Tag: I Speak Machine (Page 1 of 3)

A Short Conversation with I SPEAK MACHINE

Although a personal album dealing with the themes of addiction and mental illness, the new I SPEAK MACHINE album ‘War’ is on point with regards its parallels to world events.

Adopting the dishevelled persona of a satanic Libertas, I SPEAK MACHINE is an audio visual project fronted by Tara Busch.

She released her first solo album ‘Pilfershire Lane’ in 2009 having previously been a member of DYNAMO DRESDEN alongside Maf Lewis and Rohan Tarry. Today, Lewis acts as Busch’s visual partner in I SPEAK MACHINE and together, they have worked on numerous horror / sci-fi film projects including ‘The Silence’ and ‘Zombies 1985’, giving their specialisms equal prominence.

Constructed remotely between Los Angeles and Sheffield over a three year period, ‘War’ has been co-produced by Dean Honer of I MONSTER, THE ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL and INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP fame. A severe but rather appealing and cerebral listening experience, ‘War’ offers cathartic joy despite a discomforting exorcism of demons.

Just before setting off to open for Gary Numan on the European leg of his ‘Intruder’ tour, Tara Busch spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about why I SPEAK MACHINE declared ‘War’…

‘War’ is quite different from previous I SPEAK MACHINE albums in that it’s not a soundtrack, it’s much more personal and entirely comprises of songs ie no instrumentals or interludes?

Yes. I wanted the songs and the voice front and center as the main elements. This album’s been brewing for a long time; it does have a lot of film-music DNA in it as well, and I feel like it would be a very different album without my composing experiences and live scores with Maf Lewis and I SPEAK MACHINE over the past 10 years. The deep dive into creating and performing live scores felt different and fresh, and I really craved exactly that. I’m glad we were able to just “follow our noses” and indulge ourselves in that concept, basically do whatever the hell we wanted.

So, in keeping with following our noses, I simply craved writing an album again. ‘War’ is simultaneously very much of the moment, yet a sort of anthology of everything I’ve done, all the versions of myself, including when I first started out in rock bands in the 90s. I actually did write interludes for a few of the songs at first – but it eventually felt like overkill as the album is already so dense. There needed to be some space.

The voice is very much central to this album and it features quite a bit of eerie vocal processing using Korg MS20 and vocoder?

Yes. This album was done 100% remotely, so any real-time analogue vocal manipulation was created, recorded and comped by me (the latter being not nearly as much fun). The topline of melody of ‘Santa Monica’ was created by singing through my MS20 through the external signal processor, which takes a lot of patience to get it just right – you have to really boost the signal first (which I chose to do with a Moogerfooger Ring Modulator). I then ran it into a Moogerfooger 104Z Analog Delay.

The very distinctive gnarly bass sound on ‘Ruined Me’ is also done by me singing through the MS20, oscillators 2 octaves down. The whole rest of the song was built around this bass. Comping the bass recordings together in a cohesive way was another story… quite gruelling picking through 2 hours of me grunting into a synth and improvising, which takes a whole other mindset – certainly the pragmatic “editor’s” mindset.

Using this process for voice is particularly fun as it picks up all the breathing and other noise… when you stop singing, it does this really odd sounding, crumbly drop, as if it’s somehow defeated and in some sort of distress. It brings such a human element to it. As for vocoder – here’s a really subtle bit of vocoder in ‘I See You’ that you can barely register, the Roland SVC350.

How did Dean Honer become involved? Were there any pieces of work of his that you admired?

Dean and I have known each other for quite some time, met probably somewhere around 2007 – I think it was Myspace! I was a big fan of I MONSTER, and dug a bit deeper to find out about his previous projects as well. We also played together in Sheffield at the Sensoria Festival, got to horse around in his studio for a bit when Maf and I were in town… he’s responsible for my Oberheim Two Voice obsession!

THE ALL SEEING I, MOONLANDINGZ, THE ERC and his work with ADD N TO X were big ones for me – but it was really I MONSTER that sucked me in, as well as a few projects he had done with Kevin Pierce. I’ve been involved in a few projects of his – I always knew our styles would be complimentary and I totally trust his judgement and he’s really straightforward, no bullsh*t. Plus the art direction on all his projects is always so f*cking cool, he has great taste. To boot, he’s also a killer mixing and mastering engineer.

Aside from that, I had been self-producing for many years since 2005, and really wanted to bring in a co-producer – but was a bit hesitant at first – production-wise, as a woman, you have to prove you can do EVERYTHING or it’s assumed you’ve done nothing. Very exhausting. I was sick of that sh*t, all the stupid double standards – yet sick of working alone… I really wanted to work with Dean and that superseded all the discrediting I’d possibly have to put up with. The album being what it needed to be, was of course more important.

What was the production relationship like between you both despite being an ocean apart?

I sent the songs to Dean after they were written, the later ones like ‘Beat Down By Heaven’ and ‘Rats Rise’ were produced to a point where I felt the gist / vision of the song was in there – but leaving him space to mangle it and have fun with it as well, plus some very general notes. Once we got some traction on the process, it flowed quite nicely. It did take a few years, as I also had a few film projects pop up so it slowed us down a lot- and of course Covid. It was hard to work (especially in 2020!) with so much anxiety and uncertainly around but we took it easy and got there.

I wanted and, dare I say, needed to be compassionate with myself. And I miraculously still loved the songs as time progressed. Some of the songs, like ‘Santa Monica’, ‘I See You’ and ‘Left For Dead’ existed for quite a few years, and were quite far along production-wise, whereas ‘Rats Rise’, ‘The Metal of My Hell’, ‘Beat Down By Heaven’ and ‘Until I Kill The Beast’ were written in a different timeframe and he had much more of a hand in those – especially ‘Beat Down by Heaven’ and ‘Rats Rise’. He really made those shine. Drums are his superpower, among many other great elements he added. I can hold my own programming drums and machines and experimenting with sounds, but he’s another level totally. Basically in the end, we were communicating mostly by WeTransfer files!

The ‘War’ album has this harsh sound but it is listenable and accessible, did you define distinct roles in how it was going to be made?

Not really; we didn’t need to do that once we got going. After the songs were written, I initially asked Dean to help with drum sounds, and add some sorcery on the programming if possible – but if he really wanted to try other sounds and experiment, have at it! Some songs like ‘War’ and ‘Beat Down By Heaven’ started out with weirdly processed drum machines as their basis (‘War’ being a Casio and Heaven being a Drum Brute Impact – both run through a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux whose feedback provided fundamental notes), which were very important elements, and Dean worked with those.

I was revisiting a fair bit of industrial music like MINISTRY, PRICK and REVOLTING COCKS – as well as properly discovering SUICIDE, CURVE, THE CRAMPS and ADD N TO X. And there’s always the ubiquitous Judy Garland and Doris Day running on a loop in my head as well. I wanted to blend in my film music sensibilities as well as very dense rhythmic elements. There is definitely an indescribable sweet spot with how this album feels. It is an odd bird.

As mentioned before, I gave Dean some limited notes to describe where I was coming from, but it really came down to just doing. There’s only so much you can do to describe what you haven’t made yet, you just have to give it space to become its own thing, I guess. The second one “tries” to sound like something specific, it drains any kind of magic out of it. You know the “essence draining” scene in ‘The Dark Crystal’? That.

Which synths featured most prominently on the album, did you have any favourite particular tools?

The Oberheim Two Voice is probably the most featured. Most of ‘The Metal of My Hell’ was made with the on-board sequencer (though some think it’s guitar, it is not.).

Also ‘Santa Monica’ is mostly Oberheim Two Voice and the vocal MS20 line, which was originally written for piano!

Otherwise it’s quite a big flurry of machines – Polyvoks on ‘Bloodletting’ and ‘War’, 808 and Minimoog Model D on ‘Rats Rise’, Arturia Drum Brute Impact through a ClusterFlux on ‘Beat Down By Heaven’. ‘Dirty Soul’ was created on a very old and banged up Rhythm Ace through a ring mod and delay, and a few top lines with a Roland SH5. Then ‘Until I Kill The Beast’ is all ARP 2600 and the 1613 Sequencer. The onboard spring reverb is so beautiful and ghostly. Dean added a bunch more too, of course. Polyvoks, WASP and OB6, I believe.

The ‘War’ title song that opens the album states its intentions, but had you been subconsciously channelling Gary Numan’s ‘Metal’?

Glad you caught that! It definitely has ‘Metal’ in there as an influence. It came about from me messing with my Casio SK1 (the “Pop Drums” program, I think) and then running that through a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux to make it all bendy and provide actual notes from the feedback.

‘War’ is a fierce body of work with songs titles like ‘The Metal of My Hell’, ‘Left For Dead’, ‘Ruined Me’ and ‘Dirty Soul’? What was your mindset?

Basically, for better or worse, I had to verbalize a bunch of sh*t so that it would stop destroying me. ‘The Metal of My Hell’ and ‘Left for Dead’ is addiction. ‘Ruined Me’ is the snarled confusion and fear from growing up with Catholic parents with a bit of dysmorphia and self-loathing thrown in. ‘Dirty Soul’ is basically shedding the self-loathing with a bit of mockery, bitterness and sarcasm. These may seem like done-to-death themes (addiction, mental illness, religion, shame, body dysmorphia) but they are new to me as far as expressing them. It’s basically external and internal war.

I had been battling an alcohol addiction since I was 25, and one day I just realized it was ultimately going to be the thing that kills me, plus the years of panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and not seeking help (I have luckily found the right meds now!); that plus the horrible state of the world politically and socially, I wanted to try and bring some light into my corner of the world via a bit of catharsis – maybe it could make someone else out there feel less alone, too. The only way I know how to feel better these days is make a noise (sorry, I really meant to keep it light!). In the back of my mind I knew I’d want to perform it live as well.

The sparser moods of ‘I See You’ allow for reflection, is that a real harp being used?

It’s harp samples with the built-in “tape delay” in Logic. Nothing fancy. I was obsessed with Clint Mansell’s ‘Moon’ score (‘The Nursery’) and Johan Johansson’s ‘The Sky’s Gone Dim’ – those certainly inspired me. That gentleness and very deep melancholy. I felt that way very often (melancholy) and it need to be part of the story.

Were ‘Santa Monica’ and ‘Push The Grease’ co-written with Kendra Frost of KITE BASE conceived when you both were on the ‘Troika’ tour in the UK back in 2016? How did the songs develop to the finished tracks they are now?

Kendra co-wrote ‘War’ and ‘Push The Grease’, not ‘Santa Monica’ – she sang backup and contributed vocal arrangements on ‘Santa Monica’. ‘War’ was originally created as part of a short film called ‘Deep Clean’ that KITE BASE and I worked on, and she came up with the “la-la-la-la” part, and I pulled together the weird bendy Casio part and verse / chorus with her la-las in mind… the ‘War’ lyric just happened as a result of how relentlessly awful living under the Trump Administration was. Anyway – never would have thought of any of it without her.

‘Push The Grease’ was when she visited me in LA on a stopover during KITE BASE’s support slot for NINE INCH NAILS in 2018 – and we were horsing around with her Tempest through the ClusterFlux. We had originally set out to cover ‘I’m Looking Through You’ by THE BEATLES, but it turned into something else. We sat and glued that one together over a few days; then began the production process with Dean – I love the drums he added on ‘Push The Grease’.

The cover of ‘Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)’ by CONCRETE BLONDE fits right into the concept of ‘War’, you’re no stranger to reinterpretation having tackled ‘Cars’, ‘Our House’, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ and ‘My Sex’ in the past, but what drew you towards this song?

This came about from a horror film I did the score for, ‘Jakob’s Wife’. The director Travis Stevens asked if I would be into covering ‘Bloodletting’ for a scene in the film, and it all rolled from there. It’s got stacks of Polyvoks and is another one make with the Arturia Drumbrute Impact through the ClusterFlux pedal. Same process – passed to Dean with some production notes and that was that! We were going for a bit of SLADE-like 70s glam. I actually was going to drop it from the album but Dean convinced me to keep it! There’s two versions out there – one on the ‘Jakob’s Wife’ score that Lakeshore Records released, and there’s the ‘War’ version.

The album closer ‘Until I Kill The Beast’ indicates that the fighting isn’t entirely over yet?

Well, this is going to sound a bit sappy, but here goes – the “beast-killing” that I refer to is really forgiveness and self-acceptance, not really a “fight”, per se. I think other tunes like ‘War’ and ‘The Metal of My Hell’ are more a result of the raw emotional shredding one goes through with addiction and mental illness. I had to get sparse and gentle with this one, which really is difficult for me. All voice, backing vocals and one instrument.

I SPEAK MACHINE is an audio visual project, so how did you decide which songs you would do promo videos for and the imagery that would be portrayed? Are there any interesting or funny stories from filming?

I’ll just say that these videos were really fun to make… incredibly tough physically, but fun. Handing this over to Maf Lewis, who is the wizard behind all of our visual elements:

“The first step is for me to fully understand the songs and any of Tara’s visual ideas. Keeping that in mind, I just listen to the songs in different environment – hiking, driving, in bed etc… and images come to me, or are expanded on. For ‘The Metal Of My Hell’ for instance, I felt it has to be a furious and fast video with lots of cuts, movement and aggression. I had visions of frantically and maniacally running through woods and tunnels. I had access to a Snorricam that was used in a short film I’d shot in the UK in 2011 – it straps to the actor and basically enables you to shoot a constant moving selfie. It’s great for a very dynamic and disorientating shot, and perfect for that idea. As the budgets for these videos are effectively sub $100 but wanting them to look like we’ve spend $20k, we’re always looking to use equipment we already have, locations that are free, and making good use of the things that we find – I like to think I’m the David Lynch of ‘The Wombles’.”

“As we’re generally shooting guerrilla style in Los Angles, we tend to encounter some weird stuff – an 18 wheeler truck racing around the LA river flats in the exact spot that the ‘Terminator 2’ truck and motorcycle chase scene was filmed, a naked man on horseback galloping through the woods (we reckoned it was an actor), and someone hitting golfballs at us from a nearby practice range. But none of that is particularly odd for LA. Ultimately we’re just lucky we didn’t find a body in the woods!”

You’ve been opening for Gary Numan on his US tour and are returning for the European dates, how has it gone so far and will you be making any adjustments for this next leg?

I’d never been on a tour that big and I had no idea how, at 48, I’d hold up – but it turns out it’s nothing short of electrifying and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had – especially since I’m in a place where I can be lucid and grateful. The US tour has been infinitely beneficial for us, just immense. We had so much fun. I mean, it’s been my dream to sing at the Fillmore where Janis Joplin once took the stage.

I’m so grateful to Gary and the whole crew, band and family for how wonderful they are to us. We luckily resonated well with the crowd, and were a really good fit. ‘War’ is a fun yet intense one to perform and I hope it shows. I’ve been dying just to go utterly batsh*t on stage again and these songs pretty much demand that. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s gone exactly as I wanted it to.

It helps infinitely to have Dean’s amazing ears mixing and mastering those backing tracks for live. For the EU, I’m dropping the synth and just running my backing tracks and voice. It took me a long time to get over any kind of inhibitions about doing it this way, but I wanted to be completely free to perform. I’m very inspired by artists like Billy Nomates that just use playback and f*cking destroy. It feels right to me now. It’s a thrilling, slightly scary leap into new territory, but I really want these songs to come across with the vocal and performance at full power, and I don’t want to do that from behind a synth.

Anyway, I couldn’t be more excited about the next tour, and incredibly grateful to be here doing this.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Tara Busch

‘War’ is available in various formats from https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/

I SPEAK MACHINE will be opening for Gary Numan in May and June 2022 – for further information, please visit https://www.ispeakmachine.com

https://www.facebook.com/ispeakmachine

https://twitter.com/ISpeakMachine

https://www.instagram.com/ispeakmachine/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Maf Lewis
23rd May 2022

I SPEAK MACHINE War

Adopting the dishevelled persona of a satanic Libertas, the new I SPEAK MACHINE long player ‘War’ captures the zeitgeist. Despite this, it is actually a more personal album dealing with the themes of addiction and mental illness.

I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio visual project of Tara Busch and Maf Lewis; their album ‘Zombies 1985’ produced by John Foxx collaborator Benge was a soundtrack to a short horror sci-fi film about a Zombie Apocalypse. One of the best albums of 2017, it was notable for Busch’s own restylings of singers as diverse as Doris Day, Alison Goldfrapp and Grace Jones.

Constructed remotely between Los Angeles and Sheffield over a three year period, ‘War’ has been co-produced by Dean Honer of I MONSTER, THE ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL and INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP fame. He has done a particularly good job with the jagged sound design. Meanwhile Busch has processed her voice as a central instrument, bending it through effects, vocoders and a Korg MS-20 as Will Gregory did with Alison Goldfrapp on the ‘Felt Mountain’ album.

Short and sweet with reminiscences of Gary Numan’s ‘Metal’, the screeching title song opener sets the scene and declares the album’s intentions with a rumbling backdrop. Embroiled in menace and some eerie flute, ‘Left For Dead’ cuts and bleeds and frightens while the progressive avant-funk of ‘Beat Down By Heaven’ is aided by sharper objects such as guitar, sub-bass and distorted claptraps.

Featuring backing vocals from Kendra Frost of KITE BASE and shaped by a dysfunctional analogue sequence, the wonderful Sci-Fi goth of ‘Santa Monica’ acts as an ironic love letter to Los Angeles, making use of Busch’s impressive vocal range from high soprano to deep contralto.

With a salvo of industrial Schaffel to shape a cover of American alt rockers CONCRETE BLONDE’s ‘Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)’, this is how GOLDFRAPP might sound if contributing to a Wes Craven movie. Sparser than the other tracks, ‘Dirty Soul’ weirdly echoes David Essex’s ‘Rock On’ while crossing paths with Patti Page on Venus. Then with a sense of foreboding in line with Gary Numan’s more recent work, ‘Ruined Me’ sees Busch point the finger at her dependency and how it has contaminated her aura.

Acting as a beautiful harp interlude, the soothing ‘I See You’ is counterpointed by a foreboding presence. But ramping up the pressure, as its title suggests, ‘The Metal of My Hell’ is a fierce aural assault of frantic heavy metal with synths and an aggressive rage as Busch decides to “burn the witch” and “burn the bitch” because “you had it coming for a long time!”.

A co-write with Kendra Frost, the ghostly ‘Push The Grease’ presents a stuttering percussive tension and another processed otherworldly vocal. Feisty and frantic, ‘Rats Rise’ is the final battle as the dirty rodents leave the sinking ship but with shades of ‘Clowns’ by GOLDFRAPP, the angelic ‘Until I Kill The Beast’ offers peace and tranquillity although the discordant metallic embellishments confirm that work is still to be done as “the devil sits with me until I kill the beast”.

There is cathartic joy in the discomforting exorcism that is the ‘War’ album; I SPEAK MACHINE’s bizarre mix of timbres and styles provide a severe but rather appealing and cerebral listening experience. If you are going to see Gary Numan on his European tour in May and June, arrive early because guess who is opening?


‘War’ is available as a double red vinyl LP and CD from https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/

I SPEAK MACHINE will be opening for Gary Numan in May and June 2022 – for further information, please visit https://www.ispeakmachine.com

https://www.facebook.com/ispeakmachine

https://twitter.com/ISpeakMachine

https://www.instagram.com/ispeakmachine/

https://open.spotify.com/album/2Dk8489XblJsoNBqXEOVIX


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Maf Lewis
22nd April 2022

I SPEAK MACHINE The Metal of My Hell

With the Western Powers is a rather tense and scary stand-off with Russia over Ukraine as if The Cold War had never ended, I SPEAK MACHINE’s ‘The Metal of My Hell’ from the upcoming album ‘War’ is rather on point.

A fierce aural assault of frantic heavy metal machine music using synths, Busch declares in a raging if tongue-in-cheek manner: “burn the witch / burn the bitch… you had it coming for a long time!”.

I SPEAK MACHINE is the audio visual project of Tara Busch and Maf Lewis; their album ‘Zombies 1985’ was ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite album of 2017. While that collection made use of Busch’s impressive vocal range from high soprano to deep contralto and a previous 2011 single ‘Rocket Woman’ came over like Doris Day in outer space, her voice takes on an aggressive devilish tone for ‘The Metal of My Hell’.

Angry and claustrophobic with screeching horror flick strings, ‘The Metal of My Hell’ is appropriately complimented by the Maf Lewis directed video filmed in the dusty, sweltering fire roads of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Using an iPhone 13 Pro Max in 4K with Filmic Pro, it captures Busch adopting some dishevelled symbolism like Libertas gone goth…

While Tara Busch has previously worked with the likes of Benge, John Foxx and John Fryer, as well toured with Gary Numan and Hannah Peel, ‘War’ has been co-produced by Dean Honer of I MONSTER, THE ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL and INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP fame; the album was constructed remotely between LA and Sheffield over a three year period.

While ‘Zombies 1985’ was the soundtrack to a short horror sci-fi film about a self-obsessed man who fails to notice the Zombie Apocalypse happening around him, ‘War’ is a much more personal album dealing with themes of addiction and mental illness.

As I SPEAK MACHINE prepares to go out on tour soon supporting Gary Numan on his US ‘Intruder’ dates beginning on 23rd February at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, war is coming…


‘The Metal of My Hell’ is from the new album ‘War’ out on 22nd April 2022 in double red vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, pre-order via https://singinglight.link/ispeakmachine-war

https://www.ispeakmachine.com

https://www.facebook.com/ispeakmachine

https://twitter.com/ISpeakMachine

https://www.instagram.com/ispeakmachine/

https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photoby Maf Lewis
13th February 2022

A Beginner’s Guide To BENGE

Developing on a childhood fascination with electronic sound, after finishing art school, Ben Edwards set up a music studio in London and began acquiring discarded vintage synthesizers on sale for next to nother to equip it.

Under his nickname of Benge, he released his debut album ‘Electro-Orgoustic Music’ in 1995 on his own Expanding Label.

But in 2011, he became best known for his role as Chief Mathematician and collaborative partner in JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS.

By this time, what had now become Benge’s MemeTune Studios was housing one of the largest collections of working vintage synthesizers in the world and was the location for several interviews filmed for the BBC documentary ‘Synth Britannia’.

Among the equipment were modular systems from Moog, Serge, E-Mu, Formant and Buchla, the ARP 2500 and 2600, digital systems like the Synclavier and Fairlight CMI, drum machines including the Linn LM1, Roland TR808 and CR78 as well as classic polyphonic keyboards such as the Yamaha CS80, Polymoog, Oberheim 4-Voice, ARP Omni and the less celebrated EMS Polysynthi.

As a collaborator, John Foxx said Benge was “Really good – Intelligent, knowledgeable, technically blinding. He does remind me of Conny Plank. Same generosity and ability, same civilized manner – even looks similar.”

Benge left London and relocated MemeTune Studios to Cornwall in 2015, but with artists savouring this more remote setting near some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in England, he is now busier than ever as his recent production portfolio has shown.

So by way of a Beginner’s Guide to Benge, here are eighteen examples of his work, subject to a limit of one track per artist moniker or combination, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. As his own blog says “It’s full of stars”!


TENNIS Weakness Together (2001)

Benge’s instrumental duo with Douglas Benford, TENNIS released their second album ‘Europe On Horseback’ just as dub electronica seemed to be all the rage. Scratchy and weirdly hypnotic with hidden hooks at over eight and a half minutes, the metallic percussive notions of ‘Weakness Together’ with its metronomic rhythms and solemn Cold War synths came together for a great highlight. A third long player ‘Furlines’ emerged in 2003 with ‘The Horseback Mixes’ as a bonus.

Available on the TENNIS album ‘Europe On Horseback’ via BiP_Hop Records

https://www.instagram.com/memetunestudio/


BENGE 1969 EMS VCS3 (2008)

Noted for his experimental solo albums, Benge’s most acclaimed was 2008’s ‘Twenty Systems’. It was an insightful soundtrack exploring how electronic sound architecture has evolved from using transistors to integrated circuits and from ladder filters to Fourier approximation. With each track crafted from a singular instrument, Brian Eno described it as “A brilliant contribution to the archaeology of electronic music” while it was via this album that Benge came to the attention of John Foxx.

Available on the BENGE album ‘Twenty Systems’ via Expanding Records

https://twitter.com/zackdagoba


SERAFINA STEER How To Haunt A House Party (2010)

Legend has it that Serafina Steer’s union with Benge occurred when her harp was stolen and he made synths available to fill in for the intended harp parts. One of the more electronic tracks ‘How To Haunt A House Party’ added drum machine and the spacey accompaniment complimented the songstress’ quirky brand of kitchen sink introspection. ‘Change is Good, Change is Good’ got an endorsement from Jarvis Cocker, the PULP front man declaring it one of his favourite albums of the year.

Available on the SERAFINA STEER album ‘Change Is Good, Change Is Good’ via Static Caravan

http://www.serafinasteer.com/


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS Watching A Building On Fire (2011)

Joining forces with Benge, John Foxx found the perfect creative foil to further his earlier analogue ambitions, only this time combined with a warmth that had not been apparent on ‘Metamatic’ or his work with Louis Gordon. The best track on their debut album ‘Interplay’ was a co-written duet with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON entitled ‘Watching A Building On Fire’. With its chattering drum machine and accessible Trans- European melodies, it was an obvious spiritual successor to ‘Burning Car’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Interplay’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


OMD Dresden – JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix (2013)

The first band that the young Ben Edwards ever saw live was OMD, thanks to them opening for Gary Numan in 1979. He presented a suitably harsh remix to suit the harrowing lyrical tone of ‘Dresden’. But Andy McCluskey of OMD said: “‘Dresden’ is a whopping great, unsubtle metaphor… it’s not about the bombing of Dresden in the same way as ‘Enola Gay’ was about the aeroplane that dropped the atom bomb.”

Available on the OMD single ‘Dresden’ via BMG

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


GAZELLE TWIN Exorcise (2014)

The moniker of Elizabeth Bernholz, the secomd GAZELLE TWIN second album ‘Unflesh’ with additional production and mixing by Benge, allowed the Brighton-based songstress to extract her demons with some artistic violence. One of the highlights ‘Exorcise’ was an impressively aggressive cross between PINK FLOYD’s ‘One The Run’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’. Its uneasy resonance was aided by Bernholz’s harsh, deadpan commentary.

Available on the GAZELLE TWIN album ‘Unflesh’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray

https://www.gazelletwin.com/


HANNAH PEEL & BENGE Find Peace (2014)

Hannah Peel joined JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in 2011 and became one of the MemeTune family, eventually taking over the studio space when Benge relocated. At the time her most overtly electronic song yet, she teamed up with Benge for a haunting modern day seasonal hymn. With a suitably poignant message, ‘Find Peace’ was a Christmas song longing for the cold but merry winters of yesteryear under the modern day spectre of global warming, armed conflict and political tension.

Available on the HANNAH PEEL single ‘Find Peace’ via My Own Pleasure

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


WRANGLER Lava Land (2014)

A trio featuring Benge, Stephen Mallinder ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE and of TUNNG’s Phill Winter, the WRANGLER manifesto was to harness “lost technology to make new themes for the modern world”. ‘Lava Land’ saw Mallinder’s voice manipulations ranging from demonic gargoyle to stern drowning robot. The frantic pace was strangely danceable but the twisted mood was distinctly unsettling and dystopian, especially when the screeching steam powered Logan string machine kicked in.

Available on the WRANGLER album ‘LA Spark’ via by Memetune Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/


GHOST HARMONIC Codex (2015)

GHOST HARMONIC omprisedof John Foxx and Benge alongside violinist Diana Yukawa. ‘Codex’ evolved over the space of a couple of years. Foxx said: “the underlying intention was we all wanted to see what might happen when a classically trained musician engaged with some of the possibilities a modern recording studio can offer…” The result was a startling dynamic between Yukawa’s heavily treated violin and the looming electronics. Closing the album, the title track was a string and synth opus of soothing bliss.

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS featuring GARY NUMAN Talk (2016)

‘Talk’ has been used by John Foxx to explore different approaches from a singular idea with other kindred spirits such as Tara Busch and Matthew Dear. ‘Talk (Are You Listening To Me?)’ finally saw Gary Numan working on a track with his long-time hero who he had admired since the ULTRAVOX! days. His take naturally screamed alienation and fully exploited his haunting classic synth overtures, thanks to Benge’s use of a Polymoog and his effective application of its swooping ribbon controller.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ’21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City’ via Metamatic Records

http://garynuman.com/


FADER 3D Carpets (2017)

While BLANCMANGE’s ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ was the first time Benge and Neil Arthur worked together, their FADER duo project saw the former instigating the music as opposed to working on already written songs. Working on their parts separately, Neil Arthur said “In FADER, Benge will send me the embryonic musical idea and I’m reacting to what he’s given me” ;‘3D Carpets’ captured an independent post-punk intensity, like JOY DIVISION or THE CURE but realised with electronics rather than guitars.

Available on the ‘First Light’ via Blanc Check Records

https://www.facebook.com/WeAreFader/


I SPEAK MACHINE Shame (2017)

“Benge and I had always wanted to write together, so we took the opportunity to do so here, by expanding on the ‘Zombies 1985’ world.” said Tara Busch of how he became involved in the soundtrack of I SPEAK MACHINE’s short film about greed and self-obsession in Thatcher’s Britain as a businessman drives home, oblivious to a zombie apocalypse going on around him. The brilliant ‘Shame’ was a wonderful hybrid of THROBBING GRISTLE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and GOLDFRAPP.

Available on the album ‘Zombies 1985’ via Lex Records

https://www.ispeakmachine.com/


LONE TAXIDERMIST Home (2017)

LONE TAXIDERMIST is the vehicle of Cumbrian lass Natalie Sharp, a performance artist who believes “Your body is a sensory device”. With Phill Winter of TUNNG and WRANGLER among the collaborators, Benge acted as co-producer and released the album himself. The debut album’s opening song ‘Home’ made Sharp’s avant pop intentions clear with a catchy throbbing outline and a wonderfully wayward vocal style crossing Grace Jones with Ari Up.

Available on the LONE TAXIDERMIST album ‘Trifle’ via MemeTune Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/lonetaxidermist/


BLANCMANGE In Your Room (2018)

Working with Benge again on what was effectively their third album together, Neil Arthur has undoubtedly found comfort in their partnership. ‘Wanderlust’ was possibly BLANCMANGE’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation and from it, ‘In Your Room’ was a great slice of vintage robopop, with a vocoder aesthetic and an assortment of manipulated sounds at a reasonably uptempo pace. “Lyrically it was about being content with something quite simple” added Arthur.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ via Blanc Check Records

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


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound (2018)

With eclectic US singer / songwriter John Grant joining forces with the WRANGLER boys Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phill Winter at MemeTune Studios, CREEP SHOW was something of an electronic meeting of minds. On the resultant album ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK vs Moroder hybrid using dark analogue electronics, gradually revealing some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Mr Dynamite’ via Bella Union

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/


JOHN GRANT He’s Got His Mother’s Hips (2018)

Following the artistic success of the CREEP SHOW collaboration, it was only natural that Benge would step up to produce John Grant’s number four solo album ‘Love Is Magic’ to more allow the Icelandic-domiciled American to fully embrace his love of electronic music. Making use of a vintage synth brass line, the mutant crooner disco of ‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’ was driven by a delicious synthetic groove while not forgetting to include an uplifting chorus.

Available on the JOHN GRANT album ‘Love Is Magic’ via Bella Union

https://johngrantmusic.com/


LUMP Hand Hold Hero (2018)

Lyrically inspired by the apparent emptiness of contemporary life, when British nu-folk queen Laura Marling teamed up with Mike Lindsay, co-founder of acid-folkies TUNNG and Benge’s one-time partner-in-crime, it called for something out-of-the-box and that came courtesy of Benge’s Moog Modulars. A hypnotic sequencer line provided the backbone to ‘Hand Hold Hero’ for a rather unusual slice of Sci-Fi Country ‘N’ Western that met ‘On the Run’ somewhere on the Virginia plains.

Available on the LUMP album ‘Lump’ via Dead Oceans

https://www.facebook.com/thisisLUMP/


OBLONG Echolocation (2019)

It only took 13 years to follow-up their debut record ‘Indicator’, but with the second OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’, the trio of Benge, Dave Nice and Sid Stronarch delivered a collection of rustic electro-acoustic organically farmed electronica! With mood and pace, ‘Echolocation’ was a classic synth instrumental with its crystalline textures and charming slightly off-key blips, aurally reflecting the remote moorland location in Cornwall where it was recorded.

Available on the OBLONG album ‘The Sea At Night’ via MemeTune Recordings

https://twitter.com/oblongtheband


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th March 2020

IMI Interview

Leeds based singer / songwriter IMI has made a fine impression in 2019 as one of the most promising new synth acts of the year.

Blessed with a glorious soprano in the vein of Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch, what has also stood out, despite having only released a single and EP so far, is the widescreen aesthetic of her music with sharp electronic melodies and inventive arrangements.

Of her single ‘Margins’ from the ‘Lines’ EP, one-time Numan sideman and co-writer of VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ Chris Payne said: “Very impressive. She has an amazing voice and very nice synths to surround it.”

Encapsulating the filmic ambition of GOLDFRAPP circa ‘Felt Mountain’ and its delightful oddness, IMI is undoubtedly one of the keys to a sustainable synthy future. She will be playing at Electrowerkz in London on Saturday 30th November 2019 alongside REIN and KOMPUTER.

IMI kindly talked about her past, present and future…

Your sound has an interesting mix of electronic, trip-hop and classical, what is your own musical background?

I was classically trained from the age of 8, but I only started embracing that side of my voice over the past few years when I realised I could re-contextualise it within a more electronic setting. I didn’t really start listening to electronic music until I moved up to Leeds in 2012 for University where I was exposed to the likes of PORTISHEAD and JAMES BLAKE. In 2014 I formed the dream pop band LENIN which gave me my first taste of performing live and ultimately inspired a continued fascination with writing and performing music.

Your voice is incredible, what’s its range? Do you see yourself as a singer, or a songwriter first?

Thank you, my range is about E2 – C5 give or take. Singing was ultimately what led me down the path of music when I was younger, but I often shun my responsibility as a singer as I’m more fascinated by sound design and songwriting.

How did the melodic synth element enter the fray?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened, as I had been noodling with software synths in GarageBand from when I first got my MacBook Pro in 2011 when my friends and family all chipped in to help me buy it for my birthday. Since then I have been led by my same naive curiosity to create something I haven’t heard before, whether it’s some weird wonky synth or an amalgamation of seemingly polar opposite sounds.

Your father was a New Romantic?

My Dad was away in the Navy a lot when I was young, so years later when I was studying at college, he would help me catch up and teach me all about music history and the bands he listened to growing up.

He loved an eclectic mix of THE STRANGLERS, ROXY MUSIC and DAVID BOWIE; him and my Mum shared a few common interests in bands like VISAGE and I seem to remember hearing ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’ on full blast which my sisters and I would sing along to triumphantly!

To the casual listener, GOLDFRAPP springs to mind with your work, have they been a favourite act of yours over the past few years?

I hadn’t actively listened to GOLDFRAPP until 2016 when I remember getting really into the ‘Felt Mountain’ album. I had just graduated and left education for the first time in my life and was honestly struggling with the realities of the real world. This album came to me like a shining beacon of light, reminding me of the potential for music to transport you to another place, which is the encouragement I needed to continue writing. The result of which was ‘Margins’, or at least an early version of it.

Your first single ‘Born For What?’ was an eclectic mix of styles and it’s a good song, although in hindsight it sounds as though you were undecided on your sound?

‘Born For What?’ was the beginning of a more industrial sound, which was exciting for me at the time as I had felt relatively trapped within quite a melancholic musical space. It was a stepping stone in allowing me to get where I am now, safe in the knowledge that I am not confined by style or genre.

Then came ‘Margins’ which was something of an epic, how did that come together?

‘Margins’ was written almost a year before the other tracks, and it was one of those strange songs that just materialises in front of you. It went through several transmutations after its initial inception, originally written for piano and vibraphone. Before I brought it to the studio, I re-harmonised several elements of it and reimagined it with a synth backdrop. The same theatrical drama shone through, but the industrial electronic aesthetic balanced out its ethereal nature.

What was it like to make your first promotional video for ‘Margins’?

Being a solo artist makes it difficult to create a visually appealing music video on a budget, especially for someone who hates being in front of a camera.

Luckily filming in a garage in the freezing winter of Leeds took my mind off of my anxieties, and director Joey Haskey’s experimentation with colour and lighting offers a visual feast that I think translates the vibrancy of the track.

Was ‘I Feel Alright’ written from your own first-hand experience? Also, it features a quite pronounced anthemic lead synth theme too…

This song was written after a few years of struggling with some personal issues and it was a celebration of finally feeling ok and feeling hopeful about the future. It will always hold special value to me for that reason, and when times are difficult, I’ll often look back and acknowledge that I’ve conquered that feeling before and I can do it again.

‘The Fence’ starts minimally with a lone synthbass note and then gradually builds, you do have a sense of drama?

‘The Fence’ was one of the few tracks to unravel in front of me lyrically. It originally started as a location recording I took when I was at home in Cornwall. The recording was of an electric fence, and the very idea of a fence conjured up that old saying “the grass is always greener”. It’s quite easy to look at other people’s lives and think they have it all sorted, only to make yourself feel worse about your own situation.

This song was my oath to try to view my own life through a different perspective so that I wasn’t always longing for the other side of the fence. The original location recording didn’t make it to the final recording, but the instrumentation was designed to reflect the growing solidarity of my statement.

With the video for ‘The Fence’, you opted to give a director freedom to do a visual interpretation rather than appear in it yourself? Were there any particular reasons?

I was initially going to have more of a live video setup for this track, but when a mutual friend showed me Deni Pesto’s work, I completely U-turned on the idea as his work resonated with me in a way I can’t really describe. When we were exchanging ideas and he sent over some mood boards, it was as if he had literally leapt into my mind. That sort of cohesion of understanding in collaboration is quite rare so I was happy for him to take the lead and create what he thought was right. I think it is a beautiful video in itself, and like my own music, it is fairly ambiguous and the viewer/listener can draw what they need from it.

Photo by Simon Helm

Presenting electronic music live has its own challenges as you found for a moment at The Finsbury gig recently… how does it feel to perform alone, compared with a band, orchestra or choir?

It can be quite stressful when technology fails you and there’s nothing else to pick up the slack, but when things go right it can be extremely cathartic and it’s one of the few times I feel completely present in the moment. I’ve had the vision from the beginning to get involved with a visual artist to add another dimension to the live show.

I played a show at my college a few years ago and had three large white balloons suspended from the ceiling with lights illuminating them and offering an immersive space to absorb my music in. While balloons might not be the most feasible thing to replicate, one of my next challenges is to see how I can create a little of that magic on stage.

Your keyboard of choice is a Moog Sub Phatty, with so many instruments on the market, what made you decide on that particular one?

I bought my Moog Sub Phatty for my old band LENIN, so I was looking for something that could produce some big bass and lead lines while I was singing.

At the time I didn’t know much about synthesizers, but it is really tactile and it’s not too complicated to understand so it was the perfect starting synth for me.

How are you finding exploring different hardware and software in the studio, what tools have you particularly taken to in your recording process?

When I’m writing, I only have access to predominately software (with the exception of my Moog Sub Phatty and some Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators), so I’ll often map out different ideas with the Arturia V Collection which has an expansive array of sounds. For the past four tracks I’ve recorded, I’ve worked with Matt Peel who has a growing collection of synths and other wonderful things in his studio The Nave in Leeds.

Each time I go there I discover something new, the last time we were recording, Jacob Marston of DEAD NAKED HIPPIES was playing on some old Simmons drum pads to create the thunderous toms in ‘The Fence’. I’m currently looking for my next investment for my home set-up, some of the Roland Boutique range are looking like appealing options but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Photo by Simon Helm

You will be opening for REIN in London, what can the audience expect if they arrive at Electrowerkz early?

I’m working on some new material at the moment that I might share in London. But as it stands, this will probably be my last performance with my current setup.

It’s been a challenging but equally wonderful few years since my first single release and I’m hoping to celebrate this and to share this with others in November.

What are you own hopes and fears for your future in music?

When I was writing this music, my visions were far grander than were feasibly possible and it’s quite easy to feel deflated when things don’t meet certain expectations, especially when there’s no-one else to share and balance the burden. Something that I think is important for me moving forward is to work with others and I’m really excited at that prospect as I am keen to learn from others and expand my understanding of music.


ELECTRICITY.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to IMI

The ‘Lines’ EP is released by Bibliotek, available as a CD or download direct from https://imimusicuk.bandcamp.com/album/lines

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/

https://www.instagram.com/imimusicuk/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0GKGK6KIlrmJM4C4UJGMJI


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Portia Hunt except where credited
16th October 2019

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