Tag: Fiat Lux (Page 1 of 4)

2021 End Of Year Review

As the world steadily emerged from a painful pandemic that put many lives on hold, nostalgia appeared to be the commodity most in demand as the music industry took steps to recover.

No matter which era, anything musically from the past was more desirable that anything that reminded the public of the past 20 or so months. The first escape destination in the summer for many restricted to staying on their own shores were the established retro festivals.

Meanwhile television provided an array of documentaries ranging from chart rundowns of past decades and informative classic song analysis on Channel 5 to Dylan Jones’ look at ‘Music’s Greatest Decade’ on BBC2 and Sky Arts’ ‘Blitzed’ with all the usual suspects such as Boy George, Philip Sallon, Marilyn, Gary Kemp and Rusty Egan.

SPARKS had their own comprehensive if slightly overlong film ‘The SPARKS Brothers’ directed by Edgar Wright, but the Maels’ musical ‘Annette’ starring Adam Driver was a step too far. Meanwhile the acclaimed ‘Sisters With Transistors’ presented the largely untold story of electronic music’s female pioneers.

It was big business for 40th anniversary live celebrations from the likes of HEAVEN 17, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and SOFT CELL, while other veterans such as NEW ORDER and ERASURE returned to the live circuit with the biggest indoor headlining shows of their career.

Meanwhile for 2022, Midge Ure announced an extensive ‘Voices & Visions’ tour to present material from the 1981-82 phase of ULTRAVOX.

Also next year and all being well, GOLDFRAPP will finally get their belated 20th Anniversary tour for their marvellous debut ‘Felt Mountain’ underway while there are rescheduled ‘Greatest Hits’ live presentations for PET SHOP BOYS and SIMPLE MINDS.

Always money for old rope, but also giving audiences who missed them at their pioneering height an opportunity to catch up, ‘best of’ collections were issued by YELLO and TELEX while JAPAN had their 1979 breakthrough album ‘Quiet Life’ given the lavish boxed set treatment. Meanwhile, while many labels were still doing their best to kill off CD, there was the puzzling wide scale return of the compact cassette, a poor quality carrier even at the zenith of its popularity.

“Reissue! Repackage! Repackage! Re-evaluate the songs! Double-pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge!” a disgraced Northern English philosopher once bemoaned.

The boosted market for deluxe boxed sets and the repackaging of classic albums in coloured vinyl meant that the major corporations such as Universal, Sony and Warners hogged the pressing plants, leaving independent artists with lead times of nearly a year for delivery if they were lucky.

But there was new music in 2021. Having achieved the milestone of four decades as a recording act, DURAN DURAN worked with Giorgio Moroder on the appropriately titled ‘Future Past’ while not far behind, BLANCMANGE took a ‘Commercial Break’ and FIAT LUX explored ‘Twisted Culture’. David Cicero made his belated return to music with a mature second album that was about ‘Today’ as Steven Jones & Logan Sky focussed on the monochromatic mood of ‘European Lovers’. Continuing the European theme but towards the former Eastern Bloc, Mark Reeder gave a reminder that he was once declared ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ and fellow Mancunians UNE became inspired by the ‘Spomenik’ monoliths commissioned by Marshal Tito in the former Yugoslavia.

For those who preferred to immerse themselves in the darker present, Gary Numan presented ‘Intruder’, a poignant concept album produced by Ade Fenton about Mother Earth creating a virus to teach mankind a lesson! Meanwhile ITALOCONNECTION, the project of Italo veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti teamed up with French superstar Etienne Daho to tell the story of ‘Virus X’! The video of the year came from UNIFY SEPARATE whose motivation message to ‘Embrace The Fear’ despite the uncertainty reflected the thoughts of many.

Despite the general appetite for nostalgia, there was some excellent new music released from less established artists with the album of the year coming from Jorja Chalmers and her ‘Midnight Train’ released on Italians Do It Better. The critical acclaim for the UK based Aussie’s second long playing solo offering made up for the disbandment of the label’s biggest act CHROMATICS, as it went into its most prolific release schedule in its history with albums by GLÜME, JOON, DLINA VOLNY and LOVE OBJECT as well as its own self-titled compilation of in-house Madonna covers.

As Kat Von D teamed up with Dan Haigh of GUNSHIP for her debut solo record ‘Love Made Me Do It’, acts like DANZ CM, CLASS ACTRESS, GLITBITER, PRIMO THE ALIEN, PARALLELS, KANGA, R.MISSING, I AM SNOW ANGEL, XENO & OAKLANDER, HELIX and DAWN TO DAWN showed that North America was still the creative hub as far as electronically derived pop songs went.

Attracting a lot of attention in 2021 were NATION OF LANGUAGE, who with their catchy blend of angst, melody and motorik beats welcomed synths as family in their evolving sound while also providing the song of the year in ‘This Fractured Mind’, reflecting the anxieties of these strange times. At the other end of the spectrum, DIAMOND FIELD went full pop with an optimistic multi-vocalist collection that captured the spirit of early MTV while BUNNY X looked back on their high school days with ‘Young & In Love’.

ACTORS delivered their most synthy album yet while as LEATHERS, they keyboardist Shannon Hamment went the full hog for her debut solo effort ‘Reckless’. FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY released a new album and some of that ‘Mechanical Soul’ was brought by their Rhys Fulber into his productions this year for AESTHETIC PERFECTION.

In Europe, long playing debuts came from PISTON DAMP and WE ARE REPLICA while NORTHERN LITE released their first album completely in German and FRAGRANCE. presented their second album ‘Salt Air’. There was also the welcome return of SIN COS TAN, KID KASIO, GUSGUS, MARVA VON THEO, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY.

Featuring second generation members of NEW ORDER and SECTION 25, SEA FEVER released their eclectic debut ‘Folding Lines’ as fellow Mancunian LONELADY added sequencers and drum machines to her post-punk funk template. But Glasgow’s CHVRCHES disappointed with their fourth long player ‘Screen Violence’ by opting to sound like every other tired hipster band infesting the land.

The most promising artist to breakthrough in 2021 was Hattie Cooke whose application of traditional songwriting nous to self-production and arrangement techniques using comparatively basic tools such as GarageBand found a wider audience via her third album ‘Bliss Land’. In all, it was a strong year for female synth-friendly artists with impressive albums from Karin My, Laura Dre, Alina Valentina, Robin Hatch and Catherine Moan while comparative veterans like Fifi Rong, Alice Hubble, Brigitte Handley and Alison Lewis as ZANIAS maintained their cult popularity.

In 2021, sometimes words were very unnecessary and there were fine instrumental synth albums from BETAMAXX, WAVESHAPER, КЛЕТ and Richard Barbieri, with a Mercury nomination received by Hannah Peel for ‘Fir Wave’. But for those who preferred Italo Noir, popwave, post-punk techno and progressive pop, Tobias Bernstrup, Michael Oakley, Eric Random and Steven Wilson delivered the goods respectively.

With ‘The Never Ending’ being billed as the final FM ATTACK album and PERTURBATOR incorrectly paraphrased by Metal Hammer in a controversial “synthwave is dead” declaration, the community got itself in a pickle by simultaneously attacking THE WEEKND for “stealing from synthwave”, yet wanting to ride on the coat tails of Abel Tesfaye, misguidedly sensing an opportunity to snare new fans for their own music projects.

With THE WEEKND’s most recent single ‘Take My Breath’, there was the outcry over the use of a four note arpeggio allegedly sampled from MAKEUP & VANITY SET’s ‘The Last City’. But as one online observer put it, “Wow, an arpeggiated minor chord. Hate to break it to you but you might want to check out what Giorgio Moroder was doing 50 years ago. We’re ALL just rippin’ him off if that’s how you think creativity works”. Another added “If a four note minor key arpeggiated chord can go to court on the basis of copyright law, we are in for a hell of a few years my synthy friends”. It outlined once again that there are some who are still under the impression that music using synths was invented by Ryan Gosling in 2011 for ‘Drive’ soundtrack ??

There were also belated complaints that 2019’s A-HA inspired ‘Blinding Lights’ had a simple melody and needed five writers to realise it… but then, so did UTRAVOX’s ‘Slow Motion’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Rio’! Collaboration, whether in bands, with producers or even outsiders has always been a key aspect of the compositional process. If it is THAT simple, do it yourself! As Andy McCluskey of OMD said on ‘Synth Britannia’ in 2009 about the pioneering era when Ryan Gosling was still in nappies: “The number of people who thought that the equipment wrote the song for you: ‘well anybody can do it with the equipment you’ve got!’ “F*** OFF!!”

Over the last two years, THE WEEKND has become the biggest mainstream pop act on the planet, thanks to spectacles such as the impressive gothic theatre of the Super Bowl LV half time showcase while in a special performance on the BRITS, there was a charming presentation of the ERASURE-ish ‘Save Your Tears’ where he played air synth in a moment relatable to many. But everything is ultimately down to catchy songs, regardless of synth usage.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to present a hypothetical case to consider… if someone uses the arpeggio function with a sparkling patch from a Juno 6 synth in a recording, does Cyndi Lauper sue for infringing the copyright of ‘All Through The Night’ or the original songwriter Jules Shear or even the Roland Corporation themselves as they created it? More than one producer has suggested that THE WEEKND’s soundbite came from a hardware preset or more than likely, a software sample pack, of which there are now many.

However, sample culture had hit another new low when Tracklib marketed a package as “A real game-changer for sample based music. Now everyone can afford to clear samples” with rapper and producer Erick Sermon declaring “Yo, this is incredible. They’re trying to put creativity back into music again. By having samples you can actually pay for and afford”.

Err creativity? How about writing your own songs and playing or even programming YOUR OWN instrumentation??!?

One sampling enthusiast even declared “I might go as far as to say you don’t really like dance music if you’ve got a problem with adding a beat to a huge (even instantly recognizable) sample”… well guess what? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK LOATHES IT!!! ?

In 2021, music promotion became a bit strange with publicists at all levels keen more than ever to have their clients’ press releases just cut ‘n’ pasted onto online platforms, but very reluctant to allow albums to be reviewed in advance in the event of a potential negative prognosis.

While cut ‘n’ paste journalism has been a disease that has always afflicted online media, in a sad sign of the times, one long established international website moved to a “pay to get your press release featured” business model.

The emergence of reaction vloggers was another bizarre development while the “Mention your favourite artist and see if they respond to you” posts on social media only added more wood to the dumbing down bonfire already existing within audience engagement.

It was as if the wider public was no longer interested in more in-depth analysis while many artists turned their publicity into a reliance on others doing “big ups” via Twitter and Facebook. But then, if artists are being successfully crowdfunded with subscriptions via Patreon, Kickstarter, Bandcamp and the like, do they need a media intermediary any longer as they are dealing direct with their fanbases?

However, it wasn’t all bad in the media with ‘Electronically Yours With Martyn Ware’ providing insightful artist interviews and the largely entertaining ‘Beyond Synth’ podcast celebrating its 300th show. Due to their own music commitments, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness were less prolific with their discussion show ‘The Album Years’ but it was still refreshing for commentators to be able to say that a record was sh*t when it actually was, rather than conform to the modern day adage that all music is good but not always to the listener’s taste!  And while various programmes came and went, other such as ‘Operating//Generating’, ‘KZL Live’ and ‘Absynth’ came to prominence.

Post-pandemic, interesting if uncertain times are ahead within the music industry. But as live performance returns, while the mainstream is likely to hit the crowd walking, will there be enough cost effective venues to host independent artists? Things have been tough but for some, but things might be about to get even tougher.

However, music was what got many through the last 18 months and as times are still uncertain, music in its live variant will help to get everyone through the next year and a half and beyond.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s year in music is gathered in its 2021 Playlist – Missing U at
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4rlJgJhiGkOw8q2JcunJfw


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2021

FIAT LUX Twisted Culture

Lost but found, before 2019, there were no FIAT LUX albums but there is now a third.

Reflecting the weightier matters of the world, ‘Twisted Culture’ is about “living life as best you can, no matter what is thrown at you” according to the nucleus of Steve Wright and David P Crickmore. Their only previously released body of work had been the six song ‘Hired History’ EP in 1984 on Polydor Records. The lack of a hit single saw their intended debut album ‘Ark Of Embers’ short-sightedly shelved by the label in 1985. However, Cherry Red came to the rescue and issued a double CD package containing both works in 2019.

This coincided with the release of ‘Saved Symmetry’, an album of completely new 21st Century material recorded after FIAT LUX reformed to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their formation. Despite the worldwide pandemic, FIAT LUX kept busy recording the follow-up, with Will Howard taking over as the third FIAT LUX member on sax and woodwinds from the sadly missed Ian Nelson who passed away in 2006.

The bittersweet ‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’ opens ‘Twisted Culture’ with some catchy grown-up new wave disco although lyrically, it captures the zeitgeist. Building towards a burst of slinky sax from Will Howard, ‘Cul De Sac’ uses a sparse arrangement for its colourful backdrop.

Unusually for FIAT LUX, ‘Basement City Living’ is something of a frantic avant dance adventure which swirls, wobbles and even features a drop! There’s unsettling pitch shifted voices lingering too but when Crickmore’s bass signature kicks in, despite the unorthodox backing and Wright’s spoken and screamed contribution, this can only be FIAT LUX.

As a possible relative of ‘Basement City Living’, ‘Tighter’ uses similar pacey electronic qualities although is more fully formed as a song, possessing both rock accents and trancey gothic moods. It’s odd but enjoyable for those who “only came here for fun”. At the other end of the spectrum with predominantly piano and clarinet, ‘The Night We Should Have Met’ is a classic Olde English FIAT LUX ballad with a wonderful Barber shop quartet round to finish.

With its pulsing bass, synth sweeps and E-Bow in the vein of one-time FIAT LUX producer Bill Nelson, ‘Hope’ is a glorious set-piece over seven minutes.

Bubbling with vintage synth, ‘It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Now’ is another number in the classic FIAT LUX vein, all uptempo with a chorus reminiscent of Marc Almond and Frippish guitar solos, although all that tension is offset by bursts of slinky sax.

Sax led and adopting a steadfast drum machine backbone, ‘Breathe You In’ offers a sensitive love ballad before continuing at a similar pace, ‘This Is Your Lifetime’ sees acoustic guitar and Bansitar combine for a muzakal song of hope. With a warm harmony of voices, it ends the album on an encouraging note despite the ‘Twisted Culture’ of the past few years.

Those who enjoyed ‘Saved Symmetry’ will appreciate ‘Twisted Culture’. Meanwhile those who were less enticed by its emphasis on mood may find the more uptempo and experimental numbers that feature on its successor appealing enough to return to the distinctly different path of FIAT LUX. In many ways, ‘Twisted Culture’ is the stronger and more varied collection.


‘Twisted Culture’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 5th November 2021 in CD and digital formats, pre-order from https://www.propermusic.com/

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.splidrecords.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Andy Hollingworth
1st November 2021

FIAT LUX The Twisted Culture Interview

2019 was something of a treat for long standing FIAT LUX fans.

Having reformed to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their formation with the release of ‘Secrets 2017’, things went well enough to record an album ‘Saved Symmetry’ which was to be their debut in the long playing format.

But interest in the band whose only previously released body of work had been the ‘Hired History’ EP in 1984 on Polydor saw Cherry Red license a long awaited reissue in a double CD package with the shelved but intended debut album ‘Ark Of Embers’ from 1985.

Sadly, Ian Nelson who passed away in 2006 did not get to see his co-creation see the light of day, but vocalist Steve Wright and instrumentalist David P Crickmore took FIAT LUX back into the live arena with Will Howard taking over from their departed friend, beginning with a triumphant show at St Clements C of E Church in Bradford.

Despite their momentum being stalled by the worldwide pandemic, FIAT LUX have kept busy and are about to unleash their next album entitled ‘Twisted Culture’. Steve Wright and David P Crickmore spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about its creation…

2019 was a year in which FIAT LUX re-established itself with two albums and live shows after an absence 35 years, how do you look back on it?

David: It was a bit like a rebirth, all coming as it did in that one year. First our decision to get a new record off the ground, closely followed by the long awaited reissuing of all our back-catalogue by Universal and Cherry Red.

Steve: If all that wasn’t a good reason to attempt some live dates I don’t know what was!

Your kids were watching you in Bradford at St Clements C of E Church, what was it like for them? Did they give you feedback?

Steve: I don’t think they knew what to expect but at the end they were extremely proud of everything apart from their Dad dancing. They weren’t alive when FIAT LUX was first active and I don’t think they expected the huge support from the audience that we got and the number of people who came from all over the country and abroad to watch.

David: My children, being slightly younger at the time, were more keen to work on the merch stand!

Did you have a particular moment at St Clements C of E Church where you thought “It’s good to be back, I want to do more of this”?

David: Definitely. When I flunked the opening of ‘Secrets’ on the keyboard. I thought “we need another gig or two to get this right”. Ha ha!

It must have been quite deflating that the momentum was halted by world events in 2020?

Steve: Indeed. Thwarted by circumstances – just like in 1984 when the miners’ strike killed off our video for ‘Blue Emotion’ because of the political repercussions of representing the workers’ rights at the time!

From the new album, the song ‘It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Now’ perhaps sums things up?

David: Yes, that’s all about how in different times of your life something can come along that knocks you sideways when you least expect it.

Steve: Certainly Covid has done that to everybody, many to a much greater extent than us humble musicians.

‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’ is another song capturing the zeitgeist although this was more or less finished before the lockdown?

David: It was pretty much done, but we adapted it slightly to make more of the dilemma everyone faced at the time making more of the prevailing sentiment: “what do we do now?”

How far had ‘Twisted Culture’ progressed with writing and production before lockdown happened, how did you approach the album’s completion?

Steve: The album was half done, we knew the direction but, as it says in the sleeve, it had to be completed in “various boltholes” rather than in the studio.

David: Will suffered this most as he hadn’t done any sax parts before the lockdown. I had to leave a suitable microphone and recording device on his doorstep and retreat a safe distance whilst he picked it up. All his parts were done at home, based on my keyboard guide parts.

They are some more directly electronic and even dance-inspired tracks than there were on ‘Saved Symmetry’ like ‘Basement City Living’ and ‘Tighter’, had this been a conscious move?

David: Part of the FIAT LUX soup has always been a dance / funkelectronic element. It’s there from our earliest times.

Steve: Although ‘Saved Symmetry’ might not have been full of them, one of its most successful tracks from it as a single was ‘It’s You’.

David: Also I heard somewhere that, during the pandemic, the BPM of all the popular songs increased a lot – maybe we were subconsciously affected?

Had you used any new synths or tech that you hadn’t incorporated before?

David: We are always trying out new things and throwing them in the mix. We always have – Jupiter 8 and Memorymoog were new back when we worked with Hugh Jones, but conversely we always have bedrock legacy instruments to hand too like Mellotron, Minimoog and marimba. It’s harder now to find a new synth or box that does something original and different but we have incorporated newer things like the Korg Volca series and the Mini Nova and there’s always new tech to be had at the mixing stage.

Steve plays a bit of guitar and keyboards on ‘Cul De Sac’ and ‘Hope’ respectively, how did it go? 😉

Steve: I have done it before! Even back on the first B-side ‘This Illness’ there’s me chugging away in the background on a plucky six string.

There are references to FIAT LUX’s early days produced by Bill Nelson with the burst of E-Bowed guitar on ‘Hope’, did you have lessons from the master himself and for the uninitiated, how is the technique different from soloing in the traditional way?

David: It was definitely Bill that showed me how to do it. I’d never encountered anybody before with one and I can’t think of anyone since for that matter. The wisdom was bestowed in the confines of the cramped setting of Ric Rac studios in Leeds where Bill recorded our first sessions.

Steve: Basically, it’s a small version of a steam iron which produces magnetic pulses that make the string vibrate indefinitely.

Will Howard joins FIAT LUX on sax and woodwinds, contributing to more than half the album on songs like ‘Cul De Sac’ and ‘The Night We Should Have Met’, how has his presence helped with the 21st Century dynamic of FIAT LUX?

Steve: We’ve always had a sax player since the Polydor years and it’s continuing that sound and mood. The real reed vibrating seems to blend in perfectly with the electronics.

David: We were mighty lucky to bump into Will when we did as I doubt we could have found anyone else who could have made such an easy fit into Ian’s role. He seemed to have all the sensibilities to understand what had passed while mixing it with his own musical personality in the new stuff.

‘The Night We Should Have Met’ features this wonderful Barber shop quartet round to finish, how did the idea for that come about?

Steve: We didn’t realise, otherwise we would have bought straw hats! It’s just part of the FIAT LUX palate – since the Hugh Jones production days we’ve always thrown the harmonies about rather than just blocking them in: Try the final minute of ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ on ‘Ark Of Embers’.

David: …Or even the middle bit of ‘Blue Emotion’.

Which are your own favourite songs on ‘Twisted Culture’ and why?

Steve: Hope – Because my keyboard line and David’s E-Bow blend so well together. I’m really happy with it.

David: I love the soring sax Will provides in ‘Cul De Sac’ which creates a plateau of bliss which we probably only last achieved in that same way with Ian’s part in ‘Photography’.

What are your hopes and fears for FIAT LUX and in general as we all re-engage with a rather changed world?

Steve: That people will continue to like our music, while I can continue to walk down the street wearing a FIAT LUX T-shirt without anyone knowing what is.

David: That’s the measure of true cult status!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to FIAT LUX

‘Twisted Culture’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 5th November 2021 in CD and digital formats, pre-order from https://www.propermusic.com/

The album launch concert takes place at Halifax Workshop Theatre on 30th October 2021

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.splidrecords.co.uk

https://open.spotify.com/artist/2GGpvPlY3LVxXSvYuOUUqL


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Andy Hollingworth, Chi Ming Lai and Helen Robinson
7th October 2021

25 BBC RADIO1 SESSION TRACKS

The origin of the BBC radio session came about due to restrictions imposed on the corporation by the Musicians Union and Phonographic Performance Limited with regards the airing of recorded music.

The thinking behind this was to create employment, as well as force people to buy records and not listen to them free of charge on the air. As a result, the BBC had to hire bands and orchestras to perform cover versions of recorded music to make up for the shortfall.

When the policy evolved with the advent of the more pop and rock oriented station Radio1, bands ventured into BBC’s Maida Vale studios to lay down between 3 to 5 tracks, with in-house personnel such as John Walters, Dale Griffin, Jeff Griffin, Chris Lycett, Mike Robinson, John Owen Williams and (not that) Tony Wilson helming the sessions.

The most celebrated of these BBC sessions were recorded for John Peel, but equally of merit and perhaps more of an indicator to potential breakthroughs into the mainstream were those produced for Richard Skinner and Kid Jensen.

Sessions were usually recorded and mixed in a single day, so had a rougher feel that lay somewhere between a live performance and a studio recording, sounding almost like a polished demo.

While acts would often use the opportunity to promote their latest single or album, others would premiere recently written compositions, try out different arrangements on established songs or perform cover versions. A number of these session recordings were even superior to their eventual officially released versions.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents its favourite 25 BBC Radio1 session tracks with other selection criteria including rare songs or tracks capturing the zeitgeist and signalling a change in the course of music. Presented in chronological and then alphabetical order within each year with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are some special moments from our beloved Auntie Beeb.


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Blind Youth (John Peel 1978)

In Summer 1978, THE HUMAN LEAGUE perhaps surprisingly recorded their only session for the BBC which included ‘Being Boiled’, ‘No Time’ (which became ‘The Word Before Last’), a cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘Blind Youth’. The latter was the frantic percussive highlight of the four, a wonderfully shambolic slice of synth punk with bum bleeps and avant waves of white noise, all held together by the metallic rhythmic bed of a sequenced Roland System 100.

Not officially released

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


TUBEWAY ARMY I Nearly Married A Human (John Peel 1979)

Although only comprising of three tracks, Gary Numan’s session as TUBEWAY ARMY for John Peel in early 1979 captured an artist in transition. From the comparatively punky ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ to the dystopian synthpop of ‘Down In The Park’, the electronics were gaining more prominence to suit his increasingly unsettling lyrical themes. And on the mostly instrumental ‘I Nearly Married A Human’, the machines launched a coup d’etat and took over like an army of replicants with the murmurs of the title being the only sign of flesh and blood.

Available on the GARY NUMAN ‎// TUBEWAY ARMY album ‘Replicas – The First Recordings’ via Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


OMD Pretending To See The Future (John Peel 1980)

Several months after the release of their self-titled debut long player, OMD returned for their second of their four John Peel sessions with Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey accompanied by drummer Malcolm Holmes and keyboardist Dave Hughes. By now, their live sound had expanded and this change was captured on this session with the version of ‘Pretending To See The Future’ having more presence and a looser percussive edge compared with the underwhelming drum machine-led album version.

Available on the OMD album ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1983’ via Virgin Records

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


B-MOVIE Polar Opposites (John Peel 1981)

One of the bands alongside SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and BLANCMANGE who got a profile boost from their inclusion on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, although they were signed by Phonogram to take on DURAN DURAN, B-MOVIE had more of a psychedelic vibe as reflected by songs like ‘Welcome To The Shrink’ and ‘All Fall Down’ on their first John Peel session in March 1981. But the highlight was ‘Polar Opposites’ with its mighty ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ synth line. It would have made a great single, but never properly was!

Available on the B-MOVIE ‎album ‘BBC Radio Sessions 1981-1984’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Boys Say Go (Richard Skinner 1981)

Broadcast in Summer 1981, this session captured the original DEPECHE MODE line-up of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke several months before the release of debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. Refining into a pop band but still retaining much of the synthetic rawness that linked them artistically to acts like FAD GADGET, the session was characterised by use of the Korg Rhythm KR55 drum machine with its charming klanky metallics. This version of ‘Boys Say Go’ possessed an aggression that was lost on the eventual album cut.

Available on the compilation ‎album ‘1 & Only – 25 Years of BBC Radio 1’ (V/A) via BBC Enterprises / Band Of Joy

http://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Like An Angel (Peter Powell 1981)

Like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DURAN DURAN only did the one BBC session for their biggest champion Peter Powell. Broadcast in June 1981 to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut, they recorded near-facsimile versions of ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Anyone Out There’ and ‘Night Boat’. But a surprise came with ‘Like An Angel’, a sprightly love song unreleased at the time which pointed away from the New Romantics to the more mainstream pop ambition of the ‘Rio’ opus that was to come just a year later.

Available on the DURAN DURAN boxed set ‘Duran Duran’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com


SOFT CELL Seedy Films (Richard Skinner 1981)

Contributing five songs to their first BBC session as ‘Tainted Love’ was rising up the UK chart, brilliant songs like ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Entertain Me’, ‘Chips On My Shoulder’ and ‘Youth’ demonstrated the potential of Marc Almond and Dave Ball, even in basic form. While ‘Seedy Films’ was faster paced and a bit “snap, crackle and pop” compared to the more sophisticated and laid-back clarinet-laden ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album version, it outlined why at the time, SOFT CELL were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE.

Available on the SOFT CELL boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ via Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


SPANDAU BALLET Mandolin (Studio B15 1981)

‘Studio B15’ was a short-lived Sunday afternoon magazine show presented by the late Adrian Love that often invited their guests to perform live. SPANDAU BALLET had just released their debut album ‘Journeys To Glory’ and as a band that didn’t tour and rarely played live, this was an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. ‘Mandolin’ featured a prominent Yamaha CS10 synth line while this version featured Simmons drums and a much clearer vocal with a more pronounced diction from Tony Hadley compared to the oddly smothered album version.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET deluxe album ‘Journeys to Glory’ via EMI Records

http://www.spandauballet.com/


BLANCMANGE Running Thin (John Peel 1982)

Aired in February 1982, BLANCMANGE were captured in their only John Peel session as a much darker proposition than was later perceived by their UK chart success. It included an early take on ‘Living On The Ceiling’ without its Indian embellishments but the session was notable for ‘I Would’ and ‘Running Thin’, two songs that would not make it onto the ‘Happily Families’ tracklisting. ‘Running Thin’ in particular saw Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe trapped in a stark state of gloomy resignation.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Demon Music

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


CHINA CRISIS This Occupation (John Peel 1982)

Recorded nearly six months before the release of their debut album, CHINA CRISIS’ first John Peel session saw the duo exploring territory that sat between electronic and traditional pop. ‘Seven Sports For All’ and ‘Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives’ ended up on the album while the more moody ‘Be Suspicious’ was already a B-side. But this version of ‘This Occupation’ was pure machine-propelled synthpop complete with sequencing and strong lead lines; later recordings that appeared on the B-sides of ‘Wishful Thinking’ were never as good.

Available on the CHINA CRISIS deluxe album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ via Caroline Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


EURYTHMICS I’ve Got An Angel (Kid Jensen 1982)

After their 1981 German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the possibilities of the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer to live up to their moniker. In a BBC session that also included ‘Love Is A Stranger’ which was soon to be issued as a single , ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ was an unusual hybrid of synths, electronic drums and wah-wah guitar, with flute by the front woman alongside her particularly intense and raw vocal. By comparison, the released version on the ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ album was more restrained.

Not officially released

https://www.eurythmics.com/


NEW ORDER Too Late (John Peel 1982)

Not actually recorded at the BBC, NEW ORDER’s second self-produced John Peel session was a fascinating document of the Mancunian’s transitioning sound with the throbbing sequences of ‘586’ highlighting a future proto-dance direction. Meanwhile ‘Turn The Heater On’ was a cover of the Keith Hudson reggae song in tribute to Ian Curtis and ‘We All Stand’ had avant jazz overtones. But ‘Too Late’ was significant, sounding like it could have come off debut album ‘Movement’ with its lingering gothic doom but also remaining unreleased, discarded as if a relic from another era.

Available on the NEW ORDER boxed set ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


TEARS FOR FEARS Memories Fade (Kid Jensen 1982)

Featuring ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Hurting’, ‘Start Of The Breakdown’ and ‘Memories Fade’, the arrangements for this BBC session aired after TEARS FOR FEARS’ success with ‘Mad World’ differed significantly from the versions on their debut album. Featuring Linn Drum programming and Banshees-like guitar instead of sax, this version of ‘Memories Fade’ was far superior, utilising a much more powerful mechanised rhythmic tension that reflected the fraught paranoia and resignation of Roland Orzabal’s lyrical angst.

Available on the TEARS FOR FEARS boxed set ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


YAZOO In My Room (Kid Jensen 1982)

Reshaped with a Fairlight and Linn Drum Computer, this version of ‘In My Room’ recorded in session for Kid Jensen was far superior to the irritating album version on ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’. Forming the basis for the live interpretation, it was now free of Vince Clarke’s “Our Father” tape loop monologue and allowed Alison Moyet space to express her emotive frustration to reveal a fantastic song free of distractions. Other songs in the session included beefed up takes on ‘Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)’, ‘Situation’ and ‘Too Pieces’.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records

http://yazooinfo.com/


DEAD OR ALIVE Give It To Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Co-written with Wayne Hussey, ‘Give It To Me’ was Pete Burns at his filthy lyrical best, declaring that “Apart from all your obvious attractions, I’ve got the bullets, you’ve got the gun, bang me into action, let’s make this obvious distraction, physically you are just what I wanted!”. Although this slice of  Middle Eastern favoured HI-NRG later surfaced as a bonus track on the 12 inch single of ‘I’d Do Anything’, it seems almost unbelievable now that this potential hit single was never developed further in the studio.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE boxed set ‘Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI’ via Edsel Records

https://dead-or-alive-band.fandom.com/wiki/Dead_or_Alive


JOHN FOXX Hiroshima Mon Amour (Saturday Live 1983)

‘Saturday Live’ was a show that featured interviews and live sessions. Having ventured out touring for the first time since his ULTRAVOX days in support of his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, John Foxx eschewed material from ‘Metamatic’ but perhaps more surprisingly, mined his former band’s catalogue. Backed by Robin Simon, Peter Oxdendale, David Levy and Barry Watts, Foxx performed an interesting arrangement of ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ sans rhythm machine but with guitars, ARP Odyssey and the ubiquitous thud of Simmons drums.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metadelic’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HOWARD JONES Don’t Put These Curses On Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Having triumphed opening for CHINA CRISIS in Spring 1983, Howard Jones impressed with his first BBC session featuring songs like ‘New Song’ and ‘Natural’ which would be included on his debut album ‘Human’s Lib’. The album title track also featured on the session with its original love triangle monologue intro. But ‘Don’t Put These Curses On Me’ would not be released until 2003, thanks to Jones considering the song unlucky following an equipment breakdown while attempting to perform it on the live Channel 4 TV show ‘Loose Talk’.

Available on the HOWARD JONES boxed set ‘Human’s Lib’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


SIMPLE MINDS The Kick Inside Of Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

By the end of 1983, SIMPLE MINDS were leaning heavily towards more rockist climes with songs like ‘Waterfront’. But for a three song BBC session which also featured a reprise of ‘New Gold Dream’, there was the debut of ‘The Kick Inside Of Me’, a lively track with catchy synth riffs, an infectious bassline and minimal guitar. But come the released version for the Steve Lillywhite produced ‘Sparkle In The Rain’, it had totally been ruined with distorted guitar, overblown drums and yobbish shouting in a pointless attempt to emulate THE SEX PISTOLS!

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS boxed set ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ via Universal Music

https://www.simpleminds.com/


TALK TALK Why Is It So Hard? (Kid Jensen 1983)

This session captured TALK TALK after the departure of keyboardist Simon Brenner but before producer Tim Friese-Greene came on board as Mark Hollis’ writing partner. Showcasing at the time four brand new songs, only ‘Call In The Night Boy’ ended up on the next album ‘It’s My Life’ while ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Again A Game Again’ became B-sides. But most interesting was ‘Why Is It So Hard?’ which was only released in Canada on the ‘It’s My Mix’ EP as an Extended Version and didn’t get a UK release until 1998 on the ‘Asides Bsides’ collection.

Not officially released

https://www.facebook.com/Talk-Talk-Mark-Hollis-12307963901/


VISAGE Questions (Kid Jensen 1983)

With only Steve Strange and Rusty Egan now remaining, VISAGE surprised all by recording a BBC session with new members Steve Barnacle and Andy Barnett, featuring previously unheard songs ‘Can You Hear Me?’, ‘Only The Good Die Young’, ‘The Promise’ and the funky standout ‘Questions’. With a more live feel, there was hope that VISAGE would be able to sustain some creative momentum despite the departure of Midge Ure, Billy Currie and Dave Formula but the eventual over-produced ‘Beat Boy’ album was rotten, marred by heavy metal guitar and hopelessly off-key singing!

Not officially released

http://www.therealvisage.com/


HARD CORPS Metal + Flesh (John Peel 1984)

Despite the patronage of Rusty Egan, Daniel Miller and Martin Rushent as well as a tour opening for DEPECHE MODE, the industrial pop of HARD CORPS did not breakthrough and by the time their only album ‘Metal + Flesh’ was released in 1990, all momentum had been lost. But the gothic tension and edgy energy of their music was perhaps best represented by their BBC sessions for John Peel and Richard Skinner, with ‘Metal + Flesh’ from the 1984 Peel session far outstripping the eventual album title track studio incarnation.

Available on the HARD CORPS album ‘Radio Sessions’ directly via https://hardcorps.bandcamp.com/album/radio-sessions

https://www.facebook.com/hard-CORPS-217860235015406


BRONSKI BEAT The Potato Fields (John Peel 1984)

For an Autumn session before the release of their debut album ‘The Age Of Consent’, BRONSKI BEAT took the unusual step of recording three solo tracks, with the only band offering being a take on ‘Why?’ B-side ‘Close To the Edge’. Larry Steinbachek presented a HI-NRG instrumental ‘Ultraclone’ while Jimmy Somerville offered the acapella ‘Puit D’amour’. But Steve Bronski contributed the most unusual track, a beautifully new age piece called ‘The Potato Fields’ which took its lead from the Japanese composer Kitaro, a version of which ended up as a bonus on the ‘I Feel Love’ 12 inch.

Not officially available

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


FIAT LUX Breaking The Boundary (Kid Jensen 1984)

From Spring 1984 to coincide with the release of their new single ‘Blue Emotion’, FIAT LUX stepped into BBC Maida Vale for a session to demonstrate their diversity and musicality as more than just a synth act. As well as ‘Blue Emotion’, there was its Brechtean B-side ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ and an acoustic version of ‘Secrets’. But best of all was ‘Breaking The Boundary’, a glorious burst of uptempo North European melancholy that did not officially see the light of day until the shelved FIAT LUX album ‘Ark Of Embers was finally released by Cherry Red Records in 2019.

Not officially available

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk/


ERASURE Who Needs Love Like That? (Bruno Brookes 1985)

With ERASURE, Vince Clarke had found himself back to square one after YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY. Recruiting Andy Bell as the flamboyant front man capable of falsetto and creating the vocal tones of Alison Moyet, ‘Who Needs Love Like That?’ did sound like a YAZOO outtake and in this BBC session recording, was busier and more percussive than the already released single version. While ERASURE were not an instant success, the song did eventually chart on its remixed re-release in 1992.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wonderland’ via Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


PET SHOP BOYS A Powerful Friend (John Peel 2002)

John Peel was not a fan of PET SHOP BOYS or much synthpop for that matter, so it was a surprise when Neil Tennant and Chris Love did a session for him using the back to basics approach that they had adopted for the ‘Release’ tour with guitars, bass and percussion in the line-up. But the bonus for fans was that two of the songs recorded ‘If Looks Could Kill’ and ‘A Powerful Friend’, which had been written in 1983 and shelved, were specially revived for the occasion. Both numbers were particularly energetic with the latter even featuring very loud rock guitars!

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS deluxe album ‘Release: Further Listening 2001 – 2004’ via EMI Records

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2021

FIAT LUX (How Will We Ever) Work This Way

With their 2019 album ‘Saved Symmetry’ capturing an understated depth and musicality that made it very much a grower with its mix of emotions and colours, FIAT LUX have surprised with their new single ‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’.

A very direct new wave disco number with a prominent funk-laden bass, ‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’ had almost been completely recorded at David P Crickmore’s Splid Studios during their now stalled sessions for the follow-up to ‘Saved Symmetry’.

Steve Wright had managed to lay down his voice before the lockdown came into action. However, saxophonist Will Howard made his slinky contribution remotely which Crickmore said “came c/o his back bedroom with mic under the sheets.”

The lockdown has inspired many acts to get creative with solutions for producing promotional videos and FIAT LUX have been no different. In their case, they have filmed their parts in isolation while in complete darkness, save what appears to be an LED rotating disco ball for lighting effects. As well as featuring Wright, Crickmore and Howard, a Roland Jupiter 8 and Minimoog make cameo appearances.

“It’s a toe tapper” said Wright about the more uptempo nature of ‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’, “My daughter says it’s wiggle bop!”; but despite the spacey dance feel and an uplifting middle eight, the lyrics point to something much darker, highlighting that what was considered normal in the past is no longer acceptable.

FIAT LUX have been particularly enjoying their renaissance following their tentative return in 2017, with their triumphant comeback concert at Bradford’s St Clements C of E Church in Autumn 2019 as well as more recently, opening for CHINA CRISIS at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

While things are very much up in the air as with everyone, a new album and more gigs are planned.


‘(How Will We Ever) Work This Way’ is released by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution via the usual digital platforms

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial

https://twitter.com/fiatluxofficial

http://www.splidrecords.co.uk


Text and photo by Chi Ming Lai
19th June 2020

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