Tag: Jah Wobble

2020 End Of Year Review

“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.

The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.

To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.

Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.

Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.

Demonstrating a possible new model for the future, Midge Ure launched his subscription based ‘Backstage Lockdown Club’ which included intimate live performances and specials guests like Glenn Gregory and Howard Jones.

Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michael Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.

Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.

There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!

But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”

There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.

There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and  the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .

The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.

Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.

SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.

But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.

‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.

Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.

Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.

It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.

2020 saw a lot of 40th anniversaries for a number of key albums including ‘Vienna’ by ULTRAVOX, ‘Travelogue’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Closer’ by JOY DIVISION.

Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.

It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.

PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.

Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.

ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.

It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN and COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.

In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.

Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.

Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.

Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.

An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which the site had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.

At that event, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set. This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉

The final live event that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.

Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK remains proud that it is still extremely selective.

In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?

The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.

From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.

It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2020

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: LOGIC SYSTEM Technasma
Best Song: NEW ORDER Be A Rebel
Best Gig / Live Stream: NICOLAS GODIN at London Rough Trade
Best Video: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Snowburden
Most Promising New Act: RUE OBERKAMPF


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn
Best Song: DUBSTAR I Can See You Outside
Best Gig / Live Stream: WITCH OF THE VALE online Unplugged Live for SAY Women
Best Video: STEVEN WILSON Personal Shopper
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: PAGE Blutest Du?
Best Gig / Live Stream: LAU NAU + VILE ELECTRODES at Cecil Sharp House
Best Video: STRIKKLAND Dance Like A God
Most Promising New Act: INDEPENDENT STATE


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: LINEA ASPERA LPII
Best Song: ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Heavy Rainfall
Best Gig / Live Stream: LUSTANS LAKEJER online at Malmö KB
Best Video: ULTRAFLEX Olympic Sweat
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: ERASURE The Neon
Best Song: DUBSTAR Hygiene Strip
Best Gig / Live Stream: IŻOL Koncert online at Ziemi Rybnickiej
Best Video: PET SHOP BOYS Monkey Business
Most Promising New Act: MENTRIX


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2020

JAH WOBBLE Interview

JAH WOBBLE was just 18 years old when he co-founded PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED with John Lydon, Keith Levene and Jim Walker. Real name John Wardle, he was given his nickname and first bass guitar by a drunken Sid Vicious. After two albums ‘First Issue’ and ‘Metal Box’, he left the band in 1980.

Despite this, his creative mind and distinctive hypnotic bass style was now freed to work with a diverse range of artists and producers over the next four decades.

These included François Kevorkian, The Edge, Brian Eno, Winston Tong, Alan Rankine, Brett Wickens, Bill Sharpe, Baaba Maal, Chaka Demus, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor, Andrew Weatherall and Bill Laswell, as well as groups like ONE DOVE and THE ORB.

Forming THE HUMAN CONDITION who released two live cassettes before disbanding, he headed to Cologne to collaborate with CAN members Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, the material eventually coming out as the ‘Full Circle’ album in late 1982 which included the minor European hit ‘How Much Are They?’. ‘The ‘Snake Charmer’ EP also featuring the trio followed in 1983.

Using his German experience, he showcased his eclectic tastes on the single ‘Invaders Of The Heart’, with Wardle reworking his bassline for PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED’s ‘Death Disco’ into a mutant post-punk dub excursion also featuring electronics and ethnic tape samples.

His album ‘Rising Above Bedlam’ was nominated for the 1992 Mercury Music Prize and although he didn’t win, he had played on one track from the eventual winner ‘Screamadelica’ by PRIMAL SCREAM. Outside of music, he obtained a BA in Music and Philosophy, while also acting as a book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday and The Times.

A strong advocate of World Music, he has a brand new album entitled ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ out this Spring with THE INVADERS OF THE HEART. Big John chatted about his ethos and his career as one of the UK’s most influential and distinctive bass players.

Your new album ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ has a very cosmic vibe about it, what inspired its concept?

There wasn’t really a concept… sometimes with some records, there’s a bit of a backstory but in this case, it was “let’s go in the studio” and play naturally. The only number that had been pre-written was ‘Take My Hand’ which is a bit of a rock anthem.

Do you compose by manner of band jamming?

It’s our natural style, I would give them say a descending change and suggest a few things, but it would be the band doing their thing. My drummer Marc Layton-Bennet came a decade ago via my old percussionist Neville Murray who’s retired now, he was the guy who would always suggest musicians for me.

I met George King, my keyboard player through an engineer I worked with and my guitarist Martin Chung was a good mate of Marc’s, although I actually saw him on a video for a singer who he was playing with about six years ago. I tend to stick with the same musicians, like Neville was on the firm with me for like 30 years!

On ‘Ocean Blue Waves’, there’s a mix of instrumentals and songs like ‘Take My Hand’, ‘A fly Away’ and ‘Minds Float Free’, how do you decide when a track needs vocals?

You think “what does this track need?” and sometimes it sounds like a backing track and you can hear a saxophone on it or a topline of a vocal. I remember I had these dubby psychedelic tracks that weren’t really songs or an instrumentals, I was like “what is it?” but I then got thinking about William Blake, so it became this spoken word album.

Do lyrics come naturally to you?

Yeah, I’ve written a lot over the years, maybe a quarter of the live set has me singing and now I have to be careful and look after my voice properly which at 61 is a new one on me! I rented a room at an art studio in Manchester just to write some poetry ‘Odds & Sods Of Epilogues’ and an autobiography ‘Memoirs Of A Geezer’.

One highlight is the title ‘Ocean Blue Waves’ track which has a most amazing synth solo…

I came up with this b-line in Tokyo and it was driving me mad, we played it at a gig there and it was quite modal, not really much like the track as you hear it now.

I really wanted to use that b-line for something and the boys come up with something very different. It’s better live now and it’s very dreamy, we generally start the set with it.

But it’s so nice, you don’t really want to go into the first change or end the number, because it’s so nice and hypnotic!

We’re always pushed for time at the end of the night as we do quite a long set, so you have to do the change, you want that synth solo to go on and on and on! It’s got a lovely sound, it’s a bit softer and less minor key.

It all seems a far cry from PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, how do you look back on that time?

I loved it because I was just starting out, that youthful enthusiasm of an amateur, I’d like to think it’s something I’ve still got. I always like to quote a Suzuki line: “In the beginner’s mind, there’s many possibilities, in the experts there’s few…”, so I try to keep a naïve approach and play without thinking.

There’s certain basslines like PiL’s ‘Poptones’ that are so perfect and circular somehow… actually I went back to playing Fender Precision bass after using Magnum for years after we played in America and did an album with Bill Laswell. Fender Precision makes me play a little bit more chromatically, these chromatic runs somehow sound cleaner. It works well with the old stuff even though it’s evolving and the new stuff as well.

What influenced your playing style?

Dub reggae as a big thing, I loved soul, funk and disco. I liked the idea of patterns so very early on. I got my own modal sound going, because I would make patterns based around the dots of the fret. I couldn’t count, I took a little while to learn the notes so I went by the dots on the fretboard…. I made shapes and patterns so that naturally led to a certain kind of block unit. A lot of the stuff I do is A minor, B minor, they’re quite modal and fixed. When I play with a Fender, you get a flowing quality, it’s quite musical in its own way I think.

Did you eventually venture down the path of learning more formal musical theory?

No, not at all and it was probably just as well. I didn’t get conditioned and you become educated because I worked with some really great musicians over the years like Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay, and I hung on their every word.

I thought very hard about music and how the bass should work and sound like in conjunction with the drums or keyboards. I think I ended up thinking in quite an abstract way. I didn’t have any knowledge of Bach or tonality so you had your own kind of approach.

The sonic thing was a big part of it because my generation were in the studio playing electric instruments, so the actual sound was as important as the phrasing or the playing.

After PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, you were suddenly off to Germany to record the ‘How Much Are They?’ EP with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, how did that come about?

This was through a mate of mine, Angus MacKinnon who interviewed me in regard to ‘Metal Box’. We became friends and he knew I wasn’t happy in PiL, so he suggested I play with CAN. Holger happened to be in London with his manager Hildegard and we got introduced. I got on with him and we went to a studio to have a little try out. I wrote the basic parts for ‘How Much Are They?’, the b-line, the drum beat, the simple string parts and the triad chords over the bass so I was developing this style that was quite catchy.

What happened next?

Holger took it back to Cologne to edit it quite radically and it was mixed by Mark Lusardi, a very good engineer. It became the first track of an EP we did called ‘How Much Are They?’; it went so well that they flew me over to Germany and we recorded stuff like ‘Trench Warfare’ and other stuff. That’s when I met Jaki for the first time, he’s probably the most special person I’ve ever met… as a musician he’s a master player.

Had you been a CAN fan?

Yeah, a bit! I liked the groove stuff, I wasn’t mad on everything but it was stuff the stuff where Jaki got his thing going on those earlier albums that I liked.

How did you find playing along to drum machines?

I like drum machines, they’re in time and it meant you could play over and over and over. I’d been in squats and when PiL started, it was terrible the way the money was sorted out, but I was able to get a Wasp synthesizer, a little analogue Roland rhythm box, a Godwin String Concert keyboard, a WEM Copicat and then later a TASCAM multi-track cassette portastudio. So I was very idiosyncratic and quite obsessive. so I would sit there for hours with a drum machine going. It was fantastic because that really helps your timing, you become machine-like yourself really.

Holger Czukay was quite unique in that he was a bass player who was not really interested in playing bass anymore, but was becoming more of a sound painter, is that how you saw it?

Yes, I did. He was a producer… there had been clashes in CAN over the direction of the band but Holger was the guy who would be the architect and would get busy with the razor blade, editing after they’d recorded. So that’s how it was, he really liked my playing and thought it was fantastic, saying “I couldn’t do what you do!” and I was like “REALLY?”

Jaki really liked it too and I was really surprised but delighted. Holger said “It’s like Miles Davis, you play one note and everyone knows it’s you”. It strange, I still don’t know why or how or what, but I do have my own sound, I know I have my own sound. Jaki had his own unique sound too…

Jaki was quite fascinating in that he could play fast, but it would be quite ambient…

He was so simpatico over the space he was playing in, and he could play fast but there was a totality to the sound. Some of that was down to the fact that they only used a pair of overhead mics, it sounded so good in the studio. They didn’t have a dividing wall between the control room and the recording room at Inner Space Studio in Cologne.

It was one space, an old cinema so everything sounded great there. I learnt a lot and developed that over the years, not trying too hard with mics so that you get a total sound with a certain spacious quality within the music, even when it’s uptempo.

The ‘How Much Are They?’ EP was dedicated to Ian Curtis?

That’s right, his death was a shocker, he was a special person and it seemed like a nice thing to do, it was such a shame for him to die so young…

On the ‘Snake Charmer’ EP, you worked with the-then emerging François Kervorkian who brought a Linn Drum Computer to the studio, that must have been a revelation?

Yeah, but I wasn’t mad on the Linn Drum sound with its big toms and rock kick thing. I always preferred those Roland drum machines, but the Linn was still really good, it was a revelation.

François was good to work with because he was from a dance background so he was really into making records dancey and tuned into the dancefloor.

François brought it in and there’s the famous story where Jaki became very cross with the Linn Drum and accused it of being slightly out of time! We thought that was impossible as it was a machine, but Jaki insisted it was out of time. So when we timed it back, it was! It was so incredible, like 4 BPM out, losing 3 BPM over the course of a minute but he was correct!

He got really angry and played this cross-rhythm, then suddenly, there was this puff of smoke come out the back and the Linn fused! We couldn’t get it working again! So Jaki had out-synched this Linn Drum, that was the power of his mind!

‘Snake Charmer’ also featured The Edge from U2, how was it to work with him?

It was very easy, he was a very nice guy… when he arrived in the studio, I was having this massive row with François, I saw him and quickly said “Hallo, I know who you are, I can’t wait to talk to you but I’ve got to finish this f*cking argument! Nice to meet you!” *laughs*

The Edge was a nice bloke, François knew him because he’d remixed a couple of U2 tracks. He made a lovely sound on ‘Hold On To Your Dreams’, just beautiful.

You took a break from music but came back?

Sometimes I got lazy but I stopped drinking in 1986 and I was halfway through an album called ‘Psalms’, so the final half was done very newly sober. Then I started working as a courier and applied to work for the Post Office and London Underground. By 1987, I started working for the Underground, I chose them over the Post Office. I still miss for the Underground, I loved it.

I was listening to a lot of music, then Neville Murray knocked on my door and asked when we were going back on the road? So we put THE INVADERS OF THE HEART Mk2 together and we started again. We were working with a guy called David Harrow and I started being active in music again. If there was a break, it was only for about two months!

You worked with the late Andrew Weatherall on several occasions including on ‘There Goes The Cure’ from ‘Morning Dove White’ by ONE DOVE, what was it like to work with him?

I was living in South London and that rave scene was going when I walked to Embankment. I would see all these clubbers in Villiers Street, queuing to get into this after-hours club and thought “this is interesting”, this would have been around the beginnings of acid jazz. I started getting some work in that scene with those kind of DJs, Andy gave me a kick start coming back into the business.

You were working with Brian Eno for 1995’s ‘Spinner’, can you remember what the creative dynamic was like between you?

Brian Eno was a bit half and half… for one track, he said something like “Oh, I want you to treat it like a moreish maiden” and I was like “Stop being funny, stop playing games! DO YOU LIKE IT?” *laughs*

I do like Brian, you might get the impression I don’t, but I do! It was a good thing for me to do and he’s a kind man.

I’m touring with his brother Roger as part of THE ORB live band. He’s into all those minimalist Harold Budd and Debussy piano pieces and I think he’s been an influence on Brian. It all came about via Derek Jarman, he approached me and because he’d done ‘Jubilee’, he knew Brian.

I’d done these little piano pieces like Shostakovich, clusters of notes which we turned into tracks. There wasn’t a lot of money so we couldn’t use lots of players or have a big studio, we did it in my little home studio in Bethnal Green using our imagination. Some records don’t last as well as others but I think ‘Spinner’ has lasted really well, it’s really got something special about it and stood the test of time.

If you listen to ‘Spinner’ now, it’s like the precursor to some of the dance music productions over the next two years with the effects on the drums and stuff, because up until then, having effects on drums was seen as quite bad taste, it didn’t work.

You’d put phasing on guitar but you’d have to be careful about drums. But somehow, it kind of worked with that phasing.

I used to do a lot of walking along the Lea Valley in London, and you’d be walking past old soap factories up the River Lea and see semi-rural marshlands, so it would get very trippy.

So that would influence the music, doing things in 7/4 time with a real haunting vibe. It was like walking music because each time we’d finish a track, we’d use it to walk to. There was something about the whole do-it-yourself concept, the way it was recorded on computer and how we used our expertise to record loops of Jaki and stuff.

What would you say have been your career highlights?

There’s magical moments in my life and not just with music. One of my highlights was walking across the grounds of Birkbeck College, London University on the first day of term when I went there, that was wow! And there was driving the tube train, westbound from Stratford to Mile End for the first time on this really fast section of line… I was just thinking “I AM DRIVING A F*CKING TUBE TRAIN, HOW D’YA LIKE THAT!” *laughs*

It’s that sense that you have sometimes of observing yourself, it’s quite detached… like a big mind thing looking at you, you get that in life and you get it on stage often. It’s like when people talk about an out-of-body experience, but you’re in control, you’re the observed and the observer at the same time.

I’ve had so many moments like that, like the first gig in sobriety with Neville in Switzerland, I woke up in a pension hotel overlooking the square with the smell of croissants and coffee wafting up in the morning in spring… I was like “I’m sober and I’m back on the road”, it was magical!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to JAH WOBBLE

Special thanks to Sulley Archer at Hush PR

‘Ocean Blue Waves’ is released on 27th March 2020, available as a CD or download now direct from https://jahwobble.bandcamp.com/album/ocean-blue-waves

https://jahwobble.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Jah.Wobble.Music/

https://twitter.com/realjahwobble

https://www.instagram.com/real_jah_wobble/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5jhqwsWfRaETrWPWI0Rc7u


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd March 2020

30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era

Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.

So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time.

These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK, but which all deserve critical reappraisal.

Please note that acts who nearly made it but have since been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK like B-MOVIE, BLUE ZOO, DRAMATIS, THE FALLOUT CLUB, FATAL CHARM, FIAT LUX, PAUL HAIG, HARD CORPS, ROBERT MARLOW, THE MOOD, OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDINGVICE VERSAVIENNA and WHITE DOOR have not been included on this list. The songs are listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)

Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.

Available on the album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Horvergnugen Records

http://www.plasticbertrand.com


DALEK I Destiny (1980)

Pre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined the fully named DALEK I LOVE YOU!

Available on the album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


DIE DORAUS & DIE MARINAS Fred Vom Jupiter (1981)

The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year-old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of teen and pre-teen school girls during a far more innocent time in history!

Available on the album ‘Hauptsache Ich – Retrospektive 1981-2014’ via Bureau B

https://www.facebook.com/andreasdorau/


FOX Electro People (1981)

FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Susan Traynor aka Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!

Available on the album ‘Images ’74-’84’ via Cherry Red

https://www.discogs.com/artist/356308-Fox-3


IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1981)

The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.

Available on the album ‘Essence: The Best of’ via Sony Music Japan

http://lifeintokyo.net/familytree_tsuchiya.html


MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNES Disco Rough (1981)

Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synthseizers and almost spoken staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual  stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

Available on the album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ via Celluloid Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45920-Mathématiques-Modernes


JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT & HOLGER CZUKAY How Much Are They? (1981)

Although dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura, as well as the sadly recently departed Liebezeit and Czukay.

Available on the album ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMC

http://jahwobble.com/

http://www.czukay.com/


E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)

E.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic on their artwork to NEU!  Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.

Available on the album ‘A Synthetic History Of’ via Soul Jazz Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/EMAK


PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)

A member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.

Available on the album ‘Images of Heaven’ via Phoenix Recordings

http://www.facebook.com/PeterGodwinFans


IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)

Despite Australian Top 5 success as lead singer of JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback,  the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack.  He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Ignatius+Jones


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.  The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


POEME ELECTRONIQUE The Echoes Fade (1982)

The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson  plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing GRACE JONES and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA who released an album ‘The Destiny Room’ in 2014.

Available on the album ‘The Echoes Fade’ via Hwesonics

http://www.poeme-electronique.com/


SANDII &THE SUNSETZ  Living On The Front Line (1982)

Another Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!

Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan

http://www.sandii.info


BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)

Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!

Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2008/01/box-of-toys-3d-light-1982-1986.html


CARE My Boyish Days (1983)

WhenTHE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)

The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS in their time. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!

Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)

Fans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.

Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/86051-Matt-Fretton


INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)

Led by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Indians in Moscow’ via Planet Of Sound

http://www.indiansinmoscow.com


THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)

‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.

Available on the album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records

http://thelotuseaters.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running. By 1985’s ‘Heredity’ though, RATIONAL YOUTH was effectively a Howe solo project.

Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

Pre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite on US college radio! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”

Extended Mix available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada

http://seonadancing.com/


S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)

‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!

Available on the album ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’ (V/A) via Strut Records

https://www.facebook.com/SPKindustrial/


EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)

Nuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.

Available on the album ‘The Cherry Red Vintage Collection’ on Cherry Red Records

http://www.eyelessingaza.com


THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix  (1984)

THOMAS LEER InternationalLeer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”.  He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken.

Available on the album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records

http://www.thomasleer.co.uk/


BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)

The former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with BLANCMANGE.

Available on the album ‘Chimera’ via UMC

http://www.billnelson.com


VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)

TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!

Available on the album ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA

http://pages.interlog.com/%7Edolphind/vitz.html


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who  were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)

An earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Two+People


WHEN IN ROME The Promise (1988)

WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s nearbrush with fame came with ‘The Promise’, a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the closing scene and end credits of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…

Available on the album ‘When In Rome’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/FarringtonMannUK/

http://wheninrome2.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2017

NEW ORDER Presents Be Music

Despite their success, NEW ORDER still got their hands dirty in helping to produce a number of acts for Factory Records and other associated labels such as Factory Benelux, Les Disques Du Crépuscule and Rob’s Records.

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER’s publishing and eventually used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ gathers a selection of these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert or combinations thereof.

It includes electro club tracks released between 1982 and 1985, as well as more recent remixes and productions. This is a lavishly boxed 36 track 3CD affair that documents variations on the NEW ORDER theme before solo projects like ELECTRONIC, REVENGE, THE OTHER TWO and MONACO took over. There’s even the inclusion of the JOY DIVISION era ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25, produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton in 1979 which explores the doomy sub-PiL post-punk style of the period.

Beginning the package on Disc 1, QUANDO QUANGO’s percussive ‘Love Tempo’ sets the scene. Bernard Sumner said: “Producing was a really important sideline, it’s OK doing it because although all the groups are skint, you learn a lot and you’re helping somebody”. Mike Pickering’s pre-M PEOPLE electro-funk outfit certainly groove under Sumner’s guidance and the Anglo-Dutch interpretation of the form sounds accessible but unusual even today. The less immediate ‘Tingle’ is also included on the collection.

Another one of Bernard Sumner’s productions with A CERTAIN RATIO’s Donald Johnson featured the late MARCEL KING, a member of SWEET SENSATION who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 in 1974 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’; ‘Reach For Love’ couldn’t have been more different. Layered with synths and bassline programming with an infectious machine rhythm, Shaun Ryder remarked that if the song had been released on a label other than Factory, it would have been a hit!

It’s B-side ‘Keep On Dancin’ is also present and comes over as a cooler electrified take on SHALAMAR, while the beefier New York remix of ‘Reach For Love’ by Mark Kamins and Michael H. Brauer is a nice bonus.

While 52ND STREET’s trailblazing ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Sumner contributed the synth basslines programmed using a Moog Source; it was a trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER frontman’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul and New York electro-influences was not surprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic. Indeed, also in the collection is the electro-funk workout of ‘Can’t Afford’, a Stephen Morris production that’s even more New York than Manchester.

Much starker, ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ from Blackpool’s very own post-punk doom merchants SECTION 25 was prompted by founder member Larry Cassidy’s assertion that “you can’t be a punk all your life”. In a move not dissimilar to Gillian Gilbert joining NEW ORDER, Cassidy recruited his wife Jenny and sister Angela to join his brother Vin in the band to realise this game changing manifesto. Produced by Sumner with remix input from Johnson, the collage of clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations still sounds magnificent.

Meanwhile, ‘Reflection’ from the parent ‘From The Hip’ long player is a surprise but welcome inclusion to the set.

Almost chirpy when judged against SECTION 25’s earlier output, the tighter sequencing and drum machine programming from Sumner totally transformed the band.

Following along almost similar lines, ‘Fate/Hate’ by Hull combo NYAM NYAM was one of Peter Hook’s Be Music productions and its mighty Moroder-esque template proved that the bass Viking knew his way around the dancefloor despite his more rock inclined sympathies. ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly deserves to be as lauded as ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.

The inclusion of the now rare Bernard Sumner remix of THE BEAT CLUB’s ‘Security’ makes the purchase price alone of ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ worthwhile. This was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of the late Rob Gretton, famed manager of NEW ORDER. Sumner’s additional remix and production saw an overhaul of the original version, with the addition of his own crucial vocal contribution giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.

More widely available, the full length version of ‘The Only Truth’ by PAUL HAIG is possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded. Although Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, there is no doubt that the extra bass, percussion and programming laid down by Johnson and Sumner are the necktie to go with Haig’s shirt and suit. The result is a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and almost as long!

The Be Music journey moves to Berlin where renowned remixer Mark Reeder made his home in 1978, having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city.

Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes and this influenced his whole outlook on music. So a studio union between the pair was inevitable.

This came with Reeder’s band SHARK VEGAS and their 1986 Factory Records release ‘You Hurt Me’. Produced by Sumner and characterised by the type of disco sequence programming that made NEW ORDER famous, in a bizarre way it sounded like a relative of ‘Reach For Love’, the infectious groove offset by Alistair Gray’s dispassionate vocals.

Italian band SURPRIZE’s ‘Over Italia’ was originally part of the ‘In Movimento’ EP issued on Factory Benelux in 1984. Another Dojo / Be Music co-production, the Bologna combo’s ska and dub influences make this track an interesting curio, although there is no real hook within the repetition.

While Disc 1 has more of a bias on Bernard Sumner, Disc 2 on focusses on Stephen Morris. It has to be said, this second instalment of classic and new recordings is more mixed. THICK PIGEON (led by singer Stanton Miranda) and their ‘Babcock + Wilcox’ is a 1984 production by Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert that sort of passes by. However, ‘Bootsy (Swingfire Mix)’ with a remix from THE OTHER TWO is one of A CERTAIN RATIO’s better tracks.

But FACTORY FLOOR’s ‘(Real Love)’ produced by Morris is undoubtedly polarising. Some say it is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat! ‘Another Hilltop’ though is fabulous, a squiggly reworking by Morris with Bethany Cassidy taking her mother’s role in this update of the SECTION 25 classic; and it wins hands down over FACTORY FLOOR by virtue of being a song.

As the playlist progresses, there’s the treat of a frantic 2011 instrumental from THE OTHER TWO entitled ‘Inside’ which features the KRAFTWERK ‘Uranium’ sample used on ‘Blue Monday’, while ‘The Hunter’ by MARNIE is given a deep metronomic dance reinterpretation.

On FUJIYA & MIYAGI’s ‘Daggers’, as can be expected from the man who wanted to be a drum machine, Stephen Morris’ remix is rhythmically strong while THE OTHER TWO remix of ‘Oh Men’ by TIM BURGESS offers a Germanic flavour and some lovely cascading synth tones. There’s another 9 minutes of FACTORY FLOOR in ‘A Wooden Box’ before the second CD concludes with two takes on LIFE’s ‘Tell Me’, a female vocalled alternative pop number released as FAC106 in 1984.

Disc 3 collects together some assorted band contributions and a number of Peter Hook productions.

Previously known as just ‘Theme’, ‘Lavolta Lakota Theme’ was composed as gig intro music for LAVOLTA LAKOTA and comes over as a menacing drum machine driven cousin of ‘Murder’, layered with timpani samples to aid the apocalyptic drama. Of STOCKHOLM MONSTERS, the brassy new wave of ‘All At Once’ produced by Hooky is enjoyable but very much of its time.

Led by a vocoder, ROYAL FAMILY & THE POOR’s ‘Motherland’ is pure art angst, while completing a quartet of Hooky helmed studio creations on Disc 3 is AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’. Not exactly the greatest reinterpretation in the world, FAC93 was originally rumoured to be NEW ORDER in disguise and while this curio certainly had a number of distinct elements like Hooky’s bass and an Oberheim DMX, the exercise was actually a project fronted by Lindsay Reade, the former Mrs Tony Wilson. But her intended new original lyrics for ‘Telstar’ were vetoed by The Joe Meek Estate, so a version with more abstract vocals was released instead.

Not a NEW ORDER production but featuring percussive assistance from Stephen Morris, ‘Theoretical China’ by TUXEDOMOON’s Winston Tong had an all-star cast including ex-PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED bassist Jah Wobble and MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula who also co-produced with ASSOCIATES’ Alan Rankine. Tong later recorded some more fully realised material for his excellent ‘Theoretically Chinese’ album, but this neo-title song is a good introduction to his electropop phase.

One nice surprise is RED TURNS TO ‘Deep Sleep’; produced by Stephen Morris, the song originally released as FAC 116 still sounds fresh and has dated better than a number of the offerings at the beginning of Disc 3.

With sequence programming by Sumner, ‘Sakura’ documents SECTION 25 entering the electronic world in 1982. Around this time, NEW ORDER went the full sequencer route having previously triggered synthetic pulses on ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’.

The end result was the 20 minute ‘Video 5-8-6’, constructed using a home built a Powertran 1024 Sequencer to control a Powertran Transcendent 2000 synth while clocked off a Clef Master Rhythm, effectively an expanded Boss DR-55 Doctor Rhythm.

An ominous sign of the future, it was the first NEW ORDER recording not to feature Peter Hook but ultimately lay the blueprint for ‘Blue Monday’ and more…

Whether you are a fan of NEW ORDER and the legend of Factory Records or would like to discover some lesser known but brilliant electronic pop jewels, this terrific collection is a must.

Accompanied by comprehensive, well-researched liner notes from the ever reliable James Nice that include a quote from ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2011 interview with Stephen Morris, there really is something for everyone in this vast set documenting an adventurous period in music.


With thanks to James Nice at Factory Benelux

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ is available as a 36 track 3CD boxed set or 12 track double gatefold vinyl

http://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html

http://www.neworder.com/

http://peterhook.get-ctrl.com/#/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th February 2017

Lost Albums: ONE DOVE Morning Dove White

ONE DOVE were a moody Glaswegian trio comprised of Ian Carmichael, Jim McKinven and Dot Allison. Their only album ‘Morning Dove White’ took its title from the Native American name of Elvis Presley’s grandmother.

McKinven was best known for his stint in ALTERED IMAGES during their ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Pinky Blue’ period. This project couldn’t have been more different, especially when compared with his former band mate Johnny McElhone who formed TEXAS with Sharleen Spiteri.

Producer Andrew Weatherall signed them to his Junior Boys Own label after hearing their independently released single ‘Fallen’ and became involved in the recording process, along with Gary Burns and Jagz Kooner from SABRES OF PARADISE who both later went on to form THE ALOOF.

Seasoned by the icy but angelic voice of Dot Allison, ‘Morning Dove White’ was something truly unique in the sphere of post-Acid House electronic dance music. Dot Allison’s resigned opening line on ‘Fallen’ of  “I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this…” is simply seductive. The accompanying groovy rhythm section on a slight off-beat makes it the most club flavoured track on here with the reggae-inflections of LEFTFIELD’s ‘Release The Pressure’ as its backdrop.

Although often referred to as a dance act, ONE DOVE’s sound was actually characterised by primarily electronic textures with heavy processing influenced by laid back Jamaican dub and Eno-esque ambience.

This recalled the work of former PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED bassist Jah Wobble who incidentally guested on ‘Morning Dove White’ and later recorded an album with Brian Eno called ‘Spinner’.

The single versions of ‘Breakdown’ and ‘White Love’ reworked by Stephen Hague are actually quite brilliant, accessible and are far less intimidating than the full-on dub attack of the lengthy album cuts. But even as radio mixes, they are hardly the glossy pop of SAINT ETIENNE.

London Records had taken over the Junior Boys Own label and wanted to make ONE DOVE’s music more radio friendly. The band may have been unhappy about the commercialisation of their sound and there is something to be said about fighting for your art, but what is the point if people can’t access your work through conventional media and grow into it, especially if it is relatively radical? In hindsight, London Records were being well intentioned, but this led to a dispute which delayed the release ‘Morning Dove White’ for a full year until 1993.

A compromise was reached with ONE DOVE working with Stephen Hague in the studio during the remix sessions. ‘White Love’ is wonderfully dreamy with its subtle piano and gospel salvo predating MOBY’s ‘Play’ by several years. Their biggest hit ‘Breakdown’ has a surprising VAN MORRISON influence, taking its chorus from THEM’s ‘Here Comes The Night’. In both, Dot Allison’s sexily whispering vocals are the distinctive key.

But the album’s crowning glory is the Phil Spector in the 23rd Century mystique of the stupendous ‘Why Don’t You Take Me?’ featuring Wall Of Sound effects galore and reverbed steel drum samples, it is almost funereal but actually possesses an uplifting quality. Although there was a Stephen Hague assisted mix sans steel drums available on the single release, in this case it was Andrew Weatherall’s original vision that is won the day.

Of the supporting features on ‘Morning Dove White’, ‘There Goes The Cure’ is very ‘Twin Peaks’ in atmosphere, punctuated by Dot Allison’s chants of “he’s gone”. Constructed around some tinkling piano and deep ambient drones, its heart is suddenly invaded by Jah Wobble’s distinctive bass run before returning full circle with the aid of a dramatic percussive climax.

Both ‘Sirens’ and ‘My Friend’ recall Weatherall’s work on PRIMAL SCREAM’s ‘Screamadelica’ while ‘Transient Truth’ is a superb instrumental with an ‘Ipcress File’ meets KING TUBBY twist. The echoey drum machine and the various incessantly repeated spy film riffs provide a suitably hypnotic soundtrack.

With a promising debut album greeted by enormous praise and critical approval, a follow-up was eagerly anticipated.

A reworking of DOLLY PARTON’s ‘Jolene’ and the song ‘Skanga’ which were included as B-sides to’ Why Don’t You Take Me?’ gave an indication of the heavier dub reggae sound that was being pursued. There was even rumours of a cover version of SIMON DUPREE & THE BIG SOUND’s ‘Kites’, the concept of which had the potential to be amazing.

But there was no second album. It was recorded but never released. Frustrated and drained by business politics, ONE DOVE disbanded in 1996. Dot Allison went on to release a series of acclaimed solo albums including ‘Afterglow’ and ‘We Are Science’ as well as working with DEATH IN VEGAS and MASSIVE ATTACK.

‘Morning Dove White’, like THE ALOOF’s ‘Sinking’, is infinitely superior to the over rated trip-hop albums such as PORTISHEAD’s ‘Dummy’ or TRICKY’s ‘Maxinquaye’ which dominated the mellow coffee-table dance niche of the time. Some of the full on dub excursions have degrees of over-indulgence and may not be to everyone’s taste, but one of the beauties of modern digital formats is the ability to compile a version of the album to suit the mood.

It may not have been the journey that the band intended but this collection is a challenging and rewarding listen that deserves reappraisal.


‘Morning Dove White’ is still available on CD via London Records

www.onedove.net

www.dotallison.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd June 2012