Tag: Mark Reeder (Page 1 of 11)

Missing In Action: DIE UNBEKANNTEN

DIE UNBEKANNTEN were the cult post-punk band formed by Berlin-based Englanders Mark Reeder and Alistair Gray for the legendary ‘Konzert zur Einheit der Nation‘ held in the SO36 club in Kreuzberg on 17 June 1981.

This ‘Concert for the Unity of Germany‘ was recorded for prosperity as the live compilation ‘Licht und Schatten‘ on Wild Youth Records which featured ‘Radio War‘ as Reeder and Gray’s contribution under the moniker of THE UNKNOWN (hence the subsequent German name DIE UNBEKANNTEN)

DIE UNBEKANNTEN’s back catalogue is small with their self-titled and ‘Dangerous Moonlight‘ 12“ EPs released on Elisabeth Recker’s influential Monogam label. Reflecting the times and their surroundings, their music was gloomy and themed around war. One notable track ‘The Game‘, which included an introductory poem by Abu Hamil, offered commentary on how journalists lived off suffering refugees in war torn cities like Beirut or Gaza and the psychological effects it had on them.

Using Reeder’s extensive Eastern European dissident contacts including human rights activist and later President of the post-Iron Curtain Czechoslovakia Václav Havel, DIE UNBEKANNTEN also performed at secret illegal gigs inside the communist bloc. With the advent of programmable drum machines and affordable synths, electronic elements began to creep into DIE UNBEKANNTEN’s sound which became more programmed and dance friendly, so much so that a name change was decided on prior to a European tour opening for NEW ORDER; thus SHARK VEGAS was born.

With the release of an expanded edition of ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’, an album first issued in 2005 collecting both DIE UNBEKANNTEN EPs while also featuring demos, live tracks and specially restored versions created for the documentary film ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West Berlin)‘, Mark Reeder chatted about die Berliner Elektronische und Club Szene and much more…

The name DIE UNBEKANNTEN came about by accident?

Yes, absolutely. When we played our first gig on 17 June 1981 in SO36, we had no intention of carrying the idea of performing any further than that one concert and therefore we had no band name. After seeing a one-off performance together with Monogam’s Elisabeth Recker and Kristoph Hahn (THE SWANS) as LE SANG FROID, I had been asked if I would also like to fill-in on the bill of an upcoming mini-festival, to commemorate the uprising in East-Berlin for the reunification of Germany, on the 17 June 1953. The poster already had a load of fictitious band names on it and being a bit tipsy, I committed myself.

Once home, I realised what I had done and called Al and asked him if he could sing. He came over to my place and I showed him how to play bass and we started to write some songs. After our performance, which we thought was a total shambles, Elisabeth came running up saying she loved it and wanted us to make a record for her label. Thomas Wydler also said he wanted to play drums with us. We were taken completely by surprise.

A favourable review of our concert in the local Zitty Magazine by Andre Schwerdt, praised “the two unknown Englishmen” for their avant-garde performance. In our little circle of friends, we were thereafter referred to amusingly as, DIE UNBEKANNTEN (“The Unknown”) and so I decided, THAT should be our band name.

How was it for you memories-wise to compile this expanded release?

Back in 2005, I was asked by Vinyl-on Demand if they could re-release a Limited-Edition vinyl album, featuring our two Monogam EPs. As bonus tracks, I gave them the Video version of ‘The Game’ and a live-to-mixing-desk recording of ‘Alone’ (which later became the blueprint for ‘Perfect Love’), from a gig that we had performed at in Belgium’s Salle Ex, together with MALARIA! I also gave VoD my original ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ album cover design idea too, and they produced a lovely record, that sold out almost immediately.

Then in 2011, I started work on the soundtrack for the ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West Berlin)’ documentary, together with my studio partner Micha Adam, and for that, I decided to restore and rework ‘Casualties’ and ‘Radio War’. Sadly, after a break-in of my old apartment in early 1990, all my master tapes and the two 16 tracks tapes were completely destroyed and so we basically only had the vinyl EPs to go on for the restoration.

I did however, find our backing cassette tape of Thomas Wydler’s drums, our drum machine and effects, that we had originally used for our first illegal and highly secret concert in Czechoslovakia, back in 1982, and that also helped a lot with the restoration. So, I had gone through the trauma of revisiting our music already for these projects.

I had originally planned this release on being part of a photo-book with CD special edition back in 2021, to commemorate our 40th anniversary, and so while compiling and writing ‘The Story of DIE UNBEKANNTEN’, I had already plenty of time to reflect and go through the music. Unfortunately, finding an affordable book printer and then the restrictions brought about by Covid took its toll, and the book part never happened. I did meanwhile, discover there were some live bootleg tapes knocking about, that I didn’t even know existed. After a recent trip to Japan and Detroit, I decided to revisit our restorations and release ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ as a digital album instead.

JOY DIVISION and SECTION 25 appear to loom heavy over the sound of DIE UNBEKANNTEN?

It is probably more like a resemblance to most people. Musically, we are nowhere near. I think it has something more to do with the place, time, era and our musical restrictions, rather than actual inspiration. We certainly didn’t ever intend our music to sound anything like JOY DIVISION or SECTION 25. Although people back in the 80s also made these comparisons, I personally can’t hear any. I feel it was probably more about the fact that we were two Englishmen in Berlin and I was Factory Records German Representative.

How was your relationship with Monogam Records who originally released the self-titled debut EP and ‘Dangerous Moonlight’?

Wonderful; Elisabeth Recker, who started the Monogam Label was without doubt THE most important person of the Berlin avant-garde underground music scene back in the late 70s and early 80s, as she provided the platform for bands like MANIA D, P1/E and EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN to release their music upon.

She is definitely an unsung hero. Monogam was Berlin’s first indie label. We were and still are great friends. Elisabeth was adventurous and she loved the arty and experimental.

I think DIE UNBEKANNTEN EPs were the closest thing to a pop record that Monogam ever released.

The ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ title song falls under the spell of ‘Other Voices’ by THE CURE and featured a prototype Roland TR606 Drumatix, how did you get hold of one of those?

We got the Roland 606 prototype from Adrian Wright of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. After their minor success with ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ and ‘Love Action’, he had been given this new Roland Drum Computer to test, but he didn’t have the time, and so he asked me if I could test it for him and just let him know how it was. I rushed home and immediately wrote a simple drum pattern and a rough bassline. Al came over and we wrote the song.

We booked two days in Harris Johns Musiclab Studio, and by the end of the session we had recorded and mixed ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’. Alistair finished off the lyrics while I recorded all the music. Danny Briottet from RENEGADE SOUNDWAVE was visiting me in Berlin, and he proposed he play the drum solo, but we had no drums. He found an old cooking pot in my flat and luckily a set of timbales, which were lying about the studio and thus performed the cooking-pot and timbales solo in the middle of the song. Consequently, our ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ EP, became the first record ever to feature a Roland 606.

Drum machine was a characteristic feature of DIE UNBEKANNTEN, how did you find them to use?

For our first gig in SO36, we had no drummer, Thomas Wydler would join us later for the recording of our first EP. We had no intention of doing anymore gigs to be honest, so we just used an MFB drum machine. It was very basic, with a handful of settings (Cha Cha, Disco, Rock, Tango, Bossa Nova).

It was very easy to use, but I still managed to fuck it up for our first gig, by choosing the wrong setting. In reality, all you needed to do was turn the dial to the required style and speed and it played a repetitive pattern. As we only had a few days to write a set, we had cleverly written all our songs on the Disco setting, but in a drunken-stupor-panic, I accidentally turned the selector to Bossa Nova, and we just had to go along with that.

The MFB was an easy drum machine though, there was no programming involved. That came later when we had the 606, which you could programme to play fills and a series of patterns, but it was a total nightmare to programme. If you accidentally tapped in or missed something, you had to start all over again from scratch. Later, we had a Roland 808, then a 707 and a 727.

The “Country & Eastern” bootleg live version of ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ is hilarious…

Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. That country version of ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ was performed just as a one-off surprise. We wanted to give our audience a laugh at the end of our gig. As SHARK VEGAS, we usually performed a Hi-NRG DEAD OR ALIVE-sque version of ‘I Was Made For Loving You’.

As DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we also always tried to leave the stage with the audience laughing. For example, the Salle Ex gig I remember we closed the show by performing the East German National Anthem on Kazoos, sadly the tape was stopped after three songs, so a recording of that performance doesn’t exist, as far as I know.

I thought of it as being a bit like The News, where you have serious reports, but close with a funny story about a puppy. Therefore, after our set of harrowing and miserable depridisco, we thought spirits should be lightened with something amusing. Al and I always thought the song itself sounded more like something you would hear in a Texan red-neck bar, and for that particular gig, we decided to perform it like that, with wrong notes and all. I had no idea that it had been recorded until someone gave me a cassette tape years later.

Photo by Marc Portier

‘Poseidon’ had lyrics in German?

It actually has bilingual lyrics. Half English-half German. We thought, as we have a German name, we might as well have at least one song in German. As it transpired, the song became a bit of both. It was quite fun rhyming English and German.

When did the electronic element start creeping in, like on ‘Perfect Love’?

It was actually always there. We had a Syndrum and a Transcendent 2000 which only made abstract noises. Like the sound of the sea on ‘Poseidon’ was made with the Transcendent. We just didn’t use it much as it didn’t make a smooth string sound.

What other synths were you using?

By the time we came to recording ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ and ‘Perfect Love’, we had the Transcendent 2000, a Korg MS20, and a Roland SH-9 and a Clap-Trap.

There’s a “dodgy demo” of ‘You Hurt Me’ included as a bonus, what was influencing you musically by this point?

Al and I were regulars at the Metropol disco every Friday and Saturday night. It was Europe’s biggest gay disco and it had an amazing soundsystem. We were listening to a lot of electronic disco music then and we wanted to be more Moroder than morose.

We were sharing a practice room with Dimitri Hegemann’s band LENNINGRAD SANDWICH at the time, and he had a Korg Poly Six which he didn’t use, so he let us use it. That synth could do everything we had ever dreamed of, and we wrote ‘You Hurt Me’ and all our other songs on that. This “dodgy demo” recording was made on my Sony TCS300 and was just our first test. It always was my preferred version, as it featured the synth and arpeggiator in a more prominent role. A few weeks before we went on European tour with NEW ORDER as SHARK VEGAS, we recorded a proper studio demo, which was eventually released on Factory Records as FAC111.

So how DIE UNBEKANNTEN finally morph into SHARK VEGAS?

I decided to change our band name just before going on a European tour with NEW ORDER in 1984, because I thought no-one would be able to say DIE UNBEKANNTEN. We already noticed that many English speakers would pronounce the “Die” part like “die” as in death, as oppose to “Dee”. So, I thought as we now had two new members joining us on this tour (Leo Walter and Helmut Wittler from SOIF DE LA VIE) we should also change our name and it would also give us the opportunity to present our new Hi-NRG disco style too.

Do you ever regret not getting ‘Love Habit’ and a full SHARK VEGAS album released back in the day or were you just too busy with other things by then?

We definitely had aspirations to make a SHARK VEGAS album and we even made some demos, but I was always unhappy with the way the SHARK VEGAS demos turned out, as I felt our sound had started to become too conventional. It was really a conflict of musical interests. Leo and I wanted to be clubbier, Al wanted to be more soulful, and Helmut wanted us to sound more like SPANDAU BALLET!

We tried a few things out, but to me, they always sounded like something was missing and that was the synth element. I wanted to feature more synths, sequencers and more arpeggiator. After we won the Berlin Senat’s Rock Competition, Helmut and Leo left SHARK VEGAS to concentrate on SOIF DE LA VIE, and Al and I with our winnings, we recorded ‘Love Habit’ and ‘Pretenders of Love’, but only ‘Pretenders’ got released on a Factory US compilation. We recorded a few more song ideas in our practice room for a potential album, but we didn’t have a label, nor the funds to properly record them, and by then Alistair had decided to leave Berlin.

How close was a SHARK VEGAS album to being completed, is there enough for a retrospective?

We had a few demos, but most of the recordings sound like the “dodgy demo” of ‘You Hurt Me’ rather than professional studio demo recordings. Of course, we have about six versions of ‘You Hurt Me’ and the original demo and studio recording of ‘Love Habit’, which was featured on the ‘B-Movie’ soundtrack, and also ‘Pretenders of Love’, which was released on the K7 Fac Dance (Factory) compilation and promoted last Christmas on Noel Gallagher’s Xmas playlist.

I also have a few cassettes of live recordings, mostly made during our tour with NEW ORDER. These all might be restorable for a retrospective at some stage in the future.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ released by MFS as an expanded 19 track digital album available via







Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
27 June 2023


Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Mw0Fn10yNZQcrGzod98MM

Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022

STOLEN Eroded Creation

A well-thought out, well-crafted album with plenty of adventure, space and mystery within its multi-genre cocoon, STOLEN’s ‘Fragment’ appealed to electronic, techno, prog and alternative rock enthusiasts alike.

Comprising of five Chinese musicians and a French VJ, STOLEN were founded in 2009 when three of their number were studying at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. Their second album but the first with the Berlin-based production partnership of Mark Reeder and Micha Adam, the acclaim for ‘Fragment’ led to STOLEN opening for NEW ORDER on a six date European tour in 2019.

Further 2020 dates in Japan with the Mancunians were arranged but then the worldwide pandemic hit. While STOLEN have recovered to maintain their position as one of the most popular alternative bands in China, international momentum has stalled somewhat but now they present their ‘Eroded Creation’.

In circumstances that were very different to the making of ’Fragment’, the versatile sextet of Liang-Yi (vocals + synths), Duan-Xuan (piano, keyboards, sequencers + guitar), Fangde: (guitars + synths), Wu Jun Yang (bass Guitars + iPhone), Yu Yuan Feng Xiao Yuan (drums + percussion) and Formol (visuals + atmospheres) recorded the tracks in Chengdu but they were produced and mixed by Reeder and Adam in Berlin.

Opening with a song released earlier in 2022 by Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder on their ‘Life Everywhere’ album, STOLEN get to offer their vision of ‘The Void Empire’ with a deeper interpretation echoing ‘Ultra’ era DEPECHE MODE in its percussive loops and denser austere.

But making a mighty 11 minute statement, the segue of ‘Capture The Star’ into ‘Space Intruders’ is sonically magnificent: every element has its place from drums to guitar solos in this progressive Sinographic adventure. More sedate and sung in Mandarin with bubbling arpeggiators, chilling strings and melodic guitar, ‘Hibernation Pod’ could be a Chinese MUSE, especially when Liang-Yi hits some quasi-operatic falsetto tones.

With ominous bass pulses and Middle Eastern overtones, ‘Secret Agenda’ offers something more gothic as virtual orchestrations enhance the drama while ‘Shirt Of Darkness’ offers absolution in its chilly disposition that grows with every listen.

Much rockier though is ‘Never Believe’ although Liang Yi is himself vocally restrained to provide an interesting contrast to the tension.

However, the growly frontman lets rip on the techno rock of ‘Pay’ where the backdrop unexpectedly twists and turns and thrusts with a pulsing synth middle section suddenly interrupted by a burst of jagged metal!

With a prominent mechanised stomp, ‘Why We Follow’ comes in Mark Reeder’s Follow Me Remix and angrily makes its point, augmented by a blasting guest rap from PSY.P who made his breakthrough a member of the Chinese hip-hop collective HIGHER BROTHERS.

To a slight offbeat, ‘Pressure’ features some impeccable live elements in the drum breaks and enticing ivory runs reminiscent of David Bowie’s ‘I’m Deranged’. But as ‘Eroded Creation’ concludes, the sparse backdrop of ‘Waiting’ moves to the unexpected with a piano shaped ballad supported by understated embellishments from all of the band.

Developing on the propulsive grit and mystical cinematics of ‘Fragment’, STOLEN have made a fine and worthy follow-up in ‘Eroded Creation’. They continue not to be tied down to any particular style, using an amalgam of influences to create a cerebral elation in its mix of psychedelic-tinged rock and electronics. ‘Eroded Creation’ puts STOLEN back on track and is a reminder as to why NEW ORDER were so supportive of their endeavours.

‘Eroded Creation’ is released in digital formats and available from https://stolenstolen.bandcamp.com/album/eroded-creation





Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th December 2022


For BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC, communication is as good today as it’s always been.

The musical vehicle of Dutch-based American Andy Evans, his debut album ‘Communication’ captures the spirit of the classic synth era. But then, that is not entirely surprising as the songs which form it began as 4-track cassette demos written back in the day. Aided and abetted by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder whose remix credits have included NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS alongside his studio partner Micha Adam, new life has been breathed into those demos to provide a clean electronic pop sound.

The songs reflect the ups and downs of modern life but throughout, melodies and counterpoints are omnipresent, pointing to OMD, YAZOO and early DEPECHE MODE. The sombre moods of ‘Your Greatest Fear’ start proceedings but it is ‘Moving Target’ that provides the bouncy melodicism, sounding as if KID KASIO had signed to Vince Clarke’s Reset Records, with Evans’ polarising vocal style working well alongside some discordant synths.

With rich synth hooks over a classic electro-machine beat, ‘Stateless’ follows the same appealing path as ‘Moving Target’, although the lyrics could be viewed as trite in their rhyming strategy while the track could probably do with an edit. Imagining THE RONETTES reworked by OMD, ‘Circles’ has potential but is limited vocally and lyrically while ‘Television Hill’ offers that typical Reeder rhythmic thrust but suffers from repetition.

Pacing down slightly but gently pulsating, ‘How Do We End Up Here’ benefits from the robotised voice treatments. Despite sounding as if it is about to morph into ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Radio Kootwijk’ makes use of wonderful symphonic strings but the flat vocal delivery lets down its possibilities. Similarly ‘The Jungle’ is a bit all over the place vocally despite its obvious enthusiasm.

A lament about industrialisation, ‘Light of The World’ utilises a Euro-triplet drive in Mark Reeder’s Illuminating Remix that differs from the earlier and looser single version while on the escape themed ‘Wall of Fire’, youngsters might refer to the template as synthwave.

‘Miss 4Chan’ echoes ‘Black Celebration’ with this interpolation highlighting how infectious and appealing DEPECHE MODE once were while ‘Remains Of The Day’ closes ‘Communication’ with a mournful ballad.

‘Communication’ is instrumentally strong and the production work by Mark Reeder with Micha Adam cannot be faulted. Although the album is mostly joyous, uplifting and rhythmic, Andy Evans’ vocal delivery may not be to everyone’s taste and although it is not that much different from other synth exponents of the past, his voice is left exposed in the cleaner and tighter sonic environment of today.

The advice then is to try before you buy…

‘Communication’ is released by Conzoom Records, available via https://linktr.ee/birminghamelectric





Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2022

DINER Cassini EP

Emerging Chinese singer / songwriter Diner Liu is the latest artist to follow bands such as STOLEN and Re-TROS to make a breakthrough in the West.

Born in China but also living and studying in Hong Kong and London, like Fifi Rong who collaborated with YELLO, Diner Liu is a cross culture kid.

In 2021, she released her eerie alternative rock driven debut EP ‘Inevitable’ on China’s leading independent music label Modern Sky. The second EP ‘Cassini’ sees her working with Berlin-based Mancunian Mark Reeder and his long time studio partner Micha Adam.

Having been inspired by ‘Blue Monday’, Diner Liu’s post-punk sound has been embellished by pentatonic textures and a greater use of electronic dance elements, hence the invitation for the NEW ORDER connected Reeder to be at the production helm. Influences range from PJ Harvey to traditional Chinese music with Patrick Cowley sitting in between.

With a greater but not exclusive use of synths, it is fitting that this sophomore work was conceived around the 2017 Cassini–Huygens space research mission to the planet Saturn. At the conclusion of its mission, the probe deorbited and burned up in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere. Written in London, Beijing and Berlin, Diner Liu was inspired by the mission’s parallels to her own personal health; having suffered from an extremely rare disease called LGESS, she eventually lost her uterus before she was 24.

Despite her mental and physical battles dealing with the situation, she saw that her life journey and music career were only just getting started. So just as the Cassini probe eventually burned up around Saturn, she saw a new chapter beginning, realising that “starting a family might not be the ultimate goal of my life.”

The best track on ‘Cassini’ comes with the rhythmic  ‘大星’ (‘Big Star’) which takes on a wonderfully cosmic air that comes dressed with Guzheng, a Chinese zither that even SPANDAU BALLET once used on the experimental ‘Innocence & Science’ from 1982’s ‘Diamond’ album.

Meanwhile, the colder ‘Cassini’ title song is a steadfast slice of Sci-Fi electro featuring Mark Reeder’s trademark synthbass pulse over a bangy offbeat, with the hypnotism enhanced by the enigmatic vocals as the closing mutant metallic textures provide the cerebral sensations.

The remainder of the EP offers variations on modern post-punk augmented with live guitar and drums.  ‘Athena’ musically recalls JOY DIVISION but proceedings are progressively paced up into an exotic throbbing trance while with synthy swoops and a tinkling motif, ‘Circle Of A Down’ captures a mysterious Middle Eastern flavoured vibe from Diner Liu’s angelic tones contrasting with the inherent sense of foreboding. The percussion-less ‘Exile’ is shaped by six string and ivories, but the downbeat doom of ‘Midnight Panorama’ takes an unexpected turn into dreamy electro which is reminiscent of Kid Moxie.

With a stylistic blend and commentary on the uncertainties of life, its extinction and its rebirth, this EP captures a dark romantic consciousness as all good gothically inclined journeys should. Life can be fulfilling outside of the expected conventions.

‘Cassini’ is released by Modern Sky and available now on the usual online platforms




Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th September 2022

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