Tag: Johan Agebjörn


Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

Just as it looked like it would be safe to come out to play, there was uncertainty within the music industry again.

What had become the artists’ favourite platform thanks to its low commission and 0% Fridays, Bandcamp was taken over by Epic Games in 2022 but then following a move by employees to unionise, was sold to Songtradr who immediately dismissed half of its staff… in hindsight, despite its proclamation that this platform cared about the music, it looked like this had been yet another start-up by tech venture capitalists. Just as many acts dropped their own websites in favour of Facebook over a decade ago but were then trapped into sponsored posts to reach the majority of their own fanbase, online shops had been dropped for Bandcamp. So, things are back to square one as many consider a rebuild of their web presence.

Meanwhile, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made a controversial declaration that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”. While THE CURE notably refused to do this and capped their face value tickets at $20 for their US tour, the Live Nation sister outlet Ticketmaster applied excessive booking extras of more than $20 per ticket for a “service fee”, “facility charge” and “order processing”! With dynamic pricing in place at a number of high profile events and so-called VIP tickets on the rise (which didn’t actually include a meet ‘n’ greet but only a nearby bar and a lanyard), fans had their “FOMO” anxieties triggered and simply paid up!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Another artist who kept ticket prices low was Midge Ure who embarked on the successful ‘Voices & Visions’ tour after a year’s delay due to uncertainties over the Covid situation in 2022. Complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and material from his second and third long players with ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’, it was a triumph. He was rewarded with a 70th birthday show celebrating his career at The Royal Albert Hall, which despite its plush surroundings was also kept affordable.

Who says an artist has no control over retail pricing? But one band who were shamelessly happy to charge more for concert tickets, more for merchandise and more for physical releases were DEPECHE MODE. For their first album and tour since the passing of co-founder Andy Fletcher in 2022, the remaining members played the death card with ‘Momento Bori’ and managed to plonk an even more underwhelming arena show into the stadiums of the world… at least the ‘Global Spirit’ tour featured risers!

With renowned UK venues such as Printworks and Moles closing down, as had already been highlighted by Juls Garat of US goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING via social media in 2022: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. However, one seemingly oblivious Devotee said about the inflated ticket prices: “Really don’t know what the issue is. Happily paid £108.00 for a DM ticket. Would have paid more!!”. And therein lays the problem… DEPECHE MODE played a date at Stadion Wankdorf in Bern and that said it all! As the man who Devotees call a genius once wrote: “Some great reward will be coming my way…”

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

As The Devotees wallowed in their collective misery during 2023, the Stockholm Syndrome was stronger than ever. On the Bratislava leg at the National Football Stadium, one of The Black Swarm commented to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I was there… I must admit, a bit disappointed… but I still love them!!!”. It was business as usual for DEPECHE MODE, with “business” being the operative word. It was reported that so much money had been sucked out of the European alternative music market in particular that a number of acts had to schedule their planned tours to 2024, while others who had made good albums worthy of attention in 2023 got lost in the sea of DM propaganda on the web.

Despite increased ticket prices at all levels, gig etiquette declined to the worst possible standards with the constant chatter and bad manners among some attendees. Surely if you have paid upwards of £30 or more for a show, you might want to pay more attention and enjoy it? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never seen it this bad in the 43 years it has been going to concerts, but this entitled arrogance to talk extremely loudly about total bollocks is a undoubted legacy of Brexit and Covid which in combination has normalised a lack of social graces in gathered environments… and when challenged, these total numbskulls become aggressive, pitifully unaware that they are ruining the evening of those around them.

Meanwhile, there was another undesirable element who only go to gigs to post selfies and badly distorted footage on their socials… these were often the sort of people who actually hated the band back in the day, but after 40+ years realised they like the song on the Vitality or Waitrose advert so are sudddenly giving it the big “I AM” about being a fan… but BECAUSE they are only there for one song, they then treat the rest of the gig like they were out with their mates in the pub! 🤬

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

The best live shows of the year came from PET SHOP BOYS and DURAN DURAN with their arena extravaganzas full of hits, classic fan favourites and great staging. Among the album celebrations, CHINA CRISIS ran through their second long player ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ on tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary and founder bassist Peter Hook took the first NEW ORDER compilation ‘Substance’ out on the road to coincide with its expanded 4CD reissue.

“Sweden’s best kept pop secret” KITE impressed with an imitate headliner for their debut London gig and later at Cologne’s Amphi Festival to a much larger crowd, while the return of Ollie Wride to the London stage at The Scala illustrated why he has potential to be the next synthwave artist to crossover into the mainstream.

Photo by Ed Miles

‘Time’s Arrow’, LADYTRON’s second album since their return from hiatus proved to be something of a disappointment while fairing slightly better with its anti-Brexit sentiments, ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ was touted as the final album from OMD; now kissing the strict machine, having previously been supportive of new electronic pop via ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK championed acts MIRRORS, VILLA NAH, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, their choice of art glam hipsters WALT DISCO as opening act on the UK leg of the 2024 tour was symbolic of the general poor state of modern synthpop ie pop music using synths, particularly within the narrow-mindset of Brexit Britain.

Although the UK was continuing to party like it was 1933, the incendiary language that Cruella Braverman was using was so extreme that she was even dismissed from fronting the Conservative Party new wave covers band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS… as a trio of poets from South Yorkshire once said: “BROTHERS! SISTERS! WE DON’T NEED THIS FASCIST GROOVE THANG!”

Reflecting a wider issue, 2023 also saw ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK publish its fewest number of ‘Introducing…’ new artist articles since its inception in 2010 with only Brigitte Bardini and Madeleine Goldstein featured. There were a number of possible reasons…

Photo by Bella Salvatore

“The technology leads the art form and it always has” said veteran producer Steve Lillywhite on a recent Rockonteurs podcast, “if the technology allows you to reference other people’s records… you WILL do that!”. This was summed up by an Apple Mac advert featuring sample-based British pop singer PinkPantheress demonstrating how to have a hit by appropriating a topline from Kelly Rowland and plonking it into GarageBand before processing her voice through AutoTune and nabbing the intro of ‘Gold’ by SPANDAU BALLET… you said it yourself Miss Walker, IT SOUNDS LIKE GARBAGE!

While the accessibility, usability and sound quality of modern tech has totally democratised music making, as another veteran producer Stephen Hague put it to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “it’s made it far too easy”, with the end result being familiarity and imitation rather than innovation. Now that an acceptable sound is able to be obtained fairly quickly on software such as GarageBand, the level of songwriting has generally declined in many genres. Artists abstain from putting in the hard work towards the actual songcraft because they think their track is already great, as it sounds like someone they’ve based it on!

However, the misuse of “synth” as a description reached a new nadir in 2023. There were those using “synth” or “synthwave” in their brand identity who proudly revealed via their Spotify Wrapped that their Top Genre was actually rock or made bizarre comments like “What I like most about synthwave is the guitar solos”. Meanwhile one artist declared they were synthpop because they had spent their youth “listening to too much Madonna”! But synth music as an enduring form is ultimately doomed when social media platforms using “Synthpop” in their idents think that guitar-based bands like BIG COUNTRY and COCTEAU TWINS are part of it, or compile acoustic playlists!! 🤦‍♂️

“Synth” has now somehow become is a general term for any retro-flavoured pop with an element of shiny artifice whether synthesizers have been used or not! These artists and “content creators” are now too young to understand what “synth” in music actually once meant and probably think the term is short for “synthetic” as in clothes and hair products, as opposed to “synthesizer”.

That said, 2023 was not all bad and there was a lot of excellent music. The song of the year was by the unlikely synth hero in glum rocker Lloyd Cole; while guitars made a more prominent but limited return on his album ‘On Pain’ following 2019’s electronically-dominated ‘Guesswork’, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ saw him provide a touching narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976.

Swedish veterans PAGE took the Numanisation of their poptronica to its zenith by bringing in former imperial phase Numan band members Chris Payne and RRussell Bell on their new album ‘En Ny Våg’. Across the Öresund Bridge, Danish synthpop couple SOFTWAVE showed the world the ‘things we’ve done’.

Photo by George Tripodakis

Another music veteran Ricky Wilde teamed up with NINA to reveal their ‘Scala Hearts’; full of classic pop references and a modern sheen, this was the record Wilde had wanted to make for a few years but hadn’t been able to with his sister Kim. Its creative drive showed and this was also the best long player that NINA had been part of since she launched her solo career in 2011. In a busy year, NINA also found time to satisfy many a red blooded fantasy by collaborating with Kid Moxie on the ‘Lust’ EP released by Italians Do It Better.

The Finns were strong too, with Jaakko Eino Kalavi and Jori Hulkkonen producing two of the best albums of 2023. The former’s eclectic ‘Chaos Magic’ featured Alma Jodorowsky, Mr Silla and Jimi Tenor as special guests while the latter’s ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ brought in John Grant, Ralf Dörper, Jake Shears, Jon Marsh, Juho Paalosmaa and Tiga.

While maintaining his front man role in MESH, Mark Hockings presented his solo project BLACKCARBURNING in long playing form and was ‘Watching Sleepers’. Also going it alone, Alison Goldfrapp squarely hit the dancefloor via ’The Love Invention’ with Kylie Minogue’s similarly glitzy ‘Tension’ as its companion. But with ACTORS still busy touring the world, the planned long playing debut from LEATHERS was yet to emerge but there were two new singles in the interim.

METROLAND and side project 808 DOT POP ambitiously released albums in five different formats with exclusive tracks on each between them simultaneously, in a move that had not been seen since 1978 when all four members of KISS released solo records on the same day. Much more discretely, ITALOCONNECTION came up with ‘Nordisko’ which comprised of Nordic pop disco covers. More ambient experiments were served by John Foxx, Vince Clarke, Patricia Wolf, Johan Agebjörn and the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, while putting those ethereal textures into song was Hinako Omori with her appropriately named second album ‘stillness, softness…’

Germany’s BEBORN BETON offered bleak commentary on the state of the planet with ‘Darkness Falls Again’ but encouraged everyone to be dancers in the dark while Chinese band STOLEN highlighted this ‘Eroded Creation’. Within their ‘Circle Of Doom’, NNHMN had pressing matters closer to home while ZANIAS emerged from her ‘Chrysalis’. FERAL FIVE confronted and worked with AI to declare ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ and Finlay Shakespeare tapped into his ‘Illusion + Memory’.

Photo by Tim Darin

Among the promising emergent acts with debut EPs were NEU-ROMANCER and DIE SEXUAL while German solo artists Jennifer Touch and Laura Dre added to their long playing portfolios, as did OHNOTHING and BUNNY X. Fronted by respectively by John Grant and Neil Arthur, CREEP SHOW and THE REMAINDER outlined the benefits of collaboration while CAUSEWAY joined forces with R. MISSING for the single ‘Wear The Night Out’.

Despite having plied their trade for over 50 years, SPARKS continued to be as eccentric as ever and even had Cate Blanchett appear in the video for ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’. With ‘*Happiness now completed’ and Dave Ball returning to the live fold after a period of serious illness, SOFT CELL effectively issued another new album featuring a significant number of previously unreleased tracks including covers of Giorgio Moroder and X-RAY SPEX to provide a much more satisfying listening experience than the parent ‘*Happiness not included’ record. Then there was the unexpected recorded return of CLASSIX NOUVEAUX with their ‘Battle Cry’.

Veteran acts who ceased active operations many years ago got worthy boxed set treatments; TELEX provided ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with the funniest interview of the year in support of their self-titled retrospective on Mute while LANDSCAPE were comprehensively catalogued by Cooking Vinyl. Not to be left out, the trusty Cherry Red via their Lemon imprint showcased how underrated NEW MUSIK and their leader Tony Mansfield were, especially with the latter’s sound clearly audible in today’s pop acts such as THE WEEKND.

Despite the return of Q, the jury was still out on whether music magazines are still desirable aside from their CD and vinyl artefacts. Meanwhile, music-based social media dumbed down its engagement to cut ‘n’ paste Wikipedia snippets accompanying archive photos or artwork, pointless 26th anniversary posts and non-significant birthday celebrations to attract likes. Comments from the public such as “My favourite album… I wish I still had it!” and saying “Happy Birthday” when the platform wasn’t even connected to the artist concerned only highlighted further the continuing inane nature of online interaction. And this was without those irritating “POV” reels and reaction videos on TikTok and Instagram which were unfortunately prevalent!

The less said about the right wing gammon infested sh*t show that Twitter has become, the better but on the new Threads platform intended to take it on, PENDULUM’s El Hornet remarked “omg threads is full of music industry self help w*nkers making lists about things nobody asked abort! ABORT!” 🤣

With such platforms also seemingly centred around the exposure of flesh with photos “just for fun” be the subject a golfer, gamer, painter, baker, comedian, hairdresser, photographer, psychologist, racing driver, book reviewer, poet, dating coach or Lego enthusiast, is it any wonder that several music artists resorted to setting up OnlyFans accounts to sell nude photos!

With pun totally intended, in this challenging climate for exposure, some acts simply got a bit too big for their boots and were unbearably conceited on their socials with their bragging and frivolous chatter to appease a needy flock who hung onto their every word, desperate to be seen to be “friends” of wannabe stars while crowdfunding towards their spa weekenders and vet bills for their cat… it was therefore ironic that one of these acts declared “Music isn’t a competition!” when it appeared that another band might be taking away some of their limelight! Well, stop acting like it’s a 24 hour edition of ‘The Apprentice’ then!!! 🙄

On the other side of the coin, one too cool for school band took a strange attitude to promotion by refusing to accept questions about their influences while trying to come over like total originals. Despite their inspirations being blatant and obvious to hear, they had a misguided self-belief that they were somehow speaking a new language! But everybody knows they started out by purchasing the sheet music to ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ from a New York thrift store! 😆

A few years ago, a lone British artist was complained about the lack of press attention for their new admittedly good album, but then proceeded not to answer emails containing interview pitches. Artists need to engage, no matter how much they say they hate doing promotion, they can’t have it both ways. The days of RADIOHEAD not doing interviews to promote a new album and letting the music speak for itself are long gone…

With the world now making up for lost time since 2020, it would be fair to say that 2023 has been something of a strange year!

Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 December 2023


Sweden producer Johan Agebjörn is perhaps best known as the instrumental half of dreamy electronic disco duo Sally Shapiro.

Their most recent fourth album ‘Sad Cities’ was released by Italians Do It Better in 2022. While Johan Agebjörn himself released a dance pop flavoured solo album ‘Casablanca Nights’ in 2011 and since has collaborated with the likes of Ryan Paris and Samantha Fox on various singles, his portfolio has included more downtempo and ambient works such as 2008’s ‘Mossebo’, 2011’s ‘The Mountain Lake’ and more recently ‘Artefact’ with Mikael Ögren.

His latest release is ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ where he has reworked eight pieces from across his career into something warmer and calmer than their original incarnations, “subtracted” into being entirely beatless so that only the key elements of the music remain. Focussing on calmness and serenity, this wonderful record creates “a sonic sanctuary for the listener and another world to explore”. The end result is an extremely satisfying sonic experience with a distinct environmental atmosphere.

Johan Agebjörn chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his interest in ambient music and the intimate ideas behind ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’.

As someone best known for electronic disco, was it a reaction to that which led you onto an ambient path, or was the interest always there from when you started making music?

My love for ambient music has been there from the early 1990s and I’ve been making ambient music from time to time since the late 1990s. My disco / synthpop music, especially with Sally Shapiro, has reached more people, but my creative effort put into ambient is probably comparable.

What would be your definition of “ambient” music?

Difficult question! For me it’s music that is atmospheric, floating and transcends pop structure – then it can be with or without beats or electronic instruments.

Although it often gets confused with “chillout”, “beach bar” or “elevator” music, and even the electronic classical stylists like Isao Tomita or the synthonies of Jean-Michel Jarre, ambient does have a distinct style of its own, what are your thoughts about how it has been misinterpreted?

Well I don’t bother so much, though I would say that ambient music is richer in its emotional scope than “elevator music”, which I guess is only there to be in the background. Ambient can be very expressive of different emotions in my opinion, it can be sad, it can be happy, it can be healing, it can be painful, it can be scary.

Who would you say are your influences in ambient music?

Brian Eno of course, Pete Namlook, The KLF (‘Chill Out’ and the original ambient version of ‘Last Train To Trancentral’), Scandinavian “arctic ambient” like Biosphere and Krister Linder, also the early ambient works of Moby, those are my most important influences.

Are there any preferred synths, effects or techniques you like to use to make ambient music?

One favourite technique to find warm sounds is to record a very high-pitched waveform to tape, resample it, and transpose it a few octaves down. You get a noise and a slight sway from the tape, that makes it very warm and analogue sounding. For example, I recorded the high-pitched sound of Aphex Twin ’Ventolin’ to tape and resampled it, it’s now one of my favourite pad sounds. I also found some very warm sounds by sampling a tape that was used to store games on my old Commodore 64. As for effects, I really like the built-in reverb in Propellerheads Reason.

How did ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ come about as an idea?

I was listening to my 2008 album ‘Mossebo’ in the car and suddenly thought “hey, I want to hear these tracks without beats”. I had been listening to a lot of beatless ambient lately (John Serrie, 36), especially in the evenings after work and putting kids to sleep, and I felt a wish to make more beatless ambient music myself.

Although ‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ is an ambient record, it IS very melodic, is this a consequence of the bones of the tracks being songs in the first place, as opposed to being composed specifically ground up as ambient pieces?

Probably. I also feel it’s often kind of boring to make music without harmonies and melodies. It’s not necessarily boring to listen to, I can enjoy drone ambient for example, but it’s not my kind of thing to sit a whole day in the studio with that kind of music, I usually lose the excitement if there are no harmonies or melodies.

As an example, how did it occur to you that a rhythmic track such as ‘Ambient Computer Dance’ would work in a subtracted environmental manner?

Actually I think that track was the first one that I wanted to “subtract”. The track was originally influenced by early Autechre, like if Autechre would have listened a lot to Italo disco. I like the original but after removing the beats, slowing it down etc, there’s a different kind of calm magic to it, I think.

What about the process for ‘Sleep In My Arms’ with Sally Shapiro which admittedly already had a serene quality about it?

That track was actually originally a cover version of ‘Ursa Major 7’ by Erik van den Broek which I heard on John Acquaviva’s DJ mix for X-MIX-3. The flute melody is taken from that track, and Erik agreed to let us make a new track out of it. Sally did some minimal spoken word on it and it became a nice ambient ending track on ‘Disco Romance’. The version on this album is even more ambient and minimal.

‘Swimming Through The Blue Lagoon’ comes from ‘The Mountain Lake’ album of 2011 and had beats from a Casio MT52 on the original, how did this evolve into an ambient journey over the years?

This is one of my all-time favourite tracks of mine, the original version with beats was made already in 2005 and was included on the album you mentioned. A short ambient version with some vocals by Sally was also included on the album ‘My Guilty Pleasure’ in 2009, and has been included a lot in the background of TV programs around the world. In this version I have removed even more parts from it, added reverb etc and it has the length of the original. The melody is actually also played with the Casio MT52… the sound is called “electric guitar”!

The new version of ‘Zero Gravitation’ has this glorious floating quality about it, but was almost like a trance track when it featured on ‘The Mountain Lake’; so did that begin in ambient form and then layered into something more lively?

Yes, the starting point of the track was these emotional, spacey strings. Actually that’s another sound that is sampled from a tape, some high-pitched string sound taken from a break of some drum ’n’ bass track, sampled by my old Roland DJ-70 and then played live by myself with lots of reverb from Reason. The tape effect makes it a bit Mellotron-ish.

One of the more vocal-led tracks is ‘Dulciter Somni’ and you kept Lisa Barra’s voice in for the Subtracted version?

This track had Lisa Barra’s magic vocal loop as a starting point, everything else was built around it. Here you have some sounds from the tape of the Commodore 64.

Did you actually ride the ‘Siberian Train’ for real yourself?

Oh yes – my mum took me on a journey to China by train through the Soviet Union in 1987! She was a journalist, so she brought a tape recorder, and we recorded a few tapes along the journey. Some of the train sounds are actually sampled from one of those tapes. On the original version (Part I) of ‘Siberian Train’ on ‘Mossebo’, there’s also a vocal sample when the train approaches the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude close to the Mongolian border. One memorable moment was when I was contacted by a listener from Ulan-Ude who had heard the track!

I think this train journey – plus The KLF’s original ambient version of ‘Last Train To Trancentral’ – has had a big influence on my music, as there are train samples and train references in a lot of my tracks.

What satisfaction does ambient work give you that you can’t get from song writing and disco productions?

Sometimes I’m simply more in a calm ambient mood!

Have you ever considered taking on the challenge of constructing much longer ambient pieces, for example like Brian Eno’s ‘Thursday Afternoon’, ‘Neroli’ or ‘Reflection’ which are around an hour in length?

I’ve been thinking about it, as I sometimes listen to some of these long pieces, Brian Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ is a favourite for example. Let’s see if it happens sometime!

What is next for you?

I’m in a very musically active period lately – I’m working on three different kinds of music: new Sally Shapiro tracks, new synthpop-ish tracks with other singers, and new ambient music. This autumn I’m also planning an ambient concert in a church together with my musical collaborator Mikael Ögren (Malmö, October 21st in case anyone’s interested), as well as a DJ set at an Italo disco festival in Helsingborg Sweden on October 7th, Den Harrow, Linda Jo Rizzo and some others will be performing there too.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Johan Agebjörn

‘Subtracted Soundscapes’ is released by Spotted Peccary Music and available as a digital album via https://johan-agebjorn.bandcamp.com/album/subtracted-soundscapes

Johan Agebjörn DJs at BEATBOXHBG23 in Helsingborg on Saturday 7th October 2023 – information on the event at Charles Dickens Bar & Scen which features appareances from Den Harrow, Linda Jo Rizzo, Paul Rein, Tobias Bernstrup + many more can be found via here






Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Mika Stjärnglinder.
5 August 2023


During lockdown, electronic music displayed its emotional empathy with isolation and solitary working.

But as during The Cold War in its breakthrough years, it read the room again with the onset of worldwide and domestic conflicts, both armed and political. There were times in 2022 that were as if The Cold War had never ended and in amongst the turmoil, artists reflected their anxieties on top of those already existing.

Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said: “Overall, this decade has been a real downer with the pandemic and now the war, so if we are trying to look for silver linings here, I think it will be interesting for the creative community to get something out of it, the frustration, the fears and all that.”

As further pandemic songs were released as well, what emerged were songs of varying moods and while there was fresh optimising in the air, there were calls to arms and resignation looming too. Overall, 2022 saw many great individual tracks issued and mention must be made of NNHMN, NATION OF LANGUAGE, O+HER, DIE ROBO SAPIENS, DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who were among those shortlisted for this year’s listing.

As ever on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, rules help control the fun… so restricted to tracks available on the usual online retail platforms with a limit of one song per artist moniker, here are the 30 SONGS OF 2022 in alphabetical order by artist…

ANNIEE featuring VON HERTZOG Danger Electricity

Bubbling with a dynamic thrust, the angelic voice of Anniee evoked the excitement of a night clubbing while Von Hertzog provided the hypnotic backing and beautiful soundscape. “I was jogging in London and came across the words in the sidewalk ‘danger electricity’” she said, “I had always wanted to create a dance track – something that reflected my love for EDM”.

Available on the single ‘Danger Electricity’ via Anniee and Von Hertzog



For Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder, the ongoing world tensions were a symbol of ‘Life Everywhere’. Like a Harry Palmer film given an electro soundtrack and hidden behind the facade of love songs, they poignantly made a statement on life during wartime. With a speedy conga mantra and a dominant digital clap, ‘All You Need Is Love’ entered funky electronic disco territory.

Available on the album ‘Life Everywhere’ via MFS




Despite questioning selective memories on his second album ‘Memory Box’, with ‘The Winter Palace’, Rodney Cromwell was wanting to forget a former beau because “I dream of you regardless, whether I am asleep or awake”. With hints of classic NEW ORDER and OMD, the wonderfully icy number embraced motorik mechanisation and a glorious synth solo for a hopeful uplift.

Available on the album ‘Memory Box’ via Happy Robots Records


BOY HARSHER Machina featuring Ms. BOAN

BOY HARSHER made a short horror movie ‘The Runner’ and a soundtrack to go with it. Although comprising of their usual dark and danceable electronic pop, it featured several special guests. Sung in Spanish and English, ‘Machina’ featuring Ms. BOAN aka Mariana Saldaña was aimed at the dancefloor, recalling the Latino electronic disco of Bobby Orlando, particularly PET SHOP BOYS ‘A Man Could Get Arrested’.

Available on the album ‘The Runner’ via Nude Club / City Slang


CIRCUIT3 Valentina Fly

For his third CIRCUIT3 album, Peter Fitzpatrick presented a retro-futuristic narrative on the world before the space shuttle. Valentina Tereshkova whose 1963 adventure in Vostok 6 made her the first woman in space was celebrated with ‘Valentina Fly’, the wonderful piece evoking OMD. “She’s not a celebrated as Yuri Gagarin” said the Dubliner, but “in some respects, what she achieved was much greater.”

Available on the album ‘Technology For The Youth’ via https://circuit3.bandcamp.com/



If Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ had been reconfigured as a Balearic friendly electronic disco number, then it would have come out like ‘Tongue Tied’, the title track of the second album by Gemma Cullingford. With a nonchalant but sensual vocal style reminiscent of Sarah Nixey, ‘Tongue Tied’ exuded a positive if nervous energy in a purer metronomic adoption of electronics. Shyness is nice…

Available on the album ‘Tongue Tied’ via Elmo Recordings



Canadian danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN celebrated the joy of music in times of adversity with ‘Stereo’. Driven by a Roland TR909, the song touched on the acceptance of confinement where “I wait for no one to ask ‘when do we go?’”. In its romantic reflection of good times, a breezy infectious allure was captured with a promise of better things to come.

Available on the album ‘Postcards From The Sun To The Moon’ via SSURROUNDSS



Since Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie reconfigured DUBSTAR as a duo, there was always the impression that the comeback album ‘One’ was a warm-up. Opening album ‘Two’  was ‘Token’; co-produced by Stephen Hague, it pointed to his work with PET SHOP BOYS and ERASURE. Its narrative about leaving behind abusive relationships and minor gestures was a topic that many could relate to.

Available on the album ‘Two’ via Northern Writes


EMMON The Battle

Since releasing her first sassy pop album ‘The Art & The Evil’ in 2007, Emma Nylen has got progressively darker and harder while still retaining an enigmatic presence. While most of her ‘Recon’ album headed in an EBM direction, synthpop was the sound on the ‘Black Celebration’ inflected mission that was ‘The Battle’, a timely commentary on world and deomestic events.

Available on the album ‘Recon’ via Icons Creating Real Art


FADER Serpentine

As with previous FADER works, Benge worked alone on the instrumentation in Cornwall while Neil Arthur did his lyrics and vocals. Their third album together ‘Quartz’ was inspired by incidental atmospheric music used in vintage TV shows. Minimalistic structures provided a reflective and elegiac backdrop. The icy waltz ‘Serpentine’ opened the album with its sparse keys like Gary Numan meeting Brian Eno.

Available on the album ‘Quartz’ via Blanc Check Records



A reinterpretation of THE CARS’ mournful classic’, this chilling version of ‘Drive’ by THE GOLDEN FILTER simply captured the zeitgeist in amongst the turmoil of world events… the work of Penelope Trappes and Stephen Hindman, the duo defied people not to well up on hearing the words “Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late? Who’s gonna tell you things aren’t so great?”.

Available on the single ‘Drive’ via The Golden Filter


H/P Vicinities

H/P were formally known as HAPPINESS PROJECT, issuing their first album in 2008. For their H/P debut ‘Programma’, the trio not only shortened their moniker but also adopted a minimal synth approach. Acknowledging the debt of influence to cult French act MARTIN DUPONT, ‘Vicinities’ appled a complex spiral of delicate blips, while was enclosed is an emotional centre that recalled OMD.

Available on the album ‘Programma’ via BOREDOMproduct



Adopting the dishevelled persona of a satanic Libertas, ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE was another album that captured the zeitgeist. With hints of Gary Numan, the screeching title song set the scene. “It definitely has ‘Metal’ in there as an influence” she said, “It came about from me messing with my Casio SK1 and then running that through a Moogerfooger ClusterFlux to make it all bendy and provide actual notes from the feedback.”

Available on the album ‘War’ via https://ispeakmachine.bandcamp.com/


KAREN HUNTER Don’t Call My Name

Karen Hunter was a Gary Numan live band member between 1984-85 and recorded a wonderful cover of the ballad ‘Don’t Call My Name’ in support of The Ced Sharpley Drumming Bursary. The original was on the 1988 album ‘Metal Rhythm’ and given a serene feminine twist. Produced by music veteran Steve Hunter, Numan associates Chris Payne and Andy Coughlan also contributed.

Available as a digital single ‘Don’t Call My Name’ via Living Ornaments



Vincent Belorgey aka Kavinsky made his name with ‘Night Call’. But it was featured in the cult movie ‘Drive’, the Frenchman found it was an albatross around his neck. He upset people when he said “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it”.  Now ‘Reborn’, channelling his inner Moroder circa ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Outsider’ was a magnificent instrumental laced with orchestrated drama and tension.

Available on the album ‘Reborn’ via Record Makers / Protovision



Taking both musical and lyrical inspiration from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, there were darker and harder aesthetics at play on ‘Shine’ with KID MOXIE assertively declaring “I’m taking the lead in the back seat”. “We definitely channelled some DM vibes” she remembered, “it was even a running joke while we were in studio recording it with FADERHEAD”.

Available on the album ‘Better Than Electric’ via Pasadena Records


KITE Panic Music

“Sweden’s best kept pop-secret” returned with ‘Panic Music’ and exuded a fierce anxiety with front man Nicklas Stenemo presenting his characteristic screaming delivery. Over an epic neo-gothic backdrop now associated with KITE, Christian Berg continued his fascination for electronic drones and swoops while there was also the surprise of a guitar solo. The stress and strain of the past two years was captured in song.

Available on the digital single ‘Panic Music’ via Astronaut Recordings



From Vancouver in British Columbia, ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett continued with her more synth focussed solo project LEATHERS. Not completely divorced from the main band family, frontman Jason Corbett acts as producer and collaborator, just as Daniel Hunt did with Helen Marnie on her solo work during the LADYTRON hiatus. ‘Runaway’ was gorgeous dreamy synthpop to elope to.

Available on the digital single ‘Runaway’ via Artoffact Records


MECHA MAIKO Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)

Hayley Stewart returned as MECHA MAIKO with ‘NOT OK’ to highlight the social-political flashpoints that emerged during the pandemic. But focussing on warmer moments and feeling the force of some mighty electro, ‘Sunny, Softly (I Feel Love)’ threw in the iconic throb from the Giorgio Moroder produced Donna Summer hit for a glorious beat driven statement enhanced by an angelic delivery.

Available on the album ‘NOT OK’ via New Retro Wave



Sister and brother duo MINIMAL SCHLAGER began in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. Based between London and Berlin, Alicia Macanás and Francisco Parisi began to develop a brand of synth heavy dreampop. While bubbling with glistening synths, ‘Submission’ was a more of a new wave number with subtle guitar and a rhythmic bounce that set it apart from the other songs on their first album.

Available on the album ‘Love, Sex & Dreams’ via Duchess Box Records


R.MISSING New Present City

Fronted by enigmatic Sharon Shy, having released some fabulously ethereal singles in the past 18 months, New York-based darklings R. MISSING presented the sinister beauty of ‘New Present City’. In their embracement of the fragility of life with gently propelled soundscapes swathed in icy melancholia, this slice of electronic pop noir fittingly filled a gap left by the now disbanded CHROMATICS.

Available on the digital single ‘New Present City’ via Terminal Echo



‘The Inevitable End’ in 2014 was said to be the final RÖYKSOPP album but after various singles and soundtracks, they returned with the ‘Profound Mysteries’ trilogy. Featuring Alison Goldfrapp, the delicious ‘Impossible’ was a mighty avant disco excursion with a seductive high soprano middle eight drifting into an intergalactic twist.

Available on the album ‘Profound Mysteries’ via Dog Triumph


HANNA RUA Light In Your Dark

Swedish songstress Hanna Rua has a dreamy electronic pop sensibility with the emphasis on the pop, but her debut EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ also demonstrated her scope and capability using darker aesthetics. With a wonderfully gritty austere, the title song played with gothier influences while remaining melodic, coming over like a Nordic NINA in her more recent work in a battle against the demons.

Available on the EP ‘Light Up Your Dark’ via Aztec Records



Although they announced a retirement of sorts in 2016, Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO joined the Italian Do It Better family in 2021 to make an unexpected return. ‘Fading Away’ was an epic dance tune where an atmospheric template was merged with a relentless disco synthwave hybrid, utilising a glorious plethora of trancey electronics and thumping rhythms across its seven minutes.

Available on the album ‘Sad Cities’ via Italians Do It Better



With the bear next door, the title of SIN COS TAN’s fourth album ‘Living In Fear’ resonated with anyone resident in Finland or anywhere in the civilised world; “Do you fear the dark, love, war, or yourself? Whatever the answer, you can be certain: Fear is a powerful thing.” The windswept electro-motorik of ‘Endless’ used the melodic synthy highs of OMD to counter the melancholic expression.

Available on the album ‘Living In Fear’ via Solina Records


SOFT CELL Nighthawks

The tense industrialised pulse of ‘Nighthawks’ recalled the sweaty alternative club overtures of one-time Some Bizzare stable mates CABARET VOLTAIRE. Featuring a deranged expletive laden rap from drag performance artist Christeene, SOFT CELL fans were even treated to the deep growly voice of Mr Ball himself alongside Marc Almond while ‘Staying Alive’ backing vocals provided another counterpoint.

Available on the album ‘*Happiness Not Included’ via BMG



Documenting a period of personal struggle, the new UNIFY SEPARATE album attempted ‘Closure’ which set the scene with a building atmospheric trance tune that simply mesmerised, especially when front man Andrew Montgomery hit his trademark falsetto. Instrumentalist Leo Josefsson cited influences such as MODERAT, NITZER EBB, UNDERWORLD and FRONT 242.

Available on the album ‘Music Since Tomorrow’ via How Music Group



With shades of Alison Goldfrapp, Hannah Peel and the often forgotten Stella Grundy, the positively feline and angelic ‘Cold Breeze’ was the London-based Aussie Bella Unwin’s best song yet. The additional production and mix by Finlay Shakespeare boosted the punchy and immediate machine funk that was laced with wispy and alluringly coy vocals.

Available on the single ‘Cold Breeze’ via GOTO Records


THE WEEKND Less Than Zero

THE WEEKND again reminded the mainstream of the emotive beauty that can come from classic synthpop with ‘Less Than Zero’. ‘Less Than Zero’ itself sounded not unlike Michael Jackson produced by Tony Mansfield. The cross of catchy hooks, glorious counter-melodies and acoustic strums were reminiscent of Mansfield’s own combo NEW MUSIK who went produced most of A-HA’s debut album.

Available on the album ‘Dawn FM’ via by XO / Republic Records


xPROPAGANDA The Wolves Are Returning

Porduced by Stephen J Lipson, a stark warning on rise again of the far right was highlighted on ‘The Wolves Are Returning’. The message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis and “did nothing” was poignant. Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag provided a worthy follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’ as xPROPAGANDA.

Available on the album ‘The Heart is Strange’ via ZTT Records


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music of 2022 is featured in its ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist

Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022


Since releasing their first album ‘Disco Romance’ in 2006, SALLY SHAPIRO have charmed audiences with a brand of melancholic but uplifting electronic pop.

Despite the name, they are actually a Swedish duo comprising of the enigmatic anonymous songstress Sally Shapiro and producer Johan Agebjörn. The albums ‘My Guilty Pleasure’ and ‘Somewhere Else’ followed but then in 2016, SALLY SHAPIRO issued a final single ‘If You Ever Wanna Change Your Mind’ and retired.

Agebjörn had begun a parallel solo career with 2011’s ‘Casablanca Nights’ album featuring LE PRIX, LAKE HEARTBEAT and QUEEN OF HEARTS but his profile was raised again with his work on the Swedish comedy thriller ‘Videoman’ which included ‘Hot Boy’ with Samantha Fox and ‘Love On Ice’ with Italo star Ryan Paris in a duet with Sally. This seeded a reunion and work on a brand new SALLY SHAPIRO album entitled ’Sad Cities’.

Released with great acclaim earlier this year by Italians Do It Better and headed by the single ‘Fading Away’ after a 5 year absence, as with previous albums, a remix variant of ‘Sad Cities’ is now available, featuring reworks by ITALOCONNECTION, BETAMAXX, SUNGLASSES KID, BARK BARK DISCO and IDIB head honcho Johnny Jewel among many.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had the pleasure of talking to Sally Shapiro and Johan Agebjörn about the making of ‘Sad Cities’, its remix collection and other aspects of their career to date…

What some don’t realise is that like GOLDFRAPP, SALLY SHAPIRO is a duo so what inspired you to adopt a “person” as a nom de théâtre rather than a group moniker?

Sally: We were inspired by some Italo disco artists like Valerie Dore or Katy Gray that had a female singer with an English-sounding pseudonym as the project name. So we wanted to do it in the same way. First the idea was to just make a single with that pseudonym, but then it quickly got established so it felt natural to continue to use it!

How would describe the creative and recording dynamic of SALLY SHAPIRO, do you sit together or work separately?

Sally: We work pretty much separately. Johan prepares the instrumental and then I go into the studio recording the vocals. Johan is not allowed to be in the studio when I sing. We of course listen to the music together and discuss different ideas and so on.

Are there any particular synths, drum machines and techniques that form the classic SALLY SHAPIRO sound?

Johan: We use a lot of drum sounds from the Simmons, LinnDrum, TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. I have an old keyboard Yamaha PSR-3500 that has a bass sound and some percussion sounds that I’ve used a lot. The synths have been quite different ones, but a lot of Roland Juno and Jupiter series, or software emulations / samples of those. My favourite reverb is a built-in reverb in Propellerheads Reason.

SALLY SHAPIRO is a quite low key project in the grander scheme of things within the music scene but when did you realise the music was gaining traction and a cult following?

Johan: During 2006 and 2007, the listener count gradually grew, much thanks to Pitchfork who promoted every single we released and put ‘Disco Romance’ in their best-of-the-year chart. Still, it took a few years until we realised that some people actually viewed ‘Disco Romance’ as a cult album and were paying quite a lot of money for the original vinyl pressing. That felt weird.

The new album ‘Sad Cities’ came after a public announcement in 2016 that there would be no more music as SALLY SHAPIRO. But the gap was actually smaller than some acts’ time between albums when they haven’t announced a “retirement”, do you ever regret making the announcement and that perhaps a rest was all that was needed?

Sally: In one way, looking back it was maybe an immature announcement. At the same time, maybe it was a belief in a “total retirement” that was needed to get back the inspiration. We felt absolutely no pressure to make anything new, and maybe that was good for the creativity and the inspiration to record.

Saying that, the most recent album was ‘Somewhere Else’ in 2013 but there was the Johan solo album ‘Casablanca Nights’ before that. How do you look back on that prolific period?

Johan: It was a period with a lot of collaborations with other musicians, especially on ‘Casablanca Nights’, and a lot of DJing around the world, lots of remixing and lots of fun with now-defunct mp3 blogs that posted the music. I recently re-released ‘Casablanca Nights’ in a 22-track edition on Bandcamp, it was fun and nostalgic to revisit all the music from that time. In retrospect, this was the period when synthwave took shape and reached its creative peak, and I’m glad that we got some remixes by some of those artists (MIAMI NIGHTS 1984, MITCH MURDER, ANORAAK, LE MATOS etc) while the genre was still pretty new.

What was the impetus to relaunch SALLY SHAPIRO?

Sally: A few musical ideas that just had to take shape into SALLY SHAPIRO tracks. After that it felt necessary to make a whole album!

How did Italians Do It Better and Johnny Jewel come to be involved in ‘Sad Cities’?

Johan: We had been in contact a few times earlier through the years, I emailed them and asked if Johnny wanted to take part in the production of the album in some form. They replied and were very enthusiastic about the album and after a while it felt logical to release the album on Italians Do It Better. Johnny and I mixed the album together and he helped out with some drum sounds that he recorded from his drum machines. He also remixed ‘Forget About You’ for the remix album.

‘Forget About You’, the opening song on ‘Sad Cities’ began as a collaboration with Ryan Paris, how did that come about?

Johan: We made a collaboration with Ryan Paris in 2018, ‘Love On Ice’ (released as a Johan Agebjörn track with duet guest vocals by Sally and Ryan), for the soundtrack to a Swedish movie called ‘Videoman’. We liked how it turned out, and ‘Forget About You’ was originally also a Sally / Ryan duet released as a Johan Agebjörn single in 2020, but then for the album we re-recorded it as a Sally solo track. Then Johnny Jewel liked it so much that he wanted it to be a single, and also the track that he wanted to remix for the remix album. Actually, there’s also an original instrumental version of the track from 1994 that I recorded on my Yamaha PSR-3500 keyboard at the time, completely without computer. That version is included as a “B-side” on the single!

‘Million Ways’ surprised listeners with its Italo House and jazz vibe?

Johan: Yeah, it was an attempt to recreate the Italo house sound of 1990 (in particular the productions at the time by Gianfranco Bortolotti – Cappella, 49ers etc) with the SALLY SHAPIRO atmosphere. I was a big fan of that sound at the time with the Korg M1 pianos and clattering 909 snares, also pretty similar to what MADONNA (‘Vogue’) and PET SHOP BOYS did at the time.

‘Fading Away’ is an epic dance tune to close, what was its genesis?

Johan: Thank you! I and Mikael Ögren have been working on ambient music and this is actually a result from those sessions, but something that we thought should be more synthwave-ish. So it has both a bit of atmospheric ambient feel and a bit of the relentless 80s disco / synthwave feel.

How do you think ‘Sad Cities’ has been received?

Johan: Really well! We had no idea if people would still be receptive of our music, but we feel really welcomed back.

As with previous SALLY SHAPIRO albums, ‘Sad Cities’ is being released in a remix variant; as someone who has remixed material for others, is there a brief given out to producers and do you have power of veto just in case?

Johan: We usually don’t give any directions, but sometimes they ask and we tell them maybe which of their tracks that have the sound that we think could sound good with Sally. We usually give some feedback during the process though, a lot of the times we ask for the vocals to be louder. Interestingly, that’s also what Johnny often asked me to change on the original versions! I think that when you produce a track you “know” the vocals and want to highlight all different parts in the production, but as someone listening for the first time, it’s important that the vocals stand out and sound clear if it’s pop music, I think.

Unlike many other remix albums, the companion to ‘Sad Cities’ is very listenable with the SUNGLASSES KID remix of ‘Tell Me How’ and ITALOCONNECTION’s take on ‘Believe In Me’ being particularly good. How did you choose the remixers?

Johan: It has to be a producer with some kind of warmth in their sound, but apart from that we like to have varied styles from ambient (Krister Linder) to techno (VONDA7) and a lot of 80s style producers of course. Many times it’s of course producers / remixers that have produced / remixed something that we’ve been impressed with. Some of them are artists we’ve been following for many many years, like Johnny Jewel, Fred Ventura of ITALOCONNECTION or Krister Linder (Swedish ambient / synthpop legend).

Ben Macklin gives ‘Dulcinea’ a wonderful pop treatment which is quite different from the midtempo synthwave-based original?

Johan: Yeah, Ben made a remix of our 2016 single ‘If You Ever Wanna Change Your Mind’ that we were really happy with, so we wanted to ask him again, and were really happy with the luxurious result.

BARK BARK DISCO’s remix of ‘Holiday’ is on the album as a sort of extra, what was the thinking behind covering this particular MADONNA song out of so many?

Sally: We made the ‘Holiday’ cover for Italians Do It Better’s MADONNA compilation last summer. It’s one of our favourite MADONNA tracks and suited us really well. But actually, our first choice would have been ‘La Isla Bonita’ but that song was already taken!

Johan: For a while we thought about including ‘Holiday’ on the original album, but in the end we didn’t think it fit with the rest of the tracks. When we removed it, BARK BARK DISCO had already started remixing ‘Holiday’, and on the remix album, we think his remix fits better than the original ‘Holiday’ did on the original album. It’s a really fun and groovy remix.

Which are your own favourites from the remix version of Sad Cities’?

Sally: Oh it’s too difficult to choose!

What would you say have been your proudest moments as SALLY SHAPIRO, be it particular albums, songs or synchronisations?

Johan: Difficult question. Right now we feel a bit proud of ‘Sad Cities’, since the project felt buried just a few years ago.

So what is next either as SALLY SHAPIRO or under different umbrellas or projects?

Johan: It’s too early to speak about new SALLY SHAPIRO releases, but we have a mix for another artist in the loop. I am currently preparing a live ambient / chillwave performance together with Mikael Ögren for a festival in Norway this summer. I and Mikael haven’t performed live together before, so it requires some planning and practising!

Finally, talking of other projects, what was it like working with Samantha Fox on ‘Hot Boy’ for the ‘Videoman’ soundtrack in 2018?

Johan: It was a surreal experience! I made the track ‘Hot Boy’ together with my frequent co-writer Roger Gunnarsson, and Kristian (the director of ‘Videoman’) suggested that we should send it to Samantha Fox.

I thought there was one chance in a million, but contacted her through her official website and got a reply after a few days from her manager, that she had listened to the song and wanted to sing on it!

She recorded the vocals in the UK, so we never met during the recording process, but she came to Gothenburg for the recording of the music video later. The music video was prepared and filmed by the ‘Videoman’ team at a hotel, it was a fantastic day with a lot of enthusiastic people. Samantha was very joyful and easy to talk to.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Sally Shapiro and Johan Agebjörn

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Sad Cities (The Remixes)’ and the original album are released by Italians Do It Better, available now from https://sallyshapiro.bandcamp.com/album/sad-cities





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th April 2022