Tag: Marc Almond (Page 2 of 5)

PLASMIC Interview

Hailing from Orange County, PLASMIC describes herself as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”.

Detonating infectious lo-fi synth bombs while full of femme rage fuelled by childhood anxiety, a hybrid of CRYSTAL CASTLES, DEVO, MINISTRY and DIVINE forms various parts of her artistic DNA.

Lauren Lusardi is the precocious talent behind PLASMIC. Offering a burst of delightfully odd escapism with a portable Yamaha Reface strapped round her neck, her recent appearance at at The Islington showcased her as a feisty live performer.

Displaying an energetic punk attitude like Siouxsie Sioux genetically mutated with Molly Ringwald if she was into Gothic Lolita fashion, she is already a veteran of three EPs releases.

The undoubted standout from her latest release ‘Validation Nation’ is ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenges the expectations of women to bear children.

And as the song’s brilliant accompanying video produced by Mental Pictures and directed by Kenneth Lui shows, she will NOT say yes to this monster of a dress!

While she was in London, PLASMIC chatted about her music and independently minded ethos…

You describe yourself as “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”, what was it like for you growing up in Orange County and how did it shape who you are?

I was born in Los Angeles where my parents met, we then moved to Mission Viejo shortly after my brother was born. Growing up in Orange County sounds like a dream, but the more south you get, the more conservative. We know what that means for anyone who is even remotely different. I learned very early on the problems with our country and violence towards women, queers and people of colour.

Where I live you see a trump sign or confederate flag every couple of houses. People protest in front of Planned Parenthood every Sunday. It’s shaped the person I am today and I will always stand up for what’s right.

You studied electronic music at a local community college, what did that involve and how did you realise this would be a good tool for your artistic expression?

I had been toying with production since I was 16 so when I arrived I had realized I taught myself everything.

I took the three only classes that applied to my interests: Ableton 1&2 and audio engineering. I had an awesome professor in my audio engineering class.

I knew being the brain power behind my art was the only way to go. I was eager to learn new recording techniques to bring to my little home studio.

It must have been quite interesting when you brought your portable Yamaha into class? And now Yamaha themselves came calling?

Yeah, I’d been tagging them on Instagram and Facebook with the Reface. Then the NAMM shows came around at the Convention Centre in California where all the musicians are seen and Yamaha asked me to demonstrate their new keytar so that was really exciting!

Which particular electronic acts drew you in and became influences on PLASMIC?

I really love PEACHES, FEVER RAY, CRYSTAL CASTLES and Alice Glass in particular. When I was growing up, I remember I was listening to DEVO and I was like “OH MY GOD!”; it was what really made me want to make music, Mark Mothersbaugh is my favourite.

Your most recent latest release is ‘Validation Nation’, is it a concept EP of sorts?

I guess it’s conceptual. PLASMIC is super confident and fiery, but off the stage validation is what I seek to move forward. I have trouble believing in my work. That’s what sparked ‘Validation Nation’. I didn’t intend for all the themes to go hand in hand, but I guess that concept worked out! On the title song, one of the lines is “I’m gonna wear colour that once segregated me, to prove your words never meant a thing”, that’s kinda my life right there, everything is pink. I wasn’t always this pink, but I’ve embraced this femininity like a happy chaos. *laughs*

From it, ‘Baby Machine’ is catchy feminist electropop anthem… what inspired that?

The song is about the expectations upon female presenting folks to settle down, have babies and conform to the American dream of being a housewife. But where does that leave queer folks and those who cannot conceive?

‘Baby Machine’ is an anthem against pro-lifers and strict parents who have preconceived notions of what their child will do for them. It’s an anthem for anyone who feels pressured to have kids.

Does ‘Compliance’ confront the longstanding issue of patriarchy?

Actually ‘Compliance’ is about opioid use.

You’ve described ‘Revenge’ from your self-titled EP as cathartic?

Writing ‘Revenge’ was the moment I turned my life around. I never stood up for myself, I always felt like my abuse was my fault and that wasn’t the case. There wasn’t a #MeToo movement when I wrote the song. People told me I should apologize for my rapist going to jail (for only a week. Lame.) Instead of continuing to feel sorry myself, I said f*ck it. I’m aloud to be angry. I want other people to hear this and know that their feelings are valid. You need to be your own hero, you bleed when you create art, that’s how I coped.

You recently issued a delightful cover of ‘Female Trouble’ to celebrate the birthday of the late actor and HI-NRG diva DIVINE?

In LA, I perform a lot of shows but my favourites are the Lethal Amounts ones. There was this DIVINE Ball where a bunch of queens were competing to be the best DIVINE and I was invited to perform this cover. I did it differently like if it was on her ‘Jungle Jezebel’ album. It was really fun, Traci Lords was there.

On the other side of the coin, there was also a cover of ‘Every Day Is Halloween’ by MINISTRY, is there anything else you would like to have a go at reinterpreting?

I have a huge list that I want to redo, but that one was a big one for sure, I’m a huge MINISTRY fan and it was a homage to them, they helped shape my sound as I was growing up and learning about drum machines and stuff.

You opened for Marc Almond in LA at Sex Cells, what was that like?

SOFT CELL are the gods of synthpop, every song is so good. Meeting Marc Almond was a big milestone for me. I owe it all to Lethal Amounts for having me on the line-up!

There were a lot of artists on that bill and Marc was the most humble and the kindest person. He was so professional but also so down to earth, not a diva at all, so nice and awesome. I got to see his soundcheck.

It was the first time I played a set with dancers and they killed it. Vladonna and Crystal Pallace were my epic dancers. I still can’t believe I got to dance on stage with Marc when he closed out with ‘Sex Dwarf’. A bucket list moment for sure.

Is it true you are related to Linda Lusardi?

So here’s the story! I was at the airport going through customs and they looked at my name and asked “Are you related to Linda Lusardi?” and I’m like “WHAT?”, I didn’t realise she was a household name in the UK but it’s cool! All the Lusardis from Italy are related, so there’s a good chance that most likely we are. I can’t really do a DNA test! *laughs*

What are your personal hopes and fears as PLASMIC?

I think every musician is not in it for being a hobby, they really want to quit their day job and do what they love, right?

This is truly what I love, it’s my dream, touring the world and inspiring young women and queers to just be awesome.

I have a bit of social anxiety and have trouble speaking up for myself when I’m not on stage, so my biggest fear is probably convincing A&R people, but I think I’m pretty stern with what I do.

What’s next for PLASMIC?

There’s a lot of music and video coming so stick around…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to PLASMIC

‘Validation Nation’, along with other PLASMIC EPs are available via Devour Records as downloads direct from https://plasmic.bandcamp.com/

http://www.plasmic.rocks

https://www.facebook.com/plasmicpower/

https://twitter.com/plasm1c

https://www.instagram.com/plasm1c/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
16th April 2019

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2018

2018 was a year of good songs rather than good albums, with many of long players not as consistent or as of high a standard as the bumper crop from the Class of ’17.

However, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had plenty of material to choose from for its 30 SONGS OF 2018 and for obvious reasons, cannot include everything that was in this year’s shortlist…

So worthy mentions go to ANI GLASS, BLACK NAIL CABARET, BRÜCKEN FROESE, DANA JEAN PHOENIX, DISQO VOLANTE, DUBSTAR, EKKOES, FAKE TEAK, FRAGRANCE, THE FRIXION, GUNSHIP, HILTIPOP, IAMX, LIZETTE LIZETTE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and WITCH OF THE VALE.

Interestingly, three graduates from the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ made it into the final list, thus highlighting the longevity of that particular vinyl showcase some 37 years on!

So with a restriction of one song per artist moniker, here are our 30 SONGS OF 2018 presented in alphabetical order…


AFTERHERE Breaking Rules

AFTERHERE is the brand new project of HEAVEN 17 singer Glenn Gregory and live keyboardist Berenice Scott, but with their roles reversed. Exploring their inner GOLDFRAPP but in a funkier vein, with groovy reminisces of ‘Twist’ and ‘Yes Sir’, the song seductively boasted a captivating sexually charged electronic energy. Berenice Scott said: “We always wanted to have a driving track on the album that you could hopefully move your feet to, party to… possibly get in a little trouble!”

Available on the AFTERHERE album ‘Addict’ via Manners McDade

https://afterhere.co.uk/wp/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Utopia

While the Clarke was strong with this one, the first impression that came across with ‘Utopia’ was that things became a slight bit darker in the world of JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM. Despite that, there was a rousing chorus and percolating sequences to savour as he pointed out the futility of seeking that perfect future, when life has so much more on offer. “I wouldn´t describe the album as dark though” the DAILY PLANET synthesist helpfully added, “it´s absolutely a pop album.”

Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM album ‘Utopia’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


BLANCMANGE Distant Storm

For BLANCMANGE, ‘Distant Storm’ was rather unusual with its dance beat, reverberant Moog bassline and dreamy processed vocoder aesthetic. With a rousing, almost spiritual quality and elements of JAMES’ ‘Come Home’ creeping in for good measure, it displayed Neil Arthur’s comfort in working with producer Benge on effectively their third album together. “I wanted to sing it as though it was really detached with my voice being synthesized” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Wanderlust’ via Blanc Check Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


B-MOVIE Stalingrad

Veteran Mansfield quartet B-MOVIE made their most electronic pop single to date with the chilling aesthetics of ‘Stalingrad’. Complete with an infectious synth melody, an eerie mezzo-soprano and using the crucial Second World War battle as a metaphor for a doomed relationship, it was possibly Steve Hovington, Paul Statham, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey’s  best song since their 21st Century reformation; appropriately, its B-side was called ‘Something Cold’…

Available on the B-MOVIE EP ‘Repetition’ via Loki Records

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


CHVRCHES Graffiti

‘Get Out’ may have acted as a superb launch single, but starting off their ‘Love Is Dead’ album was the wonderful ‘Graffiti’. This was a classic kaleidoscopic CHVRCHES tune that punched the sky with some rousing vocals. It was also a supreme singalong showcasing Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Docherty in full bouncy Taylor mode. Despite the downcast lyrical demeanour on lost youth and the passing of time, this was still a grand pop statement.

Available on the CHVRCHES album ‘Love Is Dead’ via Virgin Records

https://chvrch.es/


CONFIDENCE MAN Don’t You Know I’m In A Band

Australian duo CONFIDENCE MAN were a ray of sunshine in 2018 with their own brand of campy dork pop, being everything SCISSOR SISTERS should have been. ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’ was an amusing satire on ego and sense of entitlement in the music industry. With an electro take on the groovy swoop of WAR’s ‘Low Rider’, a pitch shifted Sugar Bones came over like an inebriate Teddy Pendergrass while Janet Planet delightfully counterpointed in her alluring girly manner.

Available on the CONFIDENCE MAN album ‘Confident Music For Confident People’ via Heavenly Records

https://www.confidenceman.com.au/


CREEP SHOW Safe & Sound

CREEP SHOW is the meeting of minds between eclectic singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER whose members comprise Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter. On ‘Safe & Sound’, the quartet explored a spacious KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER hybrid to reveal gradually some wonderfully warm melodic synth textures to accompany Grant’s passionate lead croon. The project led to Benge also working on Grant’s ‘Love Is Magic’ album also released in 2018.

Available on the CREEP SHOW album ‘Mr Dynamite’ via Bella Union

http://creepshowmusic.com


RODNEY CROMWELL Comrades

Driven by a meaty electronic bassline and metronomic backbone, the marvellous vocoder-laden ‘Comrades’ by RODNEY CROMWELL captured a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, bathed in an ensemble of sweeping synth oboes and cosmic string machines. “I ended up thumping at the MicroKorg and came up with the opening riff” he said. Rich with melody and a panoramic resonance, it surreally captured the sound of Moroder being played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system.

Available on the RODNEY CROMWELL EP ‘Rodney’s English Disco’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/rodney-cromwell


EMIKA Promises

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family in her most personal statement yet. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the EMIKA album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com/


FARAO Marry Me

Taking in more synthetic ambitions, FARAO’s second album ‘Pure-O’ was a playful bleep forward. While ‘The Ghost Ship’ saw Kari Jahnsen focussed on her forlorn little girl lost lyrics, the wonderfully uptempo ‘Marry Me’ offered an accessible PET SHOP BOYS flavour and romantic layers of vocals masking a deep scepticism of the institution of marriage, while the lush backing and chugging electronic backbone carried the air of her compatriot SUSANNE SUNDFØR.

Available on the FARAO album ‘Pure-O’ via Western Vinyl

http://www.farao.info/


FIAT LUX It’s You

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” – their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ is expected in 2019.

Available on the FIAT LUX single ‘It’s You’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


IONNALEE Fold

The ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ album was easily equal to Jonna Lee’s work with IAMAMIWHOAMI. Best of the set was possibly the marvellous closing number ‘Fold’. Featuring exotic cascading timbres and spacey pulsars, distorted string synths added tan appropriate chill as Lee’s passionate vocals completed the filmic vibe. Less mysterious, the IONNALEE transition was a triumph, especially with one of the best value-for-money live presentations of 2018.

Available on the IONNALEE album ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ via To Whom It May Concern

https://ionnalee.com


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw KATJA VON KASSEL questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of ASSOCIATES’ Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by CHRIS PAYNE’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the KATJA VON KASSEL EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LET’S EAT GRANDMA Donnie Darko

Despite their age, LET’S EAT GRANDMA have a feisty but mature musical ambition, as successfully realised on ‘Donnie Darko’, an 11 minute tribute to the troubled teenager haunted by a monstrous rabbit-like figure. Utilising a sedate start before morphing into a wonderful movement of cascading electronics set to a metronomic beat, there were passionate reflections on the subject of human suffering. It all went a bit “batsh*t crazy” into a glorious synthony before calming to its conclusion!

Available on the LET’S EAT GRANDMA album ‘I’m All Ears’ via Transgressive Records

http://letseatgrandma.co.uk


CHRIS LIEBING featuring POLLY SCATTERGOOD And All Went Dark

Noted techno exponent CHRIS LIEBING teamed up with Mute label mate POLLY SCATTERGOOD on a stark polyrhythmic number appropriately titled ‘And All Went Dark’. The brooding minimalist electronic piece with its eerily poetic spoken contribution from Miss Scattergood saw the Essex songstress haunted by a “dark shadow on my shoulder” and telling how “a sickness took hold early on”.

Available on the CHRIS LIEBING album ‘Burn Slow’ via Mute Artists

http://www.chrisliebing.com/


MECHA MAIKO False Memories

With the name transcending Toronto based Hayley Stewart’s fascination with Japanese culture, cyber space and a love of vintage synthesis, ‘Mad But Soft’ was her first album as MECHA MAIKO. The magically crystalline ‘False Memories’ could have been part of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack. Uncomplicated on the surface yet multi-layered and airy, this day-glow pink neo-instrumental concoction was well-thought through and deliciously produced.

Available on the MECHA MAIKO album ‘Mad But Soft’ via New Retro Wave

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/


MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette

One-time RÖYSKSOPP collaborator Ryan A James continues to hone and develop his hybrid mix of luxuriant synthetics and subtle guitar textures as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY. He said about the gorgeous electronic bubblebath of ‘Lafayette’: “It’s really a song about the end of a relationship, disguised as a song about Scientology, and how defectors of Scientology are disowned by their loved ones. The name comes from the religion’s founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard.”

Available on the MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY album ‘Infinity Mirror’ via Killing Moon Records

https://manwithout.country/


NIGHT CLUB Scary World

“Beware! It’s a scary world” and with their BRITNEY SPEARS fronting NINE INCH NAILS template, NIGHT CLUB took their sweet but sinister synth rock sound to its zenith with the title track of their second album. And when the children’s choir joined in the chorus to sing of demons everywhere, this was a musical trick or treat that no parent would want their offspring to be part of, the message being “they only love you if you swallow”!

Available on the NIGHT CLUB album ‘Scary World’ via Gato Blanco

http://nightclubband.com/


NINA 80s Girl

A fabulously optimistic closer to NINA’s debut album, ‘80s Girl’ came beaming over like some missing song from the film ‘Mannequin’. With big Simmons drums, sampled orchestra stabs and driving synthbass triplets, it was however delivered with subtlety and restraint so that it wasn’t a HEART or STARSHIP pastiche. Dedicated to her mother, it had a telling message of “don’t let the past hold you back”.

Available on the NINA album ‘Sleepwalking’ via Aztec Records

http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/


SARAH NIXEY Journey

Perhaps best known as the alluring if slightly blunt chanteuse of BLACK BOX RECORDER, SARAH NIXEY released her best solo album to date in ‘Night Walks’, a quality record with air and presence, collecting everything she has ever been musically, all rolled into one. One of its key tracks was the delightful ‘Journey’, a glorious number of the type that Marc Almond has often been so good at, laced with crystalline synths and gorgeously breathy vocal tones à la Jane Birkin.

Available on the SARAH NIXEY album ‘Night Walks’ via Black Lead Records

http://www.sarahnixey.com/


GARY NUMAN It Will End Here

The ‘Savage’ album turned out to be both an artistic and commercial vindication for GARY NUMAN. ‘It Will End Here’ from ‘The Fallen’ EP was a natural progression from that, exploring a heavy but melodic electronic sound without relying on the predictable backing of rock guitars. With and anthemic chorus and the apocalypse is looming over the aural desert, there was even a soaring vocal pitch shift up at the song’s conclusion which added an extra eerie vampiric quality.

Available on the GARY NUMAN EP ‘The Fallen’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


NYXX featuring AESTHETIC PERFECTION Voodoo

NYXX is very much her own woman, like the Greek goddess of night she is named after, a figure of power and beauty with a Britney-like vocal presence that sweetly offsets some of her darker overtones. A collaboration with Daniel Graves of AESTHETIC PERFECTION who contributed a glorious evangelical middle eight, she said “It would not be what it is without him. I came in with a sketch of a song, a melody and lyric of another song… Daniel heard nuances in it and we built what is now ‘Voodoo’.”

Available on the NYXX single ‘Voodoo’ via Close To Human Music

http://www.nyxxnyxxnyxx.com/


PAGE Nere För Räkning

Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko initially came together in PAGE releasing their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983. Since then, the pair have parted and reunited on a number of occasions but the mission for the ‘Start’ EP was to party like it’s 1979 when GARY NUMAN was No1. ‘Nere För Räkning’ was an urgent slice of pulsing synthrock with a piercing vibratoed lead line akin to the keyboard interventions heard on ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

Available on the PAGE EP ‘Start’ via Energy Rekords

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop/


PLASMIC Baby Machine

From Mission Viejo in California, PLASMIC describes herself as an “Orange County one-woman dervish” and in a vivid haze that’s pretty in pink, “your abused Barbie doll from childhood”. Combining J-Pop with CRYSTAL CASTLES and DEVO, the undoubted standout from her ‘Validation Nation’ EP was ‘Baby Machine’, an immensely catchy feminist electropop anthem utilising a mixture of vintage Casio and Yamaha sounds that challenged the expectations of women to bear children.

Available on the PLASMIC EP ‘Validation Nation’ via Devour Records

http://www.plasmic.rocks


REED & CAROLINE Entropy

Championed by none other than Vince Clarke, REED & CAROLINE successfully combine tunes with electronic experimentation. The haunting ‘Entropy’ was a tribute to a departed friend and a fabulously touching GARY NUMAN homage to his ‘Dance’ period, in particular ‘Cry The Clock Said’. The hypnotic soundtrack of gentle preset rhythms and eerie electric piano, courtesy of a Buchla modular synth, was complimented by Schutz even adopting the phrasing of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.

Available on the REED & CAROLINE about ‘Hello Science’ via Very Records

https://www.reedandcaroline.com/


FIFI RONG Red Moon Voyage

Weird and wonderful, ‘Red Moon Voyage’ was a ghostly 10 minute epic comprising of glitchy voices and varying rhythm constructions recorded especially for Halloween. Free of album concepts and the pop song format, this was FIFI RONG at her most adventurous yet, delightfully adding her native Mandarin language towards the third part. “Having a long journey means you can get very deep and lots of moods and transitions” she told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

Available on the FIFI RONG single ‘Red Moon Voyage’ via https://fifirong.bandcamp.com/track/red-moon-voyage-full

http://fifirong.com/


SOFT CELL Northern Lights

Marc Almond and Dave Ball were the boys who came back-back-BACK as SOFT CELL in 2018. ‘Northern Lights’ reminisced about their days at the Wigan Casino and recaptured the pop essence that led to the duo having five consecutive Top 10 hits! Despite the grittiness and energetics, the duo always had melody and that came back in abundance on their welcome recorded return. The darker B-Side ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ affirmed that as a creative force, SOFT CELL still had it.

Available on the SOFT CELL EP ‘Northern Lights’ via Universal Music

http://www.softcell.co.uk/


STOLEN Turn Black

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be possibly the most exciting band he has seen since NEW ORDER. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive and one of the best of 2018, with ‘Turn Black’ being one of the standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the STOLEN ‘Fragment’ via MFS

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


U96 + WOLFGANG FLÜR Zukunftsmusik

Ingo Hauss and Hayo Lewerentz handed back the BOYTRONIC brand to Holger Wobker and returned to being U96, teaming up with former KRAFTWERK percussionist Wolfgang Flür for the best track by either party in recent years. Stark and Teutonic with stark robotic vocoder aesthetics, the union of two German musical heavyweights from different generations was equal to Flür’s ‘Activity Of Sound’ collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.

Available on the U96 single ‘Zukunftsmusik’ via UNLTD Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/U96reboot/


HILARY WOODS Jesus Said

Combining piano, synths, field recordings, drones, occasional beats, old string instruments and HILARY WOODS’ wonderfully forlorn voice in the vein of Julee Cruise, ‘Jesus Said’ questioned the existence of God. Described by the Irish songstress herself as “a song that seeks catharsis”, her child-like expression over the drifting synthesized tones and hypnotic drum machine to augment her beautiful piano playing gave ‘Jesus Said’ a gentle meditative quality.

Available on the HILARY WOODS album ‘Colt’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.hilarywoods.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd December 2018

SARAH NIXEY Night Walks

SARAH NIXEY first won the hearts of audiences as the lead singer of BLACK BOX RECORDER; 18 years since they got on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with ‘The Facts of Life’ and seven years since her last solo album ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’, Nixey is back with ‘Night Walks’.

A nocturnal body of work set in a metropolitan sub-world where everyone dodges the dangers of reality, the album was inspired by Nixey’s bouts of insomnia during a recovery from illness.

She said “All the songs are set at night time and it felt like I was going on night walks when I was writing them”.

Co-produced by her husband Jimmy Hogarth, ‘Night Walks’ is a sophisticated amalgam of everything SARAH NIXEY has ever been musically, with a Roland Jupiter 8, Minimoog, Casiotone 701 and a Hammond M102 among the instrumentation used, all fed through Leslie amps and captured on a Studer tape machine. As a result, this record has air and presence, a quality missed on many modern day home studio digital recordings.

The album’s key song is the chromatic flavoured ‘The Zeppelin’, an observation on warfare where the characters are either at war with themselves or with each other. In typical SARAH NIXEY style, there is that impending if seductive sense of doom over the drone-laden backdrop…

However, beginning ‘Night Walks’, the neo-Motorik ‘Coming Up For Air’ discusses the delicate subject of teenage mental health illness and parental love, but touchingly acknowledges the pain while offering support and encouragement.

Meanwhile, ‘Burning Bridges’ is not a JAPAN cover but a lively offering of synthetic disco driven by clattering drum machine, which despite Nixey’s previous dalliances with electronic pop, comes as something of a pleasant surprise and with a timely socio-political message.

Also conveying socio-political concerns, the sparse but more guitar oriented ‘Merry England’ covers the gentrification of London and Brexit, with Nixey’s voice sounding particularly rich and assured.

Continuing a brilliant musical ‘Journey’, this appropriately named tune is like one of those glorious Eurocentric numbers that Marc Almond has often been so good at, laced with crystalline synths and gorgeously breathy vocal tones à la Jane Birkin.

Taking things down, the acoustically centred ‘Love Is Blue’ offers some Bohemian filmic drama before the short celestial spoken word title track. The throbbing sequencer filled ‘Dancing At The Edge Of The World’ is Nixey’s own ‘I Feel Love’ with a classic NEW ORDER digital drum machine template thrown into the mix, crossed with falsetto and deadpan speech.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum and layered in Hammond organ and muted guitar within a brush filled rhythmic setting, ‘Neon Moon’ beautifully reflects what it says on the tin.

Harsher in tone and more reminiscent of BLACK BOX RECORDER, ‘Tiger Woman’ features a powerful statement about a woman who doesn’t have a care in the world, while similarly sharper with bluesy guitar motifs and loud bangy drums, Nixey asks people to ‘Follow Me’.

Closing with ‘The Planet Of Dreams’, an electric piano is joined by some six string accompaniment with the surprise of flute and E-bowed guitar alongside minimal sweeps of vintage synth, as Nixey divinely offers hope in these uncertain times.

“Mostly, I wanted to tell stories and create a little metropolitan sub-world where I could escape to, and my listeners could eventually come with me”, Nixey said of ‘Night Walks’, “It’s an album that’s supposed to be listened to in its entirety, which is possibly a big ask these days.”

Although having a mix of electronic and acoustic based tracks, ‘Night Walks’ exudes a satisfying sonic cohesion that will please anyone who has ever been interested in the Dorset-born songstress’ work; it is undoubtedly SARAH NIXEY’s best solo album to date. Former BLACK BOX RECORDER band mate Luke Haines once said how SARAH NIXEY “had the ability to make all men fall in love with her”… well, it is time to fall in love all over again!


‘Night Walks’ is released by Black Lead Records, available direct from https://music.sarahnixey.com/album/night-walks

http://www.sarahnixey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sarahnixey/

https://twitter.com/sarahnixey

https://www.instagram.com/nixeysdarkroom/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th October 2018, updated 9th November 2018

SOFT CELL Live at London O2 Arena

SOFT CELL’s final concert really was a wild celebration and an explosion of feelings!

London’s O2 Arena was where everyone wanted to be as luminaries such as Claudia Brücken, Rusty Egan, Jarvis Cocker, Mark Moore, Mark White, David Walliams and Andy Fletcher made the special trip, along with nearly 20,000 people from all parts of the globe.

It has been an unbelievable journey of ups and downs and ups for Marc Almond and Dave Ball, two former art students from Leeds Polytechnic who formed one of the most subversive pop acts of all time in SOFT CELL.

Despite projecting a sleazy life of vice, the pair notched up five Top 5 UK hit singles in the space of 13 months during 1981-82, a strike rate that THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DEPECHE MODE, OMD, JAPAN or ULTRAVOX never managed and of their contemporaries, only GARY NUMAN came close.

“You couldn’t make a decent dance record if you tried” grumbled a disgruntled ‘Some Bizzare Album’ rival to Almond, despite making possibly only the third best track on the seminal collection, even after the big five of BLANCMANGE, B-MOVIE, THE THE, DEPECHE MODE and of course SOFT CELL were taken out of the equation. That one-time rival was conspicuously absent tonight…

Three huge screens and a pink padded lighting rig formed the basis of a show celebrating 40 years of SOFT CELL.

Beginning with the hypnotic proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’, this cult favourite immediately got the crowd up on their feet. Ball was buzzing away on a Korg MS20 in his engine room full of vintage synths. As he added some analogue grit and glitter over the sparking and dynamic backing tracks, Almond led an en masse chant of “OLÉ”.

Keeping up the tempo, ‘Monoculture’ followed, its 2002 statement on the blandness of popular culture still relevant today with a new series of ‘X Factor’ currently in progress.

And as Almond greeted the O2, he talked of how “Everyone’s offended by everything these days” before introducing SOFT CELL’s state of the world address ‘Darker Times’, complete with montages of US President Donald Trump.

‘Together Alone’ completed a trilogy of songs from the ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ long player, but then came one of the big hitters. Assisted by brass from John Birchwood, the fabulously forlorn ‘Torch’ benefited from an impressive sound system while Almond was supreme, singing as if his life depended on it.

Continuing to put in as much effort in as possible, he showed why ‘Forever The Same’ should have been a single, a brilliant tune similarly assisted with a punchy brass hook. Throughout all this, Ball stared intently at his synths; he may not have smiled that much, but when he did, he beamed like a Cheshire Cat.

While live projections dominated the visuals, SOFT CELL did not forget their art school roots and there were a number of bespoke films to accompany the songs.

The sinister romp of ‘Baby Doll’ was naturally accompanied by moving images of adult entertainers while in its monochromatic presentation, the “depressing” ode to promiscuity ‘Numbers’ saw a hedonistic young man making out with mannequins.

‘Insecure Me’, the B-side of ‘Torch’ was a wonderful surprise and saw the return of Gary Barnacle on sax, but the euphoria of performing a number not played live since 1983 made Almond forget the words to ‘Where the Heart Is’.

The brave inclusion of the ‘Numbers’ B-side ‘Barriers’ however was the first misstep of the evening, losing the attention of much of the audience; ‘Facility Girls’ might have been a better application of this ethos. But an emotive ‘Loving You, Hating Me’, a highlight from ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ album, snatched everything back on track.

Almond then announced a special guest and it was Mari Wilson, the Neasden Queen of Soul, best known for her Tony Mansfield produced hit ‘Just What I Always Wanted’.

Duetting on the electro cabaret of ‘Last Chance’, effectively the lyrical follow-up to ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, she gave it her best Dusty with the pair’s obvious affection for each other positively glowing for all to witness.

‘Frustration’ and ‘Youth’, two classics from ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’, got their well-deserved airing and were a reminder of the fabulously edgy pop that SOFT CELL were so good at.

The electro-punk of ‘The Best Way To Kill’ took three attempts to get right with Almond missing his cue twice but with so many songs to learn, this was always going to be a challenge for anyone. This endeared Almond to all in sundry but bizarrely, he then announced that he was missing a setlist too, although it wouldn’t have been a SOFT CELL concert without some element of chaos.

However, that chaos led to ‘Meet Murder My Angel’ and ‘Surrender To A Stranger’ which was far too many songs together from the ‘This Last Night…In Sodom’ album, an uncompromising listen at the best of times. ‘Entertain Me’ and Chips On My Shoulder’ might have been more fitting as proceedings hit a mid-show lull.

Ball was not free of mishap either, accidentally striking the odd key while moving from synth to synth, although this plus the occasional slippage in volume and tuning proved that his two Korg MS20s, Roland Juno 60, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and product placed Korg ARP Odyssey were actually plugged-in and working!

That must have all come as a total shock to DEPECHE MODE’s Andy Fletcher watching from the wings.

Things livened up again with ‘Somebody, Somewhere, Sometime’ complete with rave friendly lasers and the backing vocal quartet of Billie Godfrey, Louise Marshall, Bryan Chambers and Simon King moving to the front of the stage while Almond was raised on a ramp, coming over like a frenzied evangelist addressing his captivated congregation.

With 19 songs done and at the point when THE HUMAN LEAGUE usually end their show, Almond and Ball took a comfort break as the seminal nu-disco instrumental ‘….So’ played along to a terrific and amusing photo montage of magazine covers, press cuttings and tabloid headlines.

Waiting for Almond to rejoin him on stage, Ball couldn’t help but enjoy the adulation and waved affectionately to the audience. When Almond returned, a brilliant ‘Martin’ blasted forth, sounding mighty in the vast confines of the O2; its claustrophobic atmosphere was enhanced further by the accompanying ‘Profondo Rosso’ visuals.

‘Heat’ saw SOFT CELL turn into RAMMSTEIN with huge blasts of flame throwers across the stage, while a stupendously powerful rendition ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better. This song is probably SOFT CELL in a nutshell and the album that it was named after got the most representation tonight.

As the long evening progressed, it was very clear that the brotherly bond between Ball and Almond had been rejuvenated personally and creatively, so it was fitting that the new single ‘Northern Lights’ had its place in the show.

A big surprise to everyone when it leaked on Napster during the summer, this catchy slice of soulful electronic pop was proof that SOFT CELL’s musical chemistry is still functioning well after four decades.

Out with the new and in with the old, what remained was the final straight of hits for the ultimate in co-participative singalongs. A frenetic ‘Soul Inside’ assisted by live percussionist Pablo Cook saw Almond raise the energetics, while the cute Northern Soul staple ‘What!’ brought smiles and shimmies. ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ brought the house down and were reminders as to why people fell in love with SOFT CELL in the first place; yes, they were delightfully odd and your father didn’t like them but they had synths and they had tunes!

‘Sex Dwarf’ offered a memorable mutant moment with Almond cueing screams that erupted throughout the one-time Millennium Dome aided by some abstract brass and sax, but now this playtime was in a very big playroom!

An emotional and tearful ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ concluded a marvellous night and brought the house close to tears as a neon pink flamingo held court and glitter fell from the ceiling.

The two and an half hour show mostly passed by in a flash. Musically, the song arrangements and sounds remained true to how people remembered them, while any live percussion was both restrained and complimentary… DEPECHE MODE should take note, maybe Fletch will report back to Gahan and Gore to tell them how it should be done!

This might have been the final concert for SOFT CELL, but with ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ emerging as a B-side to ‘Northern Lights’, two new songs ‘One Last Time’ and ‘Night & The City’ appearing on the snowstorm keychain USB on sale at the merch stand and a four track EP on clear vinyl included with the upcoming coffee table book ‘To Show You I’ve Been There…’, could an album be on the way? Who knows?

But whatever happens next, Marc Almond and Dave Ball gave the fans what they wanted with a glorious reunion and looked like they were really enjoying it too. To see the pair smiling at each other was a touching memory to leave the O2 with. SOFT CELL totally deserve their time in the sun again. After all, PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, NINE INCH NAILS and FISCHERSPOONER wouldn’t have had a career without their trailblazing subversion.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Stuart Bennett at Deacon Communications, Debbie Ball at Create Spark and Chris Smith at Renegade Music

‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye: The O2 London’ will be released on 24th May 2019 as a live DVD + Blu-ray, pre-order from https://www.lexermusic.com/soft-cell

‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story’ is released as a 10 disc boxed set by Universal Music

‘The Singles: Keychains & Snowstorms’ featuring ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Guilty (‘Cos I Say You Are)’ is also available as a single CD and download

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

https://twitter.com/softcellhq

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Roger Kamp
3rd October 2018

Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story

Celebrating their career with a lavish 10 disc boxed set, ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story’ features material from both periods of the duo including their imperial phase when they had a continuous run of hit singles between 1981-1984 and the 2001-2003 reunion.

Marc Almond and Dave Ball met at Leeds Polytechnic and at the time of their wider breakthrough on the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ and their subsequent debut long player ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ in 1981, SOFT CELL were perhaps rated higher than DEPECHE MODE.

Their cover of ‘Tainted Love’ was one of the biggest UK singles of 1981, selling over one million copies and was on the US Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record of 43 weeks. But despite all the success, the pair ultimately imploded but their template was taken to the worldwide audience it deserved via PET SHOP BOYS.

While Almond continues a fruitful solo career and Ball found success with THE GRID, they are both best remembered for SOFT CELL. On their singular history alone, SOFT CELL are up there with THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DURAN DURAN, and like their contemporaries, they exploited the then-new format of the 12 inch single.

All the singles from ‘Tainted Love’ to ‘Down In The Subway’ via ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Where The Heart Is’ are included in their extended versions, but the longer variations of ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Torch’ are masterpieces in their own right, seamless productions where you literally cannot hear the join, mainly because they were recorded as developing stories outside of the expected three minute radio edit.

And then there were the B-sides which SOFT CELL also excelled at, again all presented in their extended versions. From the reflective solitude of living away from home in ‘Facility Girls’ to the hilarious tail of teenage rebellion in ‘It’s A Mug’s Game’ where Almond confessed that he actually hated ‘Deep Purple In Rock’ along with ‘Led Zeppelin II’ and couldn’t “wait until I’m 21 and I can tell them all to sod off!”, the music connected with young outsiders.

And Almond wasn’t afraid to express how anxiety was playing with his mind, as reflected in the superb chemical fuelled ‘Insecure Me’ which featured a rap from the appropriately named Cindy Ecstasy.

‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The SOFT CELL Story’ features a disc of new extended and reworked mixes supervised by Ball which he said was “just tightening a few things up as a lot of the original stuff was all played manually”. These naturally achieve mixed results; on the Lateral Mix of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ for example, some of Dave Tofani’s clarinet sections from the original 12 inch have been dropped in and although it is an improvement on the bland 1991 re-recording, nothing can touch the emotive tearful resonance of the definitive 1981 version.

Another case in point is the new ERASURE remix of ‘Bedsitter’ which offers a chunky bass and fat beat, but the melody is replaced by a heavy guitar swirl; despite including the 12 inch rap, it’s a little disappointing. However, the ‘Hallowe’en Mix’ of Martin is leaner and works well while the ‘Wasted On The Young Mix’ of ‘Youth’ stretches out the drama and will please Cellmates who have always longed for an extended mix.

Indeed, from the rarities and curios collection, the previously unreleased extended version of ‘Forever The Same’ (which was intended as a single before the intervention of the duo themselves) will be welcomed. Pleasingly, ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’ which secured SOFT CELL their earlier acclaim still freaks and creeps as the undoubted standout from the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ along with DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Photographic’.

The Daniel Miller produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’ remains a great lost single, overshadowed by the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ which appears in both its original Daniel Miller mix and the remixed ‘Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing’ version with Cindy Ecstasy and the horns of John Gatchell. The anti-consumerist electronic art piece ‘Persuasion’ from the same recording session at Stage One is still (if not more) relevant today, while the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ borrows the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”

Of course, the original ‘Metro MRX’ came from SOFT CELL’s debut ‘Mutant Moments’ EP released in October 1980 and it’s featured here in full. From it, the wonderful ‘L.O.V.E Feelings’ is a touching gem, a sign of things to come with basic but beautiful synth sounds and an air of John Barry’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’ while ‘Potential’ is something of a metronomic buzzfest.

A number of interesting demos find their way onto the box; ‘Tainted Love’ is more rigid but has appeal and potential, coming over a bit like FAD GADGET while ‘Bedsitter’ is still lively, the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 adding some home recording charm.

There’s also the bonus of the previously unreleased ‘Red Tape, Sticky Tape’ and Cellmate favourite ‘Martin’ in its 1980 demo incarnation.

Previously from ‘The Bedsit Tapes’ and not in a dissimilar tone to ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’, the synth bass heavy cover of BLACK SABBATH’s ‘Paranoid’ presents out of tune electronics and Almond screaming like he’s trapped in the gutter, while the solid triple bassline of Ball’s Korg SB100 Synthe-Bass emerges in ‘Science Fiction Stories’. The raw ‘Bleak Is My Favourite Cliché’ does what it says on the tin, embroiled in winter of discontent dystopia but with hidden melody and an edgy gothique. The 6/8 rhythmic template of ‘Mix’ sees a development into pop like THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Empire State Human’ although Almond is suitably wayward.

As usual with these boxed sets, a number of live recordings are included and from the Leeds Polytechnic Fine Art Christmas party in December 1979, ‘Walking Make Up Counter’ captures the electro-punk aspect that showed they had more in common with SUICIDE, rather than the clean KRAFTWERK inspired lines of OMD.

And speaking of Messrs Vega and Rev, fast forward to a Los Angeles show in 1983 and there’s a frenzied cover of ‘Ghost Rider’ with Gary Barnacle on sax which provides an interesting curio.

Probably the best known SUICIDE song, Almond smirks that “I love a bit of Nihilism”; what’s also noticeable is that his live vocals lave improved considerably from earlier live tapes without losing his energetics and passion.

In terms of capturing the rawer aspects of first phase SOFT CELL, the 1981 BBC Radio 1 session for Richard Skinner does that best. While unpolished, ‘Entertain Me’ was good fun complete with fluffed cues while the brilliant ‘Seedy Films’ was much faster than the final album version and possibly better for it.

When SOFT CELL unexpectedly got back together for the start of the 21st Century, it was like unfinished business and two brand new songs for 2002’s ‘Very Best of’ collection along with the ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ album were duly delivered.

The romp of ‘Divided Soul’ still comes over like a dirty version of ‘Sailing On The Seven Seas’ by OMD and a reinterpretation of ‘The Night’ generates thoughts of how things might have panned out had that Northern Soul staple made famous by FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS been chosen to be recorded as a single in 1981 instead of ‘Tainted Love’.

But the brilliant brass assisted swipe at the X-Factor generation of ‘Desperate’ was perhaps the reunion’s best fruit of labours, although the enjoyable comeback single ‘Monoculture’ aimed at the same target while ‘Last Chance’ provided a fitting epilogue to ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’.

The new special ‘Non-Stop Euphoric Dubbing’ continuous mix begins with a variation on the haunting ‘Barriers’ which works well as a lead into ‘Numbers’. Working like an imaginary horror film soundtrack as opposed to a dance megamix, it is heavy and cinematic in sound. ‘Youth’ and ‘Where The Heart Is’ are particularly effective with the dub elements of Almond’s voice echoing in and out, seguing into the Richard X Dub of ‘Seedy Films’ which maintains its sleazy edge without sounding too contemporary.

The inclusion of ‘L’Esqualita’ provides some fabulous gothic menace while ‘Loving You, Hating Me’ and ‘Baby Doll’ prolong the claustrophobic tension. A rework of ‘Facility Girls’ offers respite into ‘Little Rough Rhinestone’ before concluding with Dave Ball’s Lateral Dub treatment of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’.

As well as 9 discs of music, ‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The SOFT CELL Story’ includes a DVD collecting together TV appearances, promo videos, archive 1981 concert footage and the notorious ‘Non-Stop Exotic Video Show’ which ironically saw the unmissed ‘News Of The World’ tabloid accuse SOFT CELL of attempting to corrupt their teenage audience.

Everyone from FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, BRONSKI BEAT, ERASURE and PET SHOP BOYS to NINE INCH NAILS, PSYCHE, FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA and HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR have much to thank Marc Almond and Dave Ball for.

It’s amazing to think how much of an impact SOFT CELL had in popular culture. Rather fittingly, Dave Ball said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK of ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The SOFT CELL Story’: “It’s got a lot of stuff, there’s a great book that comes with it which has got quotes from people like Neil Tennant and Trent Reznor, so it’s interesting … if anybody is a serious fan, I think it’s a must!“


The 10 disc boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The SOFT CELL Story’ is released by Universal Music on 7th September 2018

A new singles compilation CD also called ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ featuring two new songs ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’ not included in the boxed set is released on 28th September 2018

SOFT CELL play their final live concert at London’s O2 Arena on Sunday 30th September 2018

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

https://twitter.com/softcellhq

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Dave Chambers
1st September 2018, updated 26th December 2019

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