Tag: Italoconnection (Page 1 of 2)

2021 End Of Year Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2021

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2021

Despite the general appetite for nostalgia with boxed sets and coloured vinyl of classic albums hogging the pressing plants, there was a lot of excellent new music released in 2021.

The quality of individual tracks released in 2021 was extremely high but at the end of the day, only 30 songs can be selected as a snapshot of the calendar year. As Monica Geller in ‘Friends’ once said, “Rules are good, rules help control the fun” – rules, routine and structure = creativity and fun ?

So the highly commended group who did not quite make ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021 includes Tobias Bernstrup, David Cicero, Alice Hubble, Michael Oakley, Jason Priest, Nina, Eric Random and Kat Von D’s duet with Peter Murphy, along with SIN COS TAN, FIAT LUX, LONELADY, GLITBITER, KNIGHT$, PEAKES, DESIRE, SOFTWAVE, XENO & OAKLANDER, BUNNY X, PISTON DAMP, FRAGRANCE. and HANTE.

So here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021, presented as usual alphabetically by act with a restriction of one song per artist moniker.


ACTORS Love U More

Thanks to the recruitment of new bassist Kendall Wooding, the male-to-female ratio of ACTORS has equalled up and altered their dynamic. The vocal duality between guitarist Jason Corbett and keyboardist Shannon Hemmett aka LEATHERS takes an increased role in the band’s developing sound. With the brooding baritone counterpointed by girly soprano and male falsetto to provide an uneasy uplift to the gloomy domino dance, ‘Love U More’ was a statement of intent like a goth DURAN DURAN with metronomic rhythms and eerie synths.

Available on the album ‘Acts Of Worship’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.actorstheband.com/


BAND ELECTRONICA featuring MIDGE URE Das Beat

Midge Ure finally launched his BAND ELECTRONICA project as a recording entity with ‘Das Beat’, a glorious slice of Teutonic robopop in collaboration with Wolfgang Flür. With “Beats through wires, beats through walls”, the icy motorik bossa nova was complimented by a blisteringly catchy synth hook in the classic Kling Klang tradition and harked back the Glaswegian’s days hearing KRAFTWERK at The Blitz Club and making music with VISAGE and ULTRAVOX. Dancing is a given to the synthesizer rhythm.

Available on the single ‘Das Beat’ via BMG Rights Management

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


JORJA CHALMERS Rhapsody

Although a seasoned musician as the sax and keyboard player for Bryan Ferry over the past 10 years, Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers did not release her first album until 2019. The superb take on SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES ‘Rhapsody’, an orchestrated gothic epic off their ninth album ‘Peepshow’, featured an intriguing electronic warble within its stripped down arrangement. From its claustrophobic cocoon, Chalmers sounded trapped inside an unsettling icy soundscape of synthetic strings and choirs.

Available on the album ‘Midnight Train’ via Italians Do it Better

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/


CLASS ACTRESS Saint Patrick

CLASS ACTRESS is the nom de théâtre of one-time Giorgio Moroder protégée Elizabeth Harper. Releasing a new EP ‘Sense Memory’ which initially featured three cover including THE SMITHS’ ‘Ask’ but steadily expanded with new material, the percussive ‘Saint Patrick’ featured an array of infectious synth hooks while Harper’s richly passionate vocal over some strident keyboard work combined like Nerina Pallot fronting BOY HARSHER for a brilliant slice of modern electronic pop.

Available on the EP ‘Sense Memory’ via Terrible Records

https://classactress.com/


HATTIE COOKE I Get By

Perhaps more intentionally pop than Hattie Cooke has ever been before on her previous two long playing outings, an intimate gravitas comes with the expanded electronic texturing on her third album ‘Bliss Land’ and this is undoubtedly stamped on its opening song. The hypnotic ‘I Get By’ was superb with ringing hooks, sweeping soundscapes and airy understated vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Italians Do It Better ‘After Dark’ compilation.

Available on the album ‘Bliss Land’ via Castles In Space

https://twitter.com/hattiecooke


DANZ CM Human Existence

‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’ is the debut album by DANZ CM, the artist formally known as COMPUTER MAGIC. New York based Danz Johnson is the synth girl behind both vehicles with a passion for the development of the electronic music. Reflecting the album’s title, the total melancholic brilliance of ‘Human Existence’ sees our heroine make a sombre declaration that “you can’t save me, I can’t save you” in a manner reminiscent of CHROMATICS meeting OMD.

Available on the album ‘The Absurdity Of Human Existence’ via Channel 9 Records

https://www.zdanz.com/


DAWN TO DAWN Care

Danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN feature in its line-up Tess Roby who released her debut album ‘Beacon’ on Italians Do It Better. Also featuring Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee with their Minimoog, Roland System 100, Roland Juno 60 and Korg 700s armoury, ’Care’ was written on a cold winter’s night and unsurprisingly captures that mood. Nocturnal yet rhythmic, Roby’s alluring folk-tinged vocal offsets the various synthetic overtures for a mysterious weightless quality.

Available on the single ‘Care’ via https://dawntodawn.bandcamp.com/track/care

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


DEVOIR Mercer

Leeds based duo DEVOIR comprise of Imogen Holmes who released the impressive ‘Lines’ EP as IMI and Jacob Marston. A product of lockdown, although ‘Mercer’ is entirely electronic, it differs slightly from IMI in its four-to-the-floor construction. So imagine GOLDFRAPP at an Alpine rave in the Hornlihutte basecamp next to The Matterhorn. As the cinematic techno builds, the magnificent voice that graced IMI soars and shines, expressing itself at the extremes of alluring spoken word and piercing high soprano.

Available on the single ‘Mercer’

https://www.facebook.com/wearedevoir


DIAMOND FIELD feat BELINDA BRADLEY A Kiss Apart

DIAMOND FIELD is the musical vehicle of Andy Diamond, the New York based Kiwi who, looks to studio icons such as Hugh Padgham, Rupert Hine and Peter Wolf as his heroes. With a backing track like NEW ORDER’s ‘Your Silent Face’ reworked by OMD, ‘A Kiss Apart’ is superb and sees a velvet performance by Belinda Bradley of New Zealand collective SELON RECLINER; akin to the other Belinda, Ms Carlisle crossed with Marcella Detroit there is a gorgeous chorus and some great synth interventions recalling lost Mute trio PEACH.

Available on the album ‘Diamond Field’ via Sofa King

https://diamondfieldmusic.com/


DLINA VOLNY Bipolar

Inspired by the spectre of the former Soviet Union, Minsk trio DLINA VOLNY explore post-punk with a dance beat not unlike NEW ORDER. Having already had two albums already under their belt and singing in English with an inherent Eastern Bloc gloom in Masha Zinevitch’s vocals throughout their Italians Do It Better period, their fifth single for the label ‘Bipolar’ was dark disco with plenty of synth and mystery that asked “But what is it like being on the border?”.

Available on the album ‘Dazed’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/dlina_volny/


LAURA DRE All Day, All Night

With her mix of modern synthpop and synthwave coupled to her deep nonchalant vocals, Laura Dre captures the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’, but with a sexy enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired groove that wouldn’t go amiss in a West Berlin nightclub. The glorious uptempo disco number ‘All Day, All Night’ offers great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious percussive base. It’s a number for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS, complete with a classic Tennant / Lowe styled instrumental middle eight.

Available on the album ‘Moving Spaces’ via Outland Recordings

https://lauradre.com/


DURAN DURAN Featuring CHAI More Joy!

Celebrating 40 years as recording artists, DURAN DURAN released their 15th studio album ‘Future Past’ in a “live for the moment” reference of how something today can become a cherished memory in times to come. The chiptune inspired ‘More Joy!’ was reminiscent of past glories, its syncopated disco poise capturing DURAN DURAN at what they do best and with hypnotic electronics offset by a wonderful bass guitar run and chants by Japanese rock band CHAI, its exuberant manner presented the right dose of escapism.

Available on the album ‘Future Past’ via Tape Modern / BMG

http://www.duranduran.com/


GLÜME Get Low

Like a tattooed Marilyn Monroe dropped into Twin Peaks, GLÜME is a shimmering new starlet in the Italians Do It Better stable. From her debut album ‘The Internet’, ‘Get Low’ was an intriguing slice of accessible avant pop about the high of falling for someone where brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected. Applying some rumbling electronic bass, stabbing vintage synths and simple but prominent digital drum beats, ‘Get Low’ sounded not unlike an experimental hybrid of OMD and LADYTRON!

Available on the album ‘The Internet’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.facebook.com/babyglume


ROBIN HATCH Airplane

Made using the T.O.N.T.O. synth complex created Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff which was made famous by Stevie Wonder, the same titled album is the fifth solo body of work by the Toronto-based neoclassical composer and multi-instrumentalist Robin Hatch. The sinister ‘Airplane’ took shape around an avant garde soundscape. Utilising the talents of doom metal violinist Laura Bates of VOLUR alongside the synthetic strings and hypnotic generative blips, this encapsulated an unsettling gothic grandeur.

Available on the album ‘T.O.N.T.O.’ via Robin Records

https://twitter.com/robinhatch


ITALOCONNECTION featuring ETIENNE DAHO Virus X

For Italian musician veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti, the ethos of ITALOCONNECTION is “to sound vintage in a modern way”. The superb ‘Virus X’ featuring French veteran Etienne Daho sprung a surprise as a suave slice of Gallic synthwave. With its downbeat verse and an emotive chorus, this was as a fitting musical document of the past year and half’s tensions while using toxic personal relationships as a poignant lyrical analogy.

Available on the album ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ via Bordello A Parigi

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection


JAKUZI Hiç Işık Yok

Hailing from Turkey, JAKUZI’s Italo flavoured song ‘Hiç Işık Yok’ saw the usual cowbells substituted by processed pots and pans, while the mix of classic brassy tones and chilling synth pads blended to create something rather unusual and extraordinary. Working with Maurizio Baggio who mixed the most recent albums by BOY HARSHER and THE SOFT MOON, the Italian producer turned what had been a gothic futureless mood piece with a sombre vocal intonation into a dark but catchy electronic disco number.

Available on the EP ‘Açık Bir Yara’ via City Slang

https://www.facebook.com/jakuz1/


JOON Good Times

2021 was a year craving for more ‘Good Times’ and JOON, the electronic solo project from Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis did her best to remember them. Another recent signing to Italians Do It Better, she reflected on “The way you sing your songs and make me dance, the way you take a chance on a little romance” before affirming “You remind me of the good times”. It all captured a charming innocence in a dreamy Mediterranean take on Japanese City Pop.

Available on the album ‘Dream Again’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.templeofjoon.com/


КЛЕТ Eternity

КЛЕТ is a music project of Bohemian-born composer and producer Michal Trávníček. Primarily celebrating the Soviet space programme with its impressive series of firsts, while the ‘Alconaut’ album’s pivotal track was its opener ‘Gagarin’s Start’ which honoured the handsome hero who was the first man in space as he prepared for lift-off, the spacey Sovietwave mood over 13 tracks made for an enticing listen. The sparkling sparseness of ‘Eternity’ with its stuttering vintage drum machine provided another highlight.

Available on the album ‘Alconaut’ via https://claat.bandcamp.com/album/

https://www.instagram.com/kletwave/


LEATHERS Reckless

LEATHERS is the more synth focussed solo project from ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett. The undoubted highlight of her debut ‘Reckless’ EP was the title song. Resigned and accepting, she was still alluring in her voicing despite the heartbreak of her love being so cruel and dangerous. A rather lovely slice of synthpop in that classic melancholic vein with an infectious steadfast motorik beat, it again showed that Canada again was leading the way in the modern version of the form.

Available on the EP ‘Reckless’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.leatherstheband.com/


CATHERINE MOAN Drop It!

Having treated the world with her charming cover of the Alan Wilder penned DEPECHE MODE B-side ‘Fools’, Philadelphian songstress CATHERINE MOAN launched her debut album with the self-composed ‘Drop It!’, song craving the joy of nightlife after a year of lockdown confinement. Dreamily floating over a classic four chord progression with an eerily sombre apocalyptic understatement, ‘Drop It!’ channelled her innocent sound in the manner of ELECTRIC YOUTH meeting STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and MARSHEAUX via her own bedroom aesthetic.

Available on the album ‘Chain Reaction’ via https://catherinemoan.bandcamp.com/album/chain-reaction-2

https://www.facebook.com/Catherine-Moan-105421111625150


KARIN MY Loop

While Karin My has been working with TWICE A MAN and MACHINISTA over the last ten years, it was only in 2019 that she stepped out to front her own traditionally derived electronic songs. A steadfast drum machine propels ‘Loop’ while sweeping symphonic melodies in the vein of ULTRAVOX accompany the despairing resignation. The closing computer generated female speech declaring “identification – procedure – quote – hyphen – perform – display – go to – loop – full stop – execute” added to the dystopian unsettlement.

Available on the album ‘Silence Amygdala’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/


NATION OF LANGUAGE This Fractured Mind

Using a rigid motorik backbone and capturing a danceable ethereal shudder, ‘This Fractured Mind’ breathed new life via its sprightly synth tones in a reference to the past. Although there was also some frenetic bass guitar grit to provide a hint of claustrophobia, the machines that had only been friends previously became family in the NATION OF LANGUAGE sound. Dealing with the spectre of unrealised dreams and jealousy towards more successful others, by the end of ‘This Fractured Mind’, any inferiority complex is countered with hopeful acceptance.

Available on the album ‘A Way Forward’ via Play It Again Sam

https://www.nationoflanguage.com/


NORTHERN LITE Ich Fürchte Nein

The project of Andreas Kubat and Sebastian Bohn, the 2001 NORTHERN LITE single ‘Treat Me Better’ was a cult favourite on the electroclash scene. Translating as “I don‘t think so…”, Kubat reflected on enforced isolation and staying sane. In a chorus that could be roughly interpreted: “You can‘t be happy and by liked by everyone at the same time”, ‘Ich Fürchte Nein’ was a delightfully catchy synthpop tune with a bright and jolly melodic section contrasted by a vocal of a more anxious disposition.

Available on the album ‘Ja’ via UnaMusic

https://www.northernlite.de/


GARY NUMAN The Chosen

While ‘Savage’ depicted a deserted post-apocalyptic world, clad in darkness, The Ade Fenton produced ‘Intruder’ saw Planet Earth react to human kind’s self-destructive misdemeanours by unleashing a virus! “It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back” said Gary Numan poignantly.  ‘The Chosen’ was fast paced synth rock and filled with pleading messages embroiled in frustration and despair, asking “Do you need one more sign?” and “Can you see, or are you so blind?”

Available on the album ‘Intruder’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


MARK REEDER & FIFI RONG Figure Of 8

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

Available on the album ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ via MFS

https://fifirong.com/

https://mfsberlin.com/


R. MISSING Crimeless

New York City-based darklings R. MISSING are fronted by Sharon Shy, a vocalist with an elegant Jane Birkin-like presence while the studious Toppy Frost does the music. 2020’s ‘Placeholder For The Night’ signalled airier developments in their increasingly synthy sound, but the wonderful ‘Crimeless’ was R. MISSING’s most electronic pop noir statement yet. It was like CHROMATICS carefully reconfigured for the dancefloor with Sharon Shy presenting a whispery singing style that could easily be mistaken for Ruth Radelet.

Available on the single ‘Crimeless’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://rmissing.com/


SCHÖNHEIT Danse Du Robot

Subtitled ‘Hommage à Florian’, ‘Danse Du Robot’ was a magical tribute to the late KRAFTWERK co-founder with hints of ‘Trans Europe Express’ from Swedish producer Martin Lillberg, the man behind SCHÖNHEIT. Not exactly a prolific project with singles in 2014 and 2019, Lillberg however records under various monikers including as DEOLETUS, DESTINY NATION, INESI, LAURENTIA, LOVE ON DRUGS, MY SWEETEST PUNCH and WML as well as holding down a day job as a classical percussionist.

Available on the single ‘Danse du Robot (Hommage à Florian)’

https://swedishelectroscene.bandcamp.com/track/danse-du-robot-hommage-florian


SEA FEVER De Facto

SEA FEVER are the new eclectic Manchester combo featuring second generation members of SECTION 25 and NEW ORDER, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham. ‘De Facto’ was a delightful electro-disco feast with a rhythm rush that screamed strobelights and likely to fill indie club dancefloors while also crossing over to lovers of synth. With echoes of NEW ORDER and THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, it captured a vibrant energy worthy of Manchester and its musical heritage.

Available on the album ‘Folding Lines’ via Kartel Records

https://seafeverband.com/


UNIFY SEPARATE Embrace The Fear

As the prospect of interacting with others again set off anxieties after 18 months of social distancing, for Scottish Swedish duo UNIFY SEPARATE, it was time to ‘Embrace The Fear’. While the theme was relatable to lockdown, the lyrical gist touched on the more general existential crises that afflict many as they navigate a life crossroads. But despite the air of unease and the grittier disposition, as with most of UNIFY SEPARATE’s output, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Available on the single ‘Embrace The Fear’ via https://unifyseparate.bandcamp.com/track/embrace-the-fear

https://www.facebook.com/usmusicspace


WAVESHAPER Lost In The Cloud

Gorgeously melodic within a claustrophobic drama, ‘Lost In The Cloud’ did as the title suggested like Vangelis meeting Giorgio Moroder at the Necropolis on a dreamy dance trip. A lovely little uplifting synth instrumental, Tom Andersson the man behind WAVESHAPER suggested something darker, saying “Imagine Red Riding Hood trapped in the Digital Cloud, behind the Mainframe. How would she feel? What would she see? There is probably more to fear than a wolf in the forest…”

Available on the album ‘Mainframe’ via Waveshaper Music Production

https://www.facebook.com/Waveshaperofficial


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music in 2021 is on its ‘Missing U’ playlist at
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4rlJgJhiGkOw8q2JcunJfw


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th December 2021

RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION

Francesco Rago and Gianluigi Farina are two Italo disco trailblazers who have been behind the projects such as ATELIER FOLIE, EXPANSIVES, DECADANCE and ‘LECTRIC WORKERS.

Meanwhile, Fred Ventura is another pioneer of Italo who in 2012 looked to modernise that cult dance form with Paolo Gozzetti via their production duo ITALOCONNECTION.

RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION collects a number of reworked and revisited cult favourites plus more recent original material as four way joint venture for 2021.

First released as a nine track digital compendium to celebrate their years of friendship, collaboration and travels, Nadanna presents an expanded CD edition that adds four extra tracks. Beginning with the classic blippy 1983 vintage of ATELIER FOLIE’s No Rhyme No Reason’, the ITALOCONNECTION Rework toughens things up but the very spirited vocals of Francesco Rago are retained, along with the bells and NEW ORDER styled bass.

With more under the ATELIER FOLIE banner, the ITALOCONNECTION Rework of ‘Walking In The Neon’ provides a tighter and squelchier take with deeper gated vocal treatments, although crucially the key synth melodies are all present and correct. The slick 1983 original was by Peter Richard but actually co-written by Rago and Farina with Chuck Rolando, a member of Italian group PASSENGERS. Coming as an extra, the superb Tribute Rework of ‘Walking In The Neon’ from Danish DJ Flemming Dalum is busied up with an electro-funky lilt and some grainy vocodered tone poetry to enhance its spacey quality.

The ITALOCONNECTION Rework of EXPANSIVES’ ‘Life With You’ originally released in 1982 makes the most out of the string machines that are now attached to a more powerful beat. Meanwhile the cavernous vocals and vocoder provide an out-of-this-world quality, the reverbed clap collage and electronic swoops also adding intrigue.

Repaying the compliment, Rago and Farina remix the Fred Ventura single ‘The Years (Go By)’ and while more rigid than the 1985 version, it still sounds glorious.

From 2013, ITALOCONNECTION’s remix of ATELIER FOLIE’s ‘Leave Me Alone’ has much less reverb than previously and resonates in that classic Italo style with bright keyboard melodies and orchestra stabs; a fraught vocal matches the percussive aggression while some minimal bass guitar acknowledges the influence of NEW ORDER. The bonus ‘LECTRIC WORKERS Dub Rework makes more of that aspect for some Spaghetti Western disco.

Signalling the 2017 comeback of Francesco Rago and Gigi Farina as ATELIER FOLIE, ‘Freedom Time’ was a modern anthemic disco song produced Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti as ITALOCONNECTION. Next to the bonus ITALOCONNECTION Remix, the original Club Mix sounds much cleaner.

Less frantic than the other tracks, DECADANCE’s 1983 single ‘On An On (Fears Keep On)’ does not lose its classic electronic presence with a new solid bassline provided by ITALOCONNECTION. At nine minutes, it is something of a marathon but while a charming female vocal by Vik provides another layer over the instrumentally strong backing. The bonus Slo-fi Mix does as it suggests.

A new ITALOCONNECTION recording with Francesco Rago, ‘Unbelievable’ sees less of a snarl from Rago as he duets with Ventura, but it’s a superb coming together of Italo legends bursting with catchy hooks and evolving melodies.

Closing the main act is the previously unreleased ‘LECTRIC WORKERS instrumental ‘Borealis’ which stomps at 6/8, this archive recording acting as a glorious homage to Jean-Michel Jarre, complete with swimmy Eminent strings and snakey Minipops approximations.

Reworked, produced and mixed with love by four Italian disco legends, if you like Italo or the dancier side of NEW ORDER or PET SHOP BOYS, you will like RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION.

Modernised for the 21st Century without losing the original melodic spirit, this is just the sun-kissed tonic for the summer after a tricky year and a bit for all.


‘Rago & Farina vs Italoconnection’ is released by Nadanna as a CD, available from https://www.juno.co.uk/products/rago-farina-vs-rago-farina-vs-italoconnection/839607-01/ or http://www.poponaut.de/rago-farina-italoconnection-rago-farina-italoconnection-p-20550.html

9 track digital edition available from https://italoconnection.bandcamp.com/album/rago-farina-vs-italoconnection

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection

https://www.instagram.com/italoconnection/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th August 2021

TOBIAS BERNSTRUP Interview

Gothenburg-born Tobias Bernstrup is a performance and visual artist with five officially released albums to his name, as well as numerous video installations, collaborative exhibitions, interactive works and gaming projects.

Following up 2018’s ‘Technophobic’ long player, his sixth album ‘Petrichor’ refines his Italo Noir template with intelligent political and historical observations like “a Film Noir in cold blue and pink light that you can dance to”.

With his striking stage persona, Bernstrup is an intriguing androgynous figure who speaks for the outsider, raising questions about society’s representation of identity in his gender-crossing live performances and visual presentation.

With the imminent release of ‘Petrichor’, Tobias Bernstrup spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of the new album, collaborations, his artistic ethos and continuing motivations.

What was the genesis of your Italo Noir sound?

I grew up listening to Punk, Metal and Postpunk but always loved Italo Disco. When I started making electronic music after years of being a drummer, I knew that I wanted to make Italo inspired music with a darker more melancholic sound. I also wanted to create a darker image to this sound when designing performance costumes and sleeve art.

How would you describe the concept of your new album ‘Petrichor’ which means “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather”?

The initial idea for the sleeve photo was to include raindrops or rain atmosphere. During the research, I came across reading about the Petrichor phenomenon.

I had several cinematic images in my head; the end scene of ‘Bladerunner’ or an episode of ‘Miami Vice’ when Sonny Crockett walks alone on a rainy street. I love how the rain enhances scents, colors and creates reflections.

The first single ‘Private Eye’ appears to be about the surveillance society?

The inspiration to the lyrics came from a Bitcoin Scam email that circulated. The emails say they hacked into your computer and recorded you visiting adult websites. They threaten to distribute the video to your friends and family within hours, unless you pay into their Bitcoin account.

Sweden has been at the forefront of cashless payment, but how do you feel that you can’t even buy bread or fruit without someone watching you? Does that make you ‘Technophobic’?

No, but I am aware. It is a new world order, if you don’t own a smartphone or have internet connection, you will be excluded from the society. It is so obvious when you see beggars asking for money and everyone replies I don’t have cash…

How do you look back on the ‘Technophobic’ album, the title song was particularly good?

The album had a quite coherent synthpop vibe throughout but a more cold, synthetic, metallic and modern sound than previous productions. On ‘Petrichor’, I wanted a warmer sound so I decided to mainly use old-school drum sounds like the Oberheim DMX, LinnDrum and typical 80s synthesizers.

Do you have any preferences for your electronic template, do you like hardware synths and drum machines or have you entered the world of software?

I work in between analog and digital tools. When it comes to playing and recording the physical touch of a hardware synth is superior. I often use Korg PolySix for basslines and Roland JX-8P for pads. When it comes to software instruments, mixing and plugins I always go for analog circuit emulation.

The music industry has changed a lot even since ‘Technophobic’, have you reconsidered your strategies as an artist about making albums and promotion?

I had a more open process when putting together the album. It started releasing a bunch of singles during the process to see where they landed.

That helped me writing and finalizing the remaining tracks.

In your opinion, is the album as a format still relevant in music consumption?

Yes I believe so, even though many people rather listen to single tracks and playlists. Listening to an album is like reading a book. If you have the patience to do this, it can be very rewarding. There has been a revival in making shorter albums again with 8-10 tracks. This is a good thing. it fits better with the pleasant vinyl LP format. And it’s difficult to make long albums with 14-18 and keep up the quality and interest. There are some exceptions. THE CURE’s double LP ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ is still such a great album without a dull moment. It has variety without being eclectic.

Looking back, aspects of 2015’s ‘Romanticism’ album explored some different directions compared to your earlier albums and more recent singles, particularly with the ballad ‘Dorian Gray’, the Latin moods of ‘Laterna Magica’ and the classic Eurodance of ‘Revolution’?

The song writing and recording process was very different during ‘Romanticism’. I worked during a focused period of 2 months in a studio with a very open and experimental mind set. At that time, it was important for my development to try something new.

The recent compilation ‘Trannies At Night’ gathered your earlier work before 2012, how do you see your development as an artist and do you have any favourite songs or memories from that period?

In the beginning there was more simplicity, but less production. Sometimes there was a more powerful and directness to it.

As I got more production skills, I have to make more effort in order to find that simplicity which makes a great song. Limiting your toolbox and arsenal of instruments is a good way of doing this.

What was the inspiration behind your most recent single ‘Only One’?

It a typical Bernstrup track, It started with that Jan Hammer-like bassline and the lead sound melody and those marimba sounds that I just love. It reminds me of Ken Laszlo’s ‘Tonight’ – one of my all-time favourite songs. Lyrics came naturally when just playing with words and vocal melody.

You sing of a “stranger on the screen”, “disposable love” and a “devil in disguise” on ‘Stranger’, it’s strange that in this modern world, some people care more about influencers online who they’ve never met rather than those near them like family and friends?

Interesting thought. Well, the lyrics could describe someone being disconnected from reality. The initial idea was to write from the perspective of someone having an addiction to online dating in a dangerous self-destructive and abusive way.

Is ‘Challenger’ referring to the 1986 space shuttle tragedy?

Yes, I remembered that day as a teenager. During the production of the new album, I watched a couple of rocket launches. Technology and space exploration has always interested me. The Challenger disaster was a very tragic one as there had been warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that January morning.

There is a more instrumental template on ‘Loderunner’ rather than using full lyrics?

The original idea for this track dates back to 2002 or 2004. I wrote an instrumental track for one of my art exhibitions that was an interactive video game piece. The musical theme itself was inspired by the musical score for the 1998 video game ‘Unreal’ composed by Alexander Brandon & Michiel van den Bos. The title refers to a C64 computer game.

You have quoted J Robert Oppenheimer on ‘I Am Become’?

Yes, the words are slightly rearranged but from a TV interview were Oppenheimer recalls the reactions after watching the Trinity nuclear bomb test. The dangers and dark sides of technological inventions is a theme that I often return to. With every new invention a new catastrophe is invented.

Which songs are your own highlights from ‘Petrichor’?

‘Only One’ has the perfect Bernstrup sound and has the perfect walking tempo when listing in headphones. ‘Petrichor’ delivers a very nice atmosphere and I love that Fairlight CMI flute sound. ‘Loderunner’ has that energetic drive and mood you can find in a great video game.

It’s interesting that as a performance artist, you haven’t produced many videos recently to accompany your own songs, is there any particular reason?

At the moment music videos are not that important to me anymore. But that can change of course.

How do you balance between your art exhibits and your music?

They often go hand in hand. During the work with exhibitions I often stick to a theme that leaks into my music writing process as ideas for song lyrics or visuals.

You have collaborated in the past with SARALUNDEN and TRANS-X while APOPTYGMA BERZERK, COVENANT and ITALOCONNECTION have done remixes, are there any more interesting partnerships happening?

I wrote lyrics and did vocals for a track on the new ITALOCONNECTION LP ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’.

It’s a song called ‘Rainbow Warrior’ that brings up LGBT rights and environmental activism mentioning historical dates of events – the sinking of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 and the Stonewall riots in 1969.

In 2017 on ‘Utopia’, you asked “where are you now?”, so what are your hopes and fears for the future?

After the Covid outbreak, we have hopefully learned that nothing should be taken for granted, that “we are so fragile”.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Tobias Bernstrup

Special thanks to Marc Schaffer at Nadanna Records

‘Petrichor’ is released by Nadanna Records on 20th August 2021 in CD with 7 bonus tracks and 18 track digital editions, limited black or transparent magenta vinyl LP with lyric inner sleeve, A3 poster + numbered postcard available in October

The CD can be pre-ordered from https://www.poponaut.de/tobias-bernstrup-petrichor-limited-edition-p-20549.html

http://www.bernstrup.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TOBIASBERNSTRUPOfficial/

https://twitter.com/tobiasbernstrup

https://www.instagram.com/tobiasbernstrup/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7qMxLMZgfIeZloY2EjWiPt


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
28th July 2021

ITALOCONNECTION Midnight Confessions Vol1

In the UK, ITALOCONNECTION are perhaps best known for their remixes of HURTS ‘Better Than Love’ and THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Never Let Me Go’; the latter’s radio mix was actually BBC Radio2’s preferred version for airplay.

For Italian music veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti, the ethos of ITALOCONNECTION is “to sound vintage in a modern way”.

The duo released their self-titled debut album in 2013 which comprised of their own tracks as well as productions and remixes for other artists, so 2017’s ‘Metropoli’ was actually their first album proper.

And now after the interim covers collection ‘Disco Boutique’ comes ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’, an album about love that also brings in a wider commentary including environmental issues, the worldwide pandemic and human rights, all while fused to a tight danceable electronic sound bursting with melody.

As Fred Ventura himself described it, “The production of this album was like a long journey, going through bad weather and back to the sun several times. We had to face the reality of working from distance and without the usual production jam we used before the pandemic”.

The opener ‘All I Want Is You’ is wonderful and with its chosen Korg Poly synth tones, is almost like CHINA CRISIS gone Eurodisco. Fred Ventura’s vocal topline is appealing and rousing in all the right places to stamp its origins.

Playing with more of machine groove and a much darker tone, ‘Rainbow Warrior’ featuring Swedish performance artist Tobias Bernstrup on lead vocals is another superb song. With references to the story of the Greenpeace ship and the Stonewall Rebellion, it celebrates the heroics of environmental and LGBT activists to an infectious dance beat.

‘All Over’ is all hooks and atmospheres galore with another confident vocal performance from Ventura and when the female vocals join in, it provides a glorious uplift.

The pulsating ‘Get Together’ is a catchy if bittersweet number, with room to breathe musically as Ventura tells of how he wants to be left alone; his falsetto refrain in the vein of ‘I Feel Love’ in the extended coda is a delight.

The superb ‘Virus X’ featuring French veteran Etienne Daho springs a surprise as a suave slice of Gallic synthwave; with a downbeat verse and an emotive chorus, it acts as a poignant musical document of the past year’s tensions while using toxic personal relationships as a sinister lyrical analogy.

Despite its deep cutting bassline and spacey shimmers, the lovelorn drama of ‘Since You Went Away’ takes a progressive turn from its retro-modern first half with a gorgeous monologue from actress Francesca Diprima that brings an airy feminine touch to proceedings alongside Ventura’s voice and a collage of speedy arpeggios towards an expansive climax.

Modern Italo duo CARINO CAT, who had their debut album ‘Attraction Of Heat’ released on Ventura’s Disco Modernism label, guest on ‘The Year Of The Sun’; the sparkly number does exactly as the title suggests with an addictive Mediterranean disco vibe from yesteryear that sounds more than familiar with its catchy chorus and “ohoh-oh-oh” vocal ab-libs!

The largely optimistic template captured on ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1 takes a more introspective turn on ‘Humans’.

As people of the world emerges from a long period of enforced isolation, it is time to “express our right to be loved” with “no reason to give up or hide anymore”. As Paolo Gozzetti reflected: “We are humans, we need to relate, we were made to relate. You can hide, you can escape, but the truth is we all need to relate.”

Throughout ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’, the production is excellent, showcasing a collection of danceable widescreen European electronic pop at its best. So here’s to the standard being maintained for ‘Midnight Confessions Vol2’.


‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ is released by Bordello A Parigi on 21st June 2021, the vinyl LP and CD are available direct from https://bordelloaparigi.com/artist/italoconnection/

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection

https://www.instagram.com/italoconnection/

https://italoconnection.bandcamp.com/

https://open.spotify.com/album/04ctTnxZwdCGHqvmEs5hcU


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st June 2021

« Older posts