Tag: Marina & The Diamonds (Page 1 of 2)

2012 End Of Year Review

Close Encounters Of The Synth Kind

The year began with the housewives’ favourite astronomer Brian Cox naming several synth friendly classics like OMD’s ‘Messages’ and DURAN DURAN’s ‘Friends Of Mine’ in his choices for ‘Desert Island Discs’ as well as declaring an appreciation of ULTRAVOX.

The confessions of the one-time keyboard player of DARE and D:REAM proved once again that electronic music is the preserve of the intelligent, discerning listener. And as with the strap line to ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’ which featured the use of an ARP 2500 to communicate with the aliens incidentally!), it proved to many a synth enthusiast that “we are not alone”!

Speaking of ULTRAVOX, they made the comeback of the year with ‘Brilliant’, the first long player featuring the classic line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure since 1984’s ‘Lament’.

While the album could have probably done with being two tracks shorter, it was the best of the bunch in a line of returns from the last few years by Synth Britannia veterans OMD, BLANCMANGE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE; not bad considering most of the band are now in their early sixties! The Dreaded Pink Thing has now been truly buried!

Gary Numan continued to tour like there was no tomorrow and reunited with his old backing band DRAMATIS on several of his ‘Machine Music’ shows in tribute to the late Ced Sharpley who had drummed for both. From the same management stable, JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS unleashed their third album in 18 months entitled ‘Evidence’ while Claudia Brücken released only her second solo album in just over 20 years with a soothing collection of reinterpretations called ‘The Lost Are Found’.

With only Synth-Werk plug-in hoaxes and Belgian clones METROLAND to keep Klingklangers entertained with new material, KRAFTWERK themselves undertook a 3D residency at New York’s MoMA featuring their eight most recent works with a controversial two tickets per customer policy. As most of these albums clocked in at just over 30 minutes, there was still an hour’s other favourites to savour for those lucky enough to get their names on the list.

This electronic extravaganza will be reprised at London’s Tate Modern in February 2013. As a former power plant, the location is wholly appropriate although the occasion will be tainted by the ticket fiasco that preceded it!

Ex-member Karl Bartos was probably observing with amusement as he will be returning in 2013 with a new album ‘Off The Record’ and world tour. Disgruntled fans who missed out on the Tate Modern shows are now likely to be venturing his way for their KRAFTWERK fix!

Danny Boyle’s London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony attempted to showcase the best of British so with UNDERWORLD as musical directors, OMD, NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, BRIAN ENO and EURYTHMICS all figured during the evening.

And in keeping with the Games message to “inspire a generation”, promising new act STRANGERS had their single ‘Safe / Pain’ used by the BBC in a montage of Team GB’s cycling success during the Olympics. The trio also shone at BASII, a Basildon electronic music festival celebrating the legacy of their most famous sons DEPECHE MODE and went on to support BLANCMANGE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN.

DEPECHE MODE themselves announced a new album and tour for 2013 in a bizarre press conference that appeared to have no actual news! But this was not before Dave Gahan guested with SOULSAVERS and Martin Gore did a cameo for MOTOR; He also reunited with former bandmate Vince Clarke for the rather polarising techno project VCMG. And in a year that saw all members of the extended DM family busy, former bandmate Alan Wilder helped compile a tribute album to one-time synthpoppers TALK TALK and released the RECOIL concert film ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’.

MARSHEAUX returned to London with a triumphant performance featuring The Blitz Club’s legendary Rusty Egan on electronic percussion during an encore of ‘Come On’, a song from their forthcoming fourth long player ‘Inhale’.

They also released a double headed single with the marvellous TWINS NATALIA; Sophie and Marianthi covered their cult favourite ‘When We Were Young’ to compliment their rendition of ‘Radial Emotion’.

After the label and personnel upheavals of last Autumn, MIRRORS regrouped as a trio and made a welcome return with a starker sound. While this new material perhaps lacked the immediacy of their ‘Lights & Offerings’ debut, songs like ‘Between Four Walls’ and ‘Dust’ captured a depth of mood that grew with each listen. MIRRORS off-shoot LOVELIFE decamped to make their fortune in New York and unveiled a promising number in ‘Brave Face’ which crossed OMD with HARD-FI.

Sweden proved its prowess with COMPUTE who beefed up her sound for second EP ‘The Distance’ while IAMAMIWHOAMI took her mysterious audio visual experience into the physical album arena for the first time with ‘Kin’ where the enigmatic electronic soundtrack stood up on its own. Just down the road, there was the RAMMSTEIN reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE menace of TITANS.

Electro crooners JULIAN & MARINA showcased their lounge crooner synthpop with a cover of a Hollywood-era Elvis number ‘A House That Has Everything’ and DAYBEHAVIOR released their third album ‘Follow That Car!’ after a year’s delay.

Among the best songs of 2012 was ‘Trust’ by Finland’s SIN COS TAN, a new project from VILLA NAH’s Juho Paalosmaa and ace producer Jori Hulkkonen.

The parent eponymous album was impressive too and showed once again that the Nordic region was the perfect environment for the genesis of inventive leftfield synthpop.

From across the Atlantic, Canadians CRYSTAL CASTLES and PURITY RING were the darlings of the hipster cognoscenti along with GRIMES who hit the black keys of her Juno-G and impressed with her latest album ‘Visions’. She also made a timely appearance on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ which recalled the TV debut of LITTLE BOOTS back in 2008.

Sadly, Victoria Hesketh left behind her synth girl persona to head for the less challenging climes of clubland. Big rival LA ROUX was taking her time recording her second album while LADYHAWKE proved that she was always a rock chick in the first place with her second long player ‘Anxiety’sounding like it had been recorded down a drainpipe!

But in Diamond Jubilee Year, QUEEN OF HEARTS flew the electro flag with a glitzy slice of electro schaffel appropriately entitled ‘Neon’. A further single ‘Warrior’ proved it was not a fluke as the young royal turned into CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN meeting Emo KYLIE!

The UK found itself a few promising female-led electronic acts in the charmingly kooky …OF DIAMONDS, the Italo-led KOVAK and the dark but dreamy EVOKATEUR. But virtually out of nowhere came Glasgow’s new synth sensations CHVRCHES.

Despite only unleashing two songs ‘Lies’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ for public consumption, both were corkers; their much vaunted live performances met expectations, displaying both inventive synth arrangements and a vital pop sensibility.

The boys weren’t idle either with BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT and KID KASIO unleashing their long awaited debut albums while on the newer side of the tracks, there was the angry OMD of AUTOMATIC WRITING, the FAITHLESS gone rock of SINESTAR and the ERASURE for the new millennium of MODOVAR.

After the excitement of the years between 2008 and 2011, this was a comparatively quiet year for the sound of the synth with regards special events. There was no Short Circuit or gatherings on the scale of Tomorrow Is Today, the Vintage Electronic Phuture Revue or the BEF Weekender.

Within the mainstream, the majors were keen to support electronic music just so long as it was dance oriented. Notably, EMI pushed the generic foil of SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA and the ubiquitous David Guetta as the new acceptable faces of electronic music via their flawed ‘Electrospective’ promotional campaign; by default, this also involved Daniel Miller, Martyn Ware and Andy McCluskey due to the label’s ownership of the Virgin and Mute back catalogues! But some glaring schoolboy errors on their website and the use of quotes from COLDPLAY’s Chris Martin showed they didn’t really understand electronic pop…

There had been signs at the end of 2011 that the major record companies thought a rave revival would save their corporate bacons. Swedish synthpop duo THE SOUND OF ARROWS said that during their brief tenure with Geffen Records, the A&R had wanted them to sound more Ibiza club friendly. Their one-time label mate SUNDAY GIRL, who originally had a promising GOLDFRAPP meets JOY DIVISION sound, was reduced to covering dance numbers made famous by STEPS… her debut album originally slated for 2010 is still nowhere to be seen!

Meanwhile, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS‘ very good in places second album ‘Electra Heart’ had several of its songs spoiled by overdriving club beats! Is this really the only way to make people dance? It all seems a little brain dead! “NAME THAT TUNE…” snarled Rusty Egan on Facebook, “…if you can hear one?”

So should ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK settle down with a pipe and slippers? While we prefer to “dance to disco” cos we “don’t like rock”, there must be more to electro than shallow repetitive four-to-the-floor thuds and glowsticks?

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK likes a tune and doesn’t pretend to love every variation of the electronic theme. And from conversations with several DJs, it would appear clubland doesn’t want to be associated with the classic synthpop world anymore than the classic synthpop world wants to be lumped in with dance culture… so why attempt to centralise everything?

Modern beat driven flavours and other influences can be appreciated but a full blown experience is not always what is required! As the marvellous new Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have proved, danceable electronic music can be made that is subtle and syncopated. And all this without the need of an annoying dubstep remix, or a 10 minute techno rework with no melodic elements!

It’s cool to be discerning…


ELECTRICTYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2012

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: DEADMAU5 >album title goes here<
Best Song: ORBITAL New France (Tom Middleton Cosmos remix)
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at London O2 Arena
Best Video: SPLEEN UNITED Days Of Thunder
Most Promising New Act: TITANS


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: ULTRAVOX Brilliant
Best Song: CHVRCHES Lies
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Shepherds Bush Empire
Best Video: SINESTAR I Am The Rain
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: SIN COS TAN Sin Cos Tan
Best Song: SIN COS TAN Trust
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at London Shepherds Bush Empire
Best Video: IAMAMIWHOAMI Drops
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: SIN COS TAN Sin Cos Tan
Best Song: ULTRAVOX Rise
Best Gig: BAS II
Best Video: KID KASIO Telephone Line
Most Promising New Act: KARIN PARK


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2012

MARINA & THE DIAMONDS Electra Heart

Dear diary, we fell apart…

‘The Family Jewels’ by the delectable MARINA & THE DIAMONDS was a great, quirkily tuneful debut with barking mad lyrics and staccato melodies fuelled by plenty of SPARKS inspired Fe-Mael Intuition.

It also happened to be the first album ever reviewed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK on its launch in March 2010. But the Greco-Welsh songstress has since shed her wholesome brunette locks for what appears to be an ironic exploration into the world of the archetypal All-American blonde starlet with ‘Electra Heart’.

“It’s an Ode to dysfunctional love”, Marina Diamandis said in her press release, “I based the project around character types commonly found in love stories, film and theatre, usually ones associated with power and control in love, as opposed to weakness or defeat. I guess it was a way of dealing with the embarrassment that, for the first time in my life, I got ‘played’. Rejection is a universally embarrassing topic and ‘Electra Heart’ is my response to that. It is a frank album”.

Musically, the interim single and deluxe bonus track ‘Radioactive’ featured rave stabs and dance beats; it was a long way from the excellent unreleased sub-PET SHOP BOYS meets KATE BUSH ditty ‘Jealousy’ which had been revived for her ‘Burger Queen’ tour and was slated for inclusion on her second album.

A number of high profile producers and writers such as Dr Luke who has worked with Katy Perry and SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA have been drafted in. ‘The Family Jewels’ main producer Liam Howe has been relegated to just two tracks on the main feature. Meanwhile Rick Nowells, whose credits include BELINDA CARLISLE, takes his place on four songs and the ubiquitous Greg Kurstin makes his presence known on three.

‘Bubblegum Bitch’ is a good start though, spiky new wave pop like Lene Lovich covering THE ADVERTS ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’, Marina says it’s her favourite track on the collection which is telling! But it’s immediately followed by a full force jump into KATY PERRY territory with ‘Primadonna’ and ‘Homewrecker’. Less subtle and less inspiring, these hyper pop tunes are perhaps not what some were expecting.

‘Starring Role’ is much better, perhaps more in ‘The Family Jewels’ vein; less bombastic and free of Perry-isms. ‘The State Of Dreaming’ is another excellent track, gently electro assisted but layered with strings and rousing in a way that made MARINA & THE DIAMONDS such an inspired listen back in 2010.

The Euro-thud of ‘Power & Control’, courtesy of Steve Angello from SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA,  is slightly more pedestrian but the similarly influenced ‘Living Dead’ is proof that when Marina does synthpop, she can do it very well. The Greg Kurstin steered song is spoiled though by the over driving four-on-the-floor beats in the choruses. Producers please take note; syncopated rhythms and 6/8 Schaffel can make people dance too.

The brilliantly titled ‘Teen Idle’ is ‘Numb’ meets ‘Guilty’, full of contemporary backing but classic Marina. Bubbling electronics compliment the epic ‘Valley Of The Dolls’, its additional orchestration worthy of John Barry as Marina’s contralto voice, free of effects, totally resonates.

The ambient synth intro of ‘Fear Of Loathing’ launches into mental breakdown for a terrifically emotive closer.

But an album’s bonus tracks are always a good indication of what could have been. Thus the Greg Kurstin co-write ‘Sex Yeah’ is brilliant, a perfect electronically assisted pop tune with subtle guitar lines and complimentary rhythms.  And ‘Buy The Stars’ could easily have come off ‘The Family Jewels’, proof that if Liam Howell had been behind the desk, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS’ second album would have been very different.

Overall, ‘Electra Heart’ is a better album that the preview snippets have perhaps suggested.

And despite the more obvious in-yer-face tracks being used to launch the album, there is still much of Marina Diamandis here, if a little too artificially assisted and wearing clothes that are far more suited to more provocatively obvious, if less interesting female artists.

There are some great moments on ‘Electra Heart’, but she can do better than this. Marina isn’t Katy Perry and shouldn’t feel the need to be!


‘Electra Heart’ is released by 679/Atlantic Records

www.marinaandthediamonds.com

https://www.facebook.com/marinaandthediamonds/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st May 2012

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2010

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK came into being on 15th March 2010 following the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party at Sheffield Magna.

The year also saw the release of a new album by OMD in ‘History Of Modern’, their first since 1996 while there was a long awaited single by THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Meanwhile there was the emergence of new acts such as VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, THE SOUND OF ARROWS and HURTS.

At the end of 2009 when LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX heralded a renaissance in the sound of the synth, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter said to Mojo Magazine: “From all our work comes inspiration. We have been very lucky because the music we envisioned, the ideas we had of The Man-Machine and electro music, have become reality and technology has developed in our direction… and electro is everywhere!”

In a tremendous year for all things electro, here are our 30 songs of 2010 in alphabetical order by artist:


CHRISTINA AGUILERA & LADYTRON Birds Of Prey

In 2008, there was much talk of CHRISTINA AGUILERA going electro and collaborating with LADYTRON. Fast forward to 2010 and the two finished tracks ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’ were relegated to bonus track status on her album Bionic, with the latter being available only on iTunes. ‘Birds Of Prey’ softens the percussive noise that dominated ‘Velocifero’ with Ms Aguilera showing some great vocal restraint herself, with an almost hypnotic Middle Eastern feel.

Available on the album ‘Bionic (Deluxe Edition)’

http://www.christinaaguilera.com/

http://www.ladytron.com/


ARP High Life

ARP is New Yorker Alexis Georgopoulos who crafts gorgeous contemporary kosmische musik for the 21st century. Beautiful synth strings plus the spectre of KRAFTWERK and CLUSTER dominate this cute instrumental. Some minimal guitar adds texture to the pulsing accompaniment, recalling other German heroes such as MICHAEL ROTHER and MANUEL GOTTSCHING.

Available on the album ‘The Soft Wave’

http://www.studioalexisgeorgopoulos.com/ARP


AU REVOIR SIMONE Tell Me (Un Autre Monde Remix by MIRRORS)

Although AU REVOIR SIMONE have a wispy girls next door demeanour, this remix by MIRRORS recrafts the originally bare ‘Tell Me’ into a dense apocalyptic ditty which makes Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo sound almost suicidal! With its heavy synthetic percussive backbone, this is definitely dance music from another world! Like an alternative gothic disco soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Virgin Suicides’!

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Night Light’ from Juno:
http://www.junodownload.com/products/au-revoir-simone-night-light/1582186-02/

http://aurevoirsimone.com


BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT Love Part II

Shimmering Emulator type strings, pulsing sequences and a rousing chorus make this a very immediate slice of synthesized pop. BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT mainman Rod Thomas reworks the template of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and gives it a bit of a sensitive new man outlook. ‘Love Part II’ is NEW ORDER’s disco music for lager louts taken back to its slightly camper Italo roots. Not one for those who wear football shirts to the pub!

Available on the single ‘Love Part II’

http://www.brightlightx2.com/


THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW Are You One?

Assisted by I Monster’s Dean Honer who also co-produced THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s Night People, THE CHANTEUSE & THE CRIPPLED CLAW’s first single ‘Are You One?’ has Candie Payne’s very classic pop presence coupled with Adrian Flanagan’s eccentronic backing. It wonderfully sounds like SANDIE SHAW being backed by a BBC Radiophonic Workshop collaboration with LALO SCHIFRIN!

Available on the single ‘Are You One?’

https://myspace.com/chanteusenthecrippledclaw


CHEW LIPS Rising Tide

Usually dealing in a brand of “8-bit Casiotone drone-disco” sounding like YEAH YEAH YEAHS with synths, CHEW LIPS look like OMD being led by Debbie Harry! And they take the OMD thing further here with their best track ‘Rising Tide’. The haunting piano, precise drum machine and bass with sparkling synth-harp runs and a spirited vocal come together nicely to build up to a rousing crescendo.

Available exclusively as a download on the album ‘Unicorn’ from iTunes.

http://chew-lips.com


DELPHIC Halcyon

Here are the young men of DELPHIC, continuing the electronic dance / rock fusion pioneered by the legend of Factory Records. The backing is pure NEW ORDER and reinforced by a great klanky guitar solo which would do Bernard Sumner proud. Now, if DELPHIC could just develop things into great pop songs like ‘Halcyon’ rather than some of the prolonged jams and grooves that dominate their debut album ‘Acolyte’.

Available on the album ‘Acolyte’

https://www.facebook.com/delphicmusic/


THE GOLDEN FILTER Look Me In The Eye

With their melodic and glacial electronic disco, you’d think they were Scandinavian, but THE GOLDEN FILTER consist of an Aussie in Penelope Trappes and a Yank in Stephen Hindman. Penelope’s vocals have an uplifting quality on the chorus while still retaining a distant chill but the counter melodies compliment the danceable twists. A little I Feel Love creeps in during the chorus to give a wonderful dancefloor adrenalin rush.

Available on the album ‘Voluspa’

http://www.thegoldenfilter.com/


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming

As the title suggests, this is gorgeous and dreamy with a distinct European flavour from the enjoyable album ‘Head First’ which perhaps is more focused on mid-Atlantic AOR. Alison’s voice still resonates as one of the best in the business and back to being accompanied by primarily electronic instrumentation which is where it belongs. The pulsing sequences and string machine washes of ‘Dreaming’ make this perfect dancefloor material.

Available on the album ‘Head First’

http://www.goldfrapp.com/


HELL featuring BRYAN FERRY U Can Dance

Mr Ferry has certainly been astute in recognising how much of an influence he’s been on younger musicians and accepting collaborative opportunities with modern dance luminaries such as HELL and GROOVE ARMADA. DJ HELL provides U Can Dance’  with some hard electronic backing, complimenting Ferry’s trademark vocals. Ferry recorded his own Roxy styled version for his solo album ‘Olympia’.

Available on the single ‘U Can Dance’

https://www.facebook.com/DJHellOfficial/

http://www.bryanferry.com/


JORI HULKKONEN Man From Earth

Hypnotic in the spirit of Giorgio Moroder crossed with Arthur Baker and featuring the guest vocals of Jerry Valuri who first collaborated with Hulkkonen on 2005’s ‘Lo-Fiction’, this dark club track’s spacey rolling sequences make this almost like a dancefloor take on THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ before launching into a bit of New York electro disco!

Available on the album ‘Man From Earth’

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Night People

After Philip Oakey’s collaborations in 2009 with LITTLE BOOTS and PET SHOP BOYS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE returned with the lead track from their forthcoming album ‘Credo’ sounding very electronic and very modern. Punchy with an elastic bassline and chanting chorus, the lyrical couplet “leave your cornflakes in your freezers, leave your chocolates and your cheeses…” shows Mr Oakey hasn’t lost his touch for off-the-wall symbolism. So “Join us now my friends we hail you!”

Available on the single ‘Night People’

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


HURTS Stay

HURTS have been certainly accused of style over substance. ‘Wonderful Life’ looked like being a one-off but luckily they have some other magnificent songs to back up their European art house film via the Weimar Republic persona. With ‘Stay’, the heartfelt intensity of the lush arrangement captures the understated but epic sophistication. With the symphonic grandeur of ULTRAVOX fronted by the melodic sensibilities of TAKE THAT, is this a ‘Vienna’ for the early 21st Century?

Available on the album ‘Happiness’

http://www.informationhurts.com/


HYPERBUBBLE Candy Apple Daydreams

From the album of the same name, Texan duo HYPPERBUBBLE have an almost cartoon-like take on synthpop in the vein of that great lost combo VIC TWENTY who released only one single on Mute. ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ is fun and quirky with Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff as the obedient robotic version of John Steed.

Available on the album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’

http://www.hyperbubble.net/


KATJA VON KASSEL Lies

Electro Weimar Cabaret is the easiest way to describe the music of KATJA VON KASSEL. Lies’ features strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano but also has hints of GRACE JONES ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’. Not entirely surprising as both songs are routed in the same dance… the tango. LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray’s intricate production alongside Katja’s magnificently deep vocal presence is like the “1930’s meets the future”.

Not yet released, view on Vimeo

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


LCD SOUNDSYSTEM I Can Change

From what appears to be the only electronic based act that the real music purists positively fawn over, this is a superbly guitar free number that sounds like ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN mashed up with GARY NUMAN and early DEPECHE MODE. The wonderfully wobbly synths and steady drum machine beat take the lead in the poptastic style of Vince Clarke while James Murphy’s vocal hits a soaring falsetto after initiating a ‘Mac The Mouth’ tribute.

Available on the album ‘This Is Happening’

http://lcdsoundsystem.com/


LOLA DUTRONIC Best Years Of Our Lives

LOLA DUTRONIC are a duo who adapt classic Anglo-Gallic pop with modern electronic arrangements. ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ borrows from the more recent past with quite obvious references to OMD, ERASURE and even PULP. It’s cutesy pop, perhaps reminiscent of prime SAINT ETIENNE and Lola’s accent is just alluring!

Available on the EP ‘Musique’

https://www.facebook.com/LOLA-DUTRONIC-80232595392/


MARINA & THE DIAMONDS Oh No!

Using a bit of Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis adds eccentricity to some catchy keyboard led pop helmed by the ubiquitous Greg Kurstin. “I have become my own self fulfilled prophecy” she proclaims before she screams up two operatic octaves taking a nod towards classic SPARKS while the coda turns into a Cossack dance! Frankly, this is brilliantly bonkers!

Available on the album ‘The Family Jewels’

http://www.marinaandthediamonds.com/


KYLIE MINOGUE All The Lovers

Aided by Stuart Price at the mixing helm, ‘All The Lovers’ was Ms Minogue’s best single since the KRAFTWERK-tinged ‘Slow’ is euphoric Euro-disco with some wonderful synthetic tones, especially on the solo. There’s something for everybody here in this fabulous pop song. But what a shame about the parent ‘Aphrodite’ album though.

Available on the album ‘Aphrodite’

http://www.kylie.com/


MIRRORS Ways To An End

MIRRORS hail from Brighton, the UK capital of hedonism but their intense and artful approach to dancing is very different to the ‘hands in the air’ culture of their home base. Synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominate this brilliantly uptempo electro number. Rhythmically this recalls TALKING HEADS ‘Crosseyed & Painless’ while the claustrophobic production is very post-punk, wonderfully dense but melodically dramatic. A brilliant introduction to The World of MIRRORS.

Available on the single ‘Ways To An End’

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


OMD New Holy Ground

In the true innovating spirit of their classic era, the sparse percussive framework of ‘New Holy Ground’ is merely the sound of footsteps. This is the nearest they have come to the lost B-side and fan favourite ‘The Avenue’. The wonderful piano line and virtual choirs contribute to the beautiful melancholy that characterised OMD’s best work where Paul Humphreys concentrated on the musical backbone while Andy McCluskey provided the narrative focus.

Available on the album ‘History Of Modern’

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


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night

sarah-dubstar

In period which has seen a flurry of solo activity and the reformation of DUBSTAR, the lovely SARAH BLACKWOOD took time out to work with on a track from his album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’. Although a version without her ended up on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download in 2010. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s recent offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem from our Sarah which lyrically was “full of pain”.

Originally available as a free download

http://www.williamorbit.com/


ROBYN Dancing On My Own (Radio version)

More bittersweet heartbreak from Ms Carlsson, this is driven by wonderful, edgy electronics while the simultaneous dancing and mourning reflects the vulnerability everyone experiences in the loss of love. Solemn synthetic disco at its best from the feisty, independently spirited Swede who is slowly turning into a modern day GINA X PERFORMANCE.

Available on the album ‘Body Talk’

http://robyn.com/


SHH Wonderful Night

Euphoric sensualism captured in three and a half minutes, the chunky pulsing sequences to a solid dance beat and a rousing chorus add a blissful optimism full of Latin spirit. ‘Wonderful Night’ is bouncy danceable electropop that does what it says on the tin. As their own mission statement announces, it’s “Electronic pop, Buenos Aires style!”

Available on the album ‘Gaucho Boy’

https://www.facebook.com/Shhsounds/


THE SOUND OF ARROWS In The Clouds

Desscribes as “the HURTS you can dance to” and “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”, the opening lines “I’m going to work my way out of this town, I’m going to be someone and know who I am” of ‘Into the Clouds’ are quite a mission statement. Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm are a duo based in Stockholm presesnting dreamy widescreen synthpop, swathed in beautiful Nordic melancholy. Their musical subtlety and melodic textures are an essential and enlightening listen.

Aavailable on the single ‘Into The Clouds’

https://www.facebook.com/thesoundofarrows/


SUNDAY GIRL Stop Hey!

Following up SUNDAY GIRL’s previous two singles ‘Four Floors’ and her cover of ‘Self Control’, ‘Stop Hey!’ saw overdriven drum sounds and a piercing trebly riff dominate this piece of icy Eurocentric electro, sounding not unlike ELLIE GOULDING with a 20 cigarettes a day habit backed by MIRRORS and MGMT! This was kooky and stylish avant pop that hinted at something much darker going on in Jade Williams’ mind.

Available on the single ‘Stop Hey!’

http://www.wearesundaygirl.com


TAKE THAT Flowerbed

No, this isn’t a misprint! The hidden track on the reunited Manchester boy band’s Stuart Price produced opus ‘Progress’ is an electronic gem. In a rare lead vocal for Jason Orange, he comes over all apologetic in the manner of AL STEWART over a dreamy backing track that possesses the glacial Scandinavian quality of ROYKSOPP with a sprinkling of ENO-esque textural ambience. Beginning with soothing vocoder before building to a percussive climax, this is simply quite beautiful!

Available on the album ‘Progress’

http://takethat.com/


TENEK Blinded By You

TENEK have successfully smoothed off some of their more industrial edges to deliver their most immediate and accessible song yet. A rousing chorus and a structure not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, there are further synth anthems galore on their album On The Wire with nods to the MTV-era of TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS. “Heartbeat? Get down!” Synthetic dance rock at its best.

Available on the album ‘On The Wire’

http://www.tenek.co.uk/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red

VILE ELECTRODES are a colourful trio consisting of Anais Neon, Loz Tronic and Martin Swan who formed due to an unhealthy obsession with analogue synthesizers and fetish porn. ‘Deep Red’, a title inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’, is a gorgeous seven and a half minute synth ballad that comes over like CLIENT fronting classic ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK… tremendously dramatic stuff in the vein of Statues and Stanlow!

Not yet released, view on YouTube

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


VILLA NAH Remains Of Love

Have you ever heard GARY NUMAN almost jaunty? The fantastic ‘Remains Of Love’ is the poppiest thing that the former Gary Webb never recorded. Juho Paalosmaa is next to crying in the wonderful chorus but it’s almost sounds like GARY NUMAN on prozac over Tomi Hyyppä’s crystalline melodies. With that all important air synth factor, VILLA NAH took the important elements of classic electronic pop and connected it to sharp, complimentary dance rhythms.

Available on the album ‘Origin’

https://www.facebook.com/villanah/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2010, updated 14th March 2017

2010 End Of Year Review

The Year Of Transistors

“Synthesizers can be explored and explored, and the music that can be made with electronic instruments is infinite in its breadth. KRAFTWERK may have said ‘we are the robots’, but anyone need only listen to Trans-Europe Express and compare it to most of the turgid, boring guitar-based rock that has been produced over the last 30 years to realise that electronic music can be deeply emotional. And anyone who says electronic music is not real music is just too simple-minded for our patience I’m afraid!MIRRORS

2010 saw the return of the male synthpop act, smart boys with their toys and their nods towards the classic era of Synth Britannia.

Leading the way were VILLA NAH and MIRRORS who both fused quality songs with vintage sounds and crisp contemporary percussive frameworks. The two units were obviously pressing the right buttons as both opened as special guests to OMD. As a continued sign of their undoubted potential, both were also were invited to support THE HUMAN LEAGUE; an opportunity which unfortunately neither act was able to fulfil due to prior scheduling commitments.

Coming from Finland, VILLA NAH released one of the best long players of the year in ‘Origin’, while closer to home, Brighton-based MIRRORS’ forthcoming album ‘Lights And Offerings’ is likely to be one of the musical highlights of 2011.

Meanwhile HURTS, the enigmatic Mancunian duo who many predicted for major success in 2010, rattled the cages of the style over substance brigade.

Whilst the cinematic grandeur displayed in their best songs like ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Sunday’ was simply outstanding, they did occasionally walk a fine line with their milder paced material, sounding occasionally like TAKE THAT backed by ULTRAVOX. Despite confusing some listeners, their album ‘Happiness’ was an enormous grower and their live shows won over many new fans, especially on the continent where artful intelligence is a highly regarded attribute.

Interestingly, TAKE THAT themselves released their album ‘Progress’ with Stuart Price aka LES RYTHMES DIGITALES at the producer’s helm.

Featuring a strong electronic flavour, there was also a song called ‘Eight Letters’ based on ‘Vienna’ which resulted in the rather unusual credit ‘written by Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie’!

Attracting cult followings in 2010 were DELPHIC and CHEW LIPS. DELPHIC captured the Factory Records aesthetic of the mutant disco pioneered by NEW ORDER and A CERTAIN RATIO, but were unable to attract mainstream recognition probably due to their reliance on grooves and jams rather than actual songs… they can only get better with time.

CHEW LIPS are YEAH YEAH YEAHS with synths and while they had several brilliant numbers in their cannon, not all were included on their rather short debut album ‘Unicorn’. This didn’t allow them to play to their strengths on record although this was fully exploited in their live show. Again, they will learn.

And not wishing to get wholly involved in the main skirmish, THE SOUND OF ARROWS maintained a low profile while recording their debut album in London but delivered some impressive concert showcases of their lush Nordic musicality. Their optimistic and aspirational ‘Disney meets Brokeback Mountain’ tone may be the fresh approach to electropop in 2011.

Kookiness was the order of the day with the raven haired beauties MARINA & THE DIAMONDS and EMILIE SIMON. Marina Lambrini Diamandis kept the spirit of SPARKS alive with some fe-Mael intuition on her superb debut ‘The Family Jewels’ while EMILIE SIMON crossed the channel for some ‘one girl and her synth’ shows to fill the gap left by the absence of LITTLE BOOTS in 2010.

As could have been expected after the promotional lash of last year, Victoria Hesketh took a break before starting work on her new album. Hertfordshire’s SUNDAY GIRL could be the next lady-in-waiting providing she can expand on the very promising material like All The Songs and Stop Hey! that was premiered in the latter part of the year.

Meanwhile LA ROUX toured the world and recorded a ‘Stones cover ‘Under Your Thumb’ for the ‘Sidetracked’ influences DJ mix compilation before giving old mate SKREAM the iTunes bonus track Saviour for a dubstep rework as Finally and guesting with CHROMEO. However, Elly Jackson appears to have forgotten that No.1 rule of not biting the hand that feeds you by exclaiming “… I don’t want to make synth music for the rest of my f*cking life!” and declaring the electropop genre “over”!

In the battle of Synth Britannia, OMD released their first collection of new material for 14 years while THE HUMAN LEAGUE delayed their full album return until 2011. THE HUMAN LEAGUE have the backing of electronic music guru Mark Jones’ Wall Of Sound label and thus far have played a ‘less is more’ approach.

Despite not having an official website until this year, some clever viral marketing sent interest in their single ‘Night People’ sky high and provided good business for their now almost traditional Christmas UK tour.

While OMD’s ‘History of Modern’ album had several outstanding tracks worthy of comparison with past glories, it was confusingly launched with an Aretha Franklin mash-up that wasn’t on the final tracklisting and a nauseating Britpop pastiche as lead single. Ironically one of the statements made in its sleeve notes was “Modern is not… Oasis”!

It was as if audiences who had traditionally been sceptical of the whole synthesizer axis were now being targeted.

However, electronic pop’s spiritual homeland of Germany welcomed OMD back like one of their own and respectable business for ‘History of Modern’ was generated.

A-HA though are proof that consistently high quality new material is still a possiblity 25 years after your commercial heyday with the focus of their final album ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ very much on their synthesizer roots. In late 2010, they bid farewell with a final tour and a superb double CD compilation called ’25’ which featured not only their hits but the best of their much under valued album tracks.

Among the acts celebrating their legacies, HEAVEN 17 enhanced their reputation no-end by participating in a brilliant BBC6 Music collaboration with “the falsetto from the ghetto” LA ROUX.

And if that wasn’t enough, they had not one but two BBC TV programmes featuring their highly regarded album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ including their triumphant Sheffield Magna gig.

HOWARD JONES didn’t look a day older, proving that a vegetarian diet and a clean living spirituality was the key to eternal youth! He played ‘Human’s Lib’ and ‘Dream Into Action’ in full for the first time at Indigo2.

Former sparring partners ULTRAVOX and JOHN FOXX played very different types of live shows in 2010. ULTRAVOX almost went back to basics with the retrospective ‘Return To Eden 2’ tour while JOHN FOXX curated an audio/visual extravaganza at the Short Circuit Festival featuring a deluge of analogue synths and some new material to a mixed reception.

DEPECHE MODE completed their ‘Tour Of The Universe’ and capped it all with a special show at the Royal Albert Hall for The Teenage Cancer Trust where Alan Wilder was reunited with the band for the first time in 16 years during the encore of ‘Somebody’.

It was an emotional night for many including the band. Does this lay out the foundations for, if not a reunion, at least some future work together?

GOLDFRAPP returned with ‘Head First’, a mid-Atlantic AOR styled electronic romp that had echoes of ABBA, LAURA BRANIGAN and OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN. Some found it uninspiring but what could not be denied was the catchiness of the tunes. Given time, it will become a future guilty pleasure.

Meanwhile LADYTRON prepared a career spanning compilation Ladytron ’00-10′ to reinforce their reputation as one of the key electronic based acts of the last decade but they began the year contributing a pair of excellent bonus tracks to CHRISTINA AGUILERA’s album ‘Bionic’ in ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’.

Swedish songstress ROBYN continued her feisty independent spirit by releasing her ‘Body Talk’ trilogy and the excellent single ‘Dancing On My Own’, while both LADY GAGA and KYLIE kept electronically produced pop in the mainstream consciousness.

Across the water, New York’s THE GOLDEN FILTER added a crisp vibe to the electronic dancefloor via some dreamy Scandinavian influences and frantic tribal percussion while their neighbours THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS brought a mechanised twist to new wave on their self-titled debut. And for the perfect after party soundtrack in the Big Apple, ARP provided some gorgeous modern day ambience with the album ‘The Soft Wave’.

Meanwhile, another North American based duo LOLA DUTRONIC relaunched their brand of dreamy Gallic flavoured electro-lounge pop with the ‘Musique’ EP.

Elsewhere internationally, the vivacious SHH became the latest in a line of Argentine musicians basing themselves in London for an assault on the UK and European market while Texans HYPERBUBBLE brought their own ‘bionic bubblepunk’ with the impressive ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’. MARSHEAUX had a quiet year, only releasing a cover of BILLY IDOL’s Eyes Without a Face for an Amnesty International compilation.

Promising newcomers VILE ELECTRODES steadily gained fans on the London club circuit with their mix of fetish porn and analogue synths while following some line-up changes, THE VANITY CLAUSE finally released their first album ‘Fractured’.

And the quirky Sheffield based duo THE CHANTEUSE & THE CLAW unleashed a superb debut single in ‘Are You One?’.

Overall in 2010, the spark generated by the new generation of synthesizer acts and the willingness of others to incorporate more electronic sounds into their work accounted for yet another productive year with the heritage acts also getting the cultural recognition they fully deserved. Ever supportive, The Guardian even featured a piece on the older incarnation entitled Forgive Us Our Synths which interestingly was almost two years after their prophetic Slaves To Synth article hit the public consciousness.

There were more quality albums and live shows of interest to the electro fan than in many years past with acts such as MIRRORS, VILLA NAH and HURTS fulfilling the role of worthy successors to the classic Synth Britanniageneration. Hopefully, other acts will be following in their footsteps. In fact, despite being ignored by the BBC Sound Of 2011 and New To Q listings which appear to have been locked into some evil parallel universe where good taste does not seem to reside, “… fey, gay, pseudo-intellectual synth b*llocks” still rules!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings Of 2010

STEVE GRAY

Best Album: TENEK On The Wire
Best Song: HURTS Unspoken
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at London Royal Albert Hall
Best Video: MIRRORS Ways To An End
Most Promising New Act: MIRRORS


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: VILLA NAH Origin
Best Song: MIRRORS Ways To An End
Best Gig: HEAVEN 17 at Sheffield Magna
Best Video: HURTS Wonderful Life
Most Promising New Act: THE SOUND OF ARROWS


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: HURTS Happiness
Best Song: OMD History Of Modern (Part I)
Best Gig: THE HUMAN LEAGUE + HEAVEN 17 at Galway Festival
Best Video: HURTS Stay
Most Promising New Act: MIRRORS


JOHAN WEJEDAL

Best Album: PAGE Nu
Best Song: POLAROID MILITIA Astana My Hero
Best Gig: PAGE at Gothenburg Synthklubben
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red
Most Promising New Act: THE GIRL & THE ROBOT


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2010

MARINA & THE DIAMONDS Live At The Roundhouse

Diamonds Are Forever

What a year so far it’s been so far for the kookily charming lungsmith who is Marina Lambrina Diamandis aka MARINA & THE DIAMONDS.

There’s been a top ten single with Hollywood and a gem of a debut album in ‘The Family Jewels’, produced largely by Liam Howe of SNEAKER PIMPS fame. This time last year, she had just sold out the Hoxton Kitchen as part of ‘Levi’s Ones To Watch’ showcase. Even before the current campaign, her appearance at the ‘New To Q’ concerts at the London Tabernacle in January provoked near hysteria, particularly among many of the female ‘Diamonds’ in the audience. A new star and role model was born; ultra-glamourous and beautiful while witty, intelligent and forthright all at the same time.

Since then, her live show has been expanded to include the entire album and the use of tasteful video projections. Christened ‘The Burger Queen Tour’, this is her most theatrical extravaganza yet. The instrumental filmic overture of STARSMITH’s electronic 24 Carat remix of ‘I Am Not A Robot’ sees Marina cast as a cat-suited Bond Girl in homage to Maurice Binder’s opening title sequences for the classic 007 movies.

She arrived on the stage of The Roundhouse to rapturous applause like Aphrodite, the Olympian Goddess of Love and Beauty, all dressed up to the nines in the most elegant full length black gown. Beginning with a stripped down neo-acapella take on the album’s iTunes only title track, an incessant bass sequence takes over to open proceedings proper with ‘The Outsider’.

Marina has improved very much as a live performer. Becoming more animated with assorted facial expressions and affecting arm gestures, her rhapsody was no more apparent than with the WAG baiting ‘Girls’.“Girls oh girls, wag your tails to the beat of girls aloud, oh the journos on heat” she sneers; “Write such good stories, oh their mothers must be proud… making money off your insecurity and doubt”. As with PINK’s ‘Stupid Girls’, Marina encourages the next generation to do something more in life instead of just getting your bits out for the lads!

Accompanied as usual by her backing band of Jon Shone (synths), Sebastian Sternberg (drums), Peter Carr (keyboards) and Dan Gulino (bass), interestingly there appears to be an increased element of electronics within the live set. The brilliantly angsty ‘Are You Satisfied?’ is turned into a mid-Atlantic synth rock number while ‘Shampain’, co-written with the ubiquitous Pascal Gabriel, appears to reveal a few Synth Britannia influences; could the chorus possibly be borrowing from GARY NUMAN’s Engineers and the glaring synth solo from OMD’s ‘International’? Whatever, Marina actually decides to briefly turn into SIMPLE MINDS with a “let me see your hands” and “singalong with me” moment… unlike Jim Kerr though, she keeps it to just the one song so things work out quite nicely without becoming irritating!

Of course, no MARINA & THE DIAMONDS set would be complete without the lost mini-symphony Seventeen while the lovely ‘I Am Not A Robot’ reveals Marina’s tremendous vulnerability. Dedicating it to her fans, it’s obviously the song that connects the most as all her Diamonds sing along with her. And there are many singalongs tonight; ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Numb’, which see Marina accompany herself on keyboards, are touching highlights that reveal the strength of her talent for quirky but memorable tunes.

Marina’s neo-operatic synesthetics and sudden octave changes (sometimes within the same word!) recall the eccentricity of classic SPARKS, none more so than on the barking mad Greg Kurstin collaboration ‘Oh No!’.

Using ounces of Fe-Mael intuition and aided by the technology available to accurately recreate its Bohemian tension live, this theatre certainly ain’t big enough for all of us as the blasting “I’m now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy! OH! OH NO! Oh No! OH NOO!… “ salvo almost takes everyone’s heads off!

There’s a nice surprise as Marina airs a new song Jealousy, a track that has previously been available on-line prior to her recent success and missed inclusion on ‘The Family Jewels’.

This unreleased nugget with its fantastic chorus and layers of synth strings is a promising sign of what could be to come with her next album. A combined love of pop and art is the key to MARINA & THE DIAMONDS. For her, BRITNEY SPEARS and ANDY WARHOL are as important as PJ HARVEY and Ancient Greece.

Coming up the home straight, The Dr Who Theme, GOLDFRAPP and KATE BUSH all merge together on the wonderfully wonky ‘Mowgli’s Road’ for the gathered to go “cuckoo” to before the widescreen drama of ‘Guilty’ closes the main part of the show.

For the encore, there’s an extended electronic dance workout before a quick costume change to represent “the mess that’s America” on the glitzy satire of ‘Hollywood’. A big blast of red, white and blue tickertape completes a superbly polished performance that presents ‘The Family Jewels’ in a fresh new light.

With her best show yet, it was a fine way to wind down a highly fruitful eighteen months.

As Marina herself said as she celebrated on her own website recently: “Diamonds, YOU DID IT… We won best UK act for EMA MTV Awards !!! A wonderful day for MARINA & THE DIAMONDS. We have triumphed. We are small- but strong!”

Marina, shine on you crazy diamond!


‘The Family Jewels’ is released by 670/Atlantic Records

www.marinaandthediamonds.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
15th November 2010

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