Tag: Jorja Chalmers (Page 1 of 2)

2021 End Of Year Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2021

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2021

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

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

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

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


ACTORS Love U More

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

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

https://www.actorstheband.com/


BAND ELECTRONICA featuring MIDGE URE Das Beat

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

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

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


JORJA CHALMERS Rhapsody

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

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

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


CLASS ACTRESS Saint Patrick

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

Available on the EP ‘Sense Memory’ via Terrible Records

https://classactress.com/


HATTIE COOKE I Get By

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

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

https://twitter.com/hattiecooke


DANZ CM Human Existence

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

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

https://www.zdanz.com/


DAWN TO DAWN Care

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


DEVOIR Mercer

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

Available on the single ‘Mercer’

https://www.facebook.com/wearedevoir


DIAMOND FIELD feat BELINDA BRADLEY A Kiss Apart

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

Available on the album ‘Diamond Field’ via Sofa King

https://diamondfieldmusic.com/


DLINA VOLNY Bipolar

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

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

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


LAURA DRE All Day, All Night

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

Available on the album ‘Moving Spaces’ via Outland Recordings

https://lauradre.com/


DURAN DURAN Featuring CHAI More Joy!

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

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

http://www.duranduran.com/


GLÜME Get Low

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/babyglume


ROBIN HATCH Airplane

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

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

https://twitter.com/robinhatch


ITALOCONNECTION featuring ETIENNE DAHO Virus X

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection


JAKUZI Hiç Işık Yok

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

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

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


JOON Good Times

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

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

https://www.templeofjoon.com/


КЛЕТ Eternity

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

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

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


LEATHERS Reckless

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

Available on the EP ‘Reckless’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.leatherstheband.com/


CATHERINE MOAN Drop It!

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

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

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


KARIN MY Loop

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

Available on the album ‘Silence Amygdala’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/


NATION OF LANGUAGE This Fractured Mind

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

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

https://www.nationoflanguage.com/


NORTHERN LITE Ich Fürchte Nein

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

Available on the album ‘Ja’ via UnaMusic

https://www.northernlite.de/


GARY NUMAN The Chosen

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

Available on the album ‘Intruder’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


MARK REEDER & FIFI RONG Figure Of 8

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

Available on the album ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ via MFS

https://fifirong.com/

https://mfsberlin.com/


R. MISSING Crimeless

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

Available on the single ‘Crimeless’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://rmissing.com/


SCHÖNHEIT Danse Du Robot

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

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

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


SEA FEVER De Facto

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

Available on the album ‘Folding Lines’ via Kartel Records

https://seafeverband.com/


UNIFY SEPARATE Embrace The Fear

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/usmusicspace


WAVESHAPER Lost In The Cloud

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

Available on the album ‘Mainframe’ via Waveshaper Music Production

https://www.facebook.com/Waveshaperofficial


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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th December 2021

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

JORJA CHALMERS Interview

A dark reality check swathed in largely improvised synths and sax, ‘Human Again’ was a fine debut long player from Jorja Chalmers released in 2019 by Italians Do It Better, home to CHROMATICS, DESIRE and GLÜME.

Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers was a member of HOTEL MOTEL, a stylish new wave pop trio that also featured front woman Marika Gauci and guitarist Oliver Blair who as RADIO WOLF recently recorded a joint award winning soundtrack with PARALLELS for the film ‘Proximity’. She then joined Bryan Ferry as his sax and keyboard player for live work.

It was while touring the world with the ROXY MUSIC leader that ‘Human Again’ was conceived, capturing the hotel room comedown after facing adulation from concert crowds only hours earlier. Her recently issued second album ‘Midnight Train’ was a product of lockdown and recorded nocturnally at her spare room studio.

Although a natural development of its predecessor, ‘Midnight Train’ added more refinement, structure, sax and vocals, as well as three cover versions of songs made famous by artists as diverse as THE DOORS, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and ENYA.

Jorja Chalmers spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about feeling ‘Human Again’ and taking the ‘Midnight Train’…

Looking back, you’ve had an amazing musical journey, coming to London from Australia, opening for Claudia Brücken of PROPAGANDA and Paul Humphreys of OMD, joining Bryan Ferry’s band and now releasing your own music on Italians Do It Better…

It’s been full of surprises! I’ve been fortunate to work with so many great artists like Marika and Oliver from HOTEL MOTEL and Bryan Ferry and his incredibly talented band. All of these encounters shape the music that you make. Italians Do It Better have helped me to be able to share the music I’m making which is a dream come true.

Is sax your first instrument? What led you to becoming more of a multi-instrumentalist?

Actually, piano is my first instrument. I started playing when I was really young and learnt mostly by ear which helped me to start writing my own songs. I joined the school band when I was 11 and asked to play the saxophone and fell in love with the sound. It’s nice to be able to play a few different instruments if you’re producing your own music. I’m also learning to play guitar so there may be some guitar in the live shows soon.

Your first band in London HOTEL MOTEL attracted some interest, Mark Moore from S-EXPRESS was a fan while there were some recording sessions with producer Bob Kraushaar who worked with PROPAGANDA, ERASURE and PET SHOP BOYS. There was also a video for ‘Sucker Man’, so are these nice memories to look back on?

Absolutely, HOTEL MOTEL will always be dear to my heart and I’m lucky to call Marika one of my closest friends after all these years.

One of the last HOTEL MOTEL tracks was ‘No Way’ in 2006 which you had a prominent role in, but the band appeared to lose momentum after that, what happened?

It was a shame, really. ‘No Way’ was a fun song to write but we could have taken it so much further. It was at a time when many bands were still leaning heavily on outsourcing engineers to make the music. I think if it had been a few years later, I would have had the skills to help Marika craft the songs. I was also at the early stages of getting into synths and wanted to write darker, more experimental songs and it didn’t really fit with the HOTEL MOTEL sound.

How did you come to work with Bryan Ferry? Are there any particular Ferry or Roxy songs which you particularly enjoy playing live?

HOTEL MOTEL were playing a gig at Bar Music Hall for Marika’s club night, ‘Computer Blue’. I think it was 2007. Bryan’s PA at the time came to the gig and the next day I got a Myspace message asking me to audition for Bryan’s band. I got the job and have been working with him ever since. My favourite songs to play live are ‘Don’t Stop the Dance’, ‘Windswept’, ‘If There Is Something’, ‘Editions Of You’, ‘Bitter Sweet’… too many to name! They are all so fun to play. Andy Mackay is a genius at writing lyrical and simple melodies that say so much. I always try to do the same with any sax parts that are in my songs.

Much of your debut album ‘Human Again’ was conceived while touring with Bryan Ferry, what had been the catalyst to start composing?

There can be a lot of time spent alone in hotel rooms on the road which can be a bit isolating. I started taking a mini studio with me on the road and wrote the album on days off and after shows.

The ‘Human Again’ title track was quite an abstract song but captured many emotions and is almost ‘Blade Runner’ like? Was the film or Vangelis an inspiration at all?

I read a book called ‘Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness’ written by Richard Yates and it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me. It’s a series of short stories that explore the human condition. I’ve always been interested in these themes of connection and isolation and it runs through a lot of my music. That coupled with my love of Vangelis and ‘Human Again’ was born.

At what point do you decide that a piece of music remains instrumental or needs a vocal, however abstract?

I’ve never really identified as a singer so when I sing, I see it more as an extension of an instrumental which is why it often sounds abstract. The new album is different from ‘Human Again’. There’s a lot more singing and saxophone. It feels good to sing out finally.

‘The Sum Of Our Sins’ from ‘Human Again’ with its doomy synths could have come from a horror movie, is that a film genre you enjoy?

I do love cinematic music. It originally stems from my love of classical composers like Rachmaninoff. The sense of melodrama really appeals to me as fun and not at all gloomy. The funny thing is I’m not particularly into horror films, although I love the aesthetic of the old horrors like Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’. So it’s the look and sound I love.

How did Italians Do It Better become interested? The connection naturally points to ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Drive’, but what soundtracks have musically touched your soul?

I wrote the demo of ‘Human Again’ and thought nothing would come of it but quite spontaneously sent it to Italians Do It Better and Johnny Jewel got back to me right away to say he loved it and wanted to release it. I was of course thrilled to be working with them as I’d been following the label for a number of years. The ‘After Dark’ compilation, released in 2007 was THE soundtrack for our friends and the London party scene we were in at the time.

Composers like Goblin, John Carpenter, Angelo Badalamenti, Brad Fiedel and of course, Vangelis had a huge impact on my musical taste.

While your new album ‘Midnight Train’ is a natural progression from the last record, there is undoubtedly an increased sound to it, especially in the use of your voice and the wider palette of instruments. What were the main inspirations behind this new record?

The first album is more a series of jams and this one is more considered. I think I got a little braver with my song writing for this album so there’s more meat on the bone.

There’s also the use of live drums on this album too, like on ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ which does have a rather lovely floaty feel?

I wanted to introduce some live drums for this album. I asked my friend Joe Ryan to play and gave him a reference to make it sound like Bill Ward from BLACK SABBATH. When Joe plays drums, he’s adding so music musically. His parts are so beautifully interesting. He helped me to create a back bone for what could be a light and fluffy song without drums. It makes a hypnotic and emotional ride.

Your sax style evokes Berlin-era Bowie, had those instrumentals like ‘Subterraneans’ and ‘Neuköln’ influenced you?

I’m heavily influenced by Bowie and Eno, mainly because they didn’t worry about following the rules. It was strange music even back then but people trusted them as artists and listened and loved what they heard.

The dramatic sequence of ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’, ‘Boadicea’, ‘Love Me Tonight’ and ‘Nightingale’ could almost be considered movements of a much bigger piece, had the idea of a 10 minute track been the original concept?

Not really. The order of tracks wasn’t decided until the very end.

What inspired you to do ‘Riders On The Storm’?

I’ve always loved this song. My dad had these amazing speakers he built and one rainy day when I was little, he sat me down and played that track and I fell in love the sound and memory of it. When I was writing this album, I thought I’d like to add some covers and ‘Riders On The Storm’ felt like a special tribute to my dad and his love for music.

There is more song-based material on ‘Midnight Train’… some of it like the wonderful ‘Rhapsody’ comes across a bit like eerie avant garde Cyndi Lauper and that is meant as a compliment… how did that one come together?

I was asked to contribute to a SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES covers album that’s coming out this summer and it gave me a chance to cover one of my favourite tracks. I loved it so much it had to go on the album.

‘On Such A Clear Day’ and the ‘Midnight Train’ title song, there are some great synth passages and arpeggios, what were you using to construct those?

I’m using the arpeggiator for some elements of those tracks. I like to write long instrumental tracks where you can explore themes and variations, just like in classical music. I’d love to hear these tracks played by an orchestra one day.

Both ‘Human Again’ and ‘Midnight Train’ are albums in the true sense, they have to be listened to all the way through, but do you have any personal highlights from either?

My favourites from ‘Human Again’ would have to be ‘She Made Him Love Again’ and ‘Copper Bells’. Favourites from ‘Midnight Train’ are ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, ‘Riders On The Storm’ and ‘Rhapsody’.

With everything going on, it is difficult to make plans but what do you hope is on the cards for you in the future?

Since I’ve been off the road, I’ve been enjoying teaching saxophone and piano. I hope to keep writing and releasing music and play some live shows, too.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Jorja Chalmers

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Midnight Train’ is released by Italians Do it Better in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://jorjachalmers.bandcamp.com/album/midnight-train

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/jorja-chalmers/

https://twitter.com/jorja_chalmers

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

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4AB4sOhd7x98tjAMB4SgNY


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Caitlin Mogridge, Karolina Paczkowska and Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2021

JORJA CHALMERS Midnight Train

Although a seasoned musician as the sax and keyboard player for Bryan Ferry over the past 10 years, Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers did not release her first album until 2019.

Released by Italians Do It Better, ‘Human Again’ captured the lonely hotel room comedown after facing adulation from a concert crowd only hours earlier, a dark reality check swathed in largely improvised synths and sax. Jorja Chalmers’ second album ‘Midnight Train’ develops on its predecessor and adds more refinement, structure and vocals, as well as perhaps unexpectedly three cover versions.

Constructed during lockdown in her spare room studio after she put her children to bed, the stark nocturnal atmosphere proved to be inspirational, capturing a decadent European mood not far off the instrumental suite on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ album which itself was recorded in the then-divided Mauerstadt of Berlin.

Gentle synth introduces ‘Bring Me Down’, a marvellous and captivating opening waltz. “It’s about the fragility of the perfect housewife” said Chalmers, “It’s basically about a woman that’s trying to be everything, and is cracking psychologically”. By inhabiting that persona away from her own domestic bliss, it harks back to the stylish artifice of classic pop; after all David Bowie did not actually come from outer space and Gary Numan was not a real android. In these days where authenticity is over-craved, this element of imagination and role play (which is lauded in acting but often dissed in music) is most welcome.

Bringing in the extra dimension of live drums from Joe Ryan and expressive sax straight out of ‘Neuköln’, ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ signifies that this album is indeed a refined progression of ‘Human Again’. Then the next section of tracks acts like a four movement suite…

With minimal bass pulses and sporadic percussion, ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’ is given resonance by Chalmers’ appealing voice that comes over like a avant garde Cyndi Lauper; then her slinky multi-tracked sax harmonies takes centre stage. Seamlessly merging into Enya’s ‘Boadicea’, the windy air and unusual shuffle presents an otherworldly interlude before the arpeggio laced ‘Love Me Tonight’ offers place for a vulnerable soprano and powerful drums that manage not to overblow the atmosphere. The suite concludes with the eerie sax collage ambience of ‘Nightingale’.

Then there’s a wonderfully ghostly reinterpretation of ‘Riders On The Storm’. Known as the last song recorded by all four members of THE DOORS with lyrics inspired by the spree killer Billy Cook, the sinister overtones are conveyed while smothered in reverb, reflecting human existence at its most basic disturbed state.

The superb take on SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES ‘Rhapsody’ off their ninth album ‘Peepshow’, uses an intriguing electronic warble within its stripped down arrangement; from its claustrophobic cocoon, Chalmers sounds trapped in an unsettling icy soundscape of synthetic strings and choirs.

‘The Poet’ instrumental evokes more Berlin-era Bowie before leading into ‘The Wolves Of The Orangery’, a song that retains that air of mystery while being hypnotically alluring. Playing with a sequence of modulars, ‘On Such A Clear Day’ sweeps and bends in homag to German electronic exponents like Klaus Schulze and Wolfgang Riechmann.

The ‘Midnight Train’ title song is a more sedate variation on the theme of ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ before the speedy sequences return as the backbone like a more understated ‘On The Run’ for the 21st Century. ‘Underwater Blood’ acts as the abstract if hypnotic closing instrumental with cascading keys that leaves the listener wanting more.

Mixed by Dean Hurley, who is best known for his work with David Lynch including ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Unstaged’, ‘Midnight Train’ is a shimmering and elegant body of work with the right balance of darkness and light. With surreal cinematic unease sitting side-by-side with arthouse glamour, it is a transcendent triumph that is the running to be one of the best albums of 2021.


‘Midnight Train’ is released on 28th May 2021 by Italians Do it Better in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://jorjachalmers.bandcamp.com/album/midnight-train

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/jorja-chalmers/

https://twitter.com/jorja_chalmers

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Caitlin Mogridge
24th May 2021

« Older posts