Tag: Landscape (Page 1 of 2)

2023 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

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

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

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

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

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

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

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

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

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

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

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

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

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

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

Photo by Ed Miles

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

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

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

Photo by Bella Salvatore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by George Tripodakis

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Tim Darin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 December 2023

LANDSCAPE Interview

Photo by Paul Cox

Comprising of Richard James Burgess, Chris Heaton, Andy Pask, Peter Thoms and John L Walters, LANDSCAPE began as a jazz rock band, issuing two instrumental EPs ‘U2XME1X2MUCH’ and ‘Workers Playtime’ on their own label Event Horizon.

Keen to subvert their sound using electronic processing, synthesizers and synthetic drums, the quintet would find themselves at the centre of the synthpop revolution. Released in 1979 on RCA, LANDSCAPE’s instrumental self-titled debut album featured a catchy YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA homage titled ‘Japan’; the band were also profiled on the popular BBC science and technology magazine show ‘Tomorrow’s World’.

Their second album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars… To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus’ released in 1981 brought in vocals with eccentric but clever lyrical gists and computer control thanks to the Roland MC8 MicroComposer. It also contained the quirky Top5 hit ‘Einstein A Go-Go’ which looked into the mind of a crazed religious fundamentalist out to terrorise the world with a nuclear weapon.

Set to an incessant electronic drumbeat and infectious whistling hook, those innovative new sounds respectively came a prototype Simmons SDSV which Burgess co-designed with Dave Simmons and Walters’ Lyricon, one of the first electronic wind instruments of which the controller schematic later formed the basis of Yamaha’s WX-series.

In another set of firsts, the first single from the album ‘European Man’ used the term “EDM” in its catalogue number and artwork while thanks to his frequenting of The Blitz Club where he met the likes of SPANDAU BALLET, VISAGE and SHOCK who he subsequently worked with, Burgess is credited with coining the term “New Romantic”.

After a third album ‘Manhattan Boogie-Woogie’ in 1982 and a streamlined rebrand as LANDSCAPE III, all five members continued to have success in various fields. Richard James Burgess developed his career as a producer, working notably on ‘Trapped’ by Colonel Abrams and wrote the best-selling book ‘The Art Of Record Production’. Meanwhile bassist Andy Pask played the fretless on CHINA CRISIS’ ‘Christian’ and co-composed the theme to the popular British police TV series ‘The Bill’.

One of the UK’s top session musicians, Peter Thoms contributed the trombone line on Thomas Dolby’s ‘Hyperactive!’ before becoming a Session Official at the Musicians’ Union. Keyboardist Chris Heaton toured with Womack & Womack and produced a version of the Steve Reich work ‘New York Counterpoint’ for the Ballet Rambert with his brother Roger.

John L Walters produced SWANS WAY’s 1984 Top20 hit ‘Soul Train’ before reinventing himself as a journalist and then becoming the editor of ‘Eye’ and ‘Pulp’. With ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars… To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus’ about to be reissued for Record Store Day 2023 and the summer release of a 5CD boxed set, he kindly chatted with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his time in LANDSCAPE…

LANDSCAPE began as a jazz fusion combo, so how did the interest in using electronics come about?

We were always a band (not a combo), so it was great to get the .band suffix for our landscape.band website. LANDSCAPE was always about what we were interested in – which included jazz, funk, rock, systems and improvised music – and we were interested in electronics from the start.

The band began as a vehicle for my jazz compositions; my great hero Gil Evans had released an album ‘Svengali’, full of swirling live electronics alongside a big band. As we evolved from a nine-piece to eight (on Thursday the 12th), to six and finally to the five of us, electronics helped us make a big sound out of a small ensemble. Using pick-ups on the horns meant that we could use processing (fuzz, wah-wah, etc.) on the sax, flutes and trombone and avoid problems with in-house sound systems.

Chris added ring modulator and other effects to his electric piano: you can hear that in his delirious solo on ‘U2XME1X2MUCH’ and in the crashes at the end of the ‘Einstein’ bridge. Andy was always fixated on getting a superb sound from his basses. Richard and Chris had also experimented with electronics in Chris’ improv trio ACCORD. After we won a pair of big Vitavox speakers, we basically had a hi-fi PA, hand-soldered by Andy, with really good sound.

‘European Man’ was the first single off ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars.… To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus’ and co-produced by Colin Thurston. What prompted the decision to self-produce the album after that?

LANDSCAPE has always had a very DIY approach to everything – Richard and I wrote an essay about this for the forthcoming ‘Landscape A Go-Go’ box set. After ‘European Man’, we did a few tracks at Southern Studios (including the unreleased ‘When The Chips Are Down’) to prove to Bill Kimber, our A&R manager, that we could be trusted to finish the whole album and keep within budget.

We enjoyed working with Colin Thurston, but LANDSCAPE was not easy to produce; our tech set-up and approach to music-making was radically different and at that time in 1980, not many engineers or studios knew what to make of the new paradigm.

The single artwork and catalogue number for ‘European Man’ had possibly the first known use of the term “EDM”?

Yes – that was suggested by Bill. We wrote a little line of jokey ad copy for the back cover: “computer programmed to perfection for your listening pleasure”. 

John Warwicker’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ cover for the 7-inch bag was a stroke of genius. John has also just done all the artwork for the box set and the forthcoming LANDSCAPE singles.

From the off, the album title pointed to humour being very much part of the creative ethos, which perhaps was the antithesis of say SPANDAU BALLET, VISAGE and ULTRAVOX?

There’s a lot of humour in many of the artists I admire: KRAFTWERK, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and THE BEATLES as well as Thelonious Monk, Sly Stone, Carla Bley, Kate Bush etc.

We used to listen to radio comedy when we were on the road. Our roadie JJ (later in THE ART OF NOISE) had cassettes of ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. When LANDSCAPE were purely instrumental, we would improvise introductory anecdotes to explain what the songs were about: titles like ‘Wandsworth Plain’, ‘Goldilox & The Jelly Bean Shuffle’, ‘Bagel Street Blues’ etc.

To answer the second part of your question, we liked musicians like Rusty, Midge, Warren and the Spandaus – we never felt in opposition to them.

‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars….’ had several innovative new instruments on it, the Simmons Drums and the Lyricon; Richard co-designed the Simmons but how did you come across the Lyricon?

I first got my hands on a Lyricon and an MC-8 on the same day (demonstrated at a trade fair in Russell Square), in the summer of 1978. Both instruments blew my mind. I couldn’t stop talking about them to friends and family.

Soon after, I borrowed a Lyricon (and subsequently bought it in instalments). It was manufactured by Bill Bernadi’s Computone company and imported by Ray Kitchen’s Musicaid, which also distributed the Simmons SDS III. I started to play Lyricon on gigs and it featured on our first album ‘Landscape’: ‘The Mechanical Bride’ is a good example. That was the beginning of a more ‘programmed’ approach to composition, even though it’s all played “by hand”.

I wrote an article about wind synthesis for Sound International and got to interview a few people who played the Lyricon, including Jack Lancaster and Bennie Maupin. I had already listened closely to several musicians who had used it, like Tom Scott (who played on STEELY DAN’s ‘Aja’ and with Quincy Jones) and the late Wayne Shorter, whose Lyricon playing on WEATHER REPORT’s ‘Black Market’ is sublime.

What were the other synths and tools you had at your disposal and how did you find them to use at the time?

Between us, we got our hands on a lot of stuff, and we had to teach ourselves how to use them on our music. Programming took a long time. Richard and I hooked up the MC-8 to play the Roland System 100M modular synths, a Roland ProMars and Richard’s prototype SDSV drum synth. Chris played the gorgeous-sounding Yamaha CS80 polyphonic keyboard synth, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Minimoog and Casio Digital Keyboard, plus a Roland Chorus Echo and a home-made instrument he sang down on ‘The Doll’s House’ which he called the Vocalophone.

We used a synced up CR-78, a Vocoder, lots of studio outboard effects (Eventide Harmonizer) and Peter used the Roland SPV355 (a pitch-to-voltage synthesiser) on his trombone. The big change from ‘Landscape’ to ‘Tea-Rooms….’ was using the MC-8 on every track: on ‘Sisters’ it powered the click track, but on ‘Computer Person’, every part was programmed except the little Casio on which Chris plays the tune. Sometimes we used the MC-8 to trigger a System 100M to rhythmically ‘gate’ sounds from instruments that wouldn’t otherwise speak to the computer.

The narrative of ‘Einstein a Go-Go’ is still sadly relevant after all these years?

Yes and no. I’d be interested in your take on the theme.

State terrorism is possibly a bigger threat than a lone actor (the protagonist of ‘Einstein’) with extreme convictions and a suitcase bomb. By the way the opening phone calls (which I made at Redwood, the Monty Python studio) are genuine.

I always imagined a madman with a nuclear arsenal so that immediately points me to Putin…

Well, we were imagining the protagonist as a complex loser, so Putin fits…

But sadly we’ve seen people like our guy, religious extremists with an inferiority complex and a wrongheaded interpretation of religious texts, who have done a great deal of damage without nuclear bombs. This was all written thirteen years before the World Wide Web made it easier for people like that to spout their poisonous nonsense to a credulous audience.

Does it still surprise you that ‘Einstein a Go-Go’ became a Top5 hit?

No. People don’t always listen too closely to lyrics. Does it surprise you?

‘Einstein a Go-Go’ was very catchy and with the almost nursery rhyme refrain “better watch out, better beware, Albert says that E=MC2”, the song could be appreciated by a big age range plus your middle eight shout would have had a gothy punky appeal! Why do you think ‘Einstein a Go-Go’ appealed to a mainstream audience?

Hmm … what do you think? My answer would be that it’s full of hooks.

The three part title track of ‘Tea-Rooms….’ pre-dates the modern day trend for electro-lounge music by several decades?

Yes, good observation! I reviewed Señor Coconut for The Guardian and loved them,

The three subtitles, ‘Beguine’, ‘Mambo’, ‘Tango’ were taken from the presets on the Roland Compurhythm CR-78 (the woody precursor to the 808, 606 and 909). People often used them for low-cost entertainment in clubs and cruises; we imagined a band playing in the lounge of a Space Station, or in the bar of an interplanetary ferry transporting passengers through the solar system.

Was ‘Face Of The 80s’ about anyone in particular?

No. Did you have someone in mind?

‘Face Of The 80s’… hmmm! My first thought was it was about Steve Strange but it occurred to me, it might have been Pamela Stephenson who appeared in the Janet Leigh role for your ‘Norman Bates’ video, it looked like you had fun making that with her?

That was a great experience. Director Brian Grant (still going strong) assembled an amazing team and shot it on 35mm film. Pamela was (and still is) a complete pro. We are in awe of her. But that was a year or so after RJB and I wrote ‘Face of the 80s’.

‘Norman Bates’ was quite bizarre track to get into the Top 40, what came first, the music or the idea to base a track around the ‘Psycho’ character?

Music. It started as a moody instrumental, based loosely on the great track ‘Lowdown’ by Boz Scaggs. I was looking for a really slow funk groove with a flute-like hook. The subject matter (a bit like you implied with ‘Face’) is that I was encountering all these skinny, nervy young men, musicians in other bands, salesmen at music stores, journalists, who reminded me of the Norman Bates character as played by Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. And Stephen Paine, sadly no longer with us, called his company Syco Sound. He was the tall, slightly nervy (but very nice) guy (a cousin of Peter Gabriel) who imported the Fairlight CMI into the UK from Australia.

Going back to what I said about back stories to instrumentals, I turned it into a song by making the hook line a vocal chant and adding a narration at the end. I was also influenced by Ian Dury, who was the master when it came to integrating spoken-word, literary elements into pop-funk. However it was a bizarre choice for a single release. We should have released ‘Shake The West Awake’.

Was ‘Shake The West Awake’ a commentary about the political climate of the Far East or was it much more innocent, like the emerging affordable technology from Japan and Hong Kong?

The title is a rearranged line from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake that Marshall McLuhan was fond of quoting: “The west shall shake the east awake … while ye have the night for morn”

Richard and I read McLuhan (and debated what his pronouncements might mean for us) while we were on the road with LANDSCAPE. The title of my tune ‘The Mechanical Bride’ came from McLuhan’s first book, which was about advertising. McLuhan adapted his title from Marcel Duchamp’s ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even’ aka ‘The Large Glass’.

Is there a LANDSCAPE track that is your favourite?

I’ve already mentioned ‘Shake’, and I have particular affection for ‘The Mechanical Bride’ (which was a starting point for the ‘Tea-Rooms’ sound); it looks both backwards and forwards at LANDSCAPE’s musical development. It was inspired by both KRAFTWERK and WEATHER REPORT, with its jerky jigsaw drum and bass parts, jazz chords and Peter’s outrageous electric trombone solo.

‘The Long Way Home’ also seems increasingly relevant. In that scenario, a failed leader attempts to proclaim that not only they were right after all, they weren’t going to apologise, and that everybody secretly admired their terrible actions. Which seems completely relevant in the age of Johnson, Bannon, Truss and Trump. Andy Pask has mixed an instrumental version of that for the box set ‘Landscape A Go-Go’, and it’s as funky as hell (much funkier without my lead vocal!). It’s a great instrumental showcase for the band at that time, with Andy’s fabulous bass, Richard’s drum fills, Chris’ wild CS80 interjections. The hooky brass section with Lyricon and electric trombone is one of our best.

How do you think ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…. To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus’ stands up after over 40 years?

Surprisingly well. Everybody is making music that way now. Then it was revolutionary, challenging and time-consuming … but fun.

And it’s still fun now. When we listen to the multi-tracks on our DAWs, the individual tracks sound fresh: expect lots more remixes.

There’s the vinyl LP reissue of ‘Tea-Rooms’ for RSD2023 but you’ve also mentioned a boxed set, what is included in that?

The three albums, EPs, singles (including LANDSCAPE III), unreleased tracks, lots of live tracks, remixes, instrumental versions – 84 tracks in all. Hope you enjoy it. It’s called ‘Landscape A Go-Go. The Story of LANDSCAPE 1977-1983’. We’ve just started a series of social posts that tell the story of LANDSCAPE, with some archive visuals. And there are lots of unreleased live tracks, instrumental tracks and several unreleased studio tracks that we’re excited about getting out into the world.

Genius designer John Warwicker, who we first worked in 1978 when he was a student, has created some terrific graphics for the box set; also some new covers for the digital singles that are coming out over the next few months (first the “Einstein on the Floor” remix, followed in May by the remastered ‘European Man’ 7-inch, never before available digitally).


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to John L Walters

‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars.… To The Hell-Holes Of Uranus’ is reissued by Cooking Vinyl as a limited edition natural clear coloured vinyl LP with a full lyric insert on 22nd April 2023 for Record Store Day

‘Landscape A Go-Go: The Story Of LANDSCAPE 1977-83’ is released as a 5CD box set on 21 July 2023 by Cooking Vinyl featuring 84 remastered tracks, 52 available on CD for the first time and 22 previously unreleased in any format, pre-order from https://landscape.lnk.to/landscapeagogo

https://landscape.band/

https://www.facebook.com/landscape.band

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band

https://www.instagram.com/landscape_band/

https://campsite.bio/landscape


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
17 April 2023

MUSIC FOR NEW ROMANTICS

The phenomenon of the New Romantics can be said to have begun in Autumn 1978 with the foundation of a “Bowie Night” by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan at Billy’s nightclub in London’s Soho.

The youth movement that emerged aimed to find something new and colourful to escape the oncoming drabness in The Winter Of Discontent. Like Edwardian dandies meeting the Weimar Cabaret with extras from ‘Barbarella’ in between, they did a strange swaying arms dance, so as to not mess up their theatrical bouffanted hair. But after a disagreement with the owners of Billy’s, the pair moved their venture to The Blitz Club in Holborn.

Despite names such as Futurists, The Blitz Kids and The Movement With No Name, it was the term “New Romantics” coined by producer Richard James Burgess that became the widely used press description for this flamboyant group of outsiders. It was to eventually stick on anything from synthpop, art rock and peacock punk to Latin grooves, jazz funk and cod reggae provided the artist wore make-up, zoot suits, frilly blouses, smocks, headbands or kilts. Parallel club scenes developed at The Rum Runner in Birmingham, Crocs in Rayleigh near Southend and The Warehouse in Leeds from which DURAN DURAN, DEPECHE MODE and SOFT CELL respectively emerged.

To celebrate this era in popular culture, Cherry Red Records release an eclectic boxed set entitled ‘Music For New Romantics’. But while it contains some fantastic music, the tracklisting is a confused affair, having been originally conceived around comings and goings of The Blitz Club. It was here that Steve Strange acted as doorman and fashion policeman, while Rusty Egan was its resident DJ providing the soundtrack for a scene which became the catalyst for several bands including SPANDAU BALLET, CULTURE CLUB and VISAGE as well as assorted fashion designers, visual artists and writers.

Everything was centred around fashion-obsessed and some would say self-obsessed individuals; while the story about turning away Mick Jagger is well documented, one of the ironies of Steve Strange’s gatekeeping antics was that he refused entry to Chris Payne, then a member of Gary Numan’s band in 1979; Strange was to have his biggest hit with a song that Payne co-wrote entitled ‘Fade To Grey’ while another refused entry that evening was Ced Sharpley who played the drums on it!

Contrary to legend, the playlists of the various New Romantic establishments did not comprise exclusively of electronic music as those types of tracks were comparatively scarce at the time. So international synthworks from the likes of KRAFTWERK, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, SPARKS, SPACE and TELEX sat alongside soundtracks, punk, disco and relatable glam rock tunes by David Bowie, Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry.

Rusty Egan declined to be involved in the collection after initial discussions led to conceptual differences. In the absence of The Blitz Club’s resident DJ who is now planning his own curated collection, one of the regulars Chris Sullivan, who himself ran a similar but less electronically focussed night at Le Kilt in Soho, steps in to provide commentary while the set was put together by the team behind Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ synthpop series and ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set.

‘Music For New Romantics’ comes with three loosely themed discs with CD1 focussing on glam, art rock and early electronic disco while CD2 covers Synth Britannia and new wave. CD3 though is a hotch-potch of soul, funk and electro with SISTER SLEDGE and LIPPS INC being rather incongruous inclusions; with their hit songs being readily available on any ‘Night Fever’ type compilation, there were many more suitable alternatives that could have been considered.

But it is CD2 that most will revel in and the tracklist has no fault as a listening experience. Standards such as the eponymous song by VISAGE, SIMPLE MINDS ‘Changeling’, OMD’s ‘Electricity’, ‘Moskow Diskow’ from TELEX, THE NORMAL’s ‘Warm Leatherette’, JAPAN’s Giorgio Moroder produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, ‘Bostich’ by YELLO, ‘Being Boiled’ from THE HUMAN LEAGUE and THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ are present and correct. But it was SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ and LANDSCAPE’s ‘Einstein A-Go-Go’ that were to confirm that the New Romantics were able to hit the charts in their own right after Steve Strange’s cameo in Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video.

CD1 features scene heroes such as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Mick Ronson, but heroines come in the avant cabaret glamour of Nina Hagen with ‘TV-Glotzer’ and Grace Jones’ reinterpretation of Édith Piaf’s ‘La Vie En Rose’. The most welcome track on this disc though is RAH BAND’s ‘The Crunch’ which all but invented the sexy electro-Schaffel of GOLDFRAPP, while one obscure jewel is ‘The Ultimate Warlord’ by THE WARLORD. And when today’s synthwave fanboys go on and on ad nauseam about how influential the ‘Drive’ soundtrack is, then just throw ‘Chase’ by Giorgio Moroder from ‘Midnight Express’ at them!

Despite being a mess of styles, the highlights of CD3 are Marianne Faithfull’s terrorism commentary ‘Broken English’ and Gina X with the Quentin Crisp tribute ‘No GDM’ which both fit into the avant cabaret category. Although ‘M Factor’, the B-side of M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ was regularly played at The Blitz Club, ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ by NEW ORDER sticks out like a sore thumb… Peter Hook would likely scoff at being considered a New Romantic!

The move towards funk in the New Pop of late 1981 is reflected in ABC with ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ (full marks for using the CORRECT Steve Brown produced single version), HEAVEN 17’s ‘We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang’ (in a rare radio version with the lyric “fascist god” changed to “cowboy god”) and TOM TOM CLUB’s ‘Genius Of Love’. But those who consider New Romantics to be discerning studious types into synth and new wave will find the likes of Coati Mundi and Don Armando extremely alienating; after all, it was THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Phil Oakey who said to Smash Hits around this time “I hate all trends like all this Ze Stuff”! 

When the New Romantic magazine ‘New Sounds, New Styles’ launched as a monthly publication in Summer 1981 after a promising launch edition, its content was confused with one angry punter later exclaiming via letter: You’re meant to be a Futurist mag so leave all this Latin and jazz funk sh*t out of it!” – with the embarrassing novelty party act MODERN ROMANCE also being lumped in with the New Romantics, it was obvious the rot had now set in. Tellingly within a year, ‘New Sounds, New Styles’ folded…

From 1982, ‘Club Country’ by ASSOCIATES which notably highlighted the observations of  Billy MacKenzie on what he saw as the posey vapid nature of The Blitz Club is a fitting inclusion. Meanwhile as the ‘Music For New Romantics’ essay writer, Chris Sullivan gets to include his own style over substance combo BLUE RONDO À LA TURK with ‘Klactoveesedstein’, a single that came in with a blank at No50 that same year!

Of course, Sullivan went on to establish Le Beat Route and The Wag Club because he loved salsa and was less than enthused about synthpop, highlighting that despite the New Romantics seeming to be a united voice of expression, like any movement, it had its factions. Not featuring in the set, it was another scene regular Marilyn who said on the recent ‘Blitzed’ Sky Arts documentary that “I hated the music, all that electronic crap” while Steve Strange imposed a ban on Gary Numan being played at The Blitz Club, thus prompting Mr Webb’s lines “These New Romantics are oh so boring” in the 1981’s ‘Moral’ and “I like romantics but I don’t like Steven” in 1982’s ‘War Songs’.

A range of key New Romantic godfathers are missing from Bowie to Eno although MOTT THE HOOPLE’s hit take on ‘All The Young Dudes’ makes up for the former while ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Do The Stand’ effectively covers off the latter. KRAFTWERK, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and SPARKS are also absent and of the lesser known cult figures, Wolfgang Riechmann undoubtedly deserved inclusion, while New Romantic staples such as ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’, ‘RERB’ and ‘Magic Fly’ are more preferable to the likes of ‘Funky Town’ or ‘Ai No Corrida’.

Although only a single disc, 2006’s ‘Only After Dark’ compiled by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor of DURAN DURAN based around the music played at The Rum Runner, managed to feature Bowie and Eno as well as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and KRAFTWERK so did more with less. While ‘Music For New Romantics’ is flawed and will cause some head scratching, this set is a reminder of those more innocent aspirational times and a scene that DID actually play its part in changing the world.

The Blitz Club’s tenure was short and after vacating it, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan started Club For Heroes and then in 1982 came The Camden Palace; it was the UK’s first modern superclub; music and clubbing were never the same again, and it was not for the better. However, the New Romantics had made their mark.

An elitist movement that was exclusive at its core despite the protestations of some, one amusing modern day legacy of the New Romantics and the Blitz generation in particular is how some try to ride on the scene’s trenchcoat tails, despite the fact that even if they had been old enough to visit licenced premises back in 1980, they almost certainly would have not been allowed in, thanks to the door policy of the man born Stephen John Harrington.

Taylor Swift did a song in 2014 called ‘New Romantics’ and when you google “New Romantics” these days, it’s what often springs up at the top of the searches… but that’s another story 😉


‘Music For New Romantics’ is released by Cherry Red as a 3CD Clamshell Box Set on 25th November 2022

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/music-for-new-romantics-3cd-clamshell-box-set/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th November 2022

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1981

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally?

Yes, ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Oxygène’ came before, while the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer is acknowledged as being the track that changed pop music forever and still sounds like the future even in the 21st Century. French electronic disco like ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘Supernature’ also made its impact.

Meanwhile closer to home, a post-punk revolution was already permeating in the UK with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan being adopted by the likes of THE NORMAL, THROBBING GRISTLE, CABARET VOLTAIRE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. But it was Gary Numan who took the sound of British synth to No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ in 1979. It signalled a change in the musical landscape as the synth was considered a worthy mode of youthful expression rather than as a novelty, using one finger instead of three chords.

Despite first albums from John Foxx and OMD, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. But things were changing and there had also been the release of the first Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ and the eponymous debut long player by VISAGE just as The Blitz Club and the New Romantic movement were making headlines. With the acclaim for the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ in early 1981 which launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE, a wider electronic breakthrough was now almost inevitable.

VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ went on to be a West German No1 in Spring 1981 and this exciting period culminated in THE HUMAN LEAGUE taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to the top spot in the US six months year after becoming the 1981 UK Christmas No1. It would be fair to say that after this, the purer sound of synth was never quite the same again.

For many listeners, 1981 was a formative year and had so many significant new releases that it was difficult to stretch the limited pocket money to fund album purchases. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK even took to selling bootleg C90 cassettes on the school playground, promising a value-for-money “two albums for one” deal to support this disgusting habit!

Looking back to four decades ago when there were also albums from DEVO, EURYTHMICS, FAD GADGET, LOGIC SYSTEM, SPANDAU BALLET, SPARKS and TANGERINE DREAM, here are twenty albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1981. Listed in alphabetical order with the restriction of one album per artist moniker, this is the way it was in the past, a long long time ago…


DAF Alles Ist Gut

The late Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl released an acclaimed album trilogy produced by Conny Plank. The first ‘Alles Ist Gut’ featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. Causing controversy and confusing observers, DAF attracted a following which Delgado hated. Despite his parents escaping from the Franco regime in Spain, he was always unapologetic about his lyrical provocation.

‘Alles Ist Gut’ is still available via Grönland Records

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


DEPECHE MODE Speak & Spell

Having conceived the idea of a teenage synthpop group called SILICON TEENS, this dream of Daniel Miller became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signing on a handshake 50/50 deal to his Mute Records, the group became a chart success. Despite great songs like ‘Puppets’ and ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’, the group fragmented on the release of their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’.

‘Speak & Spell’ is still available via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS For Future Reference

Following the live ‘retirement’ of Gary Numan, four of his erstwhile backing band became DRAMATIS. RRussell Bell, Denis Haines, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley had been instrumental in the success of Numan’s powerful live presentation and their only album showcased the band’s virtuoso abilities. While the use of four different lead vocalists (including Numan himself on the superb ‘Love Needs No Disguise’) confused the continuity of the album, musically, there was much to enjoy.

‘For Future Reference’ is now available via Cherry Red Records

http://www.numanme.co.uk/numanme/Dramatis.htm


DURAN DURAN Duran Duran

It would be fair to say that DURAN DURAN took the arty poise of JAPAN and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible. But their enduring appeal ofis great timeless pop songs and that was apparent on the self-titled debut album which at times sounded like an electronic band with a heavy metal guitarist bolted on, especially on ‘Careless Memories’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’. But most will just remember the two hits ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Girls on Film’.

‘Duran Duran’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


JOHN FOXX The Garden

Thawing considerably following ‘Metamatic’, John Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard”. Exploring beautiful Italian gardens, his new mood was reflected in his music. ‘The Garden’  featured acoustic guitar and piano as showcased in the Linn Drum driven single ‘Europe After The Rain’. With choral experiments like ‘Pater Noster’, a return to art rock on ‘Walk Away’ and the more pastoral climes of the title track, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

‘The Garden’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HEAVEN 17 Penthouse & Pavement

HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary, taking in yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The first ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven. The second ‘Penthouse’ side was like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh’s swansong with the band.

‘Penthouse & Pavement’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare

Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright recruited Susanne Sulley, Joanne Catherall, Jo Callis and Ian Burden to record ‘Dare’ produced by Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK meeting ABBA, the dreamboat collection of worldwide hits like ‘Love Action’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ had a marvellous supporting cast in ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Seconds’ and ‘Darkness’. Only the Linn Drum rework of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ blotted the album’s near perfection.

‘Dare’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Tin Drum

JAPAN took the influences of the Far East even further with ‘Tin Drum’. A much more minimal album, there was hardly any guitar while the synths used were restricted to an Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5 and occasionally the Roland System 700. David Sylvian’s lyrical themes flirted with Chinese Communism as Brian Eno had done on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), highlighted by the pentatonic polyrhythmic single ‘Visions Of China’ and its less frantic sister song ‘Cantonese Boy’.

‘Tin Drum’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Magnetic Fields

With his synthesized symphonies, Jean-Michel Jarre helped popularise the sound of electronic music. ‘Magnetic Fields’ was his first long player to utilise the Fairlight CMI which allowed him to absorb some musique concrete ideas such as water splashing and hydraulic train doors into his compositions. Featuring the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55, it was a much more percussive album than ‘Oxygène’ and ‘Equinoxe’ had been, complementing the metallic textures that featured.

‘Magnetic Fields’ is still available via Sony Music

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JON & VANGELIS The Friends Of Mr Cairo

Having scored an unexpected UK hit with the sonic beauty of ‘I Hear You Now’, Jon Anderson and Vangelis presented a second album in ‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’. Featuring ‘State Of Independence’ which was to become a hit for Donna Summer, the album was laced with spiritual overtones over symphonic synths, cinematic piano and dialogue samples from films. However, the album is best known for ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ which had not been included on the original tracklisting.

‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’ is still available via Polydor Records

https://www.jonanderson.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VangelisOfficial/


KRAFTWERK Computer World

‘Computer World’ could be considered one of the most prophetic albums of its time. KRAFTWERK forsaw the cultural impact of internet dating on ‘Computer Love’, but the title track highlighted the more sinister implications of surveillance by “Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard” with the consequences of its prophecy still very relevant discussion points today. But the dynamic rhythmic template of ‘Numbers’ was to have a major impact on Urban America.

‘Computer World’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


LANDSCAPE From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus

LANDSCAPE were led by producer Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV. Using a Lyricon wind-controlled synth as its lead hook, ‘Einstein A-Go-Go’ was a fabulously cartoon-like tune about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists! Meanwhile, ‘European Man’ predated EDM by having the phrase “electronic dance music” emblazoned on its single sleeve.

‘From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


NEW ORDER Movement

Rising from the ashes of JOY DIVISION, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris chose the name NEW ORDER as a symbol of their fresh start and after deciding against recruiting a new vocalist, Morris’ girlfriend and later wife, Gillian Gilbert was recruited. Despite Martin Hannett still producing, recording sessions were fraught although synths were taking greater prominence while Morris used a Doctor Rhythm DR55 drum machine on ‘Truth’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’.

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN Dance

Following his ‘retirement’ from live performance, the last thing Numanoids expected was an understated Brian Eno homage. At nearly an hour’s playing time, ‘Dance’ outstayed its welcome with ‘Slowcar To China’ and ‘Cry The Clock Said’ stretching to 10 minutes. Much was made of JAPAN’s Mick Karn playing fretless bass although he was only on five of the eleven tracks. In ‘A Subway Called You’ and ‘Crash’, there were some great moments.

‘Dance’ is still available via Beggars Banquet Records

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Architecture & Morality

”I think ‘Architecture & Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole” said Paul Humphreys in 2010. The big booming ambience next to big blocks of Mellotron choir gave OMD their masterpiece, tinged more with LA DÜSSELDORF rather than KRAFTWERK. Featuring two spirited songs about ‘Joan Of Arc’, these were to become another pair of UK Top 5 hits with the ‘Maid of Orleans’ variant also becoming 1982’s biggest selling single in West Germany.

‘Architecture & Morality’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call

This generally overlooked double opus exploited the Germanic influences of SIMPLE MINDS to the full, under the production auspices of Steve Hillage. From the singles ‘The American’ and ‘Love Song’ to the mighty instrumental ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and the unsettling dentist drill menace of ‘70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall’, with basslines articulating alongside synths and guitars almost as one, this was SIMPLE MINDS at close to their very best.

‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

In their cover of ‘Tainted Love’, SOFT CELL provided the first true Synth Britannia crossover record. One of the best albums of 1981, ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ captured the edginess of minimal synth arrangements while married to an actual tune. At the time, art school boys Marc Almond and Dave Ball were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE. But with the  follow-up success of the Top5 singles ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, the pair became reluctant popstars.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TELEX‎ Sex

‘Sex’ was Belgian trio TELEX’s third album and a collaboration with SPARKS that saw them contribute lyrics to all nine tracks. Experiments in swing on ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ displayed a sophisticated vintage musicality and ‘Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?’ was the hit single that never was. Meanwhile, like KRAFTWERK meeting YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, ‘Brainwash’ was quite obviously the blueprint for LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Get Innocuous!’.

‘Sex’ was released by Ariola, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342


ULTRAVOX Rage In Eden

‘Rage in Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ but it was something of a paranoia ridden affair from ULTRAVOX having been created at Conny Plank’s remote countryside studio near Cologne. There was synthetic bass power on ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, but there was also the tape experimentation of the title track using the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned effect.

‘Rage In Eden’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA BGM

‘BGM’, the third full length album from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was the first recording to feature the now iconic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and was also made using a digital 3M 32-track machine. More experimental than their first Technopop focussed long players, the best song ‘Camouflage’ was a curious beat laden blend of Eastern pentatonics and Western metallics from which the German synth band CAMOUFLAGE took their name.

‘BGM’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th January 2021

MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE 1980 | The Dawn Of Synth Pop

1977 is often seen as Year Zero for synthpop, thanks to hit singles by DONNA SUMMER, SPACE and JEAN-MICHEL JARRE.

But it was not until 1979 with TUBEWAY ARMY reaching No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ that the sound of synth truly hit the mainstream.

Although ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ by SPARKS had actually been a hit a few months earlier, ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the beginning of the synth being accepted as a worthy mode of expression, rather than as a novelty. But as synths became more affordable, they became the perfect tool of youthful expression.

From Cherry Red, makers of the excellent ’Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ 4CD boxed set, comes ‘Musik Music Musique’; subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this 3CD 58 track collection explores the arrival of synth pop and the dawn of a new musical era. This was the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE.

The set starts appropriately with OMD and ‘Messages’, one of the first tunes showcasing the warmer side of electronics following the colder wave led by Messrs Numan and Foxx. But as if to counter this next generation of youngsters, ‘Messages’ is immediately followed by the collection’s vocoder laden title song ‘Musik Music Musique’ from Zeus B Held and the superb proto-industrial ode to loveless sex ‘Coitus Interruptus’ by the much missed FAD GADGET.

Zeus B Held was later to make his impression on popular culture remixing ALPHAVILLE and SIMPLE MINDS as well producing the likes of FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP, but his wider breakthrough came as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 with The Blitz Club favourite ‘No GDM’; on this compendium, the lesser-known but just as worthy ‘Vendor’s Box’ from their second album ‘X-Traordinaire’ is deservedly provided a platform.

The best producers often earn their spurs as artists and realising their limitations, use their accumulated studio nous to subvert the mainstream via pop. ‘Astroboy’ by BUGGLES sees Trevor Horn develop his sonic architecture to prove that he had another song that wasn’t ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Meanwhile the welcome inclusion of NEW MUSIK’s other hit ‘This World Of Water’ allows Tony Mansfield to showcase the crafted sparkle that would later go on to adorn records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, VICIOUS PINK, A-HA and NAKED EYES.

It may seem strange to see SPANDAU BALLET as part of this package but when they first appeared, they were considered a synthesizer band; ‘Glow’ was a UK double A side single with ‘Musclebound’ in 1981 and while it was the last synth-led track they did, their funk soul aspirations were there for all to hear. In fact, songwriter Gary Kemp had conceived ‘Glow’ with a brass section in mind, so it is now something of a curio that could be seen as a precursor to ‘Chant No1’.

SPANDAU BALLET were produced by Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV; his electro-jazz combo LANDSCAPE figure with the Colin Thurston helmed ‘European Man’ which was actually designated “electronic dance music” on its single artwork some three decades before it was appropriated and abbreviated to become EDM…

Many of the usual suspects from the period like VISAGE, JAPAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING are all present and correct with familiar recordings, but interestingly (although not for the better), it’s the original version of Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’ without the Rusty Egan drums or the Midge Ure remix that gets the nod!

One of the main beauties of these thoughtfully curated collections is to be able sway away from the obvious and feature a known-name with a lesser-known work; in the case of ULTRAVOX, it’s the occasionally Eno-inspired and Conny Plank produced ‘Waiting’ which was the B-side to their first Midge Ure fronted single ‘Sleepwalk’. Meanwhile, SUICIDE are represented by the excellent Ric Ocasek produced ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’ and YELLO with ‘Bimbo’, the oddball opener of the Swiss trailblazers’ debut long player ‘Solid Pleasure’.

SILICON TEENS get to feature with something other than ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and it’s the Daniel Miller‘s self-penned instrumental ‘Chip N Roll’ that has the honour, while the Mute Records founder gets another track in with ‘Brushing Your Hair’, a gloriously vibrant instrumental production and co-write for Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV.

There’s additionally tracks by lesser known international acts or those bands that faded from view after effectively being one hit wonders. The entire career of M may have been overshadowed by the ubiquitous ‘Pop Muzik’ but Robin Scott did go on to release three albums and work with Ryuichi Sakamoto; the sombre ‘Official Secrets’ may not really have much of a hook but it contains some percolating bleepy sections that pre-date KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’ by one year.

‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo, THE METRONOMES actually sounds very 21st century with its detached female vocal and charming monosynths, while the gallop of ‘Drawn & Quartered’ by THE KORGIS is a worthy find. Now while ROCKETS found fame with a catchy robotic flavoured cover of ‘On The Road Again’ with the help of Zeus B Held, the silver faced Italians found that the vocoder suited their performance art poise and reapplied it for the self-penned space rocker ‘Galactica’.

Also possessing a bit of a gallop is LORI & THE CHAMELEONS’ wispy Morricone-influenced single ‘The Lonely Spy’ although with its acoustic strum, it is quite different from the understated electronic disco of their best known track ‘Touch’. Cut from a similar melodic post-punk cloth, the Martin Hannett produced ‘Sympathy’ from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS is a reminder of how women were coming to the fore after punk in synth-assisted new wave, a fact borne out on ‘Musik Music Musique’ by the inclusion of more obscure works from TOYAH, KIM WILDE and HAZEL O’CONNOR.

‘Musik Music Musique’ is also an opportunity to become reacquainted with lost tunes of yore and ‘The Eyes Have It’ by KAREL FIALKA will be remembered by those who owned the 1980 Virgin Records compilation ‘Machines’, as will the octave driven ‘Destiny’ by DALEK I LOVE YOU. Some enjoyably avant pop adventures come courtesy of XYNN’s ‘Computed Man’ and SCIENCE’s ‘Tokyo’, while one of the more bizarre but successful experiments included is ‘I’m A Computer’ by THE GOO-Q.

One of the lesser known acts featuring with the eccentric ‘Money’ is MOEBIUS, not the member of German duo CLUSTER but an American art rock band with a penchant for DEVO. ‘Doctor …?’ by BLOOD DONOR is another wonderful discovery while of the more experimental art pieces included, NINI RAVIOLETTE’s ‘Suis-Je Normale’ delightfully comes over like a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Laurie Anderson.

Düsseldorf is often seen as the spiritual home of electronic music and there is worthy representation from DER PLAN and ‘Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel’ illustrating how there were other dimensions to German electronic music other than that engineered by KRAFTWERK. But closing the set is the band named after the Electri_City itself, LA DÜSSELDORF with the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’; a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section, it sums up the manic oddball nature of the former NEU! drummer Klaus Dinger.

There are many other tracks that have merit, but textures which reoccur on ‘Musik Music Musique’ to date stamp the period are the icy chill of the affordable ARP Quartet string machine and squawky sax, although not in an overblown jazz funk way.

Despite ‘Musik Music Musique’ comprising of a carefully researched tracklisting, a few errors do slip through; as well as the SPANDAU BALLET track being released in 1981 as already mentioned (although it was available on a very scarce Japanese-only promo sampler in late 1980), the version of ‘Kebabträume’ by DAF is the 1982 Conny Plank version from the Virgin album ‘Für Immer’ and not the Bob Giddens produced Mute Records five piece band recording which actually came out in 1980.

Then in the booklet, the Foxx fronted 1977 line-up of ULTRAVOX! gets illustrated as opposed to the New Romantic suited Midge Ure one, while LA DÜSSELDORF’s Hans Lampe is referred to as a “Keyboard Whizz” when he is actually a drummer and now performs with Michael Rother who was Klaus Dinger’s partner in NEU!; in fact Dinger handled keyboards himself under the pseudonym of Nikolaus Van Rhein.

Those are minor quibbles though, because this set is very good value and acts as a great music history lesson as well as offering the chance to hear some new vintage synth. While many may have heard of BERLIN BLONDES, THE PASSAGE, THE FALLOUT CLUB and EYELESS IN GAZA, only a few will have heard their music.

‘Musik Music Musique’ offers something of a low risk opportunity to make some new friends while becoming reacquainted with a few old and lost ones. Here’s to the 1981 follow-up set…


‘Musik Music Musique – 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’  is released on 31st July 2020 as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-1980-the-dawn-of-synth-pop-various-artists-3cd/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2020

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