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ASPRA Presents: Play For Tomorrow Vol1

Best known as one half of the Greek synthpop duo MARSHEAUX, Sophia Sarigiannidou launched her solo project ASPRA in 2022

Her first single was ‘Velvet’, an electronic rework of the 4AD cult shoegaze duo THE BIG PINK while on the flip was another cover in ‘Anoint’, a song originally by John Peel favourites THE FIELD MICE. While these choices were unexpected, it did point to Sarigiannidou’s own leftfield tastes. There was also two fabulous collaborations with veteran electronic composer Lena Platonos, prosed unexpectedly en Français.

“I started going to the neighborhood record store and asking them to write me tapes. I bought the ‘Machines’ compilation LP. The disc starts with ‘Messages’ by OMD. What a shock that was… within 3 minutes so many different tunes alternated, one better than the other.” she said, “Through this record, I discovered Fad Gadget, Gary Numan and John Foxx! That afternoon the living room of the house in Thessaloniki was transformed into a window into a future era! It was written everywhere that ‘the synthesizer is the sound of the future’. Mine certainly was!”

Compiling a collection of rare and less obvious post-punk and synth tracks in the spirit of ‘Machines’ from 1977-1985, ‘ASPRA presents: Play For Tomorrow Vol.1’ sees Sarigiannidou offer a snapshot into her creative outlook with songs that four decades on have shown themselves to be “timeless jewels that you can play for today or play for tomorrow…”

While OMD are among the better known acts in the selection with the wistful ‘Of All The Things We’ve Made’ along with ULTRAVOX’s superb ‘Just For A Moment’, the others are more obscure but no less essential. Complimenting these two choices, ‘Karussell’ by Michael Rother of NEU! highlights the German musician’s influence on the aural aesthetics of both.

With wispy vocals and joyfully handled keys, Chris & Cosey’s wonderful ‘October (Love Song)’ was the antithesis of their parent group THROBBING GRISTLE and covered by MARSHEAUX in Greek for their debut album ‘E-Bay Queen’ in 2004. Another highlight is the TB303 driven cinematic synthpop of ‘Mystery & Confusion’ by TUXEDOMOON leader Blaine L Reininger which exudes a Eurocentric spirit as per its title and deserves wider recognition.

But the collection begins with the spacey avant folk of ‘UFO Report No.1’ by THE GADGETS, a track recorded in 1979 and featuring a very young pre-THE THE Matt Johnson. Despite its dour vocal delivery, 1982’s ‘Love Disgrace’ from Italian duo AMIN PECK is immensely catchy with its pulses, chops and glorious synth lines. Meanwhile New Zealand’s CAR CRASH SET earn their place with ‘Fall From Grace’ where deep sombre vocals contrast with a sparkling but gritty mechanical roll over 8 minutes.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller finds two of his productions included; the dystopian minimal synth of ‘Music To Save The World By’ was the B-side from a one-off single on Cherry Red Records by the little known Alan Burnham while planting the seed of KOMPUTER, ‘Still Smiling’ by I START COUNTING has an innocent charm with those distinctive metallic tinges circa 1985. From that same year, French trio RUTH are eccentric but stylish on their debut single ‘Polaroïd/Roman/Photo’ crossing the detached with the playful while another curveball is thrown when the muted brass kicks in.

Α new wave duo with hints of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND but with a heated Italian vibe rather than the Götterdämmerung of Nico, CHRISMA’s ‘Black Silk Stocking’ was a 1978 single was produced and co-written by Vangelis’ brother, Nikko Papathanasiou. THE BUGGLES maybe best known for ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ but the duo of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes actually made a second album ‘Adventures In Modern Recording’ in 1981; from it, ‘On TV’ is enjoyably oddball while employing exotic Eastern flavours not unlike LANDSCAPE.

Last but not least THE ELECTRONIC CIRCUS’ spirited anti-war anthem ‘Direct Lines’ is sadly still relevant 42 years after its release. In what turned out to be a one-off project led by Gary Numan keyboardist Chris Payne, the resigned hopelessness is captured by the vocals of Penny Heathcote, frontwoman of Brighton band CORVETTES who themselves only issued one single.

‘Play For Tomorrow Vol.1’ is a superb compilation that will appeal to long standing music fans who love discovering music from the imperial pioneering phase of electronic pop that may have fallen under the radar back in the day.

Sophia Sarigiannidou has done a fantastic curation job and it will be interesting to see how these influences might permeate into the soundscapes of the eventual debut ASPRA album.


‘Play For Tomorrow Vol.1’ is released as a CD, available from https://deejaydead.de/en/aspra-presents-play-for-tomorrow-vol-1-limited-cd-digipack-2022 and https://www.poponaut.de/various-artists-play-tomorrow-limited-edition-p-22006.html

https://www.instagram.com/thisisaspra/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th February 2023

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits. But even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

Staying within theme on a compilation though is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Although some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via 20 notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within. Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records issued a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. Among the outsiders were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, but was from their synth experimentation period.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette had more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while the rousing ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era.

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was. This compilation was named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, others who also got into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

Celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Giorgio Moroder and the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different to what had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of 38 “synth pop classics”. This was a compilation combining trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS HARDCORE (2002)

God Made Me Hardcore was a label set-up by Andy Chatterley and Richard Norris for electroclash tracks they had involvement in. ‘This Is Hardcore’ included some striking covers; THE DROYDS and MOON UNIT contributed SQUEEZE’s ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and DEVO’s ‘Whip It’ respectively, while there was also a brilliant posh boy mash-up ‘Assault On The West End Girls’ by MUGATU. Siobhan Fahey of SHAKESPEAR’S SISTER and Irish combo RIVIERA also featured.

‘This Is Hardcore’ was released by God Made Me Hardcore

https://www.discogs.com/release/289143-Various-This-Is-Hardcore


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those bringing the sound of electronic pop into the 21st Century.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of the start of the 21st Century, although “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend highlighted dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. The music from LADYTRON, FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT and GREEN VELVET was excellent but DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Highlights included ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which sent up MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ gathered 12 classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. A-HA and THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support, but the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

A downtempo compilation by BLANK & JONES, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken on the hosting DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. Meanwhile, ‘Ghost Trains’ by Erlend Øye was a livelier number that worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, MARCONI UNION, SPOOKY and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with the book about Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. With RIECHMANN, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, DAF, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker which NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved them, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Peter Hook.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

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


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

The 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, ‘The Tears Of Technology’ gathered a heartfelt suite of music. OMD’s ‘Sealand’ sat alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in with Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020, updated 9th December 2022

808 DOT POP The Colour Temperature


One thing that Belgian duo METROLAND never disappoint with is a finely tuned concept.

For his first solo album as 808 DOT POP, Passenger S has ventured towards the science of physics for ‘The Colour Temperature’.

Defined as a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, manufacturing, astrophysics and horticulture, colour temperature is part of everyday life and measured in units of kelvins.

In tribute to his eponymous constant, the opening ‘Planck’s H’ is electromagnetic action expressed musically for that very intellectual topic of quantum mechanics, although the absence of elektronisches schlagzeug might confuse some.

‘Illuminants’ really wouldn’t sound of place on a METROLAND album, while ‘Radiaton Laws’ chordially appears to be a clean mechanised reworking of NEW ORDER’s ’Temptation’.

The sequence-laden overtures of ‘The Tungsten Filament’ naturally glow but ‘Blackbodies’ is melodic robopop with a feminine twist featuring vocals from Noemi Aurora of goth electro duo HELALYN FLOWERS. Now imagine if KRAFTWERK fronted by a girl and we are not talking about Kylie in the ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ video here.

The bubbling ambience of ‘Kelvin (2700)’ acts an interlude before the perky ‘Thermal Contact’ provides rhythmic relief with its clattering drum machine and snaps of synthesized noise, as does ‘Ultraviolet’.

‘The White Tone Of Lamps’ provides another lecture over an electronic backdrop, but much better is ‘Incandescent (Iridium)’ which delightfully expresses itself in a manner of a Vince Clarke and OMD collaboration with the virtual vox humana lady oddly providing both the science talk and the alluring heat.

‘Thermodynamica’ takes on a shadier approach into aurally illustrating the properties of matter with its knowledge essential to the generation of nuclear power; the late Florian Schneider once said “nuclear power is like a knife; it can be used for slicing bread or to stab you in the back”. Therefore, it is fitting that ‘Inside The Light Bulb’ closes ‘The Colour Temperature’ utilising the synthesised speech sound design reminiscent of the KRAFTWERK legend.

While not a radical departure from the template of METROLAND, ‘The Colour Temperature’ will satisfy the ears of their fans as well as those who might like a bit of ORBITAL or KOMPUTER.

So until Passenger S and Passenger A come back together to consider their next thematic concept, it’s time to 808 DOT POP.


‘The Colour Temperature’ is released on 5th June 2020 by Alfa Matrix in CD and digital formats, pre-order from https://alfa-matrix-store.com/808-DOT-POP/808-DOT-POP-The-Colour-Temperature-CD

https://808dotpop.com/

https://www.facebook.com/808dotpop/

https://www.instagram.com/808dotpop/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24th May 2020

2019 END OF YEAR REVIEW

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business. That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic… MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again.

HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour. Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths.

DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019. It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount. This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever. It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after attending two of its live events: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019, updated 29th Janaury 2021

REIN, KOMPUTER + IMI Live at Electrowerkz


It has been said before, but the best electronic events are those put on by actual electronic music enthusiasts.

Nordic friendly blog Cold War Night Life brought Sweden’s REIN over for a first UK show and she didn’t disappoint with her hard hitting, adrenaline pumping EBM with a pop twist.

In a stylistically eclectic evening, electronic duo KOMPUTER made their live return after their last appearance at Mute Presents Short Circuit in 2011. The label veterans also promised music in their previous guises I START COUNTING and FORTRAN 5. But opening was the up-and-coming Leeds based songstress IMI.

Possibly the best new young synth talent in the UK right now, IMI is blessed with a glorious soprano in the vein of Alison Goldfrapp and Tara Busch. Her debut EP ’Lines’ released this year showed potential and promise, impressing the likes of Mark Reeder, Chris Payne, Paul Statham and Sarah Blackwood along the way.

In her third live appearance in the capital, IMI opened her set of intelligent avant pop with ‘The Fence’. With a reasonably sized crowd gathering early to witness her performance, she immediately impressed with her glorious soprano, inventive electronic arrangements and a beautiful booming crescendo.

New song ‘Monolith’ suitably provided a widescreen pillar to the rest of the set, the end section of which began with the eerie but uplifting ‘I Feel Alright’ which recalled the work of I SPEAK MACHINE. Encapsulating the delightful oddness of GOLDFRAPP in their ‘Felt Mountain’ phase and trip-hop, with a piercing cry on the caesura, the magnificence of ‘Margins’ had those who had been unaware of IMI before looking at each other suitably impressed.

Illustrated with a great light show to suit the gothic surroundings of Electrowerkz, it was short set from IMI but it left people wanting more. And as their cheers combined with those of her family members present, there was a sizeable noise of approval for the first act of the night.

Wearing their red overalls from the 2007 ‘Synthetik’ campaign, David Baker and Simon Leonard opened their comeback set with ‘Looking Down On London’ from ‘The World Of Tomorrow’ album which was sampled by OMD in its ‘Metroland’ variant.

The pair delivered on their promise of playing I STARTING COUTING and FORTRAN 5 material with ‘Letters To A Friend’, ‘Heart On The Line’, ‘Time To Dream’, ‘Lose Him’ and ‘Million Headed Monster’ all getting a welcome airing.

Baker was on top form with his deadpan vocals while positioned behind his Korg Poly 800x as Leonard counterpointed robotically with a MicroKorg vocoder.

The brilliant ‘We Are Komputer’ from the debut KOMPUTER EP got people dancing, while the pretty octave shifting pulse ‘Still Smiling’ recalled the more carefree times of 1985 when I START COUNTING got the Daniel Miller production treatment assisted by Flood.

Best of all though was a powerfully faithful rendition of ‘Valentina’, probably the best know KOMPUTER song and their touching tribute to “the first woman hero of the modern age” with its echoes of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Das Modell’.

Concluding with rhythmic strike of ‘The Man Machine’ aping ‘Bill Gates’, KOMPUTER’s return to the stage was complete and more than satisfied the many Mute enthusiasts who had missed the presence of Baker and Leonard over the past few years. While KOMPUTER have remixed BLANCMANGE and METROLAND of late, what their followers really want is new material. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Feisty and ambitious, despite the acclaim of her debut self-titled EP from 2016, REIN focussed on new material for her first ever London performance. Accompanied by the striking statuesque presence of Josefin Ahlqvist Lyzwinski on percussion, the young Swede opened with ‘Reincarnate’ by way of a mission statement.

Swathed in shades of blue light and exuding sweaty energy, the self-explanatory ‘Bodyhammer’ and ‘Accelerate’ continued the attitude with their loudness blows well-placed in the industrial friendly venue. The thrust of ‘Bruises’ added a sinister S&M edge, but the best track of the evening proved to be a new number called ‘Thieves’.

 

REIN discovered electronic music after seeing KRAFTWERK at the age of thirteen, so ‘Thieves’ carried over some of that teen angst, presenting a hardened homage to ‘Tour De France’ that was tough yet very catchy.

The punchy new single ‘Off The Grid’ provided a calling card to REIN’s upcoming debut album while ‘Concrete Jungle’ was the only concession to her debut EP.

But she finished her set with two songs from 2017’s social-politically themed statement of the ‘Freedoom’ EP. The highly danceable ‘Misfit’ channelled aggression to a good beat while the broader modern electro-punk sound of the chant-laden call to action ‘C.A.P.I.T.A.L.I.S.M’ made REIN’s views clear, much to the approval of those moshing in front of her.

A true ‘Rebel Girl’ as suggested by the track from her debut 2016 EP, REIN showcased 45 minutes of progress such that there was no need for that song, ‘Can’t Handle Me’ or ‘I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You’ in her set.

The evening presented three very distinct branches of electronic music, but with KOMPUTER’s long standing links, IMI’s obvious musical debt to GOLDFRAPP and the influence of NITZER EBB on REIN, if there was a relatable thread, then it was the artistic legacy of Mute Records.

With Mute Records sending along a representative and Sarah Blackwood from former Mute offshoot Toast Hawaii signings CLIENT also attending, the circuit was complete. As a punter who had also been to previous shows said afterwards: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”


The organisers give their sincerest thanks to all the artists, Mute Records and the team at Electrowerkz

https://www.facebook.com/reinofficialmusic/

https://www.instagram.com/_reinofficial_/

https://komp46.wixsite.com/komputer

https://www.facebook.com/KomputerOfficial/

https://www.facebook.com/imimusicuk/

https://www.instagram.com/imimusicuk/

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/

http://agaslobodzian.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Aga Słobodzian
10th December 2019

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