Tag: Johnny Jewel (Page 1 of 3)

A Beginner’s Guide To ITALIANS DO IT BETTER

Founded in 2006 by Johnny Jewel and Mike Simonetti, Italians Do It Better is an independent record label based in West Hollywood making music and art with a strong visual identity, emphasising the cinematic thread running through its ethos.

GLASS CANDY, the duo featuring Johnny Jewel and Ida No had released their first album ‘Love Love Love’ through Simonetti’s Troubleman Unlimited in 2002, but the pair saw potential for a platform that offered more electronically tinged night music, free of interference and scheduling. Italians Do It Better built itself initially around Johnny Jewel’s musical projects GLASS CANDY, CHROMATICS and then DESIRE whose 2009 self-titled album was to become an acclaimed favourite; the combo’s front woman Megan Louise would later become Jewel’s partner and the label’s president.

Before then CHROMATICS’ singer Ruth Radelet was romantically involved with Jewel and their evolving dynamic from the debut album ‘Night Drive’ right up to the long delayed ‘Dear Tommy’ has kept followers of both the band and label waiting… but one relationship that was unable to be maintained was with Mike Simonetti who parted ways with the label in 2014.

The profile of Italians Do It better has been boosted a number of key soundtrack inclusions; the tracks ‘Tick Of The Clock’ by CHROMATICS and ‘Under Your Spell’ by DESIRE were both used in the 2011 Ryan Gosling film ‘Drive’, while the actor’s 2014 directorial debut ‘Lost River’ featured a score composed by Johnny Jewel.

But for ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017, David Lynch handpicked CHROMATICS to perform their ethereal 2014 single ‘Shadow’ at the Roadhouse for a scene in Episode 2. Meanwhile material from Johnny Jewel’s ‘Windswept’ was included alongside new music from the original series composer Angelo Badalamenti, its sound of “time wasted” fitting in perfectly with the surrealist drama.

Over the past few years, Italians Do It Better has expanded beyond its core roster and signed a number of new acts from all around the globe. Acting like a creative director, Johnny Jewel carefully considers the label’s aesthetic, writing and producing for many of the artists, ensuring a considered continuity of ambience throughout its output.

As part of their diversification, Italians Do It Better have also released demo recordings of now well-known tracks by Fred Ventura and Julee Cruise.

The surprise signing of Swedish cult favourite Sally Shapiro following a 2016 retirement signalled wider ambitions but this news this was countered by CHROMATICS announcing they were disbanding.

The past 18 months has seen Italians Do It Better enter one of its most prolific periods yet, while maintaining its high quality. Known for their ‘After Dark’ series of compilations, the label recently paid a 63rd birthday tribute to Madonna (who inspired the label’s name via a T-shirt slogan “Italians Do It Better” in the ‘Papa Do Preach’ video) with a collection of in-house covers.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents by way of a Beginner’s Guide, a selection from the Italian Do It Better catalogue, placed in yearly, then alphabetical order subject to a restriction of one track per artist moniker.


GLASS CANDY Etheric Device (2007)

Formed in Portland by Ida No and Johnny Jewel, the second GLASS CANDY album ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’ was among the first long players released on Italians Do It Better. Its compendium of dysfunctional electro-disco featured highlights such as ‘Beatific’. But the sharp mantric cascade of ‘Etheric Device’ saw Ida No channel a startled cross of Debbie Harry, Lene Lovich and Cyndi Lauper over bursts of rumbling synthbass. A third album ‘Body Work’ was announced in 2012 but remains unreleased.

Available on the GLASS CANDY album ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/glass-candy/


SYMMETRY Thicker Than Blood (2011)

Johnny Jewel was originally commissioned with CHROMATICS drummer and synthesist Nat Walker to provide an electronic soundtrack for ‘Drive’. But his work was not used and replaced by Cliff Martinez. So Jewel reworked the music and other abstract archive material as ‘Themes For An Imaginary Film’. Using the moniker SYMMETRY, the instrumental ‘Thicker Than Blood’ was one of the standouts Meanwhile, one track turned into a song was ‘Streets Of Fire’ which featured the vocals of Ruth Radlett.

Available on the SYMMETRY album ‘Themes For An Imaginary Film’

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/symmetry/


CHROMATICS Looking For Love (2013)

While their fourth album ‘Kill For Love’ showcased CHROMATICS cross of NEW ORDER styled indie guitar pop and synthesized grandeur, ‘Looking For Love’ was a dark slice of John Carpenter-inspired electronic disco lento at 103 BPM, with Ruth Radlett offering more of a tone of resignation rather than her trademark her wispiness. Originally, it was one of three new songs by CHROMATICS on the ‘After Dark 2’ collection featuring a selection of the Italians Do It Better roster.

Available on the CHROMATICS single bundle ‘Looking For Love’

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics/


JOHNNY JEWEL featuring SAOIRSE RONAN Tell Me (2014)

Undeterred by his frustrating experience working on ‘Drive’, Johnny Jewel agreed to provide the score for ‘Lost River’, the directorial debut of Ryan Gosling. A sparse ballad of innocence, ‘Tell Me’ was its undoubted highlight and sung in the film by Saoirse Ronan as her character Rat. The actress had never sung before and her contribution was recorded in two takes with a single microphone and no headphones. This nervous tension presented a wonderful ‘Twin Peaks’ vibe and a chilling if emotive ambience.

Available on the JOHNNY JEWEL album ‘Lost River (Original Motion Picture Score)’

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/johnny-jewel/


TESS ROBY Catalyst (2018)

The contralto folktronica of Tess Roby was something of a departure for the Italians Do It Better stable. Born to musician parents, Roby dedicated the ‘Beacon’ album to her father and built her songs around the understated tones of a Roland Juno 106, allowing room for her vocals to take centre stage. ‘Catalyst’ was the album’s key reflective ode and provided an expansive earthy quality in its minimalism. She is also an accomplished photographer and a member of the danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN.

Available on the TESS ROBY album ‘Beacon’

https://tessroby.com/


DOUBLE MIXTE Romance Noire (2019)

Originally a duo comprising Thomas Maan and Clara Apolit, brooding Parisians DOUBLE MIXTE projected themselves as a modern day Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin but with a lively techno backbone that was especially evident on their debut Italians Do It Better single ‘Romance Noire’. The Gauloises flavoured film noir synergy came over in a combination of feminine Gallic prose over fat bursts of synths for a dark disco soundtrack that had decadent cool written all over it.

Available on the DOUBLE MIXTE EP ‘Romance Noire’

https://www.instagram.com/doublemixte/


HEAVEN Truth Or Dare (2019)

The mysterious HEAVEN first came to wider attention with the ‘Lonesome Town’ EP featuring the hauntingly breathy ‘It’s Not Enough’ and a funereal paced cover of the Ricky Nelson title ballad that captured the fragility of the broken heart. Fronted by the enigmatic allure of singer and keyboardist Aja, the brilliant ‘Truth Or Dare’ sounded like CHROMATICS but with more synths and drum machine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, closer scrutiny revealed that HEAVEN was another project helmed by the ubiquitous Johnny Jewel.

Available on the HEAVEN single bundle ‘Truth Or Dare’

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/heaven/


ORION I Want You So Bad (2020)

Inspired by Cyberpunk and Giallo cinema, ORION are the enigmatic Rhode Island duo of Orion Dommisse and John-Paul Sullivan. Their second single ‘I Want You So Bad’ was a wonderful Italo-inspired slice of “Cybernetic Noir” produced by Johnny Jewel where the breathy inter-galactic desire was so hot that “I flew from space to love you”. The follow-up single ‘Higher’ was another noteworthy Eurocentric offering with an airy and alluring feminine disposition.

Available on the ORION single bundle ‘I Want You So Bad’

https://www.instagram.com/orion_cartoonland/


CAUSEWAY We Were Never Lost (2020)

Also produced by Johnny Jewel, West Coast synthwave duo CAUSEWAY are Allison Rae and Marshall Watson. With a deep vocal resignation augmented by the tick of the clock and a foggy electronic disposition, ‘We Were Never Lost’ premiered on the ‘After Dark 3’ compilation. The duo kept up the standard with its more dreampop-laden follow-up ‘Hide & Seek’ while their most recent singular offering was a cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Your Silent Face’.

Available on the compilation ‘After Dark 3’ (V/A)

https://www.instagram.com/weare_causeway/


DESIRE Escape (2020)

The brazen and provocative sass of DESIRE fronted by Megan Louise presents the more playful side of Italians Do It Better compared with the ice maiden persona of Ruth Radlett. This was more than demonstrated on a saucy if faithful cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. But crossing the Italo-influenced electronic pop of Manchester’s finest with BANANARAMA, the charming follow-up single ‘Escape’ did as its title suggested, offering delightful escapism for the dancefloor.

Available on the DESIRE single ‘Escape’

https://www.instagram.com/Desire_musicofficial/


BARK BARK DISCO Get Up & Run (2021)

If PET SHOP BOYS had remixed THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN, then it might have sounded a bit like BARK BARK DISCO. Maltese producer Ian Schranz is the man behind the glitterball canine moniker and ‘Get Up & Run’ was an optimistic rallying call to overcome lockdown fatigue where “You’ve gotta get back to the other side”. As well as recording his own material, BARK BARK DISCO is also an occasional collaborator of label mate and neighbour JOON.

Available on the BARK BARK DISCO single ‘Get Up & Run’

https://barkbarkdisco.com/


JORJA CHALMERS I’ll Be Waiting (2021)

If there is an artist that encapsulates the nocturnal cinematic aesthetic of Italians Do It Better, then it is Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers. Her debut album ‘Human Again’ captured a lonely hotel room comedown but the second long player ‘Midnight Train’ presented more refinement, structure and vocals. Driven by a drum mantra in the vein of Bill Ward from BLACK SABBATH with expressive sax straight out of ‘Neuköln’, she captured a decadent European chill on the wonderfully windswept ‘I’ll Be Waiting’.

Available on the JORJA CHALMERS album ‘Midnight Train’

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


DLINA VOLNY Bipolar (2021)

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

Available on the DLINA VOLNY single ‘Bipolar’

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


GLÜME Get Low (2021)

If Lana Del Rey is the “Gangster Nancy Sinatra”, then Los Angeles-born GLÜME is the self-styled “Walmart Marilyn Monroe”. ‘Get Low’ was an intriguing slice of accessible avant pop about the high of falling for someone and how brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected. Applying some rumbling electronic bass, stabbing vintage synths and simple but prominent digital drum beats, ‘Get Close’ sounded not unlike an experimental hybrid of OMD and LADYTRON!

Available on the GLÜME album ‘The Internet’

https://www.instagram.com/babyglume/


JOON ET (2021)

JOON is the artist formally known as YEWS and the musical vehicle of Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis. With many voices in her head, the blippy avant pop ‘ET’ comes over like an oddball variant on Berlin-based Nordic duo ULTRAFLEX; with wonderfully eerie Theremin tones that make the concoction creepy yet fun, this inviting lo-fi number was used in a digital fashion show for the Nintendo simulation game ‘Animal Crossing’, adding to its aural surrealism.

Available on the JOON album ‘Dream Again’

https://www.templeofjoon.com/


JUNO FRANCIS & ALEJANDRO MOLINARI Symmetry (2021)

Angelica Ranåsen and Jacob Fagerstål are Berlin-based Swedish duo JUNO FRANCIS who had released several synthpop singles on Finland’s Solina Records. But on teaming up with Venezuelan producer Alejandro Molinari, they became much more danceable and ‘Symmetry’ offered a sensual electro-funkiness that fitted in with the international disco aspirations of Italian Do It Better. Glamorous, hypnotic and decadent, the video was filmed in the notorious KitKatClub located in the Mitte suburb of the former Mauerstadt.

Available on the JUNO FRANCIS & ALEJANDRO MOLINARI single ‘Symmetry’

https://www.instagram.com/junofrancis/


MOTHERMARY Pray (2021)

Inspired by the Prayer of the Blessed Virgin, the strikingly photogenic twins Elyse and Larena are like real-life ‘Twin Peaks’ characters, the backstory being that they escaped their strict Mormon family in remote Montana and uprooted to Brooklyn. Sounding a bit like Anglo-German art pop duo KALEIDA but with an acid house squelch, ‘Pray’ was their most provocative offering to date with gritty references to a “sacrificial offering” and confirmation that “We’ll pray for you…”

Available on the MOTHERMARY single ‘Pray’

https://www.mothermary.band/


RAMXES Bibliotech Virus (2021)

Another diversion for Italians Do It Better, RAMXES is a producer based in Texas with a background in hip-hop and rap who favours using Sequential Prophet Rev2 and Prophet 12 synths. The self-proclaimed “Dystopic Cowboy” combines house and glitch from within a video game mindset, a combination that is in its fullest flow with the sinister but infectious ‘Bibliotech Virus’. The parent album ‘Deep Crimson’ contained another 11 pieces of relentless electronic drive.

Available on the RAMXES album ‘Deep Crimson’

https://interstellarsun.com/


With special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

The Madonna tribute album ‘Italians Do It Better’ featuring 20 covers by 19 artists is now available via all the usual online platforms

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ITALIANSDOITBETTER

https://twitter.com/IDIB

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter/

https://www.youtube.com/c/ItaliansDoItBetterMusic

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s IDIB playlist ‘GLI ITALIANI LO FANNO MEGLIO’ can be streamed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6HPhf1yptwaN6UiHDqzFI6


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th August 2021

JOON Interview

Behind the dreamy world of JOON is Yasmin Kuymizakis. Growing up in Malta, she made music as the more traditionally minded YEWS but a sound production course in London set her on the path of becoming JOON.

However, when she returned to her home island, Kuymizakis found she had no female role models for making electronic music.

Inspired by the Yorkshire Sound Women Network, she co-founded the Malta Sound Women Network with composer and academic Jess Rymer to bring like-minded women together.

Her positivity after a life-changing car accident helped clarify her musical ambitions and a pointer to her take on life comes via her playful cover versions of pop classics ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’.

Recently releasing her appropriately titled debut album ‘Dream Again’ on Italians Do It Better, the 12 track collection co-produced by Johnny Jewel ranges from bouncy blippy numbers to more introspective personal songs which although tinged with melancholy, are ultimately positive.

The music of JOON is an optimistic dose of inspiration and a universal message for everyone as to how to overcome. With the release of another single ‘Whisper’ from the album, she spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about why now is the right time to ‘Dream Again’.

So how and why did YEWS end and JOON start?

I had been meaning to change my artist name for a few years actually. When I joined Italians Do It Better it felt like the right time for a fresh start. Out with the old, in with the new.

Did using technology lead you to writing songs in a different way than you had before?

Yes definitely! There’s so much you can do with technology. Sonically it’s limitless and it gives me plenty of room to experiment

Who were the acts that influenced the JOON sound?

GRIMES, MOLLY NILSSON and THE KNIFE.

How did the Italians Do It Better connection come about?

I emailed them with a link to ‘ET’ on April Fools Day 2020 thinking they would never reply. They did that same day… we even had a phone call a few hours later. For the next 2 weeks, I kept thinking someone was playing an April Fools joke on me.

What did Johnny Jewel’s role on ‘Dream Again’ entail?

Johnny put a lot of thought and love into my songs. I sent him stems and he just made it all sound better by working on the structures and re-playing some parts using his amazing synth collection. He recorded new lines on some songs and created beats too. He produced the backing track for ‘Wait’ from scratch and it went from being the weakest song to one of the strongest. He really elevated all the tracks!

The bouncy avant pop of ‘ET’ ended up on the ‘Animal Crossing’ digital fashion show which was surreally fitting and it features this amazing Theremin-like sound on it, how did you produce that in the studio?

I wrote ‘ET’ very quickly, in a few minutes. I had used Ableton and created that simple bassline without thinking much and just kept building from there. The vocals were most fun. I was just really letting go and having fun with it.

‘Good Times’ was most welcome with the onset of lockdown fatigue but what was the original inspiration behind this song?

I wrote that after a day at my 9-to-5. I guess I was feeling nostalgic and was remembering about the times when it was all easier to go out, flirt and have some fun.

The comparatively abstract instrumental ‘I.You’ displays your musical diversity, are soundtracks an area you would like to pursue in the future?

Oh yeah! I love soundtracks! I have done quite a few for short films, video games, theatre etc. In a variety of genres too. Always happy to do more.

‘Orqod’ is a gently waltzing ballad sung in Maltese, did you feel it was important for you to make an artistic statement in your own language?

It actually wasn’t intentional at all. I always found it hard to write and sing in Maltese. But somehow I was very in the moment and ‘Orqod’ just came to me very naturally. I was going through a hard time and I was living in London at the time. I would love to write more in my native language but when I force it, it just doesn’t work.

‘Watch The Sky’ is a wonderfully quirky big beat disco number, how did it come together?

The original ‘Watch the Sky’ that I wrote years ago was quite rocky actually! It had guitars on it. When I was going through it to make it work with this album, I was struggling. Luckily my friend and frequent collaborator Ian Schranz from BARK BARK DISCO was there to save the day. He wrote that funky bassline and co-produced the song to make sense with my sound today.

You have released a number of collaborations with BARK BARK DISCO, so how does your approach to composing change when you are working with him?

It’s interesting working with Ian. He writes fun catchy songs so easily, he never ceases to amaze me. We challenge each other quite a bit and I’ve learnt that I can be quite a control freak but luckily we always agree in the end. I love working with him and hope we find time to start a fun crazy side project together. We already have a stage name. All we need is time!

What inspired you to include a cover of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’?

It was a last minute decision actually! Johnny came up with the idea. That song brings so much joy and I feel that’s my mission in life… so we just went for it.

Although not featuring on the ‘Dream Again’ album, you released a cover of BANANARAMA’s ‘Cruel Summer’, or was it the ACE OF BASE version that you heard first?

BANANARAMA forever!!

‘Dream Again’ is a very varied album but which tracks resonate the most with you?

‘Home’ and ‘Me & My Sea’ resonate a lot with me! Every time I hear them I can somehow tap into the exact emotions I was feeling when I wrote them.

You played your first gig as JOON recently, do you think it went ok and are there more planned?

My first live performance was amazing! I got some of my favourite local musicians to join me on stage and it was such a joy. I have some solo gigs planned now, in Malta and Europe.

How is the Malta Sound Women Network progressing, are there still many more things to achieve?

There’s always many things to achieve with MSWN! Right now we’re actually on hold for a bit due to Covid-19… trying to find our feet again at the moment. But we will get back to giving workshops and organising events soon.

What’s next for you?

Perform and write again and again.

Any hopes or fears for the future?

Hope to get to tour and meet all the lovely people I’ve gotten to know this past year and half from JOON. No fears as such… maybe that this pandemic will make it all a little harder.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to JOON

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Dream Again’ is released by Italians Do It Better and available via the usual online platforms

https://www.templeofjoon.com/

https://www.facebook.com/templeofjoon

https://twitter.com/templeofjoon

https://www.instagram.com/templeofjoon/

https://linktr.ee/templeofjoon


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Maria Galea
14th August 2021

VEHLINGGO PRESENTS: 5 Years

Originally released in November 2019, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ collected together exclusive tracks from the world of synthwave and electronic pop.

Curated by Aaron Vehling, founder of Vehlinggo, the 17 tracks presented the musical ethos of the Brooklyn-based website, podcast and multimedia platform. Having been issued digitally, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is now available on CD with a slight adjustment in running order to reflect Vehling’s vision of an imaginary film soundtrack.

Any good compilation contains promising talents alongside established names and this is certainly the case here.

The reconfigured tracklisting begins in a cool stylish fashion with ANORAAK’s ‘Panarea’, a funky nu-disco instrumental. Retrospective references surface with Canada’s PARALLELS on ‘The Magic Hour’, an exquisite slice of synthesized new wave that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a classic Brat Pack movie.

Remaining in Canada which has become the creative centrepoint for much of the best modern synth music, Ryan Gosling favourites FM ATTACK offer more of their trademark atmospheric electronic disco on ‘Paradise’.

The mood changes though with the appealing girly Italopop of New Yorkers BUNNY X and their ‘Revolving Doors’.

Now THE MIDNIGHT have become possibly the biggest synthwave crossover act with their sax assisted AOR but their appeal still baffles some observers; ‘Sometimes She Smiles’ does not change things and sounds not unlike busker balladeer PASSENGER but constructed using VSTs.

But with the pacey ‘Rage Of Honor’, proceedings are rocked up by LE MATOS although the backbone is still predominantly electronic. With a track entitled ‘Hi-NRG’, BETAMAXX begins proceedings with a cowbell frenzy but the speedy arpeggios soon join in for a Giorgio Moroder homage complete with digital chimes.

The shiny electro continues with the Sweden’s Johan Agebjörn and ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’; using robotic vocal treatments like FM ATTACK, because this is a dub version of the track, the featured vocal of Tom Hooker, the voice behind many of the hits for famed Italo star Den Harrow, only comes in phrases which proves to be frustrating; the solution is to track down the original mix of the song from the ‘Videoman’ soundtrack.

MAETHELVIN cuts a solid funk groove on ‘Dance Through The Night’ aided by a LinnDrum derived pattern but maintains a chilly air, while from the Italians Do It Better stable, the previously unreleased Johnny Jewel produced ‘Gold’ by IN MIRRORS builds on some staccato tension.

The throbbing ‘Girl On Video’ from FORGOTTEN ILLUSIONS is loaded with hooks and big synthetic drum fills but while it is passable 4/4 synthwave fare, it is overlong and may have benefitted from being constructed around a 6/8 Schaffel to give it more bite.

A self-confessed “21st Century ’80s” artist, DIAMOND FIELD takes the delightful Dana Jean Phoenix into an interesting direction on ‘Freedom Pass’ by producing something that comes over like THE GO-GO’S gone synthpop. It recalls when Jane Wiedlin was working with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague after the group first disbanded.

Beginning with some female prose en Français, DEADLY AVENGER‘s ‘Your Phone Is Off The Hook, But You’re Not’ is reminiscent of the quirky French underground from which cult acts such as MATHEMATIQUES MODERNES and RUTH emerged. Meanwhile, the wonderful MECHA MAIKO contributes the arty ‘Selfless’ which stands out with its screechy backdrop before settling into an avant pop concoction that makes hypnotic use of her repeated “It’s alright” phrasing!

‘She Sees A Future’ from Lakeshore Records signing VH x RR perhaps has the most nostalgic references like THE LOVER SPEAKS meeting ANIMOTION, but proceedings are taken down a notch by the filmic vocodered mood piece that is METAVARI’s ‘Be What You See’.

But the best is saved until last with HIGHWAY SUPERSTAR and the gorgeously dreamy ‘Slow Motion’; featuring a fabulous vocal by Zoe Polanski, the end result comes across a bit like ELECTRIC YOUTH.

‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ does its job well of showcasing new and established international talent from an American perspective.

Coming from variants of electronic music that have been labelled as synthpop, Italo Disco, synthwave, nu-disco and French disco, what actually matters is whether the music is any good.

Considering this compilation contains largely of previously unreleased material with the baggage that can come with that knowledge, the majority of it is excellent. Listeners will of course have their own favourites, but there really is something for everyone who loves electronic pop with quality and substance.


‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is released as a limited edition CD in a packaged in a six-panel wallet with artists’ notes on 1st March 2021 while the digital album is available now direct from https://vehlinggopresents.com/album/vehlinggo-presents-5-years

https://vehlinggo.com/presents-liner-notes/

https://twitter.com/vehlinggo

https://www.instagram.com/vehlinggo/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th February 2021

CHROMATICS Teacher

In Autumn 2019, CHROMATICS broke a seven year silence between albums with the release of ‘Closer To Grey’.

However, scrutiny revealed ‘Closer To Grey’ to have a ‘VII’ subtitle in blood red on the artwork, despite it being their sixth long player. That was because an album called ‘Dear Tommy’ had been announced in 2015 and yet to be released as album number six.

Legend has it that producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel decided he wasn’t happy with the record, so destroyed all 15,000 CDs and 10,000 vinyl copies that had already been pressed.

One record that suffered a similar fate was ‘Techno Pop’ by KRAFTWERK which was actually advertised in the German press in 1983 before being delayed and reworked. It was then released as the disappointing ‘Electric Café’ in 1986 with some additional new tracks, while its original lead single ‘Tour De France’ was omitted. Then in a bizarre revisionist twist, it was remastered and renamed ‘Techno Pop’ with a slightly amended tracklist in 2009!

The ‘Dear Tommy’ saga has become much talked about by observers and fans with speculation rife that it had been shelved. But in the interim, the quartet of Johnny Jewel, Ruth Radelet, Adam Miller and Nat Walker have continued to release singles while also touring the world.

The ‘Dear Tommy’ announcement has been trailed by a purple hazed video for a great new airy synth driven song entitled ‘Teacher’, of which Johnny Jewel says “The apple obscured in fog is enigmatic & open to the interpretation of the viewer. Are we sinking into the unknown or rising from beyond the grave?”

As with KRAFTWERK, the original ‘Dear Tommy’ lead single ‘Shadow’ has now been dropped from the revised tracklist having become ubiquitous, thanks to its inclusion’ in ‘Twin Peaks: Revisited’; also missing are ‘Cherry’, ‘Camera’, ‘In Films’ and ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’ which have all now been previously released in one form or another.

But included are the previous singles ‘Time Rider’ and ‘Just Like You’, while many of the eighteen tracks announced appear to be completely new with only a few like ‘Fresh Blood’, ‘She Says’, ‘Endless Sleep’ and the title track remaining from the original ‘Dear Tommy’.

A release date for ‘Dear Tommy’ has yet to be confirmed so this saga could go on. However with so much expectation, this album is in danger of underwhelming audiences like ‘Electric Café’ did. With that in mind, it therefore something of a strange coincidence that CHROMATICS and KRAFTWERK had both been due to perform on the same bill at London’s All Points East festival in May.


‘Teacher’ is released by Italians Do It Better via the usual digital outlets

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics/

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/

https://twitter.com/chromatics

https://www.instagram.com/chromaticsmusic/

https://twitter.com/idib

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd April 2020

CHROMATICS, DESIRE + DOUBLE MIXTE Live in London

Photo by Roger Kamp

It may have been ‘Double Exposure’ but the Italians Do It Better triple bill at The Roundhouse in London was a conceptual artistic triumph from the bottom up.

Headlined by CHROMATICS, the line-up also included their label mates DESIRE and DOUBLE MIXTE with all three acts having the multi-instrumentalist, producer and IDIB head honcho Johnny Jewel in common. The audience entered The Roundhouse under hazes of red light with a slide show of the Italians Do It Better roster projected onto the three stage screens.

It was obvious this was not going to be any old rock and roll show. More like an arthouse cinema presentation, many of images had family members such as HEAVEN, IN MIRRORS, DOUBLE MIXTE, GLASS CANDY, KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA, JORJA CHALMERS, DESIRE and of course CHROMATICS captured in superbly designed mock movie posters, emphasising the cinematic thread running through the label. And with accompanying music from the likes of TESS ROBY and ZOLA JESUS, the artistic circle was complete.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Beginning the live proceedings were brooding Parisian duo DOUBLE MIXTE, coming over like a modern day Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg but with a lively techno backbone.

The Gauloises flavoured film noir synergy of Clara Apolit and Thomas Maan came over in a combination of feminine Gallic prose over fat bursts of synths for a dark disco soundtrack that had decadent cool written literally all over it.

This was especially evident on their debut IDIB single ‘Romance Noire’ and the striking visuals of rotating tape reels and VU meters certainly aided the DOUBLE MIXTE presentation cause in what can only be described as an impactful opening set.

Next on stage came DESIRE, the IDIB project fronted by Megan Louise, the charismatic PVC dressed Canadian other half of Johnny Jewel. With the band featuring Johnny Jewel and CHROMATICS drummer Nat Walker with the stylish enigmatic figure of Aja, singer of HEAVEN on keyboards, the quartet fielded their distinctly danceable style of classic synthpop, as exemplified by ‘Mirroir Mirroir’, ‘Don’t Call’ and ‘If I Can’t Hold You’.

Living up to Megan Louise’s more brazen persona, things got particularly saucy during an enjoyable note-for-note cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.

Photo by Roger Kamp

Megan Louise literally got into the spirit of the song’s title and had a snog with Aja in full-view of her boyfriend on the opposite side of the stage.

Closing the DESIRE set with ‘Under Your Spell’ from the influential soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling film ‘Drive’, Megan Louise certainly warmed things up although as she departed, Aja and Johnny Jewel stared each other out in a sustained and ferocious drone duel of the Korg 700 synths.

And with that, the classic synthpop vibe did not subside with Romy Madley Croft of THE XX providing a superb DJ set of synthpop classics including tunes by YAZOO, OMD’s evergreen ‘Messages’, the Italo cult classic ‘Spacer Boy by CHARLIE and Q LAZZARUS’ ‘Goodbye Horses’, a song which appeared in the Jonathan Demme directed movies ‘Married To The Mob’ and ‘Silence Of The Lambs’.

Photo by Roger Kamp

Jewel and Walker returned to the stage with guitarist Adam Miller as CHROMATICS prepared to open their headlining set with an abridged ‘Tick Of The Clock’ before the captivating presence of the stunning Ruth Radelet entered the room for a wonderful rendition of ‘Lady’.

While there was glamour, her aura exuded a darker fatalistic quality after the provactive sass of DESIRE. ‘Kill For Love’ from the 2012 album of the same name highlighted their cross of NEW ORDER styled indie guitar pop and electronic grandeur.

While it all combined to give CHROMATICS their unique selling point, there were also doses of shoegaze derived creative distortion.

The carefully considered visuals were particularly striking with ‘Night Drive’, ‘Back From The Grave’ and ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’ accompanied by images ranging from Korg Mono/Poly synths and blood stained guitars to speedy clocks.

Radelet’s exquisite visage would look like a Hollywood starlet one moment and then distort into an image more unsettling the next. While material from the recent stop-gap album ‘Closer To Grey’ was noticeably absent, concessions were made to newer material like the single ‘Time Rider’ released earlier in 2019.

Photo by Roger Kamp

Miller took to the mic for the lengthy electro art funk of ‘These Streets Will Never Look the Same’ before Radelet’s breathy vocal return on ‘I Want Your Love’.

The eerie ‘Cherry’ with bubbles of bright synth and treated guitar showed CHROMATICS at their best with a sinister groove to accompany Radelet’s forlorn vocal delivery, before a Neil Young cover in the shape of ‘Into The Black’ closed the main set leaving behind a suitably doom laden mood and an extended keyboard passage from Jewel.

For the encore, Radelet returned alone to give an enticing solo interpretation of Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, but for the casual fans of CHROMATICS in the audience, at last came ‘Shadow’, the ghostly wistful number that came to prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’. However, although Radelet’s wispy vocal performance was superlative throughout, the use of guitar rather than string machine for the main melodic theme perhaps lacked the emotive chill of the studio recording.

Photo by Roger Kamp

To end the evening, a respectful rhythmic version of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ gave Johnny Jewel an opportunity to fully exploit the buzzing capabilities of his Korg 700.

And as each member of the band walked off the stage in turn, Jewel was still there at the end, knob twiddling until it was obvious that it was way past curfew! Stylishly conceived and presented, many established acts could learn from how Italians Do It Better curated ‘Double Exposure’.

From the visuals to the lighting, to the outfits to the DJ and finally to the live music itself, it was like a danceable art installation. While the CHROMATICS set list wasn’t particularly ambitious and had changed little since their last London appearance in 2013, it was part of a complete experience that engaged on many levels. And with that, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK left The Roundhouse suitably entertained…


Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th October 2019

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