After almost a year’s delay, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have finally released their debut album ‘Through The Veil’.
Combining elements of Italo Disco, Hi-NRG and Electroclash with the feisty template Of Terri Nunn’s BERLIN and the Mittel Europa romanticism of VISAGE, ELEVEN:ELEVEN deliver a melodic but edgy style of electronic dance music which doesn’t cause death by four-to-the-floor! Fronted by the feline demure of Sicca and powered by the crisp electronic backing of Jake Childs, ELEVEN:ELEVEN have been described as the musical love child of GIORGIO MORODER and ADULT. The duo’s debut EP ‘Infection’, with exquisite songs like ‘Infection’, showcased the subtle dynamics of their futuristic disco friendly sound influenced by the likes of producers such as Bobby Orlando as well as the man named Giorgio.
The original promotional concept of ‘Through The Veil’ had been to the release a track one-at-a-time before culminating in a finished ten track album but after six were premiered, things went quiet while the duo were signed to Canadian label Cliché Musique, part of Universal Music.
It comes as a big surprise though after all the delays that the whole album has been given away as a free download… but what a freebie! The songs are uncluttered, and allowed space to breathe rather than just having the kitchen sink thrown in. Punching forth at the start is ‘Escape’ which combines atmosphere, danceability and emotion for a superb opener.
Taking on a more Eurocentric countenance with a hint of A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ is ‘Essence’ although Sicca doesn’t try to attempt falsetto. With a moodier percussive outlook, creepier synths hook-in at a steadier pace on ‘Mesmerize’ with Sicca all haunted and exclaiming “You’re toxic, mesmerise me… I waste away”; it all gives ‘Through The Veil’ a kind of sexy gothic allure.
‘The Play’ explores bondage chic, a theme often referenced in ELEVEN:ELEVEN’s artwork. Feeling the need for speed, it is more frantic than the other numbers running through the core of ‘Through The Veil’.
There’s plenty of highs and lows in its two minutes. The exploration continues on ‘The Chains’ and at four plus minutes, is the longest song on the album. Strangely, it does sound a little too long…
The synthetic seediness of ‘No Words’ is reminiscent of MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER but whereas Ms Herve would just speak, Sicca coos with a sultry allure… it actually makes a change to hear a singer on an electronic backing track like this rather than the expected deadpan monologue. Driven by an arpeggiated bassline and analogue drum machine clatter, ‘Little White Lies’ is rather divine with Sicca sounding quite seductively resigned over some great syncopation, club friendly without being overbearing.
‘Isolate’ and ‘Justified’ maintain the quality of the album and don’t veer too much away from the ‘Through The Veil’ template. But the best number comes last with the brilliantly sparkling title track which put quite simply, is just great angelic synthpop.
An impressive debut, the main noticeable trait of ‘Through The Veil’ other than its quality dance stance is that the songs are all short and sweet. There’s no unnecessary 20 inch dance mixes needed as the point can be made in less than three minutes… so DJs and dance acts, PLEASE LEARN!
At thirty-two minutes, ‘Through The Veil’ does not outstay its welcome and with its enjoyable ten variations of a theme, it showcases how there is subtle, crafted thinking within EDM from this promising electronic duo.
The year began with the housewives’ favourite astronomer Brian Cox naming several synth friendly classics like OMD’s ‘Messages’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Friends Of Mine’ in his choices for ‘Desert Island Discs’ as well as declaring an appreciation of ULTRAVOX.
The confessions of the one-time keyboard player of DARE and D:REAM proved once again that electronic music is the preserve of the intelligent, discerning listener. And as with the strap line to ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ which featured the use of an ARP 2500 to communicate with the aliens incidentally!), it proved to many a synth enthusiast that “we are not alone”!
Speaking of ULTRAVOX, they made the comeback of the year with ‘Brilliant’, the first long player featuring the classic line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure since 1984’s ‘Lament’.
While the album could have probably done with being two tracks shorter, it was the best of the bunch in a line of returns from the last few years by Synth Britannia veterans OMD, BLANCMANGE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE; not bad considering most of the band are now in their early sixties! The Dreaded Pink Thing has now been truly buried!
Gary Numan continued to tour like there was no tomorrow and reunited with his old backing band DRAMATIS on several of his ‘Machine Music’ shows in tribute to the late Ced Sharpley who had drummed for both. From the same management stable, JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS unleashed their third album in 18 months entitled ‘Evidence’ while Claudia Brücken released only her second solo album in just over 20 years with a soothing collection of reinterpretations called ‘The Lost Are Found’.
With only Synth-Werk plug-in hoaxes and Belgian clones METROLAND to keep Klingklangers entertained with new material, KRAFTWERK themselves undertook a 3D residency at New York’s MoMA featuring their eight most recent works with a controversial two tickets per customer policy. As most of these albums clocked in at just over 30 minutes, there was still an hour’s other favourites to savour for those lucky enough to get their names on the list.
This electronic extravaganza will be reprised at London’s Tate Modern in February 2013. As a former power plant, the location is wholly appropriate although the occasion will be tainted by the ticket fiasco that preceded it!
Ex-member Karl Bartos was probably observing with amusement as he will be returning in 2013 with a new album ‘Off The Record’ and world tour. Disgruntled fans who missed out on the Tate Modern shows are now likely to be venturing his way for their KRAFTWERK fix!
Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony attempted to showcase the best of British so with UNDERWORLD as musical directors, OMD, NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, BRIAN ENO and EURYTHMICS all figured during the evening.
And in keeping with the Games message to “inspire a generation”, promising new act STRANGERS had their single ‘Safe / Pain’ used by the BBC in a montage of Team GB’s cycling success during the Olympics. The trio also shone at BASII, a Basildon electronic music festival celebrating the legacy of their most famous sons DEPECHE MODE and went on to support BLANCMANGE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN.
DEPECHE MODE themselves announced a new album and tour for 2013 in a bizarre press conference that appeared to have no actual news! But this was not before Dave Gahan guested with SOULSAVERS and Martin Gore did a cameo for MOTOR; He also reunited with former bandmate Vince Clarke for the rather polarising techno project VCMG. And in a year that saw all members of the extended DM family busy, former bandmate Alan Wilder helped compile a tribute album to one-time synthpoppers TALK TALK and released the RECOIL concert film ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’.
MARSHEAUX returned to London with a triumphant performance featuring The Blitz Club’s legendary Rusty Egan on electronic percussion during an encore of ‘Come On’, a song from their forthcoming fourth long player ‘Inhale’.
They also released a double headed single with the marvellous TWINS NATALIA; Sophie and Marianthi covered their cult favourite ‘When We Were Young’ to compliment their rendition of ‘Radial Emotion’.
After the label and personnel upheavals of last Autumn, MIRRORS regrouped as a trio and made a welcome return with a starker sound. While this new material perhaps lacked the immediacy of their ‘Lights & Offerings’ debut, songs like ‘Between Four Walls’ and ‘Dust’ captured a depth of mood that grew with each listen. MIRRORS off-shoot LOVELIFE decamped to make their fortune in New York and unveiled a promising number in ‘Brave Face’ which crossed OMD with HARD-FI.
Sweden proved its prowess with COMPUTE who beefed up her sound for second EP ‘The Distance’ while IAMAMIWHOAMI took her mysterious audio visual experience into the physical album arena for the first time with ‘Kin’ where the enigmatic electronic soundtrack stood up on its own. Just down the road, there was the RAMMSTEIN reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE menace of TITANS.
Electro crooners JULIAN & MARINA showcased their lounge crooner synthpop with a cover of a Hollywood-era Elvis number ‘A House That Has Everything’ and DAYBEHAVIOR released their third album ‘Follow That Car!’ after a year’s delay.
Among the best songs of 2012 was ‘Trust’ by Finland’s SIN COS TAN, a new project from VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa and ace producer Jori Hulkkonen.
The parent eponymous album was impressive too and showed once again that the Nordic region was the perfect environment for the genesis of inventive leftfield synthpop.
From across the Atlantic, Canadians CRYSTAL CASTLES and PURITY RING were the darlings of the hipster cognoscenti along with GRIMES who hit the black keys of her Juno-G and impressed with her latest album ‘Visions’. She also made a timely appearance on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ which recalled the TV debut of LITTLE BOOTS back in 2008.
Sadly, Victoria Hesketh left behind her synth girl persona to head for the less challenging climes of clubland. Big rival LA ROUX was taking her time recording her second album while LADYHAWKE proved that she was always a rock chick in the first place with her second long player ‘Anxiety’sounding like it had been recorded down a drainpipe!
But in Diamond Jubilee Year, QUEEN OF HEARTS flew the electro flag with a glitzy slice of electro schaffel appropriately entitled ‘Neon’. A further single ‘Warrior’ proved it was not a fluke as the young royal turned into CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN meeting Emo KYLIE!
The UK found itself a few promising female-led electronic acts in the charmingly kooky …OF DIAMONDS, the Italo-led KOVAK and the dark but dreamy EVOKATEUR. But virtually out of nowhere came Glasgow’s new synth sensations CHVRCHES.
Despite only unleashing two songs ‘Lies’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ for public consumption, both were corkers; their much vaunted live performances met expectations, displaying both inventive synth arrangements and a vital pop sensibility.
The boys weren’t idle either with BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT and KID KASIO unleashing their long awaited debut albums while on the newer side of the tracks, there was the angry OMD of AUTOMATIC WRITING, the FAITHLESS gone rock of SINESTAR and the ERASURE for the new millennium of MODOVAR.
After the excitement of the years between 2008 and 2011, this was a comparatively quiet year for the sound of the synth with regards special events. There was no Short Circuit or gatherings on the scale of Tomorrow Is Today, the Vintage Electronic Phuture Revue or the BEF Weekender.
Within the mainstream, the majors were keen to support electronic music just so long as it was dance oriented. Notably, EMI pushed the generic foil of SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA and the ubiquitous David Guetta as the new acceptable faces of electronic music via their flawed ‘Electrospective’ promotional campaign; by default, this also involved Daniel Miller, Martyn Ware and Andy McCluskey due to the label’s ownership of the Virgin and Mute back catalogues! But some glaring schoolboy errors on their website and the use of quotes from COLDPLAY’s Chris Martin showed they didn’t really understand electronic pop…
There had been signs at the end of 2011 that the major record companies thought a rave revival would save their corporate bacons. Swedish synthpop duo THE SOUND OF ARROWS said that during their brief tenure with Geffen Records, the A&R had wanted them to sound more Ibiza club friendly. Their one-time label mate SUNDAY GIRL, who originally had a promising GOLDFRAPP meets JOY DIVISION sound, was reduced to covering dance numbers made famous by STEPS… her debut album originally slated for 2010 is still nowhere to be seen!
Meanwhile, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS‘ very good in places second album ‘Electra Heart’ had several of its songs spoiled by overdriving club beats! Is this really the only way to make people dance? It all seems a little brain dead! “NAME THAT TUNE…” snarled Rusty Egan on Facebook, “…if you can hear one?”
So should ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK settle down with a pipe and slippers? While we prefer to “dance to disco” cos we “don’t like rock”, there must be more to electro than shallow repetitive four-to-the-floor thuds and glowsticks?
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK likes a tune and doesn’t pretend to love every variation of the electronic theme. And from conversations with several DJs, it would appear clubland doesn’t want to be associated with the classic synthpop world anymore than the classic synthpop world wants to be lumped in with dance culture… so why attempt to centralise everything?
Modern beat driven flavours and other influences can be appreciated but a full blown experience is not always what is required! As the marvellous new Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have proved, danceable electronic music can be made that is subtle and syncopated. And all this without the need of an annoying dubstep remix, or a 10 minute techno rework with no melodic elements!
It’s cool to be discerning…
ELECTRICTYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2012
Best Album: DEADMAU5 >album title goes here<
Best Song: ORBITAL New France (Tom Middleton Cosmos remix)
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at London O2 Arena
Best Video: SPLEEN UNITED Days Of Thunder
Most Promising New Act: TITANS
Best Album: ULTRAVOX Brilliant
Best Song: CHVRCHES Lies
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Shepherds Bush Empire
Best Video: SINESTAR I Am The Rain
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES
CHI MING LAI
Best Album: SIN COS TAN Sin Cos Tan
Best Song: SIN COS TAN Trust
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Shepherds Bush Empire
Best Video: IAMAMIWHOAMI Drops
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES
Best Album: SIN COS TAN Sin Cos Tan
Best Song: ULTRAVOX Rise
Best Gig: BAS II
Best Video: KID KASIO Telephone Line
Most Promising New Act: KARIN PARK
It was a weak year musically overall, but a number of acts with great potential emerged.
However, in stronger years, a fair number of these acts would not have been shortlisted, it has to be said. So here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 Songs of 2012, listed in alphabetical order.
All have been released either in physical formats or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year.
However, the list is limited to one song per artist. It also does not include tracks which are exclusive to streams and videos or DJs only promos like the remix of REPUBLICA’s ‘Christiana Obey’… so maybe next year perhaps?
AUTOMATIC WRITING Continuous
Consisting of the Merrick Brothers, AUTOMATIC WRITING are the angry OMD if you can imagine that! Their sombre, ENO influenced template is like Wirral’s finest have been given a contemporary anthemic facelift by having WHITE LIES Harry McVeigh recruited as lead vocalist! ‘Continuous’ whirs and spins while driven by mutant motorik beats and dysfunctional claustrophobia. The flip ‘Falling’ is a more mid-tempo cousin and is another worthy addition to the duo’s developing sound.
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT is Welsh songwriter/producer Rod Thomas who adopted his ‘Gremlins’ referencing moniker to prevent being mistaken for an acoustic act which he clearly now is not, despite his folkie roots. As the opener to the long awaited album ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’, ‘Immature’ is a great start as it rhythmically percolates in the manner of THE POSTAL SERVICE before a terrific synth section unexpectedly lifts the whole piece several notches. This is a superbly emotive and sensitive piece of pop.
Available on the album ‘Make Me Believe in Hope’ via The Blue Team/Aztec Records
From ‘The Lost Are Found’ album produced by Stephen Hague which also features versions of songs originally by PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR and STINA NORDENSTRAM among others, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN’s lively reinterpretation of Bowie’s ‘Everyone Says Hi’ from ‘Heathen’ unveils a previously hidden heartfelt connection, a call for contact like Major Tom in ‘Space Oddity’. Dressed with catchy synth riffs and fuzzy shades, it combines ice maiden chill and organic warmth for an artful sound.
Available on the album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)
ROBYN doing an electro cover of ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ may not sound immediately appealing in concept but that’s how this punchy number starts before elevating into a rousing, spirited synth anthem. CHVRCHES could become the next electro combo to shake up the mainstream pop world since LA ROUX. A great song with great melodies and weird noises, herein ‘Lies’ the bridge between leftfield and bubblegum pop. The follow-up ‘The Mothers We Share’ underlines this promising Glaswegian trio’s capability.
VINCE CLARKE Featuring ANE BRUN Fly On The Windscreen
Novelist Tonya Hurley commissioned her brother-in-law VINCE CLARKE to record a stark cover of his former band’s ‘Fly On The Windscreen’ with vocalist ANE BRUN as part of promotion for her literary trilogy ‘The Blessed’. While the guitar-like textures appear to have been borrowed from the original in an act of artistic continuity, the rest of the arrangement is quite different as the vulnerable feminine twist acts as the ‘Twilight’ Generation’s perfect introduction to DEPECHE MODE.
Available as a download single via iTunes and Amazon
COMPUTE is Ulrika Mild, a Gothenburg girl who discovered synthpop via DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak and Spell’. ‘Light As a Feather’ is a bouncy but melancholic ditty which suggests a snow mountain of vulnerability. That is certainly apparent in Ulrika’s sweet, fragile voice. It’s beautifully sequenced with layers of eerie string machine for that distinctive Nordic chill.
Available on download album ‘The Distance’ via iTunes and Amazon
Roberta Fidora shows yet another fine turn of aggressive resignation like SIOUXSIE SIOUX in a padded cell while instrumentalist Macaulay Hopwood picks out his unsettling bass notes to full effect. While this CURXES tune is perhaps more guitar driven than what would normally be expected of most electronica, ‘Spectre’ is positively Spartan with symphonic synth stabs and industrial beat snaps…it’s the sound of the overground or Goth ‘n’ Bass…or even Gotham Bass; geddit? Simply exhilarating!
Available as a download single via Amazon and iTunes
DIVINE KNIGHTS Clouds (THE SANFERNANDO SOUND remix)
Goth laden PET SHOP BOYS from the theatrical Aussie duo dreamily remixed by THE SANFERNANDO SOUND. This is richly synthesized with lashings of atmosphere and accessible melancholy. The extrovertly camp pair have even subverted the realm of the talent show by getting into the semi-finals of ‘Australia’s Got Talent’. Dannii Minogue said: “I think DIVINE KNIGHTS are brave for coming on a show like this because not everybody is going to get them…but I really hope they do well!”
Available as a download single via Amazon and iTunes
Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN comprise the feline vocals of Sicca with the instrumentation of Jake Childs and throw in a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG and Electroclash. ‘No Words’ recalls MISS KITTEN & THE HACKER, capturing a tense nightlife seediness. Short but sweet with a swirling middle section, who needs an extended dance mix when the point is made in two and a half minutes? ELEVEN:ELEVEN have proved danceable electronic pop music can be made that’s syncopated and subtle.
GAZELLE TWIN Changelings (JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix)
Stark and mysterious, the living art of GAZELLE TWIN is the moniker of Elizabeth Walling, the Brighton based songstress whose brooding, unsettling Hauntronica has impressed in all the right circles. JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ version of one of her best tracks ‘Changelings’ sees Mr Foxx adding his own Cathedral Oceans sweeps to Benge’s Mathematical solutions. In an productive year profile wise, her music was used in the promotion for the film ‘Prometheus’.
Available on the album ‘The Entire City Remixed’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records
GRIMES is the kooky Montreal sensation that is Clare Boucher and this LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK tune is sumptuously infectious. Despite almost unintelligible vocals, ‘Oblivion’ is probably the most immediate track on the ‘Visions’ album although other tracks like ‘Genesis’ and ‘Be A Body’ explore similarly accessible synthesized avenues. ‘Oblivion’ is ideal for those looking for subtler percussive colours and synthesized tapestries in a leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion.
HUSKI first came to public attention on the trendy Shoreditch electro scene back in 2007 with ‘Take Me Your Picture’. The late lamented Word magazine described ‘Close To The Edge’ as sounding “not unlike how Clare Grogan might if she took a guest slot with THE HUMAN LEAGUE”. As both THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ALTERED IMAGES worked with the late Martin Rushent, that is not as peculiar as it first sounds and it brims with a cutesy allure.
IAMAMIWHOIAMI is the enigmatic electronic multimedia project fronted by Jonna Lee. From her first full length album ‘Kin’, ‘Drops’ is uptempo but almost trancelike. The beats are subtle with just layers of ice and chill to compliment. The clattering fits of noise and metallic textures add to the hypnotism. Jonna Lee’s piercing larynx will polarise listeners but this is Nordic weirdness in all its wonderful glory.
Available on the album ‘Kin’ via To Whom It May Concern
Hailing from Belgrade and featuring the nucleus of vocalist Jelena Miletić and instrumentalist Jovan Vesić, INJE have had the pleasure of supporting HURTS and FAITHLESS in their home country. Their chromatic East European charge will almost certainly please followers of LADYTRON. The excellent ‘Kofein I CO2’ from their EP ‘Protok’ is sort of DUBSTAR in Serbo-Croat meets DAVID LYNCH soundtrack, possessing an aural magnetism that is gorgeously layered with an air of wispy innocence.
‘Killer Boots’ is cooing new wave electropop with an immediately catchy Italo vibe…think ‘Self Control’ or even ‘Touch Me’! Appropriately decadent and sexy, this catchy song is produced by GARY NUMAN collaborator Andy Gray. Colourful, energetic and glamourous, KOVAK are like BLONDIE meeting DRAGONETTE and GWEN STEFANI through a TUBEWAY ARMY voltage controlled filter.
Is it dubstep or is it electro? ‘Keep On Dreaming’ actually sounds more like the latter. When the half beat/two step influences kick in, luckily they do so without the irritating, skipping CD nightmares that devilishly plague most dubstep. But like with all crossover songs, it is the flavour rather than the full blown experience that often wins favour. Confused? Just enjoy… this number by young Stockholm songstress Josefine Jinder features lots of lovely synths!
From the creative minds of former MIRRORS man Ally Young and Lee Newell from one-time indie darlings VIVA BROTHER, ‘Braveface’ is a chilling but uplifting piece of mood music which comes over like OMD fronted by HARD FI! With its Cool Britannia meets Synth Britannia fusion via the Big Apple, LOVELIFE’s genre blend may be confusing indie and electronic music fans alike but at least it’s different.
Since slimming down to a trio, MIRRORS have been heading for a sparser, textural direction which is perhaps less immediate than their debut album ‘Lights & Offerings’ but nevertheless rewarding with further listens. The beautifully stark drama of ‘Between Four Walls’ is sublime and full of post 3am drama. With echoes of OMD, CHINA CRISIS and THE BLUE NILE, it is high end atmospheric electronic balladry at its best. “Do you ever wonder how you’ll ever get there when you never turn back around?”
Comprising of Glen Wisbey on synths and the suave persona of Christopher Beecham on vocals, MODOVAR’s most immediate number is the emotively rousing ‘Clearly’. Beecham is a man with a self-confessed admiration of ALISON MOYET so ‘Clearly’ connects as a song of love in the first degree. It is just one of their “melodic, anthemic, chorus led songs, lyrically focused on the undercurrents of love and the human condition”. Also check out their cover of ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Same Old Scene’.
Available on the download EP ‘Clearly’ via Amazon and iTunes
MOTOR’s electro stomper ‘Man Made Machine’ features vocals by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration that sounds not unlike a camp IGGY POP being backed by an angry GOLDFRAPP. In the absence of DM material in 2012, this has been a worthy substitute with Gore luring nervously over the duo’s brand of harder edged techno electro. Incidentally, the same titled parent album also features guest such as GARY NUMAN and NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy.
New York domiciled Anglophile duo THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND’s make “pop songs for the disenchanted, disillusioned and disenfranchised”. Featuring Vladimir Valette on vocals and Benedetto Socci on keyboards, their “life…set to a dance beat” touches a nerve and now more so than the NEW ORDER influenced ‘Remember Me’. An emotive guitar assisted number in the vein of ‘Leave Me Alone’, it is slightly mournful and despaired but melodically secure.
Available on the download EP ‘Dreamers & Lovers’ via Stereosonic Recordings
BJÖRK goes synthy via THE KNIFE on ‘Thousand Loaded Guns’, a danceable tune that provides a degree of accessibility into the world of darker Nordic climes. Hailing from the forests of Djura in Sweden, KARIN PARK is yet another child of Drejer-Andersson, straddling between electropop and artier aspirations. Her sound is sonically awkward, albeit in a liberating artistic way. Scandinavia is a great place to be musically at the moment.
Available on the album ‘Highwire Poetry’ via State Of The Eye Recordings
Following her Arrival in 2011, QUEEN OF HEARTS graced the music world with a glitzy slice of electro schaffel appropriately entitled ‘Neon’. On first hearing this live, The Electricity Club gleefully pronounced that this managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP. While this had the obvious hallmarks of Lady Alison’s glam stomp, Queenie added her own cooing poptastic flavour, recalling RACHEL STEVENS’ under rated and great lost album ‘Come & Get It’.
Available on the download EP ‘Neon’ via All Things Go Records
Hailing from downtown Los Angeles, RITUALS comprise vocalist Neil Popkin and electronic producer Julian Denis. ‘James’ is rousing neo-NEW ORDER meets THE BRAVERY (remember them?) stomper which is only slightly short of being outstanding due to its demo-ish production…but the song resonates with an appealing doom. ‘Walk Away’ from their 2011 debut EP is another fine example of their potential.
SIN COS TAN Trust SIN COS TAN is the new mathematically charged project of ace producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa, “a synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”. They have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. This is subtle, hypnotic dance music with layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, it is one of the songs of the year.
Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina (Europe) and Sugarcane Recordings (Rest of World)
Bristol’s SINESTAR are a full blown five-piece band with drums, bass and guitar as well as synths and their MESH derived synthesized rock has the potential to crossover into several electronic sub-genres. With a so far small but impressive body of work as showcased on the ‘I Am The Rain’ EP, the terrific ‘Hurricane’ is like FAITHLESS gone rock! Catchy, tuneful and anthemic, they just need to work on the production.
Available on the download EP ‘I Am The Rain’ via Dead Rat Recordings.
STRANGERS have been perilously close to COLDPLAY territory on occasions. But on ‘Safe/Pain’, a moody slice of sweeping synth noir with a lonely piano intro, the big surprise comes when a series of rave stabs cut in for the ultimate euphoric lift, crossed with a bit of dubstep! The BBC loved ‘Safe/Pain’ and used it for a clip of Team GB’s immense cycling achievements at the end of the London 2012 Olympics, while they got support slots with BLANCMANGE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN under their belt.
‘It’s Dark’ could be RAMMSTEIN reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE with fewer the flame throwers! TITANS’ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan winning a fight with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In an electronic sub-genre known for its shouting, ‘It’s Dark’ manages to sound menacing without forcing the aggression. The edgy electronic backing from Fredrik Mattsson and Jimmy Svensson blends marvellously with the band’s doompop manifesto.
Available on the download album ‘For The Long Gone’ via Progress Productions
There were so many songs that could have been chosen but with this opener from their err… Brilliant comeback album was ULTRAVOX’s optimistic message of intent. Musically, ‘Live’ is ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ without the imminent nuclear holocaust! The instrumental breakdown, which drops to a magnificent pulsing sequence, piano and lone bass drum before the climax, is pure LA DÜSSELDORF and really is something to be savoured.
Available on the album ‘Brilliant’ via Eden Recordings/EMI Records
While recording their long awaited new album ‘Inhale’, MARSHEAUX added to their remix portfolio with a terrific reworking of a track dating back to 1969 by Japanese classic singer SAORI YUKI. Adding incessant beats, infectious pulsing synth and melancholic washes of sound to the more organic re-recording with PINK MARTINI from 2011, this brings Kayokyoku (a style of Japanese music thatabsorbs various Western styles) into the electro age with a Melody For a New Dawn.
One act flaunting their potential right now Stateside are Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN.
Comprising the celestial voice of Sicca with the instrumentation of Jake Childs, their electronic sound recalls a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Electroclash and BERLIN…no, not the one-time divided city with the Brandenburg Gate as its focal point but the LA combo led by Terri Nunn who had a worldwide smash with ‘Take My Breath Away’.
Prior to selling their souls to the F-14, BERLIN were the flagwavers for Eurocentric synthpop in the US with brilliant songs such as ‘The Metro’, ‘Masquerade’, ‘Pleasure Victim’ and ‘Now It’s My Turn’. While their song titles like ‘Electric Sex’, ‘Little White Lies’ and ‘No Words’ are very BERLIN-esque, what ELEVEN:ELEVEN do differently is Sicca avoids Terri Nunn’s rock histrionics which occasionally made BERLIN sound like ULTRAVOX fronted by HEART!
Sicca is much more feline and restrained while Childs provides a sparse, futuristic soundtrack sans guitars. ‘Little White Lies’ in a case in point, driven by an arpeggiated bassline and dressed with portmento synth stabs while Sicca sounds rather seductively detached.
From their debut EP of the same name, ‘Infection’ is more Studio54 with hypnotic hints of BOBBY O and GIORGIO MORODER while ‘Pawn’ is precise mechanical electro disco with a poker faced stare. Crucially, Childs gives the songs dynamics with syncopated high and lows which are free of the disease in current mainstream pop where four-to-the-floor thuds are just thrusted into oblivion.
‘No Words’ recalls MISS KITTEN & THE HACKER, capturing a tense nightlife seediness. Short but sweet with a swirling middle section, who needs an extended dance mix when the point is made in two and a half minutes? In keeping with the modern trend for a series of EPs and singles eventually leading to a long player, ELEVEN:ELEVEN are currently working on a concept entitled ‘Through The Veil’. This will steadily see the release of a track one-at-a-time, culminating in a finished album. So far, only ‘Little White Lies’ and No Words’ have seen the light of day. But based on these two numbers, the other eight tracks are now anticipated with great interest…