playing together and to lay down the basis of the track and then doing overdubs.

‘Telekon’ was much more fragmented with us coming and going and sometimes hanging around all day and doing no recording at all.

I played some keyboards on it and viola, but Denis Haines had joined the band and added keyboard parts. Gary did a lot of overdubs himself on various synths and then you had RRussell adding guitar, Paul on bass and Cedric on drums. But my memory of it was that it was put together in a rather random way compared to ‘The Pleasure Principle’. It was still a brilliant album mind you and I’m well proud to have been involved.

Everyone naturally talks about tracks like ‘Complex’ when referencing your contribution, but I’d like to mention ‘M.E.’ and ‘Tracks’, what can you remember about doing those?

‘Tracks’ sadly I have no memory at all. Did I play on it? But on ‘M.E.’, I was given full license to come up with the parts under Gary’s guidance. I’d play them and he’d make the decision as to if he liked what I had done or not. This is a pattern that followed through into future recordings with Gary.

You’ve been working with German songstress Katja von Kassel and you did a new version of ‘Fade To Grey’ with her for ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. Now that version of the album has been taken out of circulation, will it reappear on say your next EP with her?

No I doubt it. I think Katja’s better off with releasing original material to establish her own identity rather than relying on covers.

‘Fade To Grey’ is something of an evergreen, there was people like Kelly Osbourne and Kylie Minogue with their respective songs like ‘One Word’ and ‘Like A Drug’ significantly borrowing from it, are you getting any royalties from those? 😉

We all got royalties from the Kelly Osbourne record. Linda Perry the producer and writer, you know the one from 4 NON BLONDES fame, producer of Pink, Christina Aguilera etc etc realised her error and relinquished her entire rights to the song. I still have her lovely letter written to me apologising for her mistake. To be honest it could happen to anyone and for her to have been so honest and forthcoming with a solution was admirable. I think she’s a really decent person and she has my total admiration.

Minogue on the other hand is a different story. She would have known full well it was a rip off, but the massive weight of her management and herself didn’t act as decently as Linda Perry as they employed the UK’s ‘top musicologist’ so they got away with it and we ended up with nothing. But hey that’s the music business! Nobody said it was fair!

While we’re on the subject of VISAGE, you contributed five songs to Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album which were sung by Midge Ure and Tony Hadley among others, anymore stuff on the way from you with that project? 

Oh definitely. He’s a fascinating character who is passionate, driven, committed 100% to the electronic music cause.

He’s extremely loud (you can hear him over an AC/DC concert!) and as I describe him affectionately to others due to his direct no nonsense approach, ‘a social grenade’ but he’s a forceful character and he gets things done. During the album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, he managed to get so many good people on board.

How do you look back on it?

It took a long time and in fact five years from inauguration to finish and I was there from the start to the finish, in fact I was the only one. Many had dropped off not believing it would happen but there’s something about him that I share, and that is a driven passion to get the job done and get your music out there.

I contributed five songs to his album and the most interesting one was ‘Glorious’ with Midge Ure. I had written the basic track and had this idea about the chorus relating to the national anthem but as a love song, a sort of “You make me Glorious sometimes victorious” type of thing. Well, Rusty loved the initial idea and worked on it but it didn’t have that big anthem sound I had imagined.

It rested there for a year or so and then suddenly out of the blue Midge had got hold of it and although he kept the chord structure I had written, had revised it from verse to chorus and turned it into the song I always imagined it to be. I was stunned when I first heard it and all credit to Mr Ure, he had turned around a good song into an amazing song.

TULM is a new project with your daughter Marikay which has an eerie Medieval folk feel about it?

The TULM concept is a new project that I’m creating with my daughter Marikay. She has a passion for auditioning huge amounts of music from all over the world on the internet and has a unique ear and is also passionate about creating a project that involves not just the process of music but film, still photography, clothes design, jewellery etc. She has already connected a lot of artists in the Rouen region on this and they all are very committed to the project.

As for my role? Well that’s also different and interesting for me. I will listen to her basic story ideas which are normally based on dark fairy tales and create the music as we are going. In some cases such as the song ‘Flower Crown’, there is no standard structure. We are just going through a story told in music and lyrics and that’s it. It feels a bit like composing film music but without the film!

One thing that does show a certain generation gap is when I’m writing using a simple bed of strings and thinking to myself “Wow that sounds good”, she’ll me bring down to earth with a comment like. “Dad, that’s so 80s! No one uses that old fashioned sound now”. So I change it to something different and that’s how it works. The complete antithesis to how I normally work but an interesting learning curve. Plus as you said there are elements of folk. It’s actually a hard project to define to anyone.

You’ve been working with TINY MAGNETIC PETS on their new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’?

Yes, I was asked to contribute some piano and violin on a couple of their songs. I didn’t hesitate as they’re such an amazing band and more importantly such lovely people. It’s always a pleasure to meet up with them and I really hope they get to achieve the success they deserve with this album.

Have you had a chance to reflect on your career and how your synthy past has become a part of your creative life again in the last decade?

Well as you know I left synths when I left Gary back in 1990 as I went back to classical and folk instruments. I worked on a lot of orchestral projects for production film and media music, plus the use of the folk instruments in CELTIC LEGEND. But having said that , I was still using synths but as a background atmospheric thing rather than full on upfront.

Actually by 2010, I had got into a bit of a rut with music and this changed when Rusty contacted me and I had to get back into synths again. My entire way of looking at them has changed since then. They are an integral part of music creation and what I’ve always admired about the synth is the accessibility of the instrument to all. Think of it as a tool able to be used by non-musicians to create music.

For most instruments, it takes years to get proficient enough to be able to write with them, but the synth opens up this new world of creativity to non-musicians almost immediately which I’m convinced is a great thing. I have certainly reconnected with them and use them all the time. My poor old crumhorns, ocarinas, bamboo flutes, Bombards etc are just lying around in the corner of my studio. But I’ll find a project soon to incorporate them back into my musical life I’m sure.

What’s next for you, under whatever guise?

Simply to carry on writing in whatever form and creating music.

I have an interesting project with an old music college friend called Michael Stewart who was mentored by Sir John Tavener, and this involves setting up our own neo-classical label. I would really like this to work but it’s going to take time and a lot of commitment.

We have a project in mind to start off, with an amazing pianist from Japan called Ahuri playing one of the rare Tavener piano compositions called ‘Palintropos’. And of course I have to finish the long awaited book ‘My Numan Days’, check out my Facebook page and www.chrispaynemusic.com for updates.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Chris Payne

‘The Falling Tower’ is released by Gaia International Music, available as a digital album via the usual platforms

http://chrispaynemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/chrispaynecomposer/

https://twitter.com/clanvis

https://www.instagram.com/chris.payne.music/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th March 2019

A Short Conversation with KATJA VON KASSEL & CHRIS PAYNE

The highlight of German songstress KATJA VON KASSEL’s ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP, the song ‘Someday’ was a timeless slice of sophisticated magnificence.

The song was the start of a new writing partnership with former Numan keyboardist Chris Payne. It captures Fraulein von Kassel sorrowfully pondering over the phone and questioning after her moment of haste if “it is foolish to dream”.

Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of ‘Someday’ is echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple but hypnotic rhythmic loop.

Fresh from their successful and well-received performance at Electrowerkz in London, where they performed the ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP and their joint cover of ‘Fade To Grey’, Katja and Chris chatted about the genesis of ‘Someday’.

How did ‘Someday’ come about?

Chris: This was one of the first songs I wrote for Katja, I became interested in working with her because of her voice. I get to hear some really good singers but there are very few that have got that extra something, that dynamic, that individuality, that emotion, whatever you want to call it.

When I listened to her earlier stuff, I realised the connection with that Dita von Teese / Marlene Dietrich / Liza Minnelli / Weimar Cabaret vibe but it was too obvious, so I wanted to take it into another dimension and create this atmosphere of Katja a dynamic declamatory singer on stage. When I sent her the backing track, she loved it and found the words straight away which led to us doing other pieces.

What was going on in your mind with the lyrics?

Katja: When Chris sent the backing track, straight away I had the melody which was just calling out for the lyrics. The music was so amazing that the melody felt like it already existed in my head.

‘Someday’ has a very timeless melody and recalls Billy Mackenzie in particular…

Chris: It wasn’t until you mentioned it that I remembered ASSOCIATES and I thought “Wow”!

It wasn’t a conscious direction, but maybe in my sub-conscious the song does have that atmospheric analogue sound of that period, mixed with some FM modular pads.

It does encapsulate something of a forlorn tragedy…

Katja: What’s strange is when you hear something as an artist when you hear the music, you just feel it and it comes out of you without any logic behind it, the phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place. It feels like it HAS to be this way with the melody and lyrics…

Chris: What I didn’t realise when I sent you the backing track, was that it unlocked something, that’s amazing! That’s always a good sign! Another interesting thing about ‘Someday’ is after Katja had done her vocals, for a bit of fun I took all the percussive elements out and it created another track where the entire emotion had changed, I thought that was amazing so that’s why this Cinematic version is also on the EP.

Is there going to be more work from you two?

Chris: OH YEAH!

Katja: Yes!

Chris: Obviously, we’re trying to get a whole album together which will take time…

Katja: So we need everyone who likes our music to let others know we are existing, because that’s the difficult thing as an artist these days.


‘Someday’ and its Cinematic version are on the ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP, available as a download or CD from https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/

https://twitter.com/katjavonkassel

http://www.chrispaynemusic.com/

http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Chris-Paynes-Electronic-Circus-1871328086461350/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd April 2018

2017 End Of Year Review

Oscillate Mildly

The world found itself in a rather antagonistic and divisive state this year, as if none of the lessons from the 20th Century’s noted conflicts and stand-offs had been learnt.

Subtle political messages came with several releases; honorary Berliner Mark Reeder used the former divided city as symbolism to warn of the dangers of isolationism on his collaborative album ‘Mauerstadt’. Meanwhile noted Francophile Chris Payne issued the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS EP ‘Direct Lines’ with its poignant warning of nuclear apocalypse in its title song. The message was to unite and through music as one of the best platforms.

After a slow start to 2017, there was a bumper crop of new music from a number of established artists. NINE INCH NAILS and Gary Numan refound their mojo with their respective ‘Add Violence’ and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ releases, with the latter recording his best body of work since his imperial heyday.

But the first quarter of the year was hamstrung by the anticipation for the 14th DEPECHE MODE long player ‘Spirit’, with other labels and artists aware that much of their potential audience’s hard earned disposable income was being directed towards the Basildon combo’s impending album and world tour.

Yet again, reaction levels seemed strangely muted as ‘Spirit’ was another creative disappointment, despite its angry politicised demeanour.

Rumours abounded that the band cut the album’s scheduled recording sessions by 4 weeks. This inherent “that’ll do” attitude continued on the ‘Global Spirit’ jaunt when the band insulted their loyal audience by doing nothing more than plonking an arena show into a stadium for the summer outdoor leg.

Despite protestations from some Devotees of their dissatisfaction with this open-air presentation, they were content to be short-changed again as they excitedly flocked to the second set of European arena dates with the generally expressed excuse that “it will be so much better indoors”.

By this Autumn sojourn, only three songs from ‘Spirit’ were left in the set, thus indicating that the dire record had no longevity and was something of a lemon.

Suspicions were finally confirmed at the ‘Mute: A Visual Document’ Q&A featuring Daniel Miller and Anton Corbijn, when the esteemed photographer and visual director confessed he did not like the album which he did the artwork for… see, it’s not just ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 😉

Devotees are quick to say all criticism of DEPECHE MODE is unfair, but the band can’t help but make themselves easy targets time and time again. But why should the band care? The cash is coming, the cash is coming…

Luckily, veteran acts such as OMD and Alison Moyet saved the day.

The Wirral lads demonstrated what the word spirit actually meant on their opus ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’, while the former class mate of Messrs Gore and Fletcher demonstrated what a soulful, blues-influenced electronic record should sound like with ‘Other’.

As Tony Hadley departed SPANDAU BALLET and Midge Ure got all ‘Orchestrated’ in the wake of ULTRAVOX’s demise, the ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album directed by Rusty Egan, to which they contributed, became a physical reality in 2017.

Now if DM plonked an arena show into the world’s stadiums, KRAFTWERK put a huge show into a theatre. The publicity stunt of 2012, when Tate Modern’s online ticket system broke down due to demand for their eight album live residency, did its job when the Kling Klang Quartett sold out an extensive UK tour for their 3D concert spectacular.

No less impressive, SOULWAX wowed audiences with their spectacular percussion heavy ‘From Deewee’ show and gave a big lesson to DEPECHE MODE as to how to actually use live drums correctly within an electronic context.

Mute Artists were busy with releases from ERASURE, LAIBACH and ADULT. but it was GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Silver Eye’ that stole the show from that stable. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM returned after seven years with their ‘American Dream’ and it was worth the wait, with the most consistent and electronic record that James Murphy’s ensemble has delivered in their career.

To say Neil Arthur was prolific in 2017 would be an understatement as he released albums with BLANCMANGE and FADER while Benge, a co-conspirator on both records, worked with I SPEAK MACHINE to produce ‘Zombies 1985’ which was one of the best electronic albums of the year; and that was without the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS stage play soundtrack ‘The Machines’.

Despite JAPAN having disbanded in 1982, solo instrumental releases from Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri were particularly well-received, while David Sylvian made a return of sorts, guesting on ‘Life Life’ for ‘async’, the first album from Ryuichi Sakamoto since recovering from his illness. On the more esoteric front, Brian Eno presented the thoughtful ambience of ‘Reflection’, while THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP had ‘Burials In Several Earths’.

2017 was a year that saw acts who were part of the sine wave of Synth Britannia but unable to sustain or attain mainstream success like BLUE ZOO, B-MOVIE, FIAT LUX and WHITE DOOR welcomed back as heroes, with their talent belatedly recognised.

Germany had something of a renaissance as veterans Zeus B Held and ex-TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder came together in DREAM CONTROL as another TD offshoot QUAESCHNING & SCHNAUSS offered up some impressive ‘Synthwaves’, while there actually was a new TANGERINE DREAM album, their first without late founder member Edgar Froese.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf offered up some KRAUTWERK as other veterans like RHEINGOLD, DER PLAN, BOYTRONIC and DJ HELL also returned. Comparatively younger, 2RAUMWOHNUNG and KATJA VON KASSEL both offered up enticing bilingual takes on classic electronic pop.

The Swedish synth community again delivered with DAILY PLANET, PAGE, REIN, VANBOT, ANNA ÖBERG, 047 and LIZETTE LIZETTE all delivering fine bodies of work, although KITE were missed, with their German tour cancelled and release of their ‘VII’ EP postponed due to vocalist Nicklas Stenemo’s illness; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK wishes him all the best in his recovery.

Across the Baltic Sea, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen released his 20th album ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ while nearby in Russia, a duo named VEiiLA showcased an unusual hybrid of techno, opera and synthpop and ROSEMARY LOVES A BLACKBERRY offered a ‘❤’.

One of the year’s discussion points was whether Synthwave was just synthpop dressed with sunglasses and neon signs but whatever, Stateside based Scots but Michael Oakley and FM-84 made a good impression with their retro-flavoured electronic tunes.

It wasn’t all about the expats and in a territory as big as North America, there came a number of up-and-coming home grown electronic artists with LOST IN STARS, PARALLELS, PATTERN LANGUAGE, SPACEPRODIGI, COMPUTER MAGIC and BATTLE TAPES all gaining traction. Meanwhile, Canada’s PURITY RING infuriated some of their fanbase by working with KATY PERRY on three tracks for her album ‘Witness’. AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s new singles only policy was paying dividends and the Electro Mix of ‘Rhythm + Control’, which featured the promising newcomer NYXX, was one of the best tracks of 2017. South American wasn’t left out either and representation came via Argentina’s COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Female solo artists had strong presence in 2017 as FEVER RAY made an unexpected return, ZOLA JESUS produced her best work to date in ‘Okovi’ and Hannah Peel embarked on an ambitious synth / brass ‘Journey to Cassiopeia’. Meanwhile, SARAH P. asked ‘Who Am I’ and MARNIE found ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ as ANI GLASS and NINA both continued on their promising developmental path.

Other female fronted acts like KITE BASE, SPECTRA PARIS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, AVEC SANS, EMT and THE GOLDEN FILTER again reinforced that electronic music was not solely about boys with their toys.

Respectively, Ireland and Scotland did their bit, with TINY MAGNETIC PETS and their aural mix of SAINT ETIENNE and KRAFTWERK successfully touring with OMD in support of their excellent second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’, while formed out of the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL, RAINLAND wowed audiences opening for ASSEMBLAGE 23.

A bit of smooth among the rough, CULT WITH NO NAME released a new album while other new(ish) acts making a positive impression this year included KNIGHT$, MOLINA, ANNEKA, SOFTWAVE, THE FRIXION and KALEIDA.

Despite getting a positive response, both iEUROPEAN and SOL FLARE parted ways while on the opposite side of the coin, Belgian passengers METROLAND celebrated five years in the business with the lavish ‘12×12’ boxed set

Overall in 2017, it was artists of a more mature disposition who held their heads high and delivered, as some newer acts went out of their way to test the patience of audiences by drowning them in sleep while coming over like TRAVIS on VSTs.

With dominance of media by the three major labels, recognition was tricky with new quality traditional synthpop not generally be championed by the mainstream press. With Spotify now 20% owned by those three majors, casual listeners to the Swedish streaming platform were literally told what to like, as with commercial radio playlists.

It is without doubt that streaming and downloading has created a far less knowledgeable music audience than in previous eras, so Rusty Egan’s recent online petition to request platforms to display songwriting and production credits was timely; credit where credit is due as they say…

While ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK does not dismiss Spotify totally and sees it as another tool, it should not be considered the be all and end all, in the same way vinyl is not the saviour of the music industry and in physics terms, cannot handle the same dynamic range as CD.

Music is not as emotionally valued as it was before… that’s not being old and nostalgic, that is reality. It can still be enjoyed with or without a physical purchase, but for artists to be motivated to produce work that can connect and be treasured, that is another matter entirely.

However, many acts proved that with Bandcamp, the record company middle man can be eliminated. It is therefore up to the listener to be more astute, to make more effort and to make informed choices. And maybe that listener has to seek out reliable independent media for guidance.

However, as with the shake-up within the music industry over the last ten years, that can only be a good thing for the true synthpop enthusiast. And as it comes close to completing its 8th year on the web, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintains its position of not actually promoting new acts or supporting any scene, but merely to write about the music it likes and occasionally stuff it doesn’t… people can make their own mind up about whether to invest money or time in albums or gigs.

Yes, things ARE harder for the listener and the musician, but the effort is worthwhile 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2017

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: QUASCHENING & SCHNAUSS Synthwaves
Best Song: BATTLE TAPES No Good
Best Gig: SOULWAX at O2 Ritz Manchester
Best Video: SOULWAX Is it Always Binary?
Most Promising New Act: MARIE DAVIDSON


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: SPARKS Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Glastonbury
Best Video: ALISON MOYET Reassuring Pinches
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut
Best Song: LAU NAU Poseidon
Best Gig: PAGE at Electronic Summer 2017
Best Video: PSYCHE Youth Of Tomorrow
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: I SPEAK MACHINE Zombies 1985
Best Song: AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Version
Best Gig: OMD + TINY MAGNETIC PETS at Cambridge Corn Exchange
Best Video: I SPEAK MACHINE Shame
Most Promising New Act: MICHAEL OAKLEY


RCHARD PRICE

Best Album: FADER First Light
Best Song: OMD Isotype
Best Gig: MARC ALMOND at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GOLDFRAPP Anymore
Most Promising New Act: NINA


STEPHEN ROPER

Best Album:  OMD The Punishment of Luxury
Best Song: DUA LIPA Be The One
Best Gig: HANNAH PEEL at Norwich Arts Centre
Best Video: PIXX I Bow Down
Most Promising New Act: PIXX


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ZOLA JESUS Okovi
Best Song: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Best Gig: ERASURE at London Roundhouse
Best Video: GARY NUMAN My Name Is Ruin
Most Promising New Act: ANNA ÖBERG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th December 2017

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2017

It was a year when the veterans re-established their standing within electronic pop.

That was not to that comparatively newer acts weren’t making a good impression, it was just that a fair number of established acts gave their all and were producing some of their best work since their imperial heyday. Great tracks by SPARKS, OUTERNATIONALE, SPACEPRODIGI, iEUROPEAN, PARALLELS, KITE, FEVER RAY, SOL FLARE, SOFTWAVE, KNIGHT$, 2RAUMWHONUNG, JORI HULKKONEN, FIFI RONG and KITE BASE made it onto the shortlist, but despite their quality, they did not make the final listing.

Also not included are songs from ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, the debut album from RUSTY EGAN; although gaining a physical release this year, it was reviewed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in the Autumn of last year when download versions of the long player were distributed to those who had purchased it in advance via Pledge Music. Meanwhile, its closing track ‘Thank You’ was included in our 30 Songs Of 2016.

So restricted to purchasable releases only and one song per artist moniker, here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 Songs Of 2017 in alphabetical order…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix

Additionally featuring NYXX and WILLIAM CONTROL on vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take AESTHETIC PERFECTION’s industrial pop to the next level via his new singles only policy. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised this oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!”

Available on the single ‘Rhythm + Control’ via aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/track/rhythm-control-electro-version-feat-william-control-nyxx

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


RICHARD BARBIERI Solar Sea

From only the third solo album in the long career of Richard Barbieri, ‘Solar Sea’ was a sleazy rhythmic excursion into another world. With the one-time JAPAN sound designer using a Roland System 700 for its bassline, the track’s atonal jazz feel was augmented by the haunting voice manipulations of Lisen Rylander Löve through a vintage Soviet submarine microphone and warping noises offset by soothing brass inflections and live drums.

Available on the album ‘Planets + Persona’ via by Kscope

https://www.facebook.com/RichardBarbieriOfficial/


BATTLE TAPES Control

The American electronic rock quartet BATTLE TAPES continued to develop from their 2015 debut album ‘Polygon’ via their ‘Form’ EP. The best track ‘Control’ hinged around a syncopated filtered synth bass and a brilliantly catchy chorus sung by Josh Boardman, with enough guitars for power and texture without distracting from the overall electronic aesthetic, and even coming over like a heavier Stateside version of SIN COS TAN.

Available on the EP ‘Form’ via battletapes.bigcartel.com

http://battletapesband.com/


CLIENT LIAISON Feat TINA ARENA A Foreign Affair

“International in flavour, cosmopolitan in style” and sounding like a long lunch followed by a round of cocktails, Australian duo CLIENT LIAISON roped in one-time TV talent show star Tina Arena to duet on a lush slice of romantic pop that also rode on the current fashion for Synthwave. ‘A Foreign Affair’ could have easily been a Rat Pack movie song.

Available on the album ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ via Remote Control Records

http://www.clientliaison.com


CULT WITH NO NAME All I Have Is Yours (Including You)

CULT WITH NO NAME have never been short of mood, but their eighth album ‘Heir Of The Dog’ proved to be their best yet, combining a variety of tempos and textures. With a memorable crooning vocal from Erik Stein complimented by an enticing harmony from Sirena Riley and lush electronic backing sounding like OMD by the Aegean Sea, ‘All I Have Is Yours (Including You)’ was a song that rose forever and ever like one of Aphrodite’s grandchildren.

Available on the album ‘Heir Of The Dog’ via cultwithnoname.bandcamp.com

http://cultwithnoname.net/


DAILY PLANET featuring MAC AUSTIN Heaven Opened

Johan Baeckström made positive waves with his debut solo album ‘Like Before’ in 2015 but reunited with his musical partner Jarmo Ollila, producing an excellent third album with more tempo variation than their 2014 offering ‘Two’. Featuring the guest vocals of Mac Austin from cult synth trio WHITE DOOR who were one of the inspirations for DAILY PLANET, ‘Heaven Opened’ was an uncomplicated but wonderfully poignant slice of classic synthpop.

Available on the album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/dailyplanetband/


ELECTRONIC CIRCUS The Trapeze

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is the musical vehicle of Chris Payne, the one-time Numan band member who also co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’. With a symphonic theme bursting with melody and musicality like ULTRAVOX galloping across the plains of Normandy, the brilliant neo-instrumental ’The Trapeze’ was given a wondrous tone of humanistic unity when Payne’s wife and daughter joined in on the final straight in Latin.

Available on the EP ‘Direct Lines 2017’ via https://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/store/

http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/


FADER 3D Carpets

FADER are the synth superduo featuring BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur and Benge; ‘3D Carpets’ captured an independent post-punk intensity, like JOY DIVISION or THE CURE but realised with analogue electronics rather than guitars. While the pair worked on their parts separately, their creative dynamic produced a great debut album in ‘First Light’.

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader


ANI GLASS Geiriau

From the Welsh synth songstress’ first EP, the fabulous ‘Geiriau’ was a driving sequential drama that had more than a passing resemblance to the first part of SPARKS’ ‘No1 Song In Heaven’. Revolving around ANI GLASS’ experience of flying the nest and returning years later to reconnect with her Welsh and Cornish heritage, it was a spacey and futuristic soundtrack for a wonderfully uplifting homecoming.

Available on the EP ‘Ffrwydrad Tawel’ via aniglass.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/aniglasscymru/


THE GOLDEN FILTER Rivers

‘Volupsa’, the promising Nordic flavoured debut album from THE GOLDEN FILTER came out in 2010, but the Aussie American duo of vocalist Penelope Trappes and synth programmer Stephen Hindman took their time with the follow-up ‘Still//Alone’, having relocated to London after spending several years based in New York. The hypnotic pulse of ‘Rivers’ with its precise drum machine pointed to a female fronted OMD, complete with a catchy riff and synthy jabbing bassline.

Available on the album ‘Still // Alone’ via Optimo

http://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


GOLDFRAPP Systemagic

The immensely catchy ‘Systemagic’ was a prize electronic gem from the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, reminiscent of the lusty and beat laden electronic material from ‘Black Cherry’. But its riff asked the question as to whether you will always find Alison Goldfrapp in the kitchen at parties? In the event of Jona Lewie filing a lawsuit, the lucrative income from the song’s use in a BMW advert may ease any potential net payout.

Available on the album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists

http://goldfrapp.com/


IONNALEE Not Human

After three acclaimed albums as IAMAMIWHOAMI with producer Claes Björklund, Jonna Lee went solo in 2017 although it was actually difficult to hear the join on the glorious ‘Not Human’, so seamless was the transition; there were still the icy electronic soundscapes, spacey dance beats and uplifting Scandipop vocals while the delightfully odd visuals were all present and correct.

Available on the download single ‘Not Human’ via To Whom It May Concern

http://www.ionnalee.com


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame

I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio / visual collaboration between musician Tara Busch and filmmaker Maf Lewis. Soundtracking their film ‘Zombies 1985’, the story was one of greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to the zombie apocalypse going on around him. Co-written and co-produced with Benge, the brilliant ‘Shame’ with its cascading synths and noise percussion was a wonderful hybrid of THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

http://www.ispeakmachine.com/


KATJA VON KASSEL In Little Rooms (Show Me Love)

After a number of years gigging around London, KATJA VON KASSEL finally unleashed released her electro Weimer Cabaret to the world. The pulsating ‘In Little Rooms (Show Me Love)’ captured an aesthetic which closely resembled that of RONNY, a former protégé of Rusty Egan. Attached to Alex Gray’s intricate filmic electronics, Fraulein von Kassel’s deep vocal detachment was art cool sexy.

Available on the EP ‘Katja von Kassel’ via katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/katja.vonkassel


KITE Demons & Shame

Swedish duo KITE unleashed their darkest offering yet in ‘Demons & Shame’. Shaped by a ritualistic drum mantra and brooding bass drones, as the title suggested, the song confronted the despair that life occasionally throws up while pursuing visions and dreams. If Ennio Morricone composed music for Nordic Noir dramas, it would sound a bit like this. Vocalist Nicklas Stenemo literally screamed his frustration over an epic synthetic soundscape from Christian Berg, laced with nocturnal Arctic overtones and the spectre of THE KNIFE.

Available on the single ‘Demons & Shame’ is released by Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


LCD SOUNDSYSTEM American Dream

James Murphy returned as LCD SOUNDSYSTEM after seven years with this widescreen musical statement reflecting on the political situation in the US. Glancing across the Atlantic and back to the Winter Of Discontent, this 3/4 synth laden tune that had more than a passing resemblance to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Circus Of Death’. So did “The Clown” referred to in that song remind Murphy of someone in particular?

Available on the album ‘American Dream’ via DFA Records

https://lcdsoundsystem.com/


LIZETTE LIZETTE Rest

Having started out in a more rave inclined environment, Lizette Nordahl ventured into more synthy climes and her debut mini-album had the air of KITE is all over it, which was not entirely surprising as its co-producers were Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg from the acclaimed duo. ‘Rest’ with its swirling synth sounds and widescreen Nordic atmosphere had an optimistic air of acceptance despite the melancholic tone and majestic growls.

Available on the EP ‘Queerbody’ via lizettelizette.bandcamp.com/releases

http://lizettelizette.com/


LOST IN STARS Sky

Led by British born musician Dylan Willoughby, LOST IN STARS is a floating ensemble which also includes Elena Charbila aka KID MOXIE and producer/songwriter Darren Burgos. The latter takes the lead vocal on the spirited electronic pop of ‘Sky’; now if NEW ORDER were from Los Angeles instead of Manchester, they would have sounded like this.

Available on the album ‘Lost In Stars’ via lostinstars.bandcamp.com/

https://www.lostinstars.space/


MARNIE Bloom

After releasing her first solo album ‘Crystal World’ in 2013, Helen Marnie added more prominent choruses and guitar onto her second, resulting in a catchy Scandipop style. ‘Bloom’ was an optimistic burst of synth laden pleasure and while not totally dissimilar to LADYTRON, it was without their usual hardness or gothic gloom.

Available on the album ‘Strange Words & Weird Wars’ via Disco Piñata

http://www.helenmarnie.com/


ALISON MOYET Alive

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, an acclaimed album which saw ALISON MOYET return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


GARY NUMAN When The World Comes Apart

With the narrative of ‘Savage’ provoked by Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord, the mighty apocalyptic rock of ‘When The World Comes Apart’ was something of a revelation for GARY NUMAN. Using synths as the dominant instrument and having guitars less obviously prominent in the mix, with its richly anthemic chorus, this was the magnificent crossover song that both old and new Numanoids had been waiting for.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


MICHAEL OAKLEY Rabbit In The Headlights

MICHAEL OAKLEY is a talented Glaswegian who describes his music as “Melancholic postcards from my heart wrapped up in synthesisers and drum machines”. The melodic ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ came complete with Italo “woah-oh” chants and whether it was Synthwave, synthpop, electropop, Italo or whatever, it showcased Oakley’s fine songwriting abilities, regardless of genre.

Available on the EP ‘California’ via michaeloakleysynthwave.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleySynthwave/


OMD One More Time

The excellent ‘One More Time’ was a classic bittersweet OMD stomper, where “everything you gave me didn’t last”. Using electronic percussion as opposed to drum machines, the enticing verse and uplifting bridge were set to a plethora of gorgeous textures and distorted synth to add a touch of enigmatic weirdness. While Andy McCluskey cried “you can break my heart just one more time”, the track’s star was Paul Humphreys with his crystalline synth sounds laced with some portamento bounce.

Available on the album ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ via 100% Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


RAINLAND Rainland

From the ashes of ANALOG ANGEL came forth RAINLAND. Their self-titled calling card was a vibrant synthpop statement, embroiled in a musicality that provided a journey through the Grampian Mountains. Ian Ferguson had already proved himself a worthy vocalist in his previous combo with dulcet tones not dissimilar to a certain Midge Ure and this was allowed to reign free on ‘Rainland’. Meanwhile, the ivories of Derek MacDonald stylistically aped the symphonic overtones of ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie.

Available on the EP ‘Touch’ via rainland.bandcamp.com/

https://www.rainland.co.uk/


RHEINGOLD Paradieshafen

Between 1980 to 1984, RHEINGOLD were at the forefront of Die Neue Deutsche Welle, releasing three albums and achieving their first domestic hit ‘3klangsdimensionen’ in 1981. Led by Bodo Staiger, ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ was their first album of new material for many years. The melodic synth of ‘Paradieshafen’ drove along a beautiful instrumental that came over like a dream collaboration between OMD and Michael Rother.

Available on the album ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ via Lucky Bob Records / Soulfood

https://www.facebook.com/Rheingold-156171354461006/


SARAH P. Who Am I

With hypnotising hints of Kate Bush and percolating Ryuichi Sakamoto style textures, ‘Who Am I’ by electropop goddess SARAH P. was an ode to “humanity, the world we live in and our importance (or unimportance) as individuals and/or as a whole”. And as the Greek-born songstress announced that “I don’t know where I come from… do you know my name?”, a metronomic beat kicked in to lead a dramatic house-laden climax.

Available on the album ‘Who Am I’ via EraseRestart Records

http://sarahpofficial.com/


SHELTER Karma

The normally flamboyant Welsh duo SHELTER surprised all with their darkest and most accomplished song yet in ‘Karma’. “What you want is what you’ll get…” sang Mark Bebb, “…you will get a lot more that you planned”. A vibrant but edgy production from Rob Bradley complimented the sentiment as the message was relayed loud and clear…

Available on the single ‘Karma’ via Ministry Of Pop

http://www.shelterofficial.com/


SOULWAX Conditions Of Shared Belief

From ‘From Deewee’, the first new SOULWAX album since 2004’s ‘Any Minute Now’, ‘Conditions Of A Shared Belief’ was a modular synth lover’s wet dream from the Dewaele brothers. With a retro-futuristic collage of detuned blippy sounds and a backbone of smashing white noise percussion recalling THE HUMAN LEAGUE in their Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh phase, it was complimented by some suitably abstractly pitched TALKING HEADS inspired vocals.

Available on the album ‘From Deewee’ via PIAS

http://www.soulwax.com


TINY MAGNETIC PETS Never Alone

TINY MAGNETIC PETS had their best year yet with a UK tour opening for OMD and to accompany it was their second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’. Featuring Wolfgang Flür, the album’s best song ‘Never Alone’ sounded appropriately like SAINT ETIENNE fronting KRAFTWERK. Paula Gilmer has one of the best voices in modern synthpop and her alluring tone no doubt added to the song’s breezy dreamlike state.

Available on the album ‘Deluxe/Debris’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/


VANBOT Collide (Krasnoyarsk)

The adventurous third VANBOT album ‘Siberia’ was composed and recorded during a 17 day journey on the Trans-Siberian railway. The crystalline ‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ though captured a more Nordic vibe with its gorgeous melodies, while the surrounding rhythmic pace of a train ride made its presence felt. An aural exploration of the relationship between time, location and emotion, ‘Siberia’ was a bold musical experiment.

Available on the single ‘Collide (Krasnoyarsk)’ via Lisch Recordings

http://www.vanbotmusic.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th December 2017

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