Presenting a swift follow-up to her acclaimed solo debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, German Filipino songstress and musician Laura Dre presents an ambitious concept record in ‘Kyoto Dreams’.
Loving a download only instrumental bonus track of the same name from ‘Moving Spaces’, her label Outland asked for more of the same and Laura Dre duly delivered, but with a twist.
Having grown up with German Hörspiel cassettes, “I instantly had this crazy idea of creating a story with Japanese voice acting…” she said.
The 12 instrumentals contained on the ‘Kyoto Dreams’ album inspired by Citypop, chill-synth and lo-fi house are interspersed with a story in Japanese about a workaholic named Rin played by Hiroko Okunishi; she lives without dreams and ambitions but she embarks on a journey of enlightenment to find that something to enrich her future self. Other characters are voiced by Karinne Okunishi, Satomi Kinoshita, kay and Ayumi Kobayashi. To assist non-Japanese speaking listeners, English translations of the story’s script are available on Laura Dre’s website as well as in the booklet of the CD release.
Of the music, ‘Lost in Transit’ is an example of how music and speech can come together on an exotic midtempo instrumental. Using glitchy pitched shifted vocal samples, ‘Bus To Okinawa’ is more jagged in comparison and its darker austere is intriguing. ‘Waiting’ offers pretty vibes in keeping with its title, while ‘Drifting’ is a more dreamy flight of fancy where the inclusion of speech also works.
‘City Lights’ is superb and its danceable NEW ORDER Goes To The Far East backdrop captures a wonderfully nocturnal feel but ‘Ocean Adventure’ is naturally more nautical, blue and relaxed. The glorious ‘Kyoto Dreams’ is the Citypop-influenced bonus that was the seed to this ambitious adventure and it remains an enticing musical travelogue with hooks, atmospheres and percussive colours in an example of how a good synth instrumental should be constructed.
With Koto textures galore, the Zen hip-hop of ‘Temples’ pitches up some of the dialogue to be more child-like and although ‘Four Seasons’ develops on the hip-hop theme, it does so with a much shadier downtempo approach.
As the album effectively bookends with ‘You Are Here’, the ‘Part 2 – Tokyo 5pm’ variation utilises metronomic club beats over its moodier ‘Part 1 – Unknown’ counterpart, while an extended reprise of ‘Bus To Okinawa’ and the short conceptual statement ‘New Departure’ close the ‘Kyoto Dreams’ album like the soundtrack over the end titles of a film.
Musically, the 12 instrumentals on ‘Kyoto Dreams’ stand up as a collection. But for those who may not be as wholly invested in Laura Dre’s vision of a radio play and its chapters alternating with music, the story in Japanese may prove to be a frustrating distraction. For casual listeners, this switching music / spoken word approach rarely works and even the mighty YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA at their commercial heights baffled their homegrown audiences with their 1983 album ‘Service’ by alternating synthpop songs with comedy sketches in Japanese by SUPER ECCENTRIC THEATER!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is certainly not against albums with interspersed conceptual pieces as the site’s love of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’ or ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘English Electric’ by OMD have proved.
Now whereas those featured tracks of news broadcasts, speaking clocks and airport announcements in international languages respectively, these concrète experiments were shorter and fewer in number, although ‘Times Zones’ from ‘Dazzle Ships’ remains a flawed artistic snapshot of the world that outstays its welcome by a minute.
In the case of this sophomore Laura Dre album, listen to it as a whole and see how you feel. As a radio play on its own, a synth instrumental record or as Laura Dre’s vision of combining both, what it means to the individual listener is what matters; it will mean different things to different people and only they can decide what to put in their own ‘Kyoto Dreams’ playlist.
Despite the general appetite for nostalgia with boxed sets and coloured vinyl of classic albums hogging the pressing plants, there was a lot of excellent new music released in 2021.
The quality of individual tracks released in 2021 was extremely high but at the end of the day, only 30 songs can be selected as a snapshot of the calendar year. As Monica Geller in ‘Friends’ once said, “Rules are good, rules help control the fun” – rules, routine and structure = creativity and fun ?
So the highly commended group who did not quite make ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021 includes Tobias Bernstrup, David Cicero, Alice Hubble, Michael Oakley, Jason Priest, Nina, Eric Random and Kat Von D’s duet with Peter Murphy, along with SIN COS TAN, FIAT LUX, LONELADY, GLITBITER, KNIGHT$, PEAKES, DESIRE, SOFTWAVE, XENO & OAKLANDER, BUNNY X, PISTON DAMP, FRAGRANCE. and HANTE.
So here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021, presented as usual alphabetically by act with a restriction of one song per artist moniker.
ACTORS Love U More
Thanks to the recruitment of new bassist Kendall Wooding, the male-to-female ratio of ACTORS has equalled up and altered their dynamic. The vocal duality between guitarist Jason Corbett and keyboardist Shannon Hemmett aka LEATHERS takes an increased role in the band’s developing sound. With the brooding baritone counterpointed by girly soprano and male falsetto to provide an uneasy uplift to the gloomy domino dance, ‘Love U More’ was a statement of intent like a goth DURAN DURAN with metronomic rhythms and eerie synths.
Midge Ure finally launched his BAND ELECTRONICA project as a recording entity with ‘Das Beat’, a glorious slice of Teutonic robopop in collaboration with Wolfgang Flür. With “Beats through wires, beats through walls”, the icy motorik bossa nova was complimented by a blisteringly catchy synth hook in the classic Kling Klang tradition and harked back the Glaswegian’s days hearing KRAFTWERK at The Blitz Club and making music with VISAGE and ULTRAVOX. Dancing is a given to the synthesizer rhythm.
Available on the single ‘Das Beat’ via BMG Rights Management
Although a seasoned musician as the sax and keyboard player for Bryan Ferry over the past 10 years, Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers did not release her first album until 2019. The superb take on SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES ‘Rhapsody’, an orchestrated gothic epic off their ninth album ‘Peepshow’, featured an intriguing electronic warble within its stripped down arrangement. From its claustrophobic cocoon, Chalmers sounded trapped inside an unsettling icy soundscape of synthetic strings and choirs.
CLASS ACTRESS is the nom de théâtre of one-time Giorgio Moroder protégée Elizabeth Harper. Releasing a new EP ‘Sense Memory’ which initially featured three cover including THE SMITHS’ ‘Ask’ but steadily expanded with new material, the percussive ‘Saint Patrick’ featured an array of infectious synth hooks while Harper’s richly passionate vocal over some strident keyboard work combined like Nerina Pallot fronting BOY HARSHER for a brilliant slice of modern electronic pop.
Perhaps more intentionally pop than Hattie Cooke has ever been before on her previous two long playing outings, an intimate gravitas comes with the expanded electronic texturing on her third album ‘Bliss Land’ and this is undoubtedly stamped on its opening song. The hypnotic ‘I Get By’ was superb with ringing hooks, sweeping soundscapes and airy understated vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Italians Do It Better ‘After Dark’ compilation.
‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’ is the debut album by DANZ CM, the artist formally known as COMPUTER MAGIC. New York based Danz Johnson is the synth girl behind both vehicles with a passion for the development of the electronic music. Reflecting the album’s title, the total melancholic brilliance of ‘Human Existence’ sees our heroine make a sombre declaration that “you can’t save me, I can’t save you” in a manner reminiscent of CHROMATICS meeting OMD.
Danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN feature in its line-up Tess Roby who released her debut album ‘Beacon’ on Italians Do It Better. Also featuring Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee with their Minimoog, Roland System 100, Roland Juno 60 and Korg 700s armoury, ’Care’ was written on a cold winter’s night and unsurprisingly captures that mood. Nocturnal yet rhythmic, Roby’s alluring folk-tinged vocal offsets the various synthetic overtures for a mysterious weightless quality.
Leeds based duo DEVOIR comprise of Imogen Holmes who released the impressive ‘Lines’ EP as IMI and Jacob Marston. A product of lockdown, although ‘Mercer’ is entirely electronic, it differs slightly from IMI in its four-to-the-floor construction. So imagine GOLDFRAPP at an Alpine rave in the Hornlihutte basecamp next to The Matterhorn. As the cinematic techno builds, the magnificent voice that graced IMI soars and shines, expressing itself at the extremes of alluring spoken word and piercing high soprano.
DIAMOND FIELD is the musical vehicle of Andy Diamond, the New York based Kiwi who, looks to studio icons such as Hugh Padgham, Rupert Hine and Peter Wolf as his heroes. With a backing track like NEW ORDER’s ‘Your Silent Face’ reworked by OMD, ‘A Kiss Apart’ is superb and sees a velvet performance by Belinda Bradley of New Zealand collective SELON RECLINER; akin to the other Belinda, Ms Carlisle crossed with Marcella Detroit there is a gorgeous chorus and some great synth interventions recalling lost Mute trio PEACH.
Inspired by the spectre of the former Soviet Union, Minsk trio DLINA VOLNY explore post-punk with a dance beat not unlike NEW ORDER. Having already had two albums already under their belt and singing in English with an inherent Eastern Bloc gloom in Masha Zinevitch’s vocals throughout their Italians Do It Better period, their fifth single for the label ‘Bipolar’ was dark disco with plenty of synth and mystery that asked “But what is it like being on the border?”.
Available on the album ‘Dazed’ via Italians Do It Better
With her mix of modern synthpop and synthwave coupled to her deep nonchalant vocals, Laura Dre captures the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’, but with a sexy enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired groove that wouldn’t go amiss in a West Berlin nightclub. The glorious uptempo disco number ‘All Day, All Night’ offers great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious percussive base. It’s a number for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS, complete with a classic Tennant / Lowe styled instrumental middle eight.
Celebrating 40 years as recording artists, DURAN DURAN released their 15th studio album ‘Future Past’ in a “live for the moment” reference of how something today can become a cherished memory in times to come. The chiptune inspired ‘More Joy!’ was reminiscent of past glories, its syncopated disco poise capturing DURAN DURAN at what they do best and with hypnotic electronics offset by a wonderful bass guitar run and chants by Japanese rock band CHAI, its exuberant manner presented the right dose of escapism.
Like a tattooed Marilyn Monroe dropped into Twin Peaks, GLÜME is a shimmering new starlet in the Italians Do It Better stable. From her debut album ‘The Internet’, ‘Get Low’ was an intriguing slice of accessible avant pop about the high of falling for someone where brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected. Applying some rumbling electronic bass, stabbing vintage synths and simple but prominent digital drum beats, ‘Get Low’ sounded not unlike an experimental hybrid of OMD and LADYTRON!
Made using the T.O.N.T.O. synth complex created Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff which was made famous by Stevie Wonder, the same titled album is the fifth solo body of work by the Toronto-based neoclassical composer and multi-instrumentalist Robin Hatch. The sinister ‘Airplane’ took shape around an avant garde soundscape. Utilising the talents of doom metal violinist Laura Bates of VOLUR alongside the synthetic strings and hypnotic generative blips, this encapsulated an unsettling gothic grandeur.
For Italian musician veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti, the ethos of ITALOCONNECTION is “to sound vintage in a modern way”. The superb ‘Virus X’ featuring French veteran Etienne Daho sprung a surprise as a suave slice of Gallic synthwave. With its downbeat verse and an emotive chorus, this was as a fitting musical document of the past year and half’s tensions while using toxic personal relationships as a poignant lyrical analogy.
Hailing from Turkey, JAKUZI’s Italo flavoured song ‘Hiç Işık Yok’ saw the usual cowbells substituted by processed pots and pans, while the mix of classic brassy tones and chilling synth pads blended to create something rather unusual and extraordinary. Working with Maurizio Baggio who mixed the most recent albums by BOY HARSHER and THE SOFT MOON, the Italian producer turned what had been a gothic futureless mood piece with a sombre vocal intonation into a dark but catchy electronic disco number.
2021 was a year craving for more ‘Good Times’ and JOON, the electronic solo project from Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis did her best to remember them. Another recent signing to Italians Do It Better, she reflected on “The way you sing your songs and make me dance, the way you take a chance on a little romance” before affirming “You remind me of the good times”. It all captured a charming innocence in a dreamy Mediterranean take on Japanese City Pop.
КЛЕТ is a music project of Bohemian-born composer and producer Michal Trávníček. Primarily celebrating the Soviet space programme with its impressive series of firsts, while the ‘Alconaut’ album’s pivotal track was its opener ‘Gagarin’s Start’ which honoured the handsome hero who was the first man in space as he prepared for lift-off, the spacey Sovietwave mood over 13 tracks made for an enticing listen. The sparkling sparseness of ‘Eternity’ with its stuttering vintage drum machine provided another highlight.
LEATHERS is the more synth focussed solo project from ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett. The undoubted highlight of her debut ‘Reckless’ EP was the title song. Resigned and accepting, she was still alluring in her voicing despite the heartbreak of her love being so cruel and dangerous. A rather lovely slice of synthpop in that classic melancholic vein with an infectious steadfast motorik beat, it again showed that Canada again was leading the way in the modern version of the form.
Available on the EP ‘Reckless’ via Artoffact Records
Having treated the world with her charming cover of the Alan Wilder penned DEPECHE MODE B-side ‘Fools’, Philadelphian songstress CATHERINE MOAN launched her debut album with the self-composed ‘Drop It!’, song craving the joy of nightlife after a year of lockdown confinement. Dreamily floating over a classic four chord progression with an eerily sombre apocalyptic understatement, ‘Drop It!’ channelled her innocent sound in the manner of ELECTRIC YOUTH meeting STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and MARSHEAUX via her own bedroom aesthetic.
While Karin My has been working with TWICE A MAN and MACHINISTA over the last ten years, it was only in 2019 that she stepped out to front her own traditionally derived electronic songs. A steadfast drum machine propels ‘Loop’ while sweeping symphonic melodies in the vein of ULTRAVOX accompany the despairing resignation. The closing computer generated female speech declaring “identification – procedure – quote – hyphen – perform – display – go to – loop – full stop – execute” added to the dystopian unsettlement.
Using a rigid motorik backbone and capturing a danceable ethereal shudder, ‘This Fractured Mind’ breathed new life via its sprightly synth tones in a reference to the past. Although there was also some frenetic bass guitar grit to provide a hint of claustrophobia, the machines that had only been friends previously became family in the NATION OF LANGUAGE sound. Dealing with the spectre of unrealised dreams and jealousy towards more successful others, by the end of ‘This Fractured Mind’, any inferiority complex is countered with hopeful acceptance.
The project of Andreas Kubat and Sebastian Bohn, the 2001 NORTHERN LITE single ‘Treat Me Better’ was a cult favourite on the electroclash scene. Translating as “I don‘t think so…”, Kubat reflected on enforced isolation and staying sane. In a chorus that could be roughly interpreted: “You can‘t be happy and by liked by everyone at the same time”, ‘Ich Fürchte Nein’ was a delightfully catchy synthpop tune with a bright and jolly melodic section contrasted by a vocal of a more anxious disposition.
While ‘Savage’ depicted a deserted post-apocalyptic world, clad in darkness, The Ade Fenton produced ‘Intruder’ saw Planet Earth react to human kind’s self-destructive misdemeanours by unleashing a virus! “It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back” said Gary Numan poignantly. ‘The Chosen’ was fast paced synth rock and filled with pleading messages embroiled in frustration and despair, asking “Do you need one more sign?” and “Can you see, or are you so blind?”
Mark Reeder first met Fifi Rong who at the Berlin Kraftwerk in 2016 when she was singing in concert with Swiss trailblazers YELLO. From his album ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ , the opening track ‘Figure of 8’ was a magical new collaboration between the two with a cinematic backdrop of sparse piano and glistening sequences over which the exquisite Chinese songstress added her distinctive air of mystery to a more metronomic rhythm construction than perhaps heard on her own work.
New York City-based darklings R. MISSING are fronted by Sharon Shy, a vocalist with an elegant Jane Birkin-like presence while the studious Toppy Frost does the music. 2020’s ‘Placeholder For The Night’ signalled airier developments in their increasingly synthy sound, but the wonderful ‘Crimeless’ was R. MISSING’s most electronic pop noir statement yet. It was like CHROMATICS carefully reconfigured for the dancefloor with Sharon Shy presenting a whispery singing style that could easily be mistaken for Ruth Radelet.
Available on the single ‘Crimeless’ via Sugarcane Recordings
Subtitled ‘Hommage à Florian’, ‘Danse Du Robot’ was a magical tribute to the late KRAFTWERK co-founder with hints of ‘Trans Europe Express’ from Swedish producer Martin Lillberg, the man behind SCHÖNHEIT. Not exactly a prolific project with singles in 2014 and 2019, Lillberg however records under various monikers including as DEOLETUS, DESTINY NATION, INESI, LAURENTIA, LOVE ON DRUGS, MY SWEETEST PUNCH and WML as well as holding down a day job as a classical percussionist.
SEA FEVER are the new eclectic Manchester combo featuring second generation members of SECTION 25 and NEW ORDER, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham. ‘De Facto’ was a delightful electro-disco feast with a rhythm rush that screamed strobelights and likely to fill indie club dancefloors while also crossing over to lovers of synth. With echoes of NEW ORDER and THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, it captured a vibrant energy worthy of Manchester and its musical heritage.
As the prospect of interacting with others again set off anxieties after 18 months of social distancing, for Scottish Swedish duo UNIFY SEPARATE, it was time to ‘Embrace The Fear’. While the theme was relatable to lockdown, the lyrical gist touched on the more general existential crises that afflict many as they navigate a life crossroads. But despite the air of unease and the grittier disposition, as with most of UNIFY SEPARATE’s output, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Gorgeously melodic within a claustrophobic drama, ‘Lost In The Cloud’ did as the title suggested like Vangelis meeting Giorgio Moroder at the Necropolis on a dreamy dance trip. A lovely little uplifting synth instrumental, Tom Andersson the man behind WAVESHAPER suggested something darker, saying “Imagine Red Riding Hood trapped in the Digital Cloud, behind the Mainframe. How would she feel? What would she see? There is probably more to fear than a wolf in the forest…”
Available on the album ‘Mainframe’ via Waveshaper Music Production
With her debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, Laura Dre has presented an impressive musical statement that positions her between the sophistication of Nina and the gothier overtures of Kat Von D.
A musician, producer, graphic designer, model builder and gamer, the German-Filipino songstress has many talents. While she may be a new name in synth, Laura Dre offers a cooler take on electronic pop, the five decades old form having recently had a mainstream boost internationally thanks to THE WEEKND with Max Martin-assisted tunes such as ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Save Your Tears’.
Previously the front-woman of feisty electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall, Laura Dre has a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow, with the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’ lingering with a mysterious sexual tension.
Laura Dre spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her creative ethos and how artistic independence has empowered her to be ‘Moving Spaces’…
You have been making music for a number or years, particularly with a more alternative rock edge so what inspired you to focus on synths, had there been any artists from this ilk that turned you onto this instrumentation?
My love for alternative rock, grunge, punk and metal was quite strong up until I discovered electronic artists. I think it all started with German electronic artists in 2003 that had a cross-over between synths and indie sounds in their music: STEREO TOTAL, MIA; 2004: SPILLSBURY (Electro-punk); 2006: PEACHES, FISCHERSPOONER, GOLDFRAPP, YPPAH and in 2007: NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB.
I love the bold expression and simplicity of PEACHES, the synth melodies and alluring vocals of GOLDFRAPP, the rhythmic syncopation and ambience whenever I listen to a YPPAH record, and the mesmerising synergy of instruments from NYPC. Of course, there was also a lot of 80s and 90s EDM growing up – all this has influenced me what I do today.
In your writing process, are you quite “synaesthesic” in approach with your musical imagination?
Almost. If we are purely talking about sounds itself, then I most often have already a particular synth sound in my head whilst writing my song. The good thing is, I know exactly what I’m looking for and how it’s made of (ie saw, square, sine, triangle) and then I would modulate / manipulate / shape the sound to match the sound in my head, with LFOs / envelopes and additional effect plugins. It really helps being familiar with a synthesisers functions and controls, which I learned during my time at University studying music production.
I scored 10/10 when my tutor was testing us if we recognise wavetable sounds. So that already gave me a good indication of my ability to identify sounds and reconstruct them from scratch.
You apply a strong visual aesthetic to your artwork, photos and social media, how important do you think this is as an artist?
I think this goes hand-in-hand with music and visuals are very important these days to promote the music you’re doing, to grab people’s attention and to express music on a visual level. Since we live in a world full of advertisements, it’s even harder now to cut through the social media noise to stand out, so that’s why I think it’s really important to have images accompanying the music as well as portraying the artist itself.
From my own personal opinion, I found it even more important that this is carried out through ORIGINAL images / content, something that the artist creates themselves rather than using other people’s artwork like I see it often happening on Instagram. Aren’t you bored of seeing the same image shared over and over by multiple artists?
Yes, it may look aesthetically pleasing to someone who just wants to see specific kind of images, but on the other hand it’s unoriginal and basically it’s stealing other people’s artwork, causing potential copyright infringements. I’ve seen it often happening that other people’s artwork is not even credited, which is bad practice. I also don’t see the logic in doing these things because it’s not really contributing to the artists’ music or image itself. I’m sorry to be blunt, but it comes across as ‘visual portfolio of stolen images for lazy artists’. That’s my personal opinion and it’s something that people don’t have to agree with.
Did you ever consider hiding your face like some of the acts who featured in ‘The Rise Of The Synths’? Can it ever be “just about the music” as some claim in that film?
I have no shame in saying that I’ve not watched this film, just like I never heard about synthwave until last year. No, I have no reason to hide my face, personality nor sexuality. I think hiding is a personal choice – whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Do you have any guilty pleasures in terms of inspiration, unexpected loves like Country & Western or Schlagermusik?
I’m not a fan of German Schlagermusik, but I wouldn’t mind classic Country music (ie Johnny Cash), Hillbilly stuff, Psychobilly Rock N’ Roll, and some Benny Goodman and Bobby Hutcherson here and there. I love Oldies, Jazz, Classical Music, 90s Hip Hop – I can pretty much listen to any genre as long as the music is good.
Robert Harder, who you worked with in VINYL BLACK STILETTOS, mixed the ‘Moving Spaces’ album, how would you describe your creative dynamic?
It’s easier to work with someone when you know that person and what they are like. With Robert, he always worked with the cool bands that I admired (SOHODOLLS, WHITE ROSE MOVEMENT, WHITEY etc) So I had no doubt that he would be a good fit for my sound, which he has proven with my very first VBS EP from 2011.
In terms of dynamic, we both work remotely and super quick. He puts a lot of effort into mixing my music creatively and the vocal production, like he added this wonderful dreamy outro on ‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ which I originally did not have. I absolutely love it!
What tools were you using on the album, was there any particular hardware or software that you turned to and enjoyed using?
I don’t own much analog hardware, mainly just a good pair of speakers (Focal Twin 6 BE), a good valve microphone (Telefunken AK-47 MkII) and a UA6176 – the rest is done in the box. To me it’s never been about the gear you own, to make music with. One could have the most expensive Studio equipment, but if you’re not a good songwriter you will still make crap music, no matter how expensive your gear is.
The same principle applies for recording – you could be recording at Abbey Road Studios with the world’s best sound engineer – I will repeat this again: it doesn’t matter if everything is top range, your songs will still be cr*p if you’ve never learned how to write and compose good songs.
Were you tempted to bring out your bass guitar or were you strictly adhering to the synth aesthetic?
I’m not afraid to use any kind of instrument at all, as long as it fits the track. In my case, the bass guitar doesn’t really suit my music, so I will only use my guitar here and there, where it complements the melodies and harmonies I create. At the end of the day, I’m not here to please people by strictly adhering to a limited range of instruments or musical style or aesthetics. I see my music as complete different entity not connected to anything, except the electronic genre (which is super broad) but with 80s infused sounds in a modern way.
So did ‘If Looks Could Kill’ begin life as one of your rockier tracks?
That was the third track I created out of the ‘Moving Spaces’ album, and initially I did a fast 4/4 beat with modulation on the synths, but due to an accident during transfer, Robert had to re-program my drums on this track and accidentally gave me back a 2/4 beat, which I totally loved because it was so 80s! Like Michael Sambello’s ‘Maniac’. I’m so glad this happened, because it just sounded better! I wouldn’t call it ‘rockier’ but in my head I visualised an image of an 80s pool party and this song playing in the background. I mainly create music to images in my head.
The ‘Moving Spaces’ title song launched you solo to the wider world, why did you pick that as the track to premiere your synth sound with?
I let Outland Recordings pick the track, I wasn’t really fussed which track went out first as I loved them all. Besides that, it’s better to let the average listener pick, because as a producer / artist, I often can’t see the forest as a whole, I can only see individual trees.
How did Outland Recordings become involved? Was the ‘Moving Spaces’ album already recorded? Was it important for you to have a label?
No, it wasn’t fully recorded. I had 8 songs at the time I started looking for a label. And yes, it was important to me to get a label because I made a deal with my Instagram crush. The deal was that she would have to go out with me on a date if I get a record deal. So 100% motivation right there! 😉
‘All Day, All Night’ has this lovely PET SHOP BOYS feel, right down to the instrumental break, are you a fan?
I’ve seen PET SHOP BOYS live on their ‘Nightlife’ tour in Bremen, it was my very first concert ever. My friend had a spare ticket, so that’s how I ended up there. I still love ‘For Your Own Good’, but I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan. They are okay. If I have to pick a 90s EDM act, I’d prefer ORBITAL, THE ORB, FAITHLESS, UNDERWORLD or THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON. If ‘All Day All Night’ sounds like PSB to some listeners, then that’s fine, but I had no intention of making it sound similar to them. What I had more in mind with this song was a modern version of 80s Citypop.
‘Superficial Cyberlove’ gets quite gothic and then goes all EBM, how was this track conceived?
I never had this in mind when I composed it. I visualised something more 80s cyberpunk in my head, like ‘Blade Runner’ meets techno. Sci-fi and Neon Club vibes.
While unrequited love is the theme of the album, how much of the lyrical content is you playing a character and how much is autobiographical?
The lyrical content is a mixture of both. The feelings are from my real life experiences whilst the setting and vibe of the songs have different imaginative settings, for example ‘Superficial Cyberlove’: Whilst the lyrics are about having a crush on your ideal model that you shaped inside your head, this model has a set and certain type of partner in their mind, thus they’re all ‘superficial’ and you’ll never be good enough for that person.
Then, we’re also connected to our computers on a daily basis, so people cyber-stalk the one’s they like and possibly develop deeper feelings for them that are unrequited, to the point that they are letting go of them (‘I Turn Away From You’). To bring the lyrics together with the music I chose a ‘cyberpunk’ setting in this instance, that I try to convey with dark retro sounds, tempo and intensity of the song that gradually increases.
Are you actually an ‘Ice Maiden’ in real life?
Hahaha! I don’t know how other people observe me, but my ex-girlfriend was certainly an ‘ice maiden’, and so is the girl that I made a deal with.
‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ mentions ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, but which couples, either real or fictional have most inspired you?
Catra and Adora from ‘She-Ra & The Princess of Power’ *laughs*
They are obviously fictional, but they have a very complex relationship that made the whole story of the show really good, I could watch this over and over! I’m not surprised there are many fans out there that want a Season 6 now!
You sing that ‘Loving You Is A Beautiful Sin’, but how do you see the world at the moment in its quest for equality, tolerance and being free from the threat of violence?
I think as humans in this current state of the world we have a lot of things to combat that unfortunately will not change overnight, such as Asian-hate-crime, homophobia, climate change, poverty, trans rights, domestic violence, wars, human trafficking and rape amongst many, many other things that are problematic.
It’s horrible when we think about these things and the fact that they all exist somewhere in the world. I think this is an ongoing quest that will not be resolved for the next centuries sadly. I still like to dream about a world where currency and poverty doesn’t exist, where all life forms whether alien or human are equal, which is Gene Roddenberry’s world – it’s the reason why I’m so fond of ‘Star Trek’. Who you love should not be an issue, but sadly in many countries, it still is.
Which are your own favourite songs from the album and why?
I don’t have any favourite songs, they are all my “babies” so I love them all. 🙂
Is playing live as a solo synth artist on the cards for you or is the recording of a second album first more likely?
The second album is nearly done! I will have it finished by end of September, then it will be mixed and mastered by Robert Harder again. Once that is done, I will perform live shows again, hopefully with the first stop being Tokyo, Japan.
What are your hopes and fears as the world begins to open up again?
My fear is that every damn venue will be booked up! Hahaha. I think most bands are getting ready now to start playing live shows soon, which might become a nightmare in terms of wanting to book a time slot. As for hopes, I’m hoping that Japan will open their borders soon so that we can start booking my first tour.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Laura Dre
With a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow, German Filipino songstress and musician Laura Dre presents her solo debut album ‘Moving Spaces’, a collection themed around the traumas of unrequited love.
Laura Dre was formally the front woman of electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall,
‘Moving Spaces’ sees a return in the studio with her previous co-producer Robert Harder whose credits have included David Byrne, Brian Eno and Neneh Cherry.
Her mix of modern synthpop and synthwave anthems coupled to her deep nonchalant vocals capture the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’, but there a sexy enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired groove that wouldn’t go amiss in a West Berlin nightclub scene from the Cold War spy flick ‘Atomic Blonde’. While there are darker tinges compared to her contemporaries, ultimately ‘Moving Spaces’ IS a pop record and an entertaining one.
‘Interlude: Utopia’ is an opening instrumental that sets out the album’s intentions, being rhythmic, atmospheric and melodic. The following love ballad ‘Loving You Is A Beautiful Sin’ touches on the lyrical gist covered in David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Forbidden Colours’, chugging with sombre bass pulses counterpointed by digital chimes and washes of sweeping synths. With her expressive contralto voice, this is everything SAY LOU LOU should have been but weren’t.
With a gallop, ‘Pulse & The Drive’ is punctuated by vintage digital drums as our heroine melts into the backdrop. Hitting some wispy higher notes while the keys provide the diamond cuts, the dreamy ‘Moving Spaces’ showcases some glistening electronic pop capturing a wonderful nocturnal atmosphere and a subtle euphoria.
Perhaps autobiographical in its longing for the unobtainable, ‘Ice Maiden’ presents an even punchier triplet while blippy swirls add to the song’s windswept aesthetic. ‘I Wanna Be Your Only One’ sees Laura Dre bear her soul following the unrequited love theme of the album, expressing a desire for a partnership that breaks the rules, declaring “We could be Bonnie and Clyde”.
The glorious uptempo disco number ‘All Day, All Night’ offers great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious percussive base, it’s one for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS, complete with a classic Tennant / Lowe styled instrumental middle eight.
‘I Opened My Eyes’ adopts a more archetypical synthwave approach although the vocal register is unexpectedly upped to a wispy soprano in the harmonies. Meanwhile, the metronomic drive of ‘If Looks Could Kill’ could easily be reimagined as a rock number and used in a Brat Pack film montage although the bass backbone here is perhaps a little too hazy to achieve the desire impact.
Beginning with a more subtle Sci-Fi backdrop, ‘Superficial Cyberlove’ springs a total surprise by morphing into a desolate EBM-inspired climax.
With superb icy strings penetrating the core, the ‘Blade Runner’ inspired story about relationship involving “a human and a cyber android incapable of developing feelings” highlights how in this modern world, the convenience of machines can never replace the intimacy of face-to-face contact.
‘Moving Spaces’ is an impressive debut musical statement from Laura Dre, offering a cooler take on synthwave influenced pop forms that positions her between the alluring sophistication of Nina and the gothier overtures of Kat Von D.
Laura Dre may be a new name in synth but she is a seasoned musician and producer with years of experience playing live and working in the studio, completing a degree in Music Production at BIMM along the way.
Having fronted feisty electro-rock combo VINYL BLACK STILETTOS whose second EP ‘Electrical’ was produced by PET SHOP BOYS programmer and engineer Pete Gleadall while also making instrumental music as JADZIADX, the solo work of Laura Dre showcases a fascination for yesterday’s tomorrow.
One of her little projects outside of music has been to build a 1/8th scale model kit of a DeLorean in its ‘Back To The Future’ variant, complete with flux capacitor!
The German-Filipino songstress told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I’d set my time machine to 27.06.1987 – because of the following release dates: ‘Blue Monday’ 1983, ‘Self Control’ 1984, ‘Living In A Box’ 1987 – I would love to experience the 80s club scene with my favourite songs.”
She also owns a 1987 Casio DG20 Guitar Synthesizer to go with her Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface and Behringer X Touch One controller set-up. Having signed a deal with Outland Recordings, Laura Dre opened her account with a moody nocturnal cover of ‘Strangelove’.
“I think it’s an interesting choice because there was some good musical complexity in the song, and lyrically it also aligns well with my album theme which is about ‘unrequited love’” she said as she reflected on the 1987 DEPECHE MODE song, “I rarely do covers but if I do one, I want to have something challenging and make things ‘my own’. Meaning if it’s a fast paced pop track, then I might turn it into a slower electronic version and add my own flavour to the piece, giving it my signature sound.”
Her first single proper though is the dreamy ‘Moving Spaces’, a fine showcase for her deeper contralto vocal style influenced by Shirley Manson, PJ Harvey and Alison Goldfrapp. Texturally and structurally, the glistening song takes its lead from classic electronic pop. The accompanying lyric video produced by Outland themselves uses footage from the computer game ‘Leisure Suit Larry III’.
Laura Dre added: “All my musical pieces encompass synthesizers in some shape or form, the only difference this time is the style. This year I experimented with making 80s music and without realising it, I was creating some kind synth music that my friends would classify as a ‘mix of synthpop / synthwave anthems’. They then introduced me to synthwave music which was interesting.”
But there is more to come from this most promising of European synth songstresses. Already in the can, ‘All Day, All Night’ is a discowave tune with great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious rhythmic base, it’s one for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS.
It all bodes well for her debut album produced by Robert Harder who worked on David Byrne & Brian Eno’s acclaimed 2008 second album ‘Everything That Happens Will Happen Today’; he also produced the 2012 Neneh Cherry long player ‘The Cherry Thing’.
There are the ubiquitous ‘Blade Runner’ references, but that rainy dystopian air is also countered at regular intervals by an enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired dancefloor friendly groove.