Tag: Fifi Rong (Page 1 of 6)

Vintage Synth Trumps with MARK REEDER

Photo by Crystal Reeder

His portfolio has included NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, PET SHOP BOYS, JOHN FOXX, BLANK & JONES, WESTBAM, MARSHEAUX, THE KVB, NOBLESSE OBLIGE, KOISHII & HUSH, QUEEN OF HEARTS and many more.

Mark Reeder is the jovial Mancunian who ventured over to Germany in 1978 in search of electronic music records and never returned home, eventually settling in West Berlin.

Immersing himself in the local art and punk scene, he arranged JOY DIVISION’s now legendary gig at Kant-Kino, managed MALARIA! and was Factory Records representative in Der Bundesrepublik.

On Mayday 1982, he paid a visit to the DDR and while taking photos of the grand parade in East Berlin, he was arrested by the STASI and taken in for interrogation, under suspicion of working for M16. Unable to draw any conclusions, other than he was trying to corrupt the youth of East Germany with pop music, the East German Secret Police marked his file ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’.

The experience inspired Reeder’s most recent double album named after his STASI classification. Comprising of productions and remixes made by himself and his engineer Micha Adam, it celebrated his cross-border artistic ethos and also included collaborations with the likes of Fifi Rong and Alanas Chosnau, as well as solo work on which he lent his own spoken voice.

The two high profile centrepieces of ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ focus on Reeder’s reworkings of NEW ORDER’s first new single since 2015 ‘Be A Rebel’ and YELLO’s evergreen ‘Vicious Games’. But room is also given to newer acts such as the Dutch-based American BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC, Manchester’s MFU, DEER Mx from Mexico and hailing from the Chinese city of Chengdu, STOLEN who opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour.

Another NEW ORDER support act Zachery Allan Starkey makes appearance via a remix of ‘Coked Up Biker Anthem’ which saw Reeder realise some of his mad axeman fantasies having grown up as a fan of Jimi Hendrix. But accepting ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s invitation to play a round of Vintage Synth Trumps, Mark Reeder kindly chatted about his love of classic synthesizers and how they have been used throughout his career.

Ok, our first card is the Roland SH7…

I’ve seen one but never had one, I had an SH9 which I used at the end of DIE UNBEKANNTEN and the start of SHARK VEGAS. In fact, the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ which we released on Factory in 1984 was made with an SH9. They were very similar kinds of synthesizers but the SH7 had a few extra features. I actually played the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ by hand all the way through for six minutes non-stop, it wasn’t a sequencer! If you made a mistake, there was no way of going back and you had to start again! *laughs*

What was the drum machine you were using at the time?

We had an 808 and a 606…

And the next card is an Oberheim 2 Voice…

I never knew anyone who could afford Oberheim stuff until it became more affordable in the late 80s, no-one I knew had the 2 Voice. But the OBXs was really good, you could do some great things with them but the earlier ones weren’t readily available, so you didn’t really see anything you could buy… no-one had any money in Berlin in the 80s! A Prophet 10 would be like 10 years wages! *laughs*

So, when you were conceiving ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ which was a reference to that time in 80s Berlin, and your cover photo of the May Day parade and your STASI file, did you select a palette of specific vintage synth sounds to work with?

I’ve always worked like this, when I started to get back into actually making music again, as more of a remixer and producer than before, I had this idea that I only wanted to have a small selection of things that I could draw from to maintain a particular sound. I made my own drum kits, three different kinds and I would interchange within each one.

So, I might have three different claps but I’d put two together and manipulate them to create another type of clap sound. So, the sounds are all drawn from the same three basic kits and say with a snare, I might add another instrument into that snare mix, but it’s all the same block if you like.

It’s the same in a way with synthesizers as well, I don’t have loads, and I keep it reasonably contained. If you have too many, you end up spending too time trawling through thousands and thousands of sounds, but if you have a limited amount of possibilities, then you have to be creative within those few things. I’ll take pads off one synthesizer and put the dirt in from an MS20 underneath, and it will change the sound of the pad. And if you put that through a chorus, it will automatically give that a different sound.

I’ve not got loads of synthesizers in the studio, but we’ve got quite a few. We’ve got quite a few plug-ins too, initially I was a bit dubious about them, but meanwhile a few of them are really quite good and very useful…

Do you have a favourite of the plug-ins?

Well, we’ve got Omnisphere which we use regularly, as I find it’s got a few sounds which I’ll always use and they’re easy to manipulate, but they’re always the same basics. I think I always choose the same couple of sounds *laughs*

We’ve got an ARP plug-in and that is quite good and an EMS one because I could never afford a real one. I’ve got a plug-in version of the Roland SH101 but having the original thing is different, it has a totally different feeling to it. It depends what you want to do with it. The plug-in doesn’t come near, but it has its own sounds that are useful. I have a Juno 106 and my studio partner Micha Adam has a plug-in 106 and a boutique version, although it’s similar in certain sounds, neither sound like a real 106. But each has features that the real 106 doesn’t have, like the arpeggiator or the delay, so you kind of mix them all together, that’s how I work.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What was your approach to reworking ‘Vicious Games’ by YELLO from 1985 for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’?

The original track was like “I’ve got a sound sampler and I’m gonna show you how to use it” so it’s like all these ideas together and a vocal connecting everything.

When YELLO sent me the parts, I realised there were more vocals recorded than used on the track and I thought it was a shame that this track of idea wasn’t actually a song. So, I reworked Rush Winter’s wonderful vocals into a song, to give it a definitive verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, like a 21st Century version of an 80s song.

I used the Oberheim OBX and Juno to make the pad at the beginning and made it more song structured. I looped the guitar part so that it became a groove. People have come up to me and said they love the Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’ bit that I added, but it’s in the original track, it’s just that you can’t hear it because it’s mixed down so much within the track. You don’t really get to experience that part, so I thought it would be nice to feature that as the break, so I cannibalised the original.

What did Boris and Dieter think of it?

They love it, Boris said I was very daring for changing their song so much and not make it sound like their original, but it does! You can hear I’ve used as many of the original parts as possible but I’ve rearranged it completely.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

So, we go from you remixing ‘Vicious Games’, an old YELLO track to remixing a brand new NEW ORDER song ‘Be A Rebel’…

As with all my remixes, I like people to be able to recognise the song, I don’t want to take some unused backing track and just drop in some vocals, to me that’s not a remix. I take all the parts I require from the original song and rework them so that they will fit my groove. The idea was make the Elektron bassline more pulsating, give a driving feeling to it.

The first mix I made was the Cheeky Devil one, which appears on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ that I made more for the elderly semester of NEW ORDER fans that don’t like the techno side. I know people who will get a remixes CD or vinyl and they’ve got techno versions of the track that they love, but they can’t get their heads around it. I thought I’d do one which had a “ploddy” kind of feel that’s not so fast even though it’s exactly the same tempo, one that chugged along and put more emphasis on the vocals.

For the Dirty Devil remix for the NEW ORDER release on Mute, I wanted to make it so that Bernard could listen to it in his car while he was on the motorway, more driving and I must confess I prefer this remix to the one I did for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ but that chuggy version had to work within the framework of my album. I just changed the volume of a few things within the mix like the loudness of the hi-hats in the Elektron driving version.

You actually added some guitars into your remixes of ‘Be A Rebel’ which aren’t on the NEW ORDER original?

There was initially no bass guitar on the original version. There was a guitar, but it was all quite jangly… that style kind of slowed my track down, so I played what I needed… in fact my guitar mirrors Bernard’s vocal quite a lot. I thought I’d play a melody on the guitar like a sequence… some people thought it sounded like the ghost of Hooky’s bass, but it’s my Les Paul playing that and some power chords to embellish the end.

So what’s your guitar playing like compared with your keyboard prowess?

They equally as cr*p! *laughs*

Time for another card and it’s a Prophet 10…

I don’t know anybody who owned a Prophet 10. Susanne Kuhnke from MALARIA! owned a Prophet 5 but I only ever saw a Prophet 10 in a music shop and you weren’t allowed to touch it!

By the time when you supported NEW ORDER as SHARK VEGAS in 1984, they would have swapped their Prophet 5s for Octave Plateau Voyetras?

Yes, they’d just got it. A few years before, Bernard had got an ARP so he gave me his Transcendent 2000…

Did you ever do anything useful with the Transcendent 2000?

It just makes a noise! It doesn’t make any kind of like sounds that your granny is going to like! It goes “KKKKHHRRRKK” or “TSCHHHHHH”, it’s a noise synthesizer, white noise, pink noise! A Wasp you can kind of play but the Transcendent didn’t make any keyboard notes. All the crazy “TSCH-TSCH-TSCH-TSCH” noises you hear on the JOY DIVISION records were made by the Transcendent *laughs*

Photo by Kai von Kröcher

On your albums, you like to do new collaborations and on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, you worked with Fifi Rong who has a connection with YELLO…

I met Fifi Rong at a YELLO gig in Berlin. She told me she was playing a gig in a small bar the next evening and invited me. She was absolutely mind-blowingly good and she explained what each song was about, it was very endearing. I thought she was so talented, she’s very hands on and so determined.

I thought it would be nice to work with her to give her another platform other than YELLO. You could hear that she has an interesting voice with that high Asian tone. So, I remixed ‘Future Never Comes’, that was such a nice track and as I was doing that, I had another track that I asked her to do a vocal on. I didn’t hear anything from her for about 3 weeks and then she sent me this track that became ‘Figure Of 8’. I decided to start and close ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with Fifi because I felt she deserved to have those important positions within the framework of the record. She’s been working on her own new album for 2 years and it’s finally getting there, it is an interesting record, a really nice album, I think she’s done really well and got the right ambience.

And the next card is a Yamaha CS30…

I must confess I always found Yamaha gear to be interesting but very cold. I have a TX module which is like a DX7 and has all the sounds, which I’ve had for decades… it’s a limited thing. I don’t use it much, only for specific things like if I want a hard tone filtered in with something else to give it a colder edge. I never bought an actual DX7 because it was too complicated to programme. It had bits like marimba sounds that sounded good, but everyone had one, as it was the first big affordable synthesizer back in the 80s. Everyone dumped their analogue synths for a DX7 and I’m thinking WHY!?!

The DX7 sounded super modern and dead professional at the time, but I didn’t get my module until very late when nu-beat and acid house started, it made a slappy kind of hard bass sound that fitted.

Photo by Martyn Goodacre

Did you get into Akai samplers at all?

I had an Akai S900, I was talking to Micha Adam about them just the other day and how they were the best thing on the market at the time with the longest sampling time. I had a Roland sampler which had an expanded sampling time of 2 seconds! And then there was the Ensoniq Mirage which had its own 30 second samples but when you tried to sample something yourself, you only had a small amount of time. And then came the Akai S800 and that had 20 seconds!! *laughs*

The Akai S900 cost a fortune and was so complicated, there was a lot of fiddling around, twiddling knobs and pressing things! It had a manual the size of the Holy Bible and they knew no-one was going to read this thing, so it came with a VHS video cassette so that you could watch how to programme the thing! It was a really good tool to use once you got used to it and sounded good compared to the others. But then the Akai S1000 came and that had 90 seconds of sampling time which was amazing! I did a couple of remixes in the 90s with the Akai, one for Nina Hagen of ‘Du Hast Den Farbfilm Vergessen’… she hated it! It never came out! *laughs*

How did you put together your 13 minute epic ‘You Can Touch Me’?

That was an idea that’s really three tracks in one and it kind of went on and I thought I’d better stop it at some point! *laughs*

It was originally born from an idea for an album, that had a great underlying groove and I took a snippet from an Eiven Major track to use as a loop in the techno part of the track. I like taking a track that will morph from one thing and end up as another. ‘With You Can Touch Me’, it became that. It starts off very sexual, dark and mysterious… it’s like when you meet someone for the first time, you go through the actions of foreplay and it gets to the climax, the song is a bit like that, very Wet & Hard! It goes into the lyric where “you can’t touch me” and at the end, it goes into this mad techno thing. I’m not a singer, but for that track, it fitted and it sounds alright. I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it to be honest.

I made it just so I could play it in clubs, mostly the DJ who plays after me is usually a techno DJ so I wanted to give them something at the end of my set that they can mix into. It’s my closing track and it’s so long, I can pack all my stuff away while it’s playing and the DJ after me can either let it play out or mix into it. *laughs*

The final card, it’s an EDP Wasp!

I never actually owned one, I borrowed a Wasp, Mijk van Dijk had a Wasp. It’s a bit like the Transcendent, but it has more tone and easier to use. I never recorded anything with it, I just messed around with it, it was quite good. You could mix it with other sounds to add some grit.

You’re working on the debut album of BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC who are on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with your remix of ‘How Do We End Up Here?’?

We’ve been working on quite a lot of songs together and they’ve become an album. It’s a synthpop album in its own way, Andy Evans has got a very distinctive voice that colours the music and gives it his own edge. It’s not dissimilar to how I work with Alanas Chosnau, but I try to keep Alanas’ song ideas directed towards his kind of sound, if you know what I mean. I’m also working on a second album with him. I keep them separate, but as I use the same kind of sounds, there is always this “me” thread running through the music.

When you’re writing songs with people, you have gaps while they’re figuring out their part, especially when having to do it online, so you can use the time to work with somebody else. So for example, I’m doing something with Andy and when there’s a break, I’ll do something with Alanas in between. I’m quite happy the way the BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC album has turned out, it’s been quite a nice project.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What’s happening with STOLEN at the moment?

STOLEN have gone from being “a band to watch” to playing headline gigs in China now. Since the pandemic, their career has had a meteoric rise, as no Western artists are allowed to play in China at the moment, so promoters have been forced to look at their home-grown talent and have realised they actually have some really good and interesting bands there.

With STOLEN having opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour, it boosted their credibility enormously back home and has added to their attraction, so now they’re performing at festivals to 25,000 people. They’re playing a gig virtually every week and in between, they’re trying to write and record another album. So, they’re sending their parts to me too, that means I’m doing three albums parallel!

I guess whoever’s gets finished first will get released first! But it’s a lot more difficult not having them in the studio, because if they were there in person, you can bounce ideas off immediately. And the time difference with someone in China and being in Europe isn’t easy, usually when they’re in the studio, you’re going to bed! It’s a bit complicated! *laughs*

I want to make everyone happy, but I also like a challenge. When it all fits, it can be very rewarding.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is released as a download double album, available from https://markreedermfs1.bandcamp.com/album/subversiv-dekadent

Mark Reeder’s Dirty Devil Remix of ‘Be A Rebel’ features on the NEW ORDER double 12” clear vinyl EP and expanded CD collection released by Mute Artists also featuring mixes by Arthur Baker, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, Maceo Plex and Paul Woolford

A one hour long Operating//Generating special on Mark Reeder is broadcast for 4 weekends from Saturday 4th September 2021 at 1800 CET on laut.fm at https://laut.fm/operating-generating

https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mfsberlin

https://www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/

https://twitter.com/markreedermfs

https://www.instagram.com/markreeder.mfs/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1n7yJzVVfUO2MiQskjmzqW

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers available from
https://www.juno.co.uk/products/gforce-software-vintage-synth-trumps-2-playing/637937-01/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st September 2021

Oh Yeah: The Legacy Of YELLO

The illustrious career of the Swiss electronic trailblazers YELLO is being celebrated in a new lavishly packaged 4CD earbook retrospective entitled ‘YELL4O Years’.

As well as containing their best known tracks, the duo’s more melodic cinematic works are compiled as a separate volume while there is also the inevitable collection of remixes from the likes of DJ Hell, Carl Craig and Mark Reeder. Frustratingly YELLO’s biggest UK hit ‘The Race’ appears in a 2016 live version from their Berlin Kraftwerk residency rather than its studio variants or even the wonderful atmospheric Magician’s Version for Tempest & Cottet!

Boris Blank founded YELLO in Zurich together with Carlos Perón through a mutual love of jazz, musique concrète and tape experimentation. Blank had a taste for the considered uncompromising aspirations of THE RESIDENTS and sent demos to Ralph Records, the label that the American art collective founded. Around the same time, at the suggestion of Paul Vajsabel who ran the Music Market record shop in Zurich which they mutually frequented, Blank and Perón were joined by Dieter Meier as lead vocalist.

Meier was the son of millionaire banker with his own business interests and had also been a professional gambler who had played cards in the presence of Marilyn Munroe. But perhaps in a reaction to his background, Meier had a penchant for performance art. In the rather conservative environment of Switzerland where a policy of neutrality is adopted to not upset anyone, secret banking is available to all with no questions asked and nuclear fallout shelters are a legal requirement in every home, artists were generally frowned upon, so they often had to develop a thick skin and a sense of humour to survive.

And it was within this society that YELLO’s tongue-in-cheek avant pop was born. As if to reinforce this, the name came from wanting a simple brand identity like Lego, inspired a comment made by Meier about “a yelled hello”. The first YELLO album ‘Solid Pleasure’ attracted the interest of Do It Records, the British label formed by Robin Scott of M and Ian Tregoning who had released the debut ADAM & THE ANTS album ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’.

As a result, one of its tracks ‘Bostich’ was played regularly at The Blitz Club by its resident DJ Rusty Egan. Its opening military drum tattoo was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in for a perfect slice of avant garde disco. With a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier achieved by various tape manipulations, it introduced a style of speedy European rap later that was to become YELLO’s trademark.

The conga madness of ‘Pinball Cha Cha’ from the 1981 album ‘Claro Que Si’ proved they were not a straightforward electronic band. Boris Blank had begun with a Farfisa organ as his instrument of choice, later upgrading to the ARP Odyssey and Sequential Pro-One, but it was the purchase of the Fairlight CMI that was to change everything.

Opening up endless possibilities, Boris Blank said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2016 that “When making the music for YELLO, I never think about a certain aesthetic or a certain kind of concept. It just comes out. When you work every day, like I do in my studio, more as a painter than like a traditional musician, then things come up that I never knew before. I just make music for fun, of course – it should be fun all the time. At the end, that is the result, reflecting more or less my fantasy from the past months and years that I’ve been working on those tracks.”

Blank laboured over his Fairlight, sampling anything from broken guitars, percussion, rusty brass instruments, screaming, opera singers and golf swings, eventually building up a huge catalogued library of over 14,000 sounds.

“There was a lot of heart and sweat in those old samples. I recorded everything at the time” he said, “I threw a snowball at the studio wall and worked it into a bass drum in the end – things like this”

A self-confessed non-musician, his tendency was not to play notes or count rhythms, but to be like child playing with a classic Lego set comprising of many coloured bricks and no instructions, surmising “Working with modern technology is much more convenient though, it stops you making final decisions.”

With Dieter Meier, his delivery was more like a storyteller or acting as another instrument rather than being a traditional singer. And with the handy Fairlight, Blank had another colour on his palette. YELLO was not a democratic band with equal collaborative input and it was admitted by Blank that only when a track was instrumentally complete would Meier be invited to make his contribution. But while Meier wasn’t that involved in the studio aspects of the music, his voice would give YELLO their personality, much like his cravat would be the crucial statement that complimented his suit.

Having already released a solo record ‘Impersonator’, Carlos Perón left YELLO in early 1983, just after release of their third album ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ on Stiff in the UK and Elektra in the US. It spawned the rhythmic gothic drama of ‘I Love You’ which utilised an unusual wobbly bassline that was doubled by a staccato voice sample, as well as pitched-up repeats of the title and lyrics inspired by ‘The Empire Strikes back’.

But with a synthesized squelch that predated acid house by several years, the moody disco number ‘Lost Again’ became the opening theme to the BBC2 yoof music show ‘ORS’, signalling an interest from TV and cinema in YELLO’s music. And although Do It folded in 1982, Ian Tregoning continued to work with YELLO and introduced the music of the Swiss duo to film director John Hughes.

As YELLO’s fourth studio album ‘Stella’ became their biggest seller to date, Blank and Meier made their mainstream breakthrough. An intricately woven patchwork of samples, the catchy ‘Vicious Games’ featuring the sexy vocals of Rush Winters became a US dance Top10 hit. Meanwhile, the quirky leftfield pop of ‘Oh Yeah’ appeared prominently in the 1986 John Hughes’ film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’.

‘Oh Yeah’ centred around a deep slowed down Meier going “BEAUTIFUL, OH YEAH!”; the track possessed a comic element that led to it being synched in situations whenever an attractive lady would appear, although it ultimately became ubiquitous as Duffman’s signature tune in ‘The Simpsons’.

Despite the novelty of two mature continental eccentrics becoming the toast of Hollywood and perhaps more unexpectedly, Urban America, YELLO also had a more cinematic European side that was more akin to their cosmopolitan origins; after all, Switzerland is a middle European landlocked country that has four official and very different languages.

From the 1987 album ‘One Second’, ‘The Rhythm Divine’ was an immense brooding ballad originally written as part of an ambitious project about Marilyn Monroe under the working title of ‘Norma Jean’. On lead vocals was Shirley Bassey who had been introduced to Blank and Meier by Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe. The lyrics were written by the late Billy MacKenzie of ASSOCIATES whose own ghostly neo-operatic vocals proved to be vital as the mighty diva worked around the dynamics of this epic number.

Despite ‘The Rhythm Divine’ being a European hit, Dieter Meier reflected later that the song hadn’t been very YELLO and decided that their next album ‘Flag’ should be as YELLO as possible, with the focus on Blank and himself. It yielded ‘The Race’, their biggest hit yet in English speaking territories like the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. Frantic, thrilling and gimmick laden, ‘The Race’ featured in the 1990 film ‘Nuns On The Run’ and perhaps not surprisingly on the cable channel Eurosport, keeping Meier flush in casino chips and allowing Blank to purchase even more studio equipment.

Billy MacKenzie continued working with YELLO and Boris Blank remembered “The songs ‘Capri Calling’ and ‘Because You Love’ still get under my skin. Working with Billy was always a pleasure. He worked fast and sang with his whole heart and soul, he gave everything. You could see it was very emotional for him. And for me.”

Included on 1991’s ‘Baby’ album, ‘Capri Calling’ was a smooth sunset romance that captured a gentle Mediterranean spirit. The soaring ‘Baby’ title track did not actually appear on the album but later featured on Mackenzie’s first solo long player ‘Outernational’ in 1992. The groovy jazz inflected ‘Rubberbandman’ from ‘Baby’ with Meier pitch shifted down to sound like Louis Armstrong continued the quirky ingenuity.

However from hence on, YELLO made albums less frequently as Meier’s business interests in coffee, wine, watches, silk garments and organic beef took up more of his time. The 1997 album ‘Pocket Universe’ featured the enigmatic Swedish songstress Stina Nordenstam on the techno-flavoured ‘To The Sea’, but the follow-up long players ‘Motion Picture’ and ‘The Eye’ saw public interest wane, even in Switzerland and Germany which had been YELLO’s strongest markets.

After signing to Polydor, 2009’s ‘Touch Yello’ saw a revival in fortunes, reaching No1 in the homeland, their first long player to do so since ‘Stella’. Notably, guest singer Heidi Happy provided a sumptuous smoky quality to the airy ballads ‘Stay’ and ‘You Better Hide’, the latter fittingly appearing at the end of the dystopian Swiss sci-fi movie ‘Cargo’.

The interim period saw Dieter Meier release a solo album ‘Out Of Chaos’, while Boris Blank collaborated with Malawian jazz singer Malia and issued a boxed set of unreleased solo material called ‘Electrified’. Reuniting in 2016 and coinciding with their first full live shows in Berlin, ‘Toy’ released arrived with much fanfare.

‘Limbo’ was a classic YELLO single laced with Meier’s distinctive drawl over a big metronomic beat syncopated by rhythm guitar for something suitably racey. Meanwhile the superb ‘Electrified II’ saw a duet with a guesting Malia in a slice of seductive energetic electro-cabaret.

Meanwhile, Beijing-born chanteuse Fifi Rong offered her own dreamy elegance on ‘Kiss The Cloud’ as addition to the tradition of sophisticated YELLO mellows. She said when Boris Blank first approached her to collaborate: “He reached out to me by email and said he really liked my music and the way I do my harmonies in my tracks.”

YELLO’s most recent album ‘Point’ did not disappoint their cult following. There was no mistaking that the lead single ‘Waba Duba’ was them, all tribal and elastic while punctuated with staccato horn stabs that recalled ‘The Race’. ‘Arthur Spark’ presented a purer electronic vision while ‘The Vanishing of Peter Strong’ showed an artistic affinity with THE ART OF NOISE.

It’s together with THE ART OF NOISE that YELLO have a legacy in technical innovation, pioneering digital sampling and turning found sound into danceable pop music.

More importantly, Boris Blank and Dieter Meier incorporated a sense of humour in their art, something that was largely absent from a significant number of electronic artists. For the general public though, YELLO’s legacy manifests itself in movies, the segments familiar despite the pair remaining largely anonymous.

It would be fair to say that when doing uptempo material, YELLO did not deviate from their signature sound much with songs like ‘Bostich’, ‘The Race’, ‘Tied Up’, ‘Jungle Bill’, ‘Limbo’ and Waba Dubba’ all being close relations! However, in their more downtempo collaborations with other artists like Shirley Bassey, Billy Mackenzie, Heidi Happy and Fifi Rong, they ventured into something more otherworldly and the third “Mello YELLO” volume of the 4CD earbook provides a well-deserved platform for this less appreciated aspect of their catalogue.


‘YELL4O Years’ is released by Polydor on 30th April 2021, available as a 4CD collector’s box, 2CD, abridged double vinyl LP and digital download – further information at https://40years.yello.com/

http://yello.com

https://www.facebook.com/yello.ch/

https://www.instagram.com/yello_official/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
19th March 2021

MARK REEDER Subversiv-Dekadent

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ was the East German Secret Police classification given to Berlin-based producer and remixer Mark Reeder in his STASI file.

On Mayday 1982, Mark Reeder paid a visit to the DDR part of the then-walled city and while he was taking photos of the grand parade, he was arrested by the STASI and taken in for interrogation.

He had been under surveillance as they suspected he was working for M16 and about to assassinate their esteemed leader Erich Honecker… either that or he going to corrupt the youth of East Germany with pop music!

Indeed, it was the latter; but for those who received Reeder’s smuggled-in cassettes of JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER and the like, it was more like an education as fictionally documented when Mark Reeder lookalike Martin Rauch, HVA agent codename Kolibri, in ‘Deutschland 83’ lit up with joy on hearing DURAN DURAN for the first time on that prize symbol of capitalism, the Sony Walkman!

During those tense Cold War times of East versus West and The Iron Curtain, all the eternally optimistic Reeder wanted to do was to unite people through music. So when The Berlin Wall fell at the end of 1989 and the imminent threat of nuclear holocaust was lifted with the promise of a better, more open-minded world, he did his bit by establishing Masterminded For Success (MFS), a dance label that achieved great success across the European club scene.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the world is struggling with narcissists despite a pandemic crisis, driven into conflict by power, corruption and lies by that age-old management and control technique of “divide and rule” which most citizens understand but ultimately fail to actually recognise.

A recognised internationalist, Mark Reeder is doing his bit again by issuing a double album named after his STASI classification of productions and remixes made by himself and his engineer Micha Adam.

Celebrating his cross-border artistic ethos, where the songs have been restyled, he has added guitar, bass and synths while he has also lent his spoken voice to his own solo productions.

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is bookended by Fifi Rong who Reeder first met at the Berlin Kraftwerk in 2016 when she was singing in concert with Swiss trailblazers YELLO. The first track ‘Figure of 8’ is a magical new collaboration between the two with a cinematic backdrop of sparse piano and glistening sequences over which the exquisite Chinese songstress adds her distinctive air of mystery to a more metronomic rhythm construction than perhaps heard on her own work.

Closing the collection, Reeder offers ‘The Present is a Gift Mix’ of Fifi Rong’s 2016 single ‘Future Never Comes’, an eerie and very Berlin-inspired concoction where Chinese musical theatre meets electro Weimer Cabaret via Synth Britannia for a haunting slice of initial after brilliance

YELLO themselves appear via the superb ‘Wet&Hard Remix’ of ‘Vicious Games’; tightened up and given a modern treatment without losing the essence of the 1985 original with the sexy vocals of Rush Winters given the spotlight.

The original ‘Vicious Games’ was an intricately woven patchwork of samples and Reeder even amusingly drops in an ‘I Feel Love’ sequence during the middle eight.

‘United’ by QUEEN OF HEARTS was one of the outstanding highlights from Reeder’s previous 2017 collection ‘Mauerstadt’ and making a welcome appearance on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is the track that precipitated his union with frontfrau Liz Morphew; dressed with cooing vampishness, the ‘Electrically Excited Remix’ of ‘Neon’ is nearly 8 minutes of gently energetic Schaffel.

Both having also appeared on ‘Mauerstadt’, MFU return with a ‘Brexile Remix’ of ‘Law’ that is a blend of distorted guitars, synth pulses and post-punk Mancunian vocals while THE KVB have ‘White Walls’ remodelled as a ‘Stoner Remix’, which is actually a fairly good description despite the frantic arpeggio and claustrophobic string machine.

China’s STOLEN are considered by Reeder to be the most exciting band he’s seen since NEW ORDER and his ‘Sinner Remix’ of ‘The Loop Sin’ is another of his classic productions; full of heavy propulsive grit and live textural enhancements, this denser but more compact version applies an extra bounce on the bass and highlights why the Chengdu six-piece were chosen to open for NEW ORDER on their European tour on 2019.

Of course, Reeder is known for his close friendship with NEW ORDER and his remixes of ‘Singularity’, ‘Academic’ and ‘The Game’ were notable for improving on their initial guises from the ‘Music Complete’ album. His driving ‘Cheeky Devil Remix’ of their most recent single ‘Be A Rebel’ presents a more rigid staccato treatment before tripleting in the chorus while adding guitars that were actually absent from the original mix.

One notable new inclusion to the Mark Reeder portfolio is BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC led by Dutch-based American Andrew Evans whose previous singles ‘Light of the World’ and ‘Moving Target’ featured long-time OMD drummer Malcolm Holmes; The ‘Crying Remix’ of ‘How Do We End Up Here?’ is a rather good vibey tune with vocoder treatments like a disco lento AIR.

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is not just about remixes and Reeder gets to fly solo as well. The percussive ‘21st Century Girl’ sees him quoting from cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’ as his soundtrack penetrates with its almost industrial demeanour, augmented by a guitar lick reprise from his own Save Yourself Mix of ‘Manifesto’ by BLANK & JONES and a cheeky burst of T-REX’s ‘20th Century Boy’,

Described by Reeder himself as “a Wet&Hard trilogy”, the three part ‘You Can Touch Me’ starts in a moody mantric fashion with groans and synth sweeps, before pacing up with a growly bass. It all seems a bit superfluous at first but it sets the scene and gets progressively hypnotic, segueing into a propulsive rumbling section that adds more menace to an already sinister track. As Reeder impassively asks “do you want to touch me?”, it eventually slows down after a frenzy of frenetic rhythmic clatter. This is fine provocative dance music if a little too long, but when it hits the spot during the majority of its 13 minutes, it is mighty!

‘Children Of Nature’ was Reeder’s fine 2019 long player with Alanas Chosnau, best known as one of Lithuania’s biggest singing stars with his penchant for DEPECHE MODE. In an ‘Unpredictable Remix’, ‘Love Of My Life’ mutates into something more minimal but harder compared with the original mix. Meanwhile, in collaboration with Mr Sam and Rani Kamal, ‘I Surrender’ is soulful pop given a shadier new wave treatment with the incongruity adding more tension.

‘Dead Souls’ from Hong Kong domiciled Mexicans DEER Mx is not the JOY DIVISION song but a fit of snarling aggression and strident gothic drama to electronic screeches not heard since ‘Crazy Horses’ by THE OSMONDS. Ending with sampled blasts of mariachi trumpets in the background, it is delightfully odd. However, the heavy deadpan resonance of LIARS and ‘Staring at Zero’ will not be for everybody although their eccentric frontman Angus Andrew has declared Reeder’s ‘Two Thousand Yards Stare Remix’ as his favourite of his own work.

Already rock focussed, ‘Coked Up Biker Anthem’ from New York-based Zachery Allan Starkey sees Reeder realise some of his mad axeman fantasies with his guitar enhanced ‘Leather & Beers’ rework by taking the dystopian metal original into even more speedy Alice Cooper territory. But with an icy build, CEMETERY SEX FAIRIES’ ‘Tanz Allein’ sees a move away from Reeder’s usual four-on-the-floor template and maintains an enjoyably creepy quality with the scary German Grimm tales vocal.

While many purchasers will be NEW ORDER and YELLO completists after the exclusive remixes on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, this Mark Reeder collector has so much more to offer. As well for presenting his sometimes lesser-lauded abilities as a composer, it also provides a platform for emergent acts from all around the world to be discovered.

Despite being regarded as ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, through music Mark Reeder has unified more people than any politician has. In this modern online environment, the influence of music is more international than ever. It makes people connect, love, dance, escape and protest. This diverse collection does that, and isn’t that what music is all about.


‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is released by MFS as a download double album, available from https://markreedermfs1.bandcamp.com/album/subversiv-dekadent

https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mfsberlin

https://www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/

https://twitter.com/markreedermfs

https://www.instagram.com/markreeder.mfs/

https://open.spotify.com/album/0XRaQMRD4ILpdRetyRvBo6


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th March 2021

Introducing SCINTII

Music needs some mystery every now and then, and that comes with SCINTII, the musical vehicle of Taiwanese singer and producer Stella Chung.

SCINTII released her first EP ‘Mica’ in 2017 which explored glitch and leftfield dance in a manner reminiscent to Dot Allison who made her name in ONE DOVE, particularly on its smoky title track. Meanwhile ‘Papier’ exuded the menace of GAZELLE TWIN although within a more chilled setting.

Her second EP ‘Aerial / Paperbags’ featured the gorgeous ‘Terminals’ and led to the Shanghai-based artist signing with Houndstooth, the independent label established in 2012 by the London superclub Fabric.

Comparisons are easy to make with the Beijing-born FIFI RONG as both have an exotic trip-hop influenced sound and ‘Deux’ could easily be mistaken for the Chinese YELLO and TRICKY collaborator with its eerie but accessible underground sound. SCINTII’s hypnotic new single ‘Times New Roman’ has been produced by Danny L Harle, best known for his remix of CHARLI XCX’s ‘After The Afterparty’ and his uplifting single ‘Super Natural’ in collaboration with Canadian starlet Carly Rae Jepsen.

The main melody came into SCINTII’s head while walking round a shopping mall. Using an interesting and intelligent analogy for the tune, she said: “Times New Roman is one of the main languages used in graphic design and this song is about finding that language for myself as an artist”.

The moody video for ‘Times New Roman’ has been directed by Kynan Puru Watt and produced by Dede Wen, capturing a deep icy austere. Alluring atmospheric with an understated rhythmic edge, ‘Times New Roman’ is beautifully elegant electronic pop and hopefully a sign of more to come.


‘Times New Roman’ is released by Houndstooth and available now in a digital bundle with remixes from https://scintii.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/scintii

https://twitter.com/sc_in_tii

https://www.instagram.com/sc_in_tii

https://soundcloud.com/scintii

https://www.houndstoothlabel.com/artist/scintii


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Hailun Ma
16th September 2020

YELLO Point

Switzerland’s YELLO have never been an act to over-expose themselves in relation to the product that they’ve released.

Previous album ‘Toy’ was released in 2016 and prior to that ‘Touch Yello’ came out in 2009; so after a four year gap we now have the duo’s latest work ‘Point’.

According to their label Universal, ‘Point’ takes the classic YELLO aesthetic of albums such as ‘Stella’, ‘One Second’ and ‘Flag’ and “twists it into something ultra-modern.” the sound “part spy film, part Dali-painting, part strobe lit dance floor, part 4D car chase and part deep space torch song. It’s YELLO, absolutely on point.”

Within the first 10 seconds of album opener ‘Waba Duba’, there is no mistaking that this IS YELLO; the track is based around a tribal Dieter Meier chant and punctuated with staccato horn stabs which recall their biggest hit ‘The Race’. Thankfully ‘Waba Duba’ doesn’t take itself too seriously with gibberish-style lyrics “Do you want me to do/Don’t take me for a fool/I’m only happy man/I jump out of the can”. All in all, ‘Waba Duba’ is a feelgood track with enough synth parts to satisfy fans of their more electronic work.

‘The Vanishing of Peter Stong’ starts like an EBM track with a menacing synth bassline, but the live drums and vocal narrative from Meier takes the piece into a completely different direction. Throughout the album comparisons could easily be made with THE ART OF NOISE, both acts are known for their sampling with Boris Blank having a huge sample collection (400,000+). ‘The Vanishing of Peter Strong’ features more rhythmic vocal sampling and the kind of production sheen that Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson cultivated with their associated ZTT acts.

‘Way Down’ features an offbeat skanking backbeat and a welcome female vocal layer above Meier’s trademark talking growl. Beautifully produced again with an amazing clarity to the drum sound; cinematic horns and echoed synth arpeggios excel on a short three minute track that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

‘Out of Sight’ starts like a distant cousin to KRAFTWERK and ‘Boing Boom Tschak’ before being joined by a “dum dum” vocal bass line which again echoes THE ART OF NOISE. The vocal sampling and stuttering of LES RYTHMES DIGITALES’ ‘Jacques Your Body’ seems to be an influence too…

‘Arthur Spark’ is far more electronic in nature, with low-slung synth bass sequencer work and APOLLO 440-ish vocodered vocals. A KRAFTWERK-style drum pattern dips in out of the track and subtle guitar work features throughout. What is admirable here is that five tracks in and each track has its own atmosphere with original sounds and none of the tracks become overly repetitive or linger around for too long (actually none of the songs on ‘Point’ are in excess of four minutes in length).

‘Core Shift’ features a fantastic synth breakdown at its 38 second mark, again another stunningly mixed track; if one worked in a hi-fi shop ‘Point’ would make a great sonic fidelity demonstration album.

‘Rush for Joe’ is a cheeky John Barry-style spy theme-in-waiting with added Korg M1 organ bass sounds, whilst album closer ‘Siren Singing’ features the only guest vocalist on the album with an appearance from British based Chinese artist Fifi Rong. ‘Siren Singing’ is an ambient downtempo piece which draws ‘Point’ to a more introspective conclusion. The only track not to feature Meier’s vocals and without him, results in a piece which is pretty un-YELLO like.

The deal breaker with YELLO has always been Dieter Meier’s vocals, he’s always been a storyteller rather than a singing vocalist, and there is no deviation from that template here. Arguably ‘Point’ would function better with more guest vocalists, but he is part of the duo’s signature sound and as album closer ‘Siren Singing’ proves, his absence ends up being missed.

From a production point of view, ‘Point’ is stunning throughout and although there are no huge stand-out tracks here, the album is a concise re-affirmation of the YELLO sound and long term fans will adore it.


‘Point’ is released via Universal Music, available as a collector’s box, CD, deluxe CD, vinyl LP and digital download

http://yello.com

https://www.facebook.com/yello.ch/

https://www.instagram.com/yello_official/


Text by Paul Boddy
14th September 2020

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