In association with Cold War Night Life, SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER 2019 at Electrowerkz in London will feature the live return of KOMPUTER.
Veterans of three albums released on Mute Records, KOMPUTER were a reaction to the hangover that was Britpop.
But taking a leaf out of the low monobrow antics of OASIS, the duo of Simon Leonard and David Baker decided “instead of ripping off THE BEATLES we’d rip off KRAFTWERK”.
Their first release ‘EP’ in 1996 set out to create some heavily KRAFTWERK influenced numbers and more than made up for the lack of new material from Kling Klang. ‘We Are Komputer’ was their very own take on ‘The Robots’, while there was also the marvellous tribute to the first female Cosmonaut ‘Valentina Tereshkova’ which mined ‘The Model’.
Best of all though was the blippy ‘Komputer Krash’ while ‘Oh Synthesizer’ was an electronic hymn in the vein of ‘Neon Lights’, right down to the near identical schlagzeug stance and leadline melody.
A debut album ‘The World Of Tomorrow’ in 1998 followed featuring the marvellous train ride that was ‘Terminus Interminus’ and a tribute to their home city ‘Looking Down On London’, the ‘Metroland’ mix of which was sampled by OMD for their 2010 tune ’The Right Side?’.
Indeed, sampling was the next path KOMPUTER would take and with the discarded vinyl they sourced on visits to Spitalfields Market, 2002’s ‘Market Led’ was produced. But an exclusive track more in keeping with their more traditional electronic sound ‘My Private Train’ appeared on the 2003 Lucky Pierre compilation ‘Robopop Volume 1’ which also included CLIENT, SPRAY, MY ROBOT FRIEND, WHITE TOWN, EMPIRE STATE HUMAN, VIC TWENTY and MACONDO.
With advances in technology, the third album ‘Synthetik’ in 2007 explored virtual synths using traditional song structures and more experimental ideas. From it, ‘Headphones & Ringtones’ was a witty observation on how music consumption had changed in the 21st Century, while ‘International Space Station’ captured a glorious spirit of unity.
Leonard and Baker had actually been collaborating since 1982 as the synthpop combo I START COUNTING who had a pair of albums released by Mute Records and opened for ERASURE.
Then the pair mutated into the more dance driven FORTRAN 5 who also had three albums on Mute and recorded a hilarious ‘Derek Sings Derek’ cover of ‘Layla’ featuring a camp theatrical monologue by the late comic actor Derek Nimmo.
Highlights of their eight album catalogue were compiled for the excellent ‘Konnecting…’ retrospective in 2011 and with this special live reunion at TEC006, Leonard and Baker have promised material from their I START COUNTING and FORTRAN 5 periods as well as KOMPUTER.
In a break from making preparations for the show, David Baker had a quick chat about Russian history, OMD, Daniel Miller and more…
‘Valentina’ celebrated the first woman in space, what fascinated KOMPUTER about that mission and the Soviet space programme in general?
It was actually more inspired by BONEY M! We had always loved ‘Rasputin’, we even did a cover version. We wanted to do a song with a narrative that documented someone’s life. Simon had a book on the history of space exploration, which is where we discovered the mostly neglected story of Valentina Tereshkova.
‘Oh Synthesizer’ must have lit the touch paper of those obsessed with the “K” word, can you remember what the response was like to the debut self-titled EP?
It was like a similar to someone’s recent recollection of one of our earliest gigs: “My memory of that Garage gig is a very animated and upset young man in an ill-fitting jumper, spilling Tuborg about the place, screaming at the top of his voice, ‘WHAT IS THE FACKING POINT?!’”
How did you feel about OMD sampling ‘Looking Down On London’ for ‘The Right Side?’
Very pleased. Sting asked if he could do a version of ‘Looking Down On London’ as ‘Looking Down On Sunderland’ for some charity thing. We said no because it’s a silly idea and he’s a twat. But we love OMD, ‘Tesla Girls’ in particular and it does a great mash-up with ‘Hersham Boys’ by SHAM 69.
‘Terminus’ is one of your most popular tracks, what was its genesis and do you have a favourite mix?
A seemingly infinite airport / station, JG Ballard, ‘The Bridge’ by Iain Banks. We actually did a track a few years ago called ‘The Bridge’, but that was about Suicide Bridge. It was very good.
Daniel Miller’s Mix, the Memory mix was our favourite. The COSMIC BABY mix was chosen to be the lead track but we always preferred Miller’s. COSMIC BABY’s mix was a swap, we did a remix of his track ‘Lucifer’, which was very good.
ELECTRICITY.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to David Baker
After first breaking cover in 2013, Shanghai synthpop trio QUIETER THAN SPIDERS mysteriously disappeared despite having previewed numerous tracks on YouTube and Soundcloud.
But in 2018 there were ‘Signs Of Life’ as QUIETER THAN SPIDERS officially released their first track ‘Shanghai Metro’ on a compilation via Amour Records. And now, the anonymous family group of Leon, Yi Fan and Yao finally release their long awaited debut album on Anna Logue Records, promising “Electric sound-waves that pulse through our sleep… and our dreams”,
It is a body of work that has a timeless quality which manages to be simultaneously futuristic and classic, just like the electronic pop of yore. ‘Signs Of Life’ begins with the bubbling chiptune inspired ‘Arcade Eighty – Five’; both rigidly rhythmic and richly melodic, it is exactly what KRAFTWERK would be sounding like today if they could be bothered to make new records. With a harsher robotic tone, ‘No Illusion’ keeps up the standard with its sharp hooks and recalls the endearing homemade indie electro of WHITETOWN.
As well as ten actual compositions, ‘Signs of Life’ also features eight conceptual interludes, the first of which being the self-explanatory ‘Disorientation’ which in 2019 falls into that ‘Stranger Things’ territory. Also accidently falling into current music trends, ‘Night Drive’ would probably be considered Synthwave although the chipmunk voice samples and sectional structure keep it firmly within the classic synthpop template.
The very short ‘2139’ looks ahead courtesy of Jean-Michel Jarre derived arpeggios and string machines to act as a intro to the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’. Inspired by an AE Housman poem, it glides with a glacial beauty that not only is appealing to the ear, but can be danced to as well.
The soothing piano on ‘Distant’ provides respite from all the beats before ‘Shanghai Metro’, a whirring tune that would be exactly what OMD would sound like if they formed in the 21st Century.
But while the strong melodic elements recall Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey’s more recent work, particularly 2013’s ‘English Electric’, there is a fresh dynamic slant with the train station announcements and robot voices acting as catchy hooks.
The music box sequence of ‘Chang’e’ has a European arthouse air about it, which is appropriate as the following ‘Fessenden Grove’ is a solemn piano piece that incorporates ‘Scenes From Childhood’ by German composer Robert Schumann. But its eerie voice samples stating “this young man’s dead” prepare the listener for the loss and despair expressed in ‘Hibakusha’.
A beautifully haunting song about the aftermath of Hiroshima, it is a thoughtful merging of SOLVENT and Michael Rother which as far as subject matter and melody goes, is up there with ‘Enola Gay’. Fittingly in that unsettling ‘Stranger Things’ vein, the horror of ‘Silent Centre’ comes afterwards.
That fatalistic air continues with ‘Komarov’, an instrumental eulogy to the cosmonaut of Soyuz 1 who was the first man to die on a space mission; capturing the tragedy in music, it is a hairs on the back of the neck moment, swathed in chilling but melodic sadness; OMD would be rather proud if this was one of their own…
And as the album becomes much more downbeat, ‘Brave New World’ does as title suggests, dressed in dense Vangelis sweeps. More personal and introverted, ‘The Signs Of Life’ stares mortality in the face and reflects on the difficult emotions that come when the end is nearer than the beginning, “when the light begins to fade”.
The longest track on the record, the slow expansive drama of ‘The Statues’ could not be more different from ‘Shanghai Metro’, the mournful choir boy melancholy standing alone in the cinematic synthesized atmosphere. The funereal instrumental ‘Zara In The Stars’ closes ‘Signs Of Life’ with a glorious heavenly ambience perhaps not heard since MOBY closed ‘Hotel’ with ‘Homeward Angel’.
In common with records such as ‘Low’, ‘Closer’ or ‘Play’, ‘Signs Of Life’ begins in an upbeat fashion but then gets increasingly slower, stranger and sadder. And with its conceptual interludes and emotive avant pop in various tempos, it is a direct descendent musically of OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’.
A document of melancholy and uncertainty through its difficult gestation over the last six years, ‘Signs Of Life’ is one of the best electronic pop albums of 2019. Its understated artistic perseverance has been well worth the wait.
‘Signs Of Life’ is released by Anna Logue Records on 4th October 2019 in double CD, double vinyl LP and download formats featuring a bonus album of 10 remixes by artists including Kevin Komoda from RATIONAL YOUTH, VILE ELECTRODES and THE SILICON SCIENTIST – to pre-order, please email email@example.com
Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.
Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.
Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.
From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.
While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is all about.
Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are our favourite twenty electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…
DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)
‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.
Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records
With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.
‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.
Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records
Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.
Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm
Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.
Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology… We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue of the single featured a very early use of the term “electronic dance music”.
“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.
TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!
If there was a song that truly represents ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.
Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records
While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”
Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import
ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.
Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.
Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.
THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.
Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.
Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records
Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.
Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records
Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!
After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”
Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.
Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.
William Mark Wainwright got his affectionate nickname Orbit from his friends who considered him to be something of a “space cadet”.
As William Orbit, the Hackney born musician and composer became one of the most revered producers, winning Grammys, Ivor Novellos and several other music industry awards, with 200 million recordings involving him sold worldwide.
Despite being a competent guitarist, Orbit considered himself unable to play keyboards well and admitted that it was the advent computers in music that allowed him to fully realise his creative potential.
His portfolio has ranged from electronic acts like KRAFTWERK, OMD, CAMOUFLAGE, ERASURE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, NITZER EBB and DEPECHE MODE to rock bands like QUEEN, U2 and BLUR.
However, it was within dance-oriented pop that Orbit made his fortune through productions characterised by his trancey soundscapes, sparing fretwork and understated rhythmic construction. He even had a Top5 hit bearing his own name, albeit with a radically different trance remix by Ferry Corsten of ‘Adagio For Strings’ in 2000.
Brought up in a classical music loving family, Orbit shocked his teacher parents by dropping out of school to pursue his more creative inclinations, having tried a synth for the first time at the age of sixteen.
Things came to came to fruition when a friend wanted to start a recording studio. That venture eventually became Guerilla Studios which has now been based in various locations over the past three and a half decades.
These days, Orbit is a very content man, hosting a classical music show on Scala Radio as well as curating occasional lecture and multimedia art events. Showing little concern for the financial aspects of the music industry, his two most recent albums ‘Orbit Symphonic’ and ‘Strange Cargo 5’ were given away as free downloads on Soundcloud in 2014.
With such a vast and varied career, it would be quite tricky to compile eighteen tracks involving Orbit’s magic touch, but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will attempt to do that with the restriction of one track per album project. So presented in chronological order, here is a Beginner’s Guide to William Orbit.
TORCH SONG Prepare To Energise (1983)
Comprising Orbit, Laurie Mayer, Grant Gilbert and latterly Rico Conning who subsequently worked with Martin Gore on the ‘Counterfeit’ collection, TORCH SONG were signed by music entrepreneur by Miles Copeland; the advance allowed for Orbit to build up his Guerilla Studios. ‘Prepare To Energise’ is probably still their best known tune, a pulsating cosmic club favourite with robotic voices and synthesized textures which featured in the film ‘Bachelor Party’ that was maybe ahead of its time.
Originally available on the TORCH SONG ‘Wish Thing’ via IRS Records, currently unavailable
THE PARTNERSHIP was an unrealised side project comprising of Peter Saville cohort and ex-SPOONS member Brett Wickens with Roger Humphreys who together recorded as CERAMIC HELLO. Produced by Orbit and heavily influenced by KRAFTWERK, the uptempo ‘Sampling The Blast Furnace’ featured lead vocals by Andy McCluskey of OMD alongside vocodered voices and chants by Martha Ladly. The slower McCluskey-less demo was a bonus on the reissue of CERAMIC HELLO’s only album.
Having artists from Mute Records and their dance subsidiary Rhythm King who included S-EXPRESS being remixed at Guerilla Studios gave Daniel Miller first-hand exposure to William Orbit’s capabilities. So who better to ask to house-up ERASURE’s cover version of Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark? The end result was suitably vibrant while still importantly retaining the core of the tune amongst all the fascinating dance rhythms and interplanetary effects.
From THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s final Virgin album, ‘The Stars Are Going Out’ was a good tune from Oakey and Co that was one of four mixed by William Orbit in a bitty collection that also contained two songs produced by Martin Rushent and one by ex-ZTT cohort Bob Kraushaar. Strangely though, there appeared to be little of Orbit’s distinctive magic audible in the end result. It had been an unhappy time, as Orbit preferred to work without any of the band present, something they had not been prepared for.
Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Romantic?’ via Virgin Records
Combining modern developments in house music and dub with the feel of SOUL II SOUL, Orbit slotted right into the zeitgeist with ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ featuring vocalist Sharon Musgrave and rapper MC Inna One Step with an uplifting club friendly number that had “pulsating action” and was “breaking into heaven”. BASSOMATIC lasted for just two albums but it cemented Orbit’s position as a studio wizard who understood sound as well as the dancefloor.
KRAFTWERK Radioactivity – William Orbit 12″ Remix (1991)
‘The Mix’ was actually supervised by KRAFTWERK themselves, with the most significant makeover being ‘Radioactivity’ and its additional unsettling machine chant of “TSCHERNOBYL – HARRISBURGH – SELLAFIELD – HIROSHIMA” for an anti-nuclear message highlighting recent atomic catastrophes. For the single release, remixes were farmed out externally and Orbit’s version offered a more preferable electro enhancement than François Kevorkian’s house laden rework.
Originally available on the KRAFTWERK single ‘Radioactivity’ via EMI Records, currently unavailable
WILLIAM ORBIT featuring BETH ORTON Water From A Vine Leaf (1993)
If there was a track that could be considered the root of the recognised Orbit signature sound, it probably has to be ‘Water From A Vine Leaf’, his first collaboration with kooky folktronica maiden Beth Orton. Having met at a party and beginning a relationship shortly after, he asked her to contribute spoken word phrases and singing for the third in his ‘Strange Cargo’ series over some looping rhythms, hypnotic bass and chill-out vibes. Orton went on to have a solo career and work with THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS.
Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works came about because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In his first attempt using a pseudonym, one of the key tracks was ‘Fratres’ by 20th Century Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Comprising of a six-bar theme, Orbit gave his electronic arrangement a sublime haunting stillness that explored the piece’s rich harmonic space via a slow meditative tempo. However, Pärt objected to its copyright infringement and the album was quickly withdrawn.
Originally on THE ELECTRIC CHAMBER album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ via N-Gram Recordings, currently unavailable
With Orbit having remixed ‘Erotica’ in 1992, Ms Ciccone was keen to work with the Englishmen, spending four and a half months at Larrabee Studios in Hollywood. ‘Ray Of Light’ was an interpolation of a little known 1971 song ‘Sepheryn’ by the British folk duo of Dave Curtiss and Clive Maldoon. Despite its frantic pace, Orbit ensured that the rhythmic elements were subtle in their make up to procure an earthy rave quality that was the antithesis of most dance music of the era.
With his new found fame via MADONNA, Orbit was given the opportunity to reissue ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ and included several new recordings, one of which was Ludwig Van Beethoven’s lesser known ‘Triple Concerto’. With synthetic bells and glistening pentatonics reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto added for a soothing lullaby effect, use was also made of the metallic percussive loop that had been part of his version of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Cantus’ from the original withdrawn album… waste not, want not!
Following MADONNA’s success, next in line for the Orbit treatment were London girl group ALL SAINTS. Having scored a No1 with the sublime ‘Pure Shores’ from ‘The Beach’ soundtrack, the combination did it again with ‘Black Coffee’. Orbit’s dreamy electronic aesthetics, spacey effects and minimal textural guitar worked perfectly for the soulful quartet to produce something that was commercial and accessible yet otherworldly and unconventional.
With his high-public profile thanks to MADONNA and ALL SAINTS, it was no big surprise when U2 came calling. With a suitably airy beginning and heavy on acoustic guitar for the more esoteric sound that the Dubliners had been peddling since working with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, in the end ‘Electrical Storm’ just built up to sound just like U2, albeit with occasionally prominent windy electronic textures. There was also a second Orbit produced tune in ‘The Hands That Built America’.
WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SUGABABES & KENNA Spiral (2006)
Continuing his flirtation with out-and-out pop, Orbit teamed up with the UK pop’s answer to Charlie’s Angels SUGABABES and US/Ethopian artist Kenna on this slice of ambient electro R’n’B. Continuing to collaborate with TORCH SONG bandmates Laurie Mayer and Rico Conning, while the ‘Hello Waveforms’ album continued in the chill-out vein of ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ and even included ‘The Humming Chorus’ by Puccini, prominent vocals were in the mix as well as real strings and brass.
By the mid-noughties, Robbie Williams was the biggest popstar in the world but strange things were happening in the wake of his split with hit collaborator Guy Chambers. Finding a new collaborator in Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy, he belatedly went electroclash with their first fruit of labour ‘Radio’. He then went all Synth Britannia on ‘Rudebox’, working with PET SHOP BOYS but also covering his new writing partner’s ‘Kiss Me’ and THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Louise’ which Orbit produced…
Available on the ROBBIE WILLIAMS album ‘Rudebox’ via EMI Records
WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night (2010)
During the CLIENT hiatus, Sarah Blackwood took time out to work on ‘White Night’, a Rico Conning penned track for Orbit’s ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’ album which dated back to their TORCH SONG days. Although her version did not appear on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem which lyrically expressed her pain during that period.
Originally available as a free download, currently unavailable
Producing a long awaited follow-up to his original electronic classical collection, ‘Pieces In A Modern Style 2’ continued where its predecessor left off, offering another predominantly chill-out album that had some good tunes. But one of the bonuses was an unexpected novelty in a sparkling technopop version of Georges Bizet’s opera standard ‘Carmen’, complete with stabbing synths and dramatic percussive passages to portray the seductive title character as a kind of Barbarella.
A co-write with the one-time princess of pop, ‘Alien’ highlighted Britney’s feelings of loneliness. However, a vocal warm-up recording without her characteristic electronic treatment was leaked onto the internet, prompting Orbit to say in defence of the starlet: “Whomever put this on the internet must have done so in a spirit of unkindness, but it can in no way detract from the fact that Britney is and always will be beyond stellar! She is magnificent! And that’s that.”
Orbit had discussed how becoming a superstar producer had made him unhappy and how he was pleased to have blown his fortune as all he had done was spend it on first class travel and equipment he never used. So when he recorded ‘Did It For Love’ with actress, artist and performer Triana Terry, the sentiment couldn’t have been more poignant in a feisty oddball mixture of electronic, pop and rock dynamics. Together, Orbit and Terry have presented a number of exhibitions combining paintings and music.
Not officially released, only available on YouTube
As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work.
While often, it’s the single version made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved, there are occasions when the album take reigns supreme.
Often there’s a track that is the obvious standout on the long player, but sometimes it can be of a structure that is considered too long for peak time radio where instant gratification is the key. On other occasions, the vision of the track for album consumption is reconsidered following an earlier short form release produced on a more limited budget.
Despite being a hit single, ‘From Here To Eternity’ was actually something of a disjointed disco medley, throwing in a section of the album track ‘Utopia – Me Giorgio’ halfway through. The full six minute ‘From Here To Eternity’ from the long player of the same name was a futuristic slice of electronic dance perfection, with Giorgio Moroder steadily building on his throbbing synth backbone and layers of vocoder punctuated by the steady beats of drummer Keith Forsey.
The original Fast Product single version of ‘Being Boiled’ from 1978 had its own charm, recorded as mono demo which was subsequently released. However, having signed to Virgin Records and with a budget behind them, Messrs Marsh, Oakey and Ware took the opportunity to update their calling card with producer John Leckie for the ‘Travelogue’ album to more fully realise its funky overtones inspired by FUNKADELIC. The end result was fuller and more dynamic.
Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records
‘Ghosts’ had been an unexpected singles success for JAPAN in 1982 and Virgin Records wanted more of the same with ‘Nightporter’, despite it being already two years old and with the previously unreleased song ‘Some Kind Of Fool’ in the vaults. Trimming the solemn seven minute ivory laden Satie homage was always going to be difficult and the horrific radio edit butchered out the lengthy if vital instrumental climax of melancholic Oberheim OBX strings. Less really does mean less…
The album version of ‘I Travel’ was only four minutes in the first place, yet original label Arista Records felt the need to chop the track on both single edits it released and neuter its impact. SIMPLE MINDS never fully realised their potential until they signed to Virgin Records and ‘I Travel’ heralded a futuristic art rock phase where the band’s Germanic influences, coupled to synthesized disco aesthetics of Giorgio Moroder, found favour at clubs like The Blitz.
Whether ‘Autobahn’, ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘Neon Lights’ or ‘The Robots’, the sheer average length of a KRAFTWERK track made them difficult to apply to the single format and ‘Computer Love’ was no different. A beautifully melodic piece that predicted internet dating and stretched to just under seven minutes with its glorious second half synth solo in its album version, it was like the reel of the film was missing in its edited form.
A UK Top 20 single for BLANCMANGE in 1983, ‘Waves’ was remixed and given an orchestral treatment arranged by Linton Naiff, but it strangely detracted from the bare emotion of the song. Sounding like Scott Walker fronting OMD, with a more basic synthesized construction and a sombre detuned brass line allowed to breathe at the song’s conclusion, the album version sans orchestra was much better. However, the original cut has yet to be reinstated on reissues of the parent long player ‘Happy Families’.
Originally recorded for a 1980 single on Mute Records in more of a band format featuring guitar and hand-played synths, ‘Kebab Träume’ was subsequently reworked by DAF in a more superior fashion under the production supervision of the legendary Conny Plank for their third and final Virgin-era long player ‘Für Immer’. Transforming into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” had more bite on this album version also issued as a single.
Sweden’s LUSTANS LAKEJER came to international attention when their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN. With its synthesized atmospheres and art funk aspirations not that far off DURAN DURAN, ‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’ was one of the album’s highlights. But for the later single version produced by Kai Erixon, the band opted for a more laid back swing arrangement punctuated by a brass section, which frankly was not as good as the original.
The single version of ‘We Take Mystery’ which was Gary Numan’s last UK Top 10 hit was too short and the extended 12 inch version was too long, which left the album version from ‘I, Assassin’ as the best take of the song. With its crashing Linn Drum snap and fretless bass with live percussion syncopating on top, this was a dancefloor friendly excursion which concluded with a marvellous additional rhythm guitar breakdown from fretless bassist Pino Palladino.
Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘I, Assassin’ via Beggars Banquet
Remixed by John Luongo for single release, ‘The Anvil’ ended up as a B-side but while the sound of metal-on-metal was added, it somehow had less presence than the original album version. Possessing far Teutonic tension with some superb guitar work from Midge Ure, metronomic drumming courtesy of Rusty Egan minus his hi-hats, Billy Currie’s superb screaming ARP Odyssey and Dave Formula’s brassy synth riff completed Steve Strange’s tale of debauchery for one of the best ever VISAGE tracks.
Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop
By 1982, John Foxx has rediscovered his love of early PINK FLOYD, THE BEATLES and psychedelia which manifested itself in ‘Endlessy’. Based around a tom heavy Linn Drum programme, deep cello samples and sitars, it was an interesting if messy experimental romp. Come his third album ‘The Golden Section’ recorded under the helm of producer Zeus B Held, the new version, also released as a revisionist single, was much more focussed with an accessible uptempo electronic euphoria.
A sub-ten minute progressive epic was never going to work as an edited single and with ‘And That’s No Lie’, that’s exactly what happened. The original album version was HEAVEN 17’s ambitious adventure in sound and fusion that threw in everything from abstract sonic experiments, jazz piano, Fairlight samples, the gospel voices of ARFRODIZIAK and an orchestra, plus some excellent live bass and guitar work from John Wilson and Ray Russell respectively.
Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘How Men Are’ via Virgin Records
ARCADIA was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor’s attempt to be JAPAN during the DURAN DURAN artistic hiatus, but many of the songs from the short-lived side project were smothered in a pond of self-indulgence. One of the highlights though was ‘The Flame’, basically ‘A View To A Kill Part 2’. However for its single release, a neo-acapella intro was applied rather than the frantic percussive beginning of the album version which robbed the song of its tension and impact.
Having got DIVINE into the UK charts, Stock Aitken & Waterman gave the same treatment to DEAD OR ALIVE, scoring a No1 with ‘You Spin Me Round’. The resultant album ‘Youthquake’ had a number of excellent tracks including ‘My Heart Goes Bang’ which was ripe single material. But the single remix by regular PWL associate Phil Harding was horrible, throwing in the kitchen sink with voice cut-ups and an overdriven rhythm section which drowned out any merits the song originally had.
Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Youthquake’ via Sony Music
Inspired by a News Of The World headline, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is one of the best loved NEW ORDER tunes. The rugged self-produced original version that appeared on the ‘Brotherhood’ album was a glorious electronic number with a slight mechanical offbeat and space for Hooky’s distinctive bass. But the version released for 45 RPM consumption was a frustrating, four-to-the-floor remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the character out of the song with a barrage of overdriven percussive samples.
Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Brotherhood’ via Warner Music
Although ‘Living In Another World’ was the best song on ‘The Colour Of Spring’, it was always going to be a tall order to successfully cut its seven minutes in half for single consumption! A fine progressive combination of synthetic strings, piano, Hammond organ, hypnotic bass, acoustic and electric guitars, percolating percussion and harmonica, the TALK TALK sound would have been nothing however without the anguished vocals of Mark Hollis and the production skills of Tim Friese-Greene.
German trio CAMOUFLAGE had a hit with ‘The Great Commandment’ all over the world including the US, with only Britain remaining ambivalent to their industrial flavoured synthpop. As with many singles of the period, it clocked in at just over three minutes but sounded rushed. Come the debut album ’Voices & Images’ and ‘The Great Commandment’ was more fully realised, allowing space to prevail in the one of the best DEPECHE MODE tracks that the Basildon boys never recorded.
Enigmatic Glaswegian trio THE BLUE NILE were never an easy sell to the wider marketplace and the Bob Clearmountain single remix of ‘Headlights On The Parade’ was hopeless, with over a third of the emotively atmospheric number absent for the sake of radio play. The centrepiece of the brilliant ‘Hats’ album, its haunting piano, swaths of synths and a collage of modulated sequences needed a full six minutes to truly convey its solemn drive and rainy cinematic melodrama.
Available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘Hats’ via Epstein Records
Subsonically remixed by Andrew Weatherall with a distinct chilled-out flavour and an additional vocal from Sacha Souter for single release, the brilliant album version of ‘Floatation’ had a more rigid KRAFTWERK feel echoing elements of ‘Tour De France’. And as the track drew towards the home straight, Julian Stringle’s clarinet brought to mind the aesthetics of Dave Ball’s previous residency in SOFT CELL. But while those woodwind textures were present in the single, they were less effective overall.
Partly inspired by a quote about Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist and wife of author F Scott Fitzgerald which stated “she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”, ‘Being Boring’ is one of PET SHOP BOYS’ best songs, reflecting on Neil Tennant’s youth and the loss of a friend who died of AIDS. While the single itself was almost five minutes long, the superior album version featured a fabulous intro that steadily built with a lilting synth bassline and wah-wah guitar that made the most of the song’s elegiac aura.
Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Behaviour’ via EMI Records
A tedious rockist statement by DEPECHE MODE when reworked by Butch Vig for single release, the lengthy original album version of ‘In Your Room’ was widescreen magnificence with a tense percussive drive courtesy of Alan Wilder who only played what was needed, adding a second simplistic drum passage in the final half for extra weight. A fine example of how feel is more important technique, current DM drumhead Christian Eigner managed to mess up his opportunity to shine on this during the ‘Global Spirit’ tour.
The second LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ is probably best known for its lead single ‘Seventeen’, but opening its second half was the brilliantly propulsive ‘Evil’. An obvious single, when remixed by noted dance producer Ewan Pearson, it was filled out with extra string synths and made more contemporary. This lost the track its appealing spatial dynamics and grunt while the way in which the vocals of Helen Marnie were mixed more than muted her charm.
ARTHUR & MARTHA were Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley; their debut single ‘Autovia’ was the first release on Happy Robots Records in 2008 but when it came to recording the album ‘Navigation’, the incessant Doctor Rhythm drum machine was given a more hypnotic Motorik makeover which ironically gave the track more drive. Meanwhile, there was an extended end section which allowed for some cosmic Theremin and synth wig-outs between the pair not unlike STEREOLAB meeting NEU!
Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA album ‘Navigation’ via Happy Robots Records
From MESH’s best album ‘Automation Baby’, the wonderfully metronomic ‘Adjust Your Set’ with its personal relationship commentary in a technology dominated world was one of its many highlights. Given a more orchestrated remix by Nico Wieditz for the MaBose Radio-Edit with a much busier electronic bassline along the lines of ‘Enjoy The Silence’, while this single version had more obvious presence, it lacked the eerie cinematic Morricone-esque air of the album original.
‘Ocean’ was already dramatic perfection as the best track on the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, but for the single version, it was felt a contribution from a former member of the Mute family was needed. While Devotees were wetting themselves over Dave Gahan appearing on a more obviously electronic sounding track again, his faux bluesy drawl was something of a mismatch next to the breathy angelic tones of Alison Goldfrapp. Gahan may be from Essex but he was certainly no Alison Moyet.
Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists