Tag: Feathers (Page 2 of 2)

FEATHERS Only One

One of the strongest albums of 2013 came from Texas based FEATHERS with ‘If All Now Here’.

Essentially the musical vehicle of Austin based singer / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, Softsynth described it as “about as good a debut as we’ve heard in a yonk’s age” while Popjustice simply said it as “very good” and listed it in their Top 33 Albums of 2013.

As Softsynth said in their review, to call FEATHERS the female DEPECHE MODE is apt but rather over simplifying it.

Combining modernism, dystopia and deserts with a husky, gothic allure with Middle Eastern overtones, FEATHERS’ moody dramatic torch songs such as ‘Land Of The Innocent’ and ‘Leaves Start Trembling’ combine well with their vibrant danceable synthpop such as ‘Dark Matter’, ‘Familiar So Strange’ and ‘Soft’.

Most importantly though, they have tunes and choruses. Speaking about FEATHERS’ album, Dimou remarked that ‘If All Now Here’ “may be too poppy for some, and too dark for others” but to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, they sound like the perfect pop group!

FEATHERS’ filmic impressionism and spacious dynamics have impressed all the right people. This has resulted in an invitation to support DEPECHE MODE on the January 2014 leg of their European tour.

Comparisons with Basildon’s finest are inevitable for the Sisters Of Night but whereas some acts literally try to reproduce the classic DM sound layer-by-layer, FEATHERS are different straight away by the virtue of Dimou’s vocals and its contrast with the predominantly electronic backing. This ultimately gives the girls their own, very promising identity. To coincide with their big break supporting Da Mode, FEATHERS have released their first new material since ‘If All Now Here’ on a maxi-collection entitled ‘Only One’.

The title track ‘The Only One’though is driven by a more obscure programmed rhythm construction. Dimou’s vocal does wow and flutter in a fashion that takes a bit of getting used to, but the result is delightfully unusual in the context of electropop. Plus there’s another of those dreamy harmonic chorus sections leading to a fabulous middle eight. It is stuff like this that makes FEATHERS so enticing. An alternate take on the 6/8 stomper ‘Believe’ is one of the bonuses.

Interestingly, it is slightly more electronic than the slide guitar laden version on ‘If All Now Here’ so now sounds a little less like DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Soothe My Soul’. At points coming over like GOLDFRAPP fronted by THE BANGLES, it begs the question as to what DM would sound like now if they actually used their synths again, instead of just having them to accessorise their ‘Delta Machine’ blues!

To finish, there’s the Vogel remix of ‘Familiar So Strange’. Stripped of its electro disco elements and paced down, with its mix of Dimou’s seductive allure and sttacato vocal treatments, it really could fit onto the soundtrack of ‘Drive’.

The two new songs from ‘Only One’ indicate that FEATHERS are still on track after their impressive start with ‘If All Now Here’. The doors opened by the DEPECHE MODE support tour could help lift them into the big time.


The ‘Only One’ EP is available as a download from http://feathers.bandcamp.com/album/only-one

The debut album ‘If All Now Here’ is still available for download via Bandcamp, Amazon or iTunes

FEATHERS open for DEPECHE MODE on the following European dates:

Barcelona Palau St Jordi (15th January), Madrid Palacio de Desportes (17th January), Madrid Palacio de Desportes (18th January), Montpelier Arena (21st January), Lyon Halle Tony Garnier (23rd January), Antwerp Sportpaleis (25th January), Birmingham LG Arena (27th January), Paris Bercy (29th January), Paris Bercy (31st January)

They also play their own headline show at Birthdays in Stoke Newington, London on Saturday 1st February 2014 http://www.ticketarena.co.uk/events/Feathers-1/

http://www.feathers.fm/

https://www.facebook.com/feathersmusic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th January 2014

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2013

In one of the most productive years ever for electronic pop music, it has been extremely difficult to whittle down the list to 30 songs.

The standard has been extremely high and songs which would have made the listing in previous years have been left off. This has meant the controversial omission of DEPECHE MODE. Despite being as popular as ever, grossing over $99 million during the ‘Delta Machine’ tour, once a shortlist for 2013 was drawn, the competition was so stiff that nothing from the album even scraped in!

Yes, 2013 has been that good and wonderful songs by the likes of KELLI ALI, ELEVEN:ELEVEN, GAZELLE TWIN, GHOST CAPSULES, GOLDFRAPP, HANNAH PEEL, IAMX, KOVAK, MOBY, NIGHT ENGINE, NINE INCH NAILS, SAY LOU LOU, and SOFT METALS have just missed inclusion too!

So the songs on this alphabetical list have been released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year with a limit of one song per artist moniker.


ADULT. Idle (Second Thoughts)

The new ADULT. album ‘The Way Things Fall’ was fittingly described by one observer as “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell”. The fears of relationships and the outside world have very much fuelled the dystopian demeanour of ADULT. While still retaining their distinctive edge, their mutant love songs have a magnetic charm. This was particularly evident on the fabulous single ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’, a vibrant electro hybrid of GINA X PERFORMANCE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES which showcased a strange blend of menace and melody.

Available on the album ‘The Way Things Fall’ via Ghostly International

http://adultperiod.com/


ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away

Moving away from the industrial battleground in which they made their name, ANALOG ANGEL began the year with the enjoyably immediate ‘We Won’t Walk Away’, a laudable tribute to OMD’s classic ‘Organisation’ era. Complete with primary chord structures, one-fingered melodies and motorik rhythm programming, there was even a hint of the dulcet tones of Andy McCluskey in John Brown’s vocal. But just one thing though… Paul Humphreys wants his Prophet 5 back 😉

Available on the download EP ‘Pride’ via Carbon 12 Records

http://www.analog-angel.com/


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. The most straightforward pop song on the ‘Off The Record’ album, its autobiographical resignation was not unlike ‘Life’ from ‘Communication’. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat”, a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him to madness and out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEF feat DAVID J ROCH Same Love

The concept of BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ is dark interpretations of perceivably upbeat songs using a variety of guest vocalists. One of the beauties of this type of project is how seemingly incongruous elements are fused together for a blissful whole. Here, melodramatic Sheffield singer/songwriter David J Roch tackles Bill Withers’ ‘Same Love’ via Martyn Ware’s wonderful arrangement blending a neo-acapella intro into a meaty electro-disco tune with spacey whistles and haunting invader games like Giorgio Moroder producing SPACE’s ‘Magic Fly’.

Available on the album ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ via Wall Of Sound

http://www.britishelectricfoundation.com


MARGARET BERGER I Feed You My Love

Co-written by Swedish electro songstress Karin Park, Norway’s Eurovision Song Contest 2013 entry came fourth. ‘I Feed You My Love’ was like Robyn and Kelly Clarkson fronting ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ era DEPECHE MODE. In fact, its performer Margaret Berger came second in the 2004 series of Norwegian Idol so the description was quite apt. The on-paper incongruous outcome was leftfield by Eurovision standards but perhaps not entirely shockingly, it got nul points from the United Kingdom; it summed up mainstream tastes in the UK and the country’s general Euro scepticism if nothing else!

Available as a download single via Macho Records

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Berger/101820056564427


CHVRCHES The Mother We Share

The saviours of synthpop had an amazing year with sold out club shows and five dates supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe. CHVRCHES‘ most accessible track ‘The Mother We Share’ was synthpop perfection with the concept of Taylor Swift gone electro having uprooted to Berlin. It deservedly scooped Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Music Prize for best UK single. Despite its wonderfully catchy chorus, it was not wholly bubblegum with its plethora of futuristic sounds and strange noises! Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty delivered on their promise with an impressive debut album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, save the two incongruous indie synth numbers sung by Doherty!

Available on the album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ via Virgin Records

http://www.chvrch.es/


ELECTRONIC CIRCUS Roundabout

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are led by Chris Payne, the keyboard and viola virtuoso who was a member of Gary Numan’s band between 1979 to 89 and featured prominently on the Top10 single ‘Complex’. He notably co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ which became a huge international hit for VISAGE. With his adopted home surroundings very much the backbone of ‘Roundabout’, the track itself possessed a sexy and authentic Gallic charm, courtesy of Chris’ wife Dominique. The exquisite, almost naïve vocals over the most incessant synth riff either had listeners dancing with delight or irritated to the point of submission… the seemingly banal words were actually a very clever metaphor for midlife!

Available as a download single via Coverdrive Records

http://www.electronic-circus.com


FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent

It had to happen and the world found its female DEPECHE MODE! Led by vocalist / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, the sound was probably more like post-apocalyptic BANGLES or Belinda Carlisle with gothic overtones in hindsight. The first single ‘Land Of The Innocent’ was a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ and driven by a hard incessant beat. Possessing an industrial gloom with an enlightening pop sensibility, it was what LADYTRON would have sounded like if they had formed in a Texan desert rather than spectre of Merseyside!!

Available on the album ‘If All Now Here’ via http://feathers.bandcamp.com/

http://www.feathers.fm/


FOTONOVELA feat MIRRORS Our Sorrow

Not content with producing MARSHEAUX and collaborating with OMD on ‘Helen Of Troy’, Greek production duo FOTONOVELA unveiled a new sophomore opus which was more song based using a number of prominent international vocalists. One of the numbers ‘Our Sorrow’ featured the majestic voice of James New from the missing-in-action MIRRORS. The string synth laden ditty was in the vein of classic OMD and with the South Coast combo calling it a day in 2013, this was a fitting way to depart The Hall Of Mirrors.

Available on the album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records

http://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela

http://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline

John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their latest collaboration took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly. The title of the parent EP said it all…

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS Jessica 6

Nobody really knows for sure who are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS but names like Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner and Bruce LeeFax are commensurate with their manifesto “to thrive on causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. ‘Jessica 6’ is a tribute to the cult Sci-Fi favourite ‘Logan’s Run’. The eerie post-punk cacophony laced with icy Yamaha string machine makes it the perfect belated choice for the soundtrack. Add in a frantic reverbed backbeat and it all comes over like THE PIPETTES fronting collaboration between JOY DIVISION and OMD.

Available as a download single via Squirrel Records

http://www.squirrelrecords.co.uk/girl-one-and-the-grease-guns/


GOLDFRAPP Thea

From a long player with distinctly orchestrated and acoustic overtones, ‘Thea’ was the most overtly electronic song on ‘Tales Of Us’. Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal soared angelically, surrounded by very subtle synthetic dance textures and layers of percussive craft. While the beat was mechanical, it didn’t sound out of place on the very organic parent album.

Available on the album ‘Tales Of Us’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com


KID MOXIE The Bailor

KID MOXIE is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles based Elena Charbila. Her first full length album ‘Selector’ was bolstered by a MARSHEAUX remix of its best song ‘Medium Pleasure’. Always sounding her best when adopting a breathy continental vocal style, Elena Charbila recorded possibly her best song yet as KID MOXIE with ‘The Bailor’, a dreamy and sexy tunes that glistened in the Aegean Sea. The Wayfarer remix of the song was also issued later in the year in aid of The David Lynch Foundation .

Available as a download single via Kid Moxie

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


MARNIE The Hunter

LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her long awaited debut solo album ‘Crystal World’ in the summer. Recorded in Iceland, it suitably captured the island’s beautifully relaxed but volatile atmosphere. Its opening track ‘The Hunter’ was a tremendous calling card and the vibrant electropop single that LADYTRON never quite got round to releasing. Very pretty and delectably glacial, the tune was vocally and musically expansive like an Arctic escapist fantasy, melancholic but free of doom.

Available on the album ‘Crystal World’ via Les Disques Du Crespuscle

http://www.facebook.com/helen.marnie.official


MARSHEAUX August Day

MARSHEAUX’s fourth album ‘Inhale’ had been a long time coming. And it appeared as though the Greek financial crisis had loomed heavy over its making, resulting in moodier, midtempo numbers taking centre stage. ‘August Day’ though was a grower, developing on the maturer outlook apparent on the album’s concept, with a hint of CHVRCHES’ steadier paced output. Less immediate but overwhelmingly dreamy, it captured the senses after multiple listens.

Available on the album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records

http://www.marsheaux.com


MESH The Way I Feel

MESH’s founders Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn know their audience so the lattice of danceable electro-rock continued on their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. But the beautiful ‘The Way I Feel’ showed a more sensitive side with hints of Ennio Morricone. Shaped by acoustic guitar and string machine washes, the atmospheric maturity that MESH were now showcasing was a welcome surprise.

Available on the album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent

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


MONARCHY feat DITA VON TEESE Disintegration

MONARCHY’s ‘Disintegration’ featured the sexy burlesque queen Dita Von Teese on vocals. With its vampish disco crashing into elements of Giorgio Moroder, it sounded like the SCISSOR SISTERS gone right and even threw in a few VISAGE frequency warbles! ‘Disintegration’ was a rather excellent, stomping floor filler of the first degree with some hook laden energy and cooing feline appeal.

Available as a download single via Hacan Sound

http://www.monarchysound.com/

http://www.dita.net/


GIORGIO MORODER Racer

Giorgio Moroder is now 73 years old but is as vital as ever having produced the dance track of the year! Commissioned by Google Chrome for their online game ‘Racer’, the piano line was like ULTRAVOX reworked for Studio 54 while the whirring synths and trancey elements made it come over like history of modern electronic dance music squashed into 4 minutes. But as these ideas were mostly borrowed from Da Maestro himself, it was now his time to grab it all back. Moroder easily rivalled any young hopeful with a set of double decks and a laptop.

Available as a free download single via Google Play

http://www.moroder.net/


ALISON MOYET Changeling

Alison Moyet made a return to the electronic experimentation that made her famous as one half of YAZOO on her new album ‘the minutes’. With contemporary synthesized backing over a powerful rhythm construction and stuttering guitar textures courtesy of new collaborator Guy Sigsworth, Moyet’s deep emotional vocal resonated on ‘Changeling’ with a confidence and energy that dispelled the public’s perception of her as just a jazz singer!

Available on the album ‘the minutes’ via Cooking Vinyl.

http://www.alisonmoyet.com


NIGHT CLUB Poisonous

NIGHT CLUB Love CaSUALTYPositively feline but dysfunctionally dark like Britney gone emo, NIGHT CLUB‘s cutely subversive ‘Poisonous’ based itself, like STEFY’s lost 2007 single ‘Chelsea’, around the riff of ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. This superb slice of catchy electronic pop from the LA combo of Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks roused with a huge crossover potential while possessing a sinister edge.

Available on the download EP ‘Love Casualty’ via Gato Blanco

http://nightclubband.com


NOBLESSE OBLIGE Hotel California

NOBLESSE OBLIGE are French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp who specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. NOBLESSE OBLIGE’s lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlights the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer interpretation of the original song’s iconic twin guitar solo will either be seen as total genius or sacrilege!

Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records

http://www.noblesseoblige.co.uk/


GARY NUMAN Who Are You?

‘Who Are You?’ is one of those great uptempo anthemic songs in the vein of ‘Listen To My Voice’ from 2000’s ‘Pure’ that confirms when Gary Numan hits the target, he hits bulls-eye! Written for a film about a musician with schizophrenic personality, it fitted well with the parent album ‘Splinter’ and its ‘Songs From A Broken Mind’. The album wasn’t just one-dimensional riff monsters and the varied material was some of Numan’s best work for years.

Available on the album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ via Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl

http://www.numan.co.uk


OMD Stay With Me

OMD-English-ElectricThe standard of ‘English Electric’ was so high that any one of its song based tracks could have made the list. But ‘Stay With Me’ is the album’s hidden gem. The first Paul Humphreys lead vocal for OMD since 1986’s ‘Forever Live & Die’, the song was originally demoed as ‘Idea 3’ and voiced by Andy McCluskey. Ever the master of melody and inspired by events around him, Humphreys reworked it into a more straightforward love song but added a beautiful cinematic resonance. It came over like ‘Love Theme From St Elmo’s Fire’ meets ‘Souvenir’ with subtle lashings of white noise!

Available on the album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

https://www.omd.uk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Fluorescent

“Incandescent…”; yes the hypnotic ‘Fluorescent’ was basically a buzzy dancefloor makeover of ‘Fade To Grey’ with the chilling Polymoog string preset from VISAGE’s original remaining in the mix while waves of synth sirens attacked it like a Martian invasion. The parent album was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature, and easily the PET SHOP BOYS‘ best body of work since ‘Very’. It more than made up for 2012’s lame duck ‘Elysium’…

Available on the album ‘Electric’ via X2 / Kobalt Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk


QUEEN OF HEARTS United

A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder who previously has remixed John Foxx, DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS, QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provides the heat! Yet ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side of the less satisfactory ‘Secret’. However, if songs like this are being seen as outtakes, this is all a good sign for her debut album in 2014 which is eagerly awaited…

Available on the download EP ‘Secret’ via Night Moves

http://iamqueenofhearts.com/


REPUBLICA Christiana Obey (TENEK remix)

Originally, written by Saffron with noted producer Andy Gray, ‘Christiana Obey’ had been doing the airplay rounds in 2012 but finally secured a formal release to coincide with REPUBLICA’s touring comeback this year. With its suitably big chorus, Saffron was on good anthemic form while a meaty remix from TENEK enhanced the song even further and made it ready to go!

Available on the EP ‘Christiana Obey’ via Republica Music

http://www.republicamusic.co.uk/


POLLY SCATTERGOOD Wanderlust

Polly Scattergood made her debut in 2009 with a self-titled album released on the iconic Mute Records. With key influences such as Bjork and Kate Bush, it combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. From her second album ‘Arrows’, ‘Wanderlust’ realised her potential with a slice of deliciously wired avant pop in the GOLDFRAPP vein, although closer scrutiny revealed it to be more like electronic COCTEAU TWINS with that rousing air of fragility.

Available on the album ‘Arrows’ via Mute Artists

http://www.pollyscattergood.com/


SIN COS TAN Moonstruck

The Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen swiftly followed up their acclaimed eponymous debut of 2012 with ‘Afterlife’. Hulkkonen said back in 2011 that it was being a fan of PET SHOP BOYS that inspired him to make music. ‘Moonstruck’ is a fine melancholic beat ballad in the Tennant/Lowe tradition where Paalosmaa’s emotive lost boy demeanour blends wonderfully with the sweeping drifts and building swathes of synth strings. It is also possibly the best song of its type that Neil and Chris never recorded.

Available on the album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records

http://sincostan.net/


VILE ELECTRODES Damaged Software

Like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ORBITAL, ‘Damaged Software’ was an enticing piece of electro from Anais Neon and Martin Swan which affirmed their status as Britain’s premiere independent synth duo. With a tour supporting OMD in Germany where they encountered the likes of Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür backstage, their vile adventure of meeting former KRAFTWERK members continued when they shared the bill with Michael Rother at Elektrofest. Three years in the making, the parent album ‘The future through a lens’ was well worth the wait.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-through-a-lens

http://www.vileelectrodes.co.uk


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, the album’s magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ was not actually a celebration of illicit substance use. Voiced brilliantly by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler, WESTBAM himself said it was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. From a brilliant album that also featured vocalists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Bernard Sumner, Brian Molko, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, ‘Götterstrasse’ was the surprise electronic release of the year.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music Germany

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2013

2013 END OF YEAR REVIEW

The Correct Use Of VCOs

The year started appropriately enough with an electronic number ‘2013’ by Belgian duo METROLAND.

For the first six or seven months of 2013, it proved to be one of the most productive periods in electronic pop music. Not since the Autumn of 1981 when had so many significant releases coincided. It was strangely quality and quantity, a rare occurance in modern times for music, especially of the synth propelled variety.

That time saw THE HUMAN LEAGUE ‘Dare’, GARY NUMAN ‘Dance’, ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’, DEPECHE MODE ‘Speak & Spell’, SOFT CELL ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’, HEAVEN 17 ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, SIMPLE MINDS ‘Sons & Fascination’, NEW ORDER ‘Movement’, JAPAN ‘Tin Drum’ and OMD ‘Architecture & Morality’ all coming out within weeks of each other!

Interestingly from that list, only JAPAN and SOFT CELL are missing as currently performing entities although Marc ALmond himself made a number of concert and theatrical appearances during the year.

OMD got back to their Kling Klang roots with their best album in 30 years entitled ‘English Electric’. Although enthusiasts of the band’s pioneering work were satisfied, fans of OMD’s pop phase were confused as to why Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys had recorded an electronic album influenced by KRAFTWERK! This was an indicator of how the band have mutated and been perceived over the years.

But that was nothing compared with DEPECHE MODE whose single ‘Soothe My Soul’ was remixed by ZZ TOP’s Billy F Gibbons… although recognisably reworked, listeners could barely notice the join, thus fully confirming DM’s development into the world’s premiere stadium electro blues combo. Their album ‘Delta Machine’ was a big improvement on 2009’s ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, but it was no ‘English Electric’.

Among the other evergreens with new long players in 2013 were PET SHOP BOYS, BEF and Alison Moyet.

Messrs Tennant and Lowe finally worked with the ubiquitous Stuart Price to produce an album that was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature.

Meanwhile Moyet found her most musically compatible partner since Vince Clarke in Guy Sigsworth for the stunning return to form of ‘the minutes’.

Over at BEF, Martyn Ware assembled his most impressive cast of guest vocalists yet including ERASURE’s Andy Bell and CULTURE CLUB’s Boy George for the third volume of the ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ covers series; subtitled ‘Dark’, it featured some of Ware’s most starkly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Another welcome return came from electronic disco pioneer GIORGIO MORODER. The icon is now 73 years old yet with his stomping track ‘Racer’, he proved could mix it with all the young pretenders. Indeed, his autobiographical contribution to DAFT PUNK’s tribute ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ reflected the respect and admiration he holds within the dance world.

Although only a few years younger, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter showed no real signs of moving his iconic brand forward despite the 3D spectacle of ‘Der Katalog 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8’ live retrospectives in Düsseldorf, London, Tokyo and Sydney.

With the various hosting art spaces still seeing their ticketing systems collapse, was this really just an elaborate publicity stunt? After all, how many heritage acts get on the news for sending websites into meltdown?

It certainly didn’t do KRAFTWERK any harm as a headlining slot at Latitude Festival and its resultant BBC TV coverage proved. However, new material was still not forthcoming but such is the demand that several unscrupulous eBay dealers in Russia were passing off CD-Rs of three tracks from METROLAND’s 2012 album ‘Mind The Gap’ as KRAFTWERK demos!

Meanwhile, former colleague Karl Bartos exorcised his Kling Klang ghost with ‘Off The Record’, a collection of his unreleased KRAFTWERK-era compositions which made a fine companion to OMD’s ‘English Electric’; his upcoming 2014 world tour is eagerly anticipated.

visage2013

Photo by David Levine

ULTRAVOX opened for SIMPLE MINDS but with Midge Ure spending most of the year doing the rounds with solo acoustic gigs, their synth lynchpin Billy Currie released his ninth solo offering ‘Balletic Transcend’.

Meanwhile in a revival of a project that both had been involved in, a fragmented VISAGE unleashed their first album in nearly 30 years to a mixed reception.

With just Steve Strange remaining from the original line-up, ‘Hearts & Knives’ was essentially a solo project.

There were heated exchanges on social networks between Strange and his estranged Blitz Club partner Rusty Egan about misappropriated royalties and the validity of the reconfigured brand. Whatever, the raw video recording of the new VISAGE performing ‘Fade To Grey’ live at London’s Hoxton Bar and Kitchen stood as possibly the most embarrassing moment of the year.

Artists who made their name during Electroclash such as ADULT. and MISS KITTIN made welcome returns in 2013 while also from that era, LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her first solo offering ‘Crystal World’ crowd funded via Pledge Music.

It was a novel but effective way of securing a promotional budget that involved fans in the process by offering exclusive updates and an opportunity to purchase exclusive memorabilia. In MARNIE’s case, items on sale ranged from hand written lyric sheets to her Mini-Cooper and a bikini!

Meanwhile, former SNEAKER PIMPS sparring partners IAMX and Kelli Ali also went down the Pledge Music route, pointing the way forward to a music industry future without interference from record label middle men. But the failure of several crowd funding campaigns proved the model was not for everyone.

The Britpop era was not particularly known for its use of electronics but two acts who did indulge, REPUBLICA and DUBSTAR, made formal comebacks on the live circuit in 2013.

mesh-webSeeded from around the same time, Bristol’s MESH made possibly their best album yet in ‘Automation Baby’. Celebrating 30 years in the business, techno icon WESTBAM assembled a diverse cast including Iggy Pop, Lil’ Wayne, Hugh Cornwall, Bernard Sumner and Richard Butler for an intriguing set called ‘Götterstrasse’. It was the surprise electronic release of the year.

There were also sophomore albums from LITTLE BOOTS, HURTS and AUSTRA which all drew muted responses from fans following their well received debuts; the promising spark had been present in all three acts appeared to have faded although each album had strong highlights. But there were impressive debuts in 2013 by GHOST CAPSULES, COLLINS and MODOVAR; and all this happened before the summer had started!

On the more guitar driven end of the spectrum, NIGHT ENGINE pursued an art rock aesthetic that would have made Berlin-era DAVID BOWIE proud. And of course, The Dame himself returned with ‘The Next Day’ headed by the touchingly reflective ‘Where Are We Now?’.

Adopting a more post-punk attitude, GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS showed how battered synths, clanky guitars and motorik drums could still come together in perfect harmony while maintaining an air of mystery.

Meanwhile, WHITE LIES continued their New wave odyssey into how THE TEARDROP EXPLODES would have sounded had Julian Cope not got upset by BLANCMANGE’s ‘Happy Families’; they even borrowed a snatch of ‘Fade To Grey’ for the title track of their third album ‘Big TV’. This was despite the mainstream music media’s attempt to downplay their use of synths although the band countered that by declaring TEARS FOR FEARS, TALK TALK and THE BLUE NILE as kindred spirits rather than INTERPOL or EDITORS.

The second half of the year brought the much anticipated debut from CHVRCHES entitled ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’. The trio have moved the goalposts as far as modern synthpop is concerned but they were not without their flaws such as the inexplicable decision to use dreary indie-styled male lead vocals on a pair of tracks.

But despite this, with sold out club tours, gigs supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe and the might of Virgin Records behind them, world domination surely beckons and with it, a new raised profile for the synthesizer overall.

Virgin Records themselves celebrated 40 years in the business with a series of London concerts and its legacy in electronic music was represented by CHVRCHES, HEAVEN 17, SCRITTI POLITTI and SIMPLE MINDS. Although the label is now owned by the Universal Corporation (having been under the control of EMI since 1992), its colourful history remains associated with the championing of new and unconventional music forms during its fledgling years.

And in a diversion from music, one-time Virgin signee Thomas Dolby produced and directed ‘The Invisible Lighthouse’, a documentary on a monument local to his childhood home. In a novel style of presentation, the film went on a tour accompanied by a live narration and soundtrack from TMDR with some of his songs dispersed in between.

Gary Numan’s long delayed ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ finally became a reality. A move to LA relaxed him to the point where he was posting his holiday photos on Twitter!

Musically though, he was as intense as ever but luckily, ‘Splinter’ was not the one dimensional riff monster that had been threatened and contained some of his best work in over ten years. Interestingly NINE INCH NAILS, who have been a major influence on Numan and vice versa, also returned after a period of absence with ‘Hesitation Marks’.

Over at Mute, there was another Sorcerer versus Apprentice battle when GOLDFRAPP and Polly Scattergood both released new records in the same month. Now no longer on Mute but very much still part of the extended family, MOBY released the impressive ‘Innocents’ which didn’t tinker too much with his well established formula and included a great collaboration with Wayne Coyne of FLAMING LIPS that sounded like Gary Numan in a Pentecostal church!

In 2013, North America appeared to be turning into a new haven for synth talent. There was LA pop duo NIGHT CLUB while also based in the region, SOFT METALS continued their Detroit Techno inspired progression with ‘Lenses’. Slightly eastwards, Texan based FEATHERS made an impressive statement with their debut long player ‘If All Now Here’; a European tour supporting DEPECHE MODE in January 2014 was fine recognition of their talent.

Fellow Texans ELEVEN:ELEVEN finally got their debut album ‘Through The Veil’ out too. New Yorkers HOLY GHOST! sprung the enjoyable electronic disco of ‘Dynamics’ while also from the area, AU REVOIR SIMONE returned with their fourth album ‘Move In Spectrums’ after an extended break.

But one slow burning combo were Canada’s TR/ST; led by the enigmatic and moody Robert Alfons, at times he sounded like a young LEONARD COHEN updating the sleazy demeanour of SOFT CELL. They toured extensively and garnered some more well deserved attention for their grower of a debut ‘Trst’ which actually came out back in January 2012!

However, all the good work was undone by a ticket lottery fiasco for an end of year London gig in which unsuccessful applicants were not notified until three hours before the concert, this despite communications to the contrary telling people to arrive at the door with ID. In this ever more challenging music industry, artists have to be innovative with promotion. But restricting availability and tricking fans into what was effectively a marketing scam for a larger London concert in May 2014 only alienated audiences.

Like in previous years, Europe was again a centre of creativity. Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX were back with their maturer fourth album ‘Inhale’.

Meanwhile, their production team FOTONOVELA gathered DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood, MIRRORS’ James New, KID MOXIE and SECTION 25’s Bethany Cassidy for ‘A Ton Of Love’ while riding on a crest of a wave from ‘Helen Of Troy’, their acclaimed collaboration with OMD.

The song ‘Our Sorrow’ featuring James New turned out to be particularly poignant as after a year of minimal activity, MIRRORS called it a day.

From their Berlin HQ, NOBLESSE OBLIGE delivered an ‘Affair Of The Heart’ with its stark funereal cover of ‘Hotel California’ while Slovenian trio TORUL impressed audiences opening for MESH. Still fiercely independent and uncompromising, THE KNIFE divided opinion with their performance art presentation of their experimental double opus ‘Shaking The Habitual’. From Demark, TRENTEMØLLER delivered his third album ‘Lost’, an adventurous blend of real and electronic instruments that more than proved his suitability as a future prospective DEPECHE MODE producer.

With the critical acclaim still resonant for her 2012 album ‘Highwire Poetry’, Karin Park continued to tour the world but found time to co-write Norway’s Eurovision entry ‘I Feed You My Love’. Sung by Margaret Beger and leftfield by pure pop standards, it came a respectable fourth but predictably, the UK gave it nul points! Following their wonderful eponymous debut album in 2012, SIN COS TAN swiftly followed it up with the more organic but still synth friendly ‘Afterlife’.

Never one to sit still, the duo’s Jori Hulkkonen also released an EP ‘European Splendour’ with John Foxx which sounded every bit as good as its title. Foxx didn’t sit still either and collaborated with THE BELBURY CIRCLE while also curating a covers EP of his own songs featuring GAZELLE TWIN and I SPEAK MACHINE.

Back in the UK, ANALOG ANGEL, AUTOMATIC WRITINGF.O.X, GAPTOOTH and MAPS flew the flag for the domestic scene.

But best of the local crew though were VILE ELECTRODES; they snagged a prestigious support tour with OMD in Germany where the local crowds connected with Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s analogue electricity and opened for John Foxx in Brighton on their return. Their long awaited debut LP ‘The future through a lens’ did not disappoint and from it, the closer ‘Deep Red’ was easily the best OMD song that Humphreys and McCluskey never recorded.

As with last year, attempts were made within the industry to centralise electronic pop and dance music. But as the cancellation of the Playground Festival due to poor ticket sales proved, the two factions do not mix. Scheduled to appear on the Saturday, despite the technological influence of Gary Numan, John Foxx and Wolfgang Flür on the dance scene, the fans of those artists generally loathe the lifestyle and attitude of club culture.

Most just want to see the headline act and go home… the idea of paying an extra premium on the ticket price for a couple of DJs tagged on the see out the early hours of the morning simply doesn’t appeal! And those who are there for the DJs and larging it certainly aren’t interested in live bands. The sooner promoters and record labels realise that electronic pop and dance music are NOT the same thing, the better. That said, it was a difficult time for live events generally with a number of name acts playing to half full venues.

Elsewhere, the music press were on the backfoot with rumours that the once mighty Q Magazine and NME were in trouble. But lazy journalism and lack of adventure by both were as much to blame as any proliferation of the internet or smart technology. That aside, 2013 was a superb year where the music spoke for itself. Many of the veterans gave the best up-and-coming artists a real run for their money.

And while the amount of new electronic music was at an all time high and the finest exponents rewarded with assorted high-profile opportunities as a result, a number of lesser accomplished acts suffered from the comparison with the best.

Helen Marnie said: “I think it’s great that electronic music is on a high right now but it’s so saturated as well. Everyone’s going it’s great cos it’s electronic and I’m like ‘I’m not so sure’… but there’s lots of good stuff”.

In fact, the standard was so high in 2013 that some of the acts who ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featured in 2012 probably wouldn’t have got a look in this year. From those who sounded like the middling bands featured on the Janice Long Show circa 1985 to 21st Century synthpop reincarnations of HUE & CRY, the volume of music available in many ways made it quite easy to distinguish the excellent from the pleasant but ordinary material that was, as the dreaded ‘Say Nothing Auntie Of Landfill Indie’ Jo Whiley would say, “alright”!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK accepts the continuing mission to maintain a degree of quality control in 2014 as it has done since its inception.

As @TheRobMo put it on Twitter: “gatekeepers / tastemakers… it’s what we go to you for”. Meanwhile on the site’s Facebook, regular reader Brian O’Malley correctly added: “Not all synth music is great, and not all guitar music is rubbish”.

But the final word on 2013 must go to BEF and Glenn Gregory (or HEAVEN 17 if you prefer) via their electronic cover of an Ervin Drake song made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes:

“And it poured sweet and clear… it was a very good year”


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2013

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAPS Vicissitude
Best Song: MAPS Built To Last (Free School Remix)
Best Gig: ALISON MOYET at London Royal Festival Hall
Best Video: HOLY GHOST! Dumb Disco Ideas
Most Promising New Act: JUVENILES


KAREN BUXTON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens
Best Song: HURTS Someone to Die For
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Leipzig Haus Auensee
Best Video: OMD Night Cafe
Most Promising New Act: MARTYN BAILEY


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: GARY NUMAN Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)
Best Song: COVENANT Last Dance
Best Gig: GAZELLE TWIN at London Roundhouse Studio Theatre
Best Video: TRUST Bulbform
Most Promising New Act: TRUST


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: CHVRCHES The Bones Of What You Believe
Best Song: MARGARET BERGER I Feed You My Love
Best Gig: BAS 2013
Best Video: IAMX I Come With Knives
Most Promising New Act: TORUL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: OMD English Electric
Best Song: FOTONOVELA feat MIRRORS Our Sorrow
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Cologne E-Werk
Best Video: FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent
Most Promising New Act: FEATHERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ALISON MOYET the minutes
Best Song: SPACEBUOY Breathe
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Copenhagen Parken
Best Video: DEPECHE MODE Soothe My Soul
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: PET SHOP BOYS Electric
Best Song: OMD Dresden
Best Gig: KARIN PARK at The Lexington
Best Video: MONARCHY featuring DITA VON TEESE Disintegration
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2013

FEATHERS If All Now Here

It had to happen but has the world found its female DEPECHE MODE?

American quartet FEATHERS are certainly in the running and in March, had the honour of supporting the Basildon boys at their SXWS gig in Austin, Texas. They have also recently supported LITTLE BOOTS in the US. Led by vocalist / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, FEATHERS became an electronic based project largely out of practicality after she left her previous band CRUEL BLACK DOVE. Bassist Courtney Voss, keyboardist Kathleen Carmichael, drummer Jordan Johns and alternate guitarists Alex Gehring and Destiny Montague joined to augment the live presentation.

Combining modernism, dystopia and deserts, titles such as ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Night Seances’ provide the setting for a moody but accessible gothic allure that runs through the debut album ‘If All Now Here’. First single ‘Land Of The Innocent’ is a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ and is like LADYTRON’s ‘Black Cat’, driven by a hard incessant beat complimented by deep synth squelches.

Possessing an industrial gloom with an enlightening pop sensibility, it’s rather like MARSHEAUX borrowing from ‘Playing The Angel’ rather than ‘Violator’. And as Dimou is of Greek ancestry, the description is not wholly inappropriate. It’s the sound of a post-apocalyptic BANGLES going down to Berlin rather than ‘Going Down To Liverpool’!

The brilliant second single ‘Soft’ recalls the single version of ‘Behind The Wheel’ with its tightly sequenced synth bass and staccato vocal samples. Dimou’s dreamy middle eastern overtones nicely layer in the second half for that euphoric lift. Meanwhile ‘Some Great Reward’ era metallic samples permeate through ‘Dark Matter’, a tune with a Latino dancefloor heart but reimagined by NITZER EBB!

The electro disco of ‘Familiar So Strange’ is appropriately FEATHERS’ ‘Enjoy The Silence’ but of course, no DEPECHE MODE influenced act would be without a rousing 6/8 Schaffel stomper. A pair of those come with ‘Fire In The Night’ and ‘Believe’, the latter adding some raunchy blues slide guitar too. These rockier ditties showcase the album’s more organic middle section from which ‘Dream Song’ points to a conventional, rootsy side reminiscent of HOPE SANDOVAL.

But the shimmering synths and percussive programming return on ‘Leaves Start Trembling’ with cool atmospheres recalling Billie Ray Martin’s new project THE OPIATES and their ‘Anatomy Of A Plastic Girl’. One of the album’s highlights, while it shares its eerie sparseness, it does so with a more Trans-Atlantic stance. The drama of ‘Welcome Possession’closes a great debut album with some vibey filmic impressionism punctuated by icy pulsing sequences and octave shifts.

Despite first impressions, ‘If All Now Here’ is not entirely DM sounding and FEATHERS do possess an aural template that also references CURVE and NINE INCH NAILS while displaying a kinship with acts like AUSTRA and GHOST CAPSULES.

While DEPECHE MODE may be the first port of call on ‘If All Now Here’, from the moment Anastasia Dimou reveals her dulcet tones, FEATHERS become something else.

They may be Sisters Of Night, but FEATHERS have their own, very promising and enjoyable identity.


‘If All Now Here’ is released as a download album by Nyx

http://www.feathers.fm/

http://feathers.bandcamp.com/music

http://www.facebook.com/feathersmusic

https://twitter.com/ffeatherss


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th June 2013

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