Tag: Miss Kittin (Page 1 of 2)

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits. But even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

Staying within theme on a compilation though is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Now while some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via twenty notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within.

Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records had the foresight to issue a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. As well as their two great hopes, among the outsiders on board were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. While XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, this was from the band’s synth experimentation period before going more acoustic on 1982’s ‘English Settlement’.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation had actually been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a new special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ acting as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette featured more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song in place of ‘The Art Of Parties’!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so the release of ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring superb singles from the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as synth trailblazers John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by little known combo THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era, the band themselves disappearing despite securing the services of Martin Hannett to produce their debut single ‘Danceable’, but it was never finished…

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years for people to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was, so how better than to celebrate it than a compilation named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring the all-star cast of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, other acts who also got entry into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering nineteen “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again even on SOFT CELL’s own compilations.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

A tie-in with Uncut magazine celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Giorgio Moroder and for the first time on CD, the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different compared to the ones that had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of thirty-eight “synth pop classics”. For once, this was a compilation documenting the different electronic pop phases including trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this modern collection brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions in various guises. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those helping to bring the sound of vintage electronic pop into the 21st Century for the club crowd.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of electronic music at the start of the 21st Century. However the “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend in the booklet highlighted the dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. But the music from the likes of FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, ZOOT WOMAN, LADYTRON, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT, CIRC and GREEN VELVET was mostly excellent, although DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in the ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Among the highlights were ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which satirically sent up ‘Frank Sinatra’ by MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO for his own Lucky Pierre imprint, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were the-then newly configured CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed the previously unreleased ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ pulled off the feat of gathering twelve classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. Longer takes of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ by A-HA and ‘Pretty In Pink’ by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support. But the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the synthpop duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE who co-released the compilation via their own Planet Clique label. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching themselves as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions. A bonus DJ mix by MANHATTAN CLIQUE also featured.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

Electronic music of a more downtempo disposition compiled by BLANK & JONES, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken guesting on the hosting trance DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Ghost Trains’, a solo tune by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE and RÖYKSOPP vocalist Erlend Øye was a livelier number that actually worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, SPOOKY, MARCONI UNION and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with Rudi Esch’s book about the German city of Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. Featuring RIECHMANN, DAF, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, HARMONIA, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS featuring a very young Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and combinations thereof, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Hooky.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

https://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

From the team that put together the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series, the 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE (2020)

Subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this boxed set collection explored the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception. Although this featured the expected big hitters from OMD, VISAGE and JAPAN, there were rarer tracks from ULTRAVOX and SPANDAU BALLET. Lesser known highlights included ‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo THE METRONOMES with its detached female vocal and the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’ from LA DÜSSELDORF, a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section.

‘Musik Music Musique’ was released by Cherry Red Records

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


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, what ‘The Tears Of Technology’ had was a heartfelt suite of music which captured the essence of its title. At its centre was OMD’s sub-eight minute adventure ‘Sealand’ alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in courtesy of Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020, updated 16th February 2021

30 TRACKS THAT SHAPED ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

So how did ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK arrive at its discerning musical ethos?

It probably all began with a very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher named Miss Nielsen who played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’, PINK FLOYD’s ‘Echoes’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to the class, with the unusual sound of all three providing an otherworldly, yet captivating listen.

Later on, various parts of the 22 minute ‘Autobahn’ track appeared on the end credits of BBC children’s drama ‘Out Of Bounds’ and opened ‘Newsround Extra’, but 1977 was to become the true Year Zero in electronic pop. With ‘Oxygène’, ‘Sound & Vision’, ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘I Feel Love’ all hitting the UK Top 3 within months of each other, this was effectively the beginning of synths designing the future.

To celebrate the 10th birthday of the site, here is a very personal list of 30 tracks that shaped the site. These are primarily songs that solidified and expanded the interest in synth or later provided hope in the face of real music snobbery and the return of the guitar in the wake of Britpop.

There will be grumbles that the likes of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, HEAVEN 17, YAZOO, DURAN DURAN, TALK TALK, PROPAGANDA, CLIENT, RÖYKSOPP and others are not featured, and certainly if this list was a 40, they would all be included. But this list is an impulsive snapshot of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s own journey in music, as opposed to being a history of electronic pop or a best of.

What? No industrial, acid house, techno or dubstep you ask? Well, that’s because ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK disliked the majority of it. While this is not always the case, the site has generally about synthpop ie pop music using synthesizers, as can be seen from this rather esteemed electronic roll of honour 😉

This is the history that the too cool for school media, who think everything jumped from KRAFTWERK to Detroit Techno in one fell swoop, don’t like to mention…

With a restriction of one track per artist moniker and presented in yearly and then alphabetical order featuring music from before the site came into being, here is why is it how it is…


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Oxygène (1976)

For many including Jean-Michel Jarre, ‘Popcorn’ for their first experience of a synthpop hit and he released his own version under the moniker of THE POPCORN ORCHESTRA in 1972. But while working on his first proper full length electronic album in 1976, Jarre adapted a melodic phrase from the late Gershon Kingsley’s composition as the main theme of what was to become the project’s lead single. That composition was ‘Oxygène IV’ and the rest is history.

Available on the album ‘Oxygène’ via Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


DAVID BOWIE Sound & Vision (1977)

Exploring a “whole new school of pretension” with his new creative muse Brian Eno, ‘Sound & Vision’ saw David Bowie capture a tense European aesthetic. Utilising an uplifting rhythm guitar hook and an ARP Solina string machine, the most distinctive feature was the pitch shifted percussion, produced by Tony Visconti feeding the snare drum though an Eventide H910 Harmonizer. The half instrumental track was a taster of the approach that was to come with the half instrumental parent album ‘Low’.

Available on the album ‘Low’ via EMI Music

https://www.davidbowie.com/


SPACE Magic Fly (1977)

SPACE was the brainchild of Didier Marouani who went under the pseudonym of Ecama and formed the collective in 1977 with Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top. Together with compatriot Jean-Michel Jarre and a certain Giorgio Moroder also in the charts, the space disco of the iconic ‘Magic Fly’ heralded the start of a new European electronic sound within the mainstream. With its catchy melody and lush accessible futurism, ‘Magic Fly’ sold millions all over the world.

Available on the album ‘Magic Fly’ via Virgin France

https://marouani.space/


DONNA SUMMER I Feel Love (1977)

Working with Donna Summer on an album called ‘I Remember Yesterday’, producer Giorgio Moroder wanted to feature a track that represented “the sound of the future”. Employing the Moog Modular system with an 8-step analogue sequencer plus a triplet delay to create the pulsing synthesizer lines and metronomic beat, ‘I Feel Love’ changed the course of music. Summer’s hypnotic Middle Eastern falsetto was an accident, coming as a result of the track being laid down outside of her usual vocal range.

Available on the album ‘I Feel Love: The Collection’ via Spectrum

http://donnasummer.com/


KRAFTWERK The Model (1978)

Using a Micromoog for its iconic hook, ‘The Model’ was inspired by KRAFTWERK’s visits to night clubs in the more vibrant city of Cologne 30km down the road from Düsseldorf where their iconic Kling Klang studio was based. There, they would observe beautiful models drinking champagne and seek their company. It was quite the antithesis of the robot image that the quartet were portraying. Sonically ahead of its time, it became a UK No1 four years after its initial release in 1982.

Available on the album ‘The Man Machine’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


SPARKS No1 Song In Heaven (1979)

In a creative rut following their massive UK success in the glam-era, the Mael Brothers had found ‘I Feel Love’ awe inspiring. A journalist friend put SPARKS into contact with Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band and set to work with them immediately. The first result was the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ where Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitted well with the electro-disco sound, while the programmed backing meant Ron Mael could maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com/


TUBEWAY ARMY Are Friends Electric? (1979)

Still using the group name of TUBEWAY ARMY at the behest of Beggars Banquet, the astoundingly long ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with its diabolus in musica structure became the entry point for many into electronic music. It was Synth Britannia’s ‘Starman’ moment when it was featured on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and Old Grey Whistle Test’ during the same week. When it reached No1 in the UK, life was never the same for Gary Numan, the pale-faced front man of what turned out to be a phantom band.

Available on the album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


JOHN FOXX Underpass (1980)

Departing ULTRAVOX after the ‘Systems Of Romance’ album and now making music along with an ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody and a Roland CR78 Compurhythm, John Foxx realised his own starker vision of electronic music. Engineered by Gareth Jones who was to later notably work with DEPECHE MODE, ‘Underpass’ channelled the dystopian writings of JG Ballard in his lyrical imagery, with Foxx added that the English novelist was “addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’.”

Available on the album ‘Metamatic’ via Metamatic Records

http://metamatic.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Black Hit Of Space (1980)

A track that “weighed more than Saturn”, ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ sounded extraordinary when it opened the second album by THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The Sci-Fi lyrics about an infinite pop hit were strangely out there while harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving the mixing desk; “We were also experimenting with guitar pedals” Martyn Ware told The Electricity Club, “All that was a reaction to the cleanness of the previous album so we overcompensated.”

Available on the album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

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


JAPAN Quiet Life (1980)

The resonant heart of ‘Quiet Life’ was a Roland System 700 driven by Richard Barbieri’s snappy eight step Oberheim Mini-sequencer. Complimented by Mick Karn’s distinctively fluid fretless bass, Rob Dean’s clean guitar lines and David Sylvian’s lyrical conclusion that the band were outsiders in the environment they were born into, it was a sure-fire hit… but not yet as Ariola Hansa release it as a single in the UK until 1981. But meanwhile, JAPAN had invented DURAN DURAN!

Available on the album ‘Quiet Life’ via Sony Music

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


OMD Messages (1980)

Within the environment of colder electronic pioneers such as Gary Numan and John Foxx, OMD were perhaps the first of the warmer synthesizer bands. ‘Messages’ utilised a pulsing ‘Repeat’ function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob. Re-recorded from the original album version under the helm of producer Mike Howlett, he harnessed a template of basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies, netting a No13 UK chart hit.

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


ULTRAVOX Astradyne (1980)

Of ‘Astradyne’, Billy Currie told The Electricity Club: “Midge started with that strong melody, Chris’ bass was also a very strong feature. I played a piano counter melody behind. The track was so strong that we felt at ease to lengthen it with a long textural piano bit that is sort of bell-like with the metronomic bass drum beats and the violin tremolo solo… Midge came up with that final section lift taking it out of the long ARP solo. I double it! It is very celebratory at the end…”

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis/EMI Records

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


VISAGE Fade To Grey (1980)

Conceived during soundchecks under the working title of ‘Toot City’ while they were playing on Gary Numan’s first concert tour, Chris Payne, Billy Currie and Ced Sharpley had recorded the track at Genetic Studios as a souvenir keepsake. Midge Ure later came up lyrics and a melody when the track was added to the debut VISAGE album and the rest was history. Capturing the cinematic pomp of the New Romantic movement in all its glory, ‘Fade To Grey’ became a No1 hit in West Germany.

Available on the album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records

http://www.therealvisage.com/


DEPECHE MODE New Life (1981)

Written by Vince Clarke and produced by Daniel Miller, DEPECHE MODE fulfilled the Mute label founder’s vision of a teenage pop group with synthesizers that he had imagined and conceived for SILICON TEENS. Despite its danceable bubblegum appeal and catchy synthesizer hooks, ‘New Life’ also featured some intricate folk vocal harmonies which made it quite distinct from the chanty nature of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ which was also out at the same time.

Available on the album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Theme For Great Cities (1981)

The expansive instrumental ‘Theme for Great Cities’ was initially been given away as a freebie having initially been part of ‘Sister Feelings Call’, a seven track EP given gratis to early purchasers of SIMPLE MINDS’ breakthrough fourth album ‘Sons & Fascination’. Starting with some haunting vox humana before a combination of CAN and TANGERINE DREAM takes hold, the rhythm section covered in dub echo drove what is possibly one of the greatest synth signatures ever!

Available on the album ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ via Virgin/EMI Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


SOFT CELL Tainted Love (1981)

SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ became ubiquitous as Synth Britannia’s first true crossover record, reaching No1 in UK, Germany, Australia and Canada while also breaking the US Top 10 a year later. Written by Ed Cobb, ‘Tainted Love’ was recorded by Gloria Jones and became a Wigan Casino favourite on the Northern Soul scene. As a fan of that scene, David Ball knew the song and took it into haunting electronic torch territory, while Marc Almond added an honestly spirited vocal.

Available on the album ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ via Mercury Records

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


ASSOCIATES Party Fears Two (1982)

With its iconic honky tonk piano line and sophisticated arrangement, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia, made all the more resonant by Billy Mackenzie’s operatic prowess. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection.

Available on the album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Union Square

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


BLANCMANGE I’ve Seen The Word (1982)

Harrow College of Art students Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe were unlikely pop stars, but an appearance on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ led to a deal with London Records as well as support slots with DEPECHE MODE and JAPAN. Using a Korg MS20 synched to a Linn Drum Computer as its rhythmic backbone, the haunting melancholy of ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ fused the sombre lyricism of JOY DIVISION with the melodies and textures of OMD via a Roland Jupiter 8.

Available on the album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

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


CHINA CRISIS Christian (1982)

Merseyside duo CHINA CRISIS are probably the most under rated band of their generation. The haunting ‘Christian’ was a song about the fate of soldiers in the trenches during World War One. Slow and melancholic, ‘Christian’ was as unlikely a hit single as ‘Ghosts’ by JAPAN was, but in a far more open-minded and diverse period in pop music than today, acts with a less obvious rock ‘n’ roll outlook were generally in with a chance; it reached No12 in the UK singles charts.

Available on the album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/


NEW ORDER Temptation (1982)

‘Temptation’ was NEW ORDER’s self-produced electronic breakthrough away from the haunting legacy of JOY DIVISION. The recording itself was marvellously flawed, with Stephen Morris’ overdriven Simmons snare panned too far to the right while band members could also be heard calling instructions and tutting. The pulsing hypnotism of the triggered ARP Quadra and the iconic “oooh-oo-ooh” vocal refrain made ‘Temptation’ rather joyous and magical.

Available on the album ‘Singles’ via WEA Records

http://www.neworder.com/


BRONSKI BEAT Smalltown Boy (1984)

When Jimmy Somerville, Steve Bronski and the late Larry Steinbachek made their first ever TV appearance performing on BBC2’s ‘ORS’, BRONSKI BEAT were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, their minimal synth sound and Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. The trio had sought to be more outspoken and political in their position as openly gay performers and the tale of ‘Smalltown Boy’ about a gay teenager leaving his family and fleeing his hometown made an important statement.

Available on the album ‘The Age Of Consent’ via London Records

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


PET SHOP BOYS West End Girls (1985)

It was with the re-recorded Stephen Hague version of ‘West End Girls’ that PET SHOP BOYS hit No1 in both the UK and US in 1986. Interestingly, the character of its distinctive bass synth was achieved by Hague coercing a reluctant Chris Lowe into hand playing the riff. Meanwhile, the track fulfilled Neil Tennant’s concept of the duo sounding “like an English rap group” with a dour demeanour that was the antithesis of WHAM! It started an imperial phase for PET SHOP BOYS which included three more No1s.

Available on the album ‘PopArt’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

In today’s world, DEPECHE MODE influenced acts are common place but in 1988, this was highly unusual. Taking ‘Some Great Reward’ as their template, CAMOUFLAGE developed on the industrial flavoured synthpop of ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘People Are People’ which the Basildon boys had all but abandoned from ‘Black Celebration’ onwards. Probably the best single DM never recorded. while ‘The Great Commandment’ was a hit in Europe and the US, it made no impression in Britain.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records / Universal Music

http://www.camouflage-music.com/


ERASURE A Little Respect (1988)

Produced by Stephen Hague, ‘A Little Respect’ was perfection from the off with its lively combination of Vince Clarke’s pulsing programming and strummed acoustic guitar. As the busy rhythmical engine kicked in, Andy Bell went from a tenor to a piercing falsetto to provide the dynamic highs and lows that are always omnipresent in all the great pop songs like ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Careless Whisper’. Something of a crossover record for ERASURE, ‘A Little Respect’ was covered by WHEATUS in 2000.

Available on the album ‘Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


DUBSTAR Not So Manic Now (1995)

DUBSTAR straddled Britpop with a twist of Synth Britannia. ‘Not So Manic Now’ was a song by Wakefield indie band BRICK SUPPLY, but the trio made it their own with the Northern lass earthiness of Sarah Blackwood providing the chilling commentary of an attack on a helpless pensioner. Stephen Hague’s wonderful production fused programmed electronics with guitars and cello in fine fashion, while the incessant programmed rhythms drove the song along without being obtrusive to the horrifying story.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


GOLDFRAPP Lovely Head (2000)

It is interesting to think that GOLDFRAPP were initially labelled as a trip-hop act. Their superb stratospheric debut ‘Felt Mountain’ had Ennio Morricone’s widescreen inflections but to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. The opening song ‘Lovely Head’ was laced with deviant sexual tension. Will Gregory’s mad Korg MS20 treatments on Alison Goldfrapp’s operatic screaming produced some thrilling musical moments.

Available on the album ‘Felt Mountain’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER You & Us (2001)

Describing the relationship between artist and fan, this was another throbbing Moroder-inspired cacophony of electronic dance from Michel Amato with a dirty clanking Korg KR55 Rhythm used to great effect. Deliciously hypnotic, the swimmy ARP synths drowned any sorrows as the pulsing euphoria took a hold. Miss Kittin didn’t sing as much as deadpan her thoughts, but her sexy Grenoble charm carried off what was a rather superb Electroclash anthem.

Available on the album ‘The First Album’ via Nobodys Bizzness

http://www.misskittin.com/


LADYTRON Seventeen (2002)

LADYTRON became one of the first bands for many years to primarily use synthesizers as their tools of expression and attain critical acclaim. Their debut ‘604’showed electro potential in their initial quest to find ‘yesterday’s tomorrow’. With octave shifts galore to satirical lyrics about the X-Factor/Next Year’s Top Model generation, ‘Seventeen’ demonstrated the tactile nature of analogue synthesis that was key to a revival in fortunes for electronic pop in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

http://www.ladytron.com/


THE KNIFE Silent Shout (2006)

Probably the most influential electronic act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Those long winter nights certainly had their effect on siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer. ‘Silent Shout’ was hypnotic understated rave with the a quota of creepy Nordic eccentricity. The sharp appregiator and ambient percussion melted with Karin Dreijer’s heavily pitch-shifted low register vocals providing a menacing counterpoint to her younger brother’s vibrant electronic lattice.

Available on the album ‘Silent Shout’ via Brille Records

https://theknife.net/


MARSHEAUX Dream Of A Disco (2007)

Is a cover or is it Memorex? This interpolation of ‘Space Age Love Song’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS provided MARSHEAUX with their most immediate number yet. Borrowing the uniformed look of CLIENT but applying a pure synthpop template, Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou became notable for their marketing masterstrokes. The parent ‘Peek-A-Boo’ CD included a paper bag ghost mask. Fans wore it, took pictures and sent them to the duo… around 3,500 pictures were gathered!

Available on the album ‘Peek-A-Boo’ via Undo Records

https://www.marsheaux.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th March 2020

FRAGILE SELF Fragile Self

“Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness”: Sigmund Freud

Exploring states of mind from madness to creativity, FRAGILE SELF are a minimal electronic duo aiming to create dark pop music to communicate the detachment often felt within the human condition.

Anil Aykan and Jonathan Barnbrook are FRAGILE SELF, thoughtful visual artists with a strong sense of partnership in music through their previous work with personalities as diverse as David Bowie, John Foxx, Hannah Peel and Rihanna.

Like a musical thesis on psychotherapy, the self-titled album is released on the 120th anniversary of the first publication of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud.

Aykan had an early flirtation with Black Metal with her handling the poetry, she comes over like an existentialist cross between MISS KITTIN and Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON which suits the brooding and ritualistic exploration that is FRAGILE SELF.

Mixed by Erland Cooper and shaped by modular synthesis, Jonathan Barnbrook said ”The thing that interests me most about it is the changing of electronic voltage that affects pitch, timbre and time. It is like you are playing with the building blocks of the universe. The same thing that makes the sound of drum, drives the human heart to beat or fires neutrons in the brain that define consciousness.”

With an incessant mechanical rhythm and stark vocal phrasing, the opener ‘I Loved Alone’ takes on the fierce aura of GAZELLE TWIN and a detached expression of feeling within the language.

Beginning with a recorded quote from Fritz Perls who coined the term ‘Gestalt therapy’, ‘This Is My Existence’ is brutal with Aykan exclaiming “memory is cancer”, Barnbrook’s doomily emulates his hero John Foxx with an eerie synth theme over a minimal structure.

The art funk of ‘Bertha’ is mutantly danceable, the deadpan vocalisation does recall MISS KITTIN but compliments the stark electronic backing, especially when Aykan percussively slips into German to recall the attitude of Berlin punks MALARIA!

The eponymous title track squelches with bass rumbles and electronic chainsaws while ‘Patients’ does possess some unsettling rhythmic fervour in a white noise barrage and talk of “broken histories” before going aggressively militaristic.

The noise attack on ‘Deperson’ is the darkest track on ‘Fragile Self’, swoops and gongs do battle over an industrial backbone in eine eintürzende Wand aus Tönen. The reverberant cerebral concept piece ‘Surrogate’ hints at Wendy Carlos and dark Jean-Michel Jarre; aesthetically schizophrenic, it is also something which also shapes the sinister arpeggio and chant laden ‘Leon’.

A syncussive pulse soundtracks the horror mood of ‘Need For Sanctuary’ with creepy Theremin-like qualities for a slice of vibrato laden avant-wave. ’Journey Taken’ though is a battle of machines in alternate quartet bursts in all frequencies before unsettlingly ending on the doom of church bells affirming Sartre’s view that “Hell is other people”.

The debut offering from FRAGILE SELF is an intense uneasy listen, but it is a well-crafted and yes, impeccably designed art statement. There’s aggression and agitation but it is aurally cathartic and rewarding.

So if the idea of MISS KITTIN collaborating with GAZELLE TWIN in an experimental electronic backdrop appeals, then this record will help highlight how “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength”.


‘Fragile Self’ is released by Sugarcane Recordings / Daperson Society as a vinyl LP, CD and 480 page book with download code, available now direct from http://www.fragileself.com/vinylcdbookdownload

Download also available from https://fragileself.bandcamp.com/

http://www.fragileself.com

https://www.facebook.com/fragileself/

https://twitter.com/fragile_self

https://www.instagram.com/fragile_self/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Teri Varhol
11th November 2019

FRAGILE SELF Interview

Several years in the making, the first self-titled product from FRAGILE SELF is an ambitious statement on mental health and the human condition.

Released as a CD, vinyl album and a 480 page book which starts and ends with reconstructions of ‘before and after’ treatment for mental illness, the thoughtfully conceived project is the work of Anil Aykan and Jonathan Barnbrook.

The couple are best known for their iconic visual designs for DAVID BOWIE and JOHN FOXX. Among the subjects inspiring their music are Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and Bertha Pappenheim, the first patient of psychotherapy.

While the music is by its nature, not an easy listen, over ten crafted electronic tracks, ‘Fragile Self’ is intense but ultimately compelling. Anil Aykan and Jonathan Barnbrook kindly chatted about their fragile selves…

How did FRAGILE SELF come about?

Jonathan: I love music, it’s the reason I design record covers, that emotional relationship between visuals and sound is something that has always fascinated me, so it got to the point where I felt that the next step to really push myself creatively was by controlling and experimenting with both music and visuals together.

Anil: FRAGILE SELF enabled me to communicate the things that are important to me, express parts of me which I believe others would find inadmissible. I have never had up until now a tool which has been so liberating. Even when I wasn’t actively making music I am inclined to sound; the expressive capacity of human voice; speaking words, tension in speech, muttered sentences, obsessively repeated words, speaking becomes singing… I always record or note down what I find interesting when I am on the bus or walk in the street.

The subject matter of the album – mental health is quite unusual, did you feel that electronic instrumentation was the most appropriate way to express this subject?

Anil: It is unusual subject matter, but I briefly studied Art Therapy, so I was naturally interested in the subject but the specific thing discussed in the songs is mental health in relation to creativity – how far do you go towards abnormality when you are being creative and at what point does it become madness? There is also the more classic side of the pain inherent in a love song. It is just that the love in the songs here is directed towards people who have mental disorders such as narcissism or borderline personality disorder. They are of course metaphors for any kinds of love though.

Jonathan: I’ve been obsessed with electronic music since about the age of 11. The thing that interests me most about it is the changing of electronic voltage that affects pitch, timbre and time. It is like you are playing with the building blocks of the universe. The same thing that makes the sound of drum, drives the human heart to beat or fires neutrons in the brain that define consciousness. Also you will guess of course, I share an interest with Anil in more unusual and extreme states of mind.

Who has influenced the music of FRAGILE SELF?

Anil: ‘Minimal Wave’ is a big influence, bands such as OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS and DEUX. I also really like LADYTRON. COCTEAU TWINS are very important – not just because of the way Elizabeth Fraser uses her voice but also the way they played with language. English is not my first language so when I sing in English I feel I notice more the words as abstract sounds more – this is as important as the meaning of the lyrics I write.

Jonathan: You’ve probably guessed that I’m obsessed with JOHN FOXX, He creates quite experimental music but within the confines of ‘pop’ music and with a very singular view of the world, that’s inspiring for me. Also how could I not be influenced by Bowie, not just musically but also with the way he takes influences into his music from all areas of art.

Do you each have set roles?

Anil: I am responsible for all the lyrics and most of the melodies, drums etc, I used to be a drummer, so rhythm is very important to me.

Jonathan: I tend to centre more on the arrangements and sounds. I really like the technical side of electronic music, not just production but how you can for instance create complex sounds just using simple sine waves. I help a little on the words and also make some of the melodies, but the poetry and atmosphere are very much Anil.

You mention melodies, so is FRAGILE SELF very much ‘pop’ based as opposed to being experimental, because the ‘Minimal Wave’ sub-genre can be notorious for its lack of tunes?

Jonathan: It was important that the songs followed a traditional pop structure, but what we brought into that was quite avant-garde, be it sound generation or subject matter. So there is a lot of darkness and psychosis but it is contained within a format that we hope people find easy to access. Having said that after the album comes out we will be periodically releasing remixes – that are much more experimental which explore the psychology of the songs in a less structured form.

The inevitable question, have you gone the hardware or software route with FRAGILE SELF?

Jonathan: It’s interesting because we came to music from design, so we were very comfortable with using software for all of our creative works, however as we have progressed as FRAGILE SELF, particular on the later tracks, we have been using more and more hardware. Now we now have a huge Eurorack modular system which we experiment on a lot. A physical interface does make a real difference to the sounds you make and something generative like modular synthesis is really inspiring.

So as visual artists, how would you like to present your music?

Anil: For us the two absolutely go together, it’s not like we’ve finished the album and now it is onto the visual design. One influenced the other, the images changed the sounds we made, and the sounds had to have the exactly the right images to express them.

Jonathan: Actually It wasn’t like that in the beginning. Initially I was so desperate not to be dismissed as another “designer playing with his laptop”, that I didn’t want to do any visuals at all but it just developed naturally and we realised since we have control of the music and visuals this was the chance to do something quite pure, new and absolutely on our terms with the role the visuals had.

Anil: One of the album releases is a 480 page book and I think it is the best expression of FRAGILE SELF. It was a chance to show all of the influences on the songs, our thoughts around them. Where the lyrics are from. However we were quite careful not to say too often “this song is about this and this” but give a more poetic interpretation to give people room to create their own meaning and resonate in their own lives. That is very important.

The art funk of ‘Bertha’ interestingly utilises what sounds like a plucked sounding texture, how did the track come about?

Jonathan: There is a drastic change of sounds and rhythms throughout the song, I wanted to give it the feeling of classic German 1930s ‘cabaret’ like it was a theatrical event that you would see on stage where the performance would change melody or pace several times.

Anil: The song is about Bertha Pappenheim, one of the first patients of psychoanalysis, who was “treated” by Doctor Breuer and Freud. She was a highly intelligent and like all women at that time, she was repressed with no opportunity to be herself. She had a nervous breakdown at age 21 but emerged as a creative leader and social reformer eight years later. When I started making this song, I was in Istanbul, there must be an influence from being there. I think the best music scene of Turkey was the 70s funk that my father listened to. The juxtaposition of the heavy subject and funky groove just felt right for this song.

‘Patients’ does possess some unsettling rhythmic fervour?

Jonathan: The song uses lyrics taken out of a doctor’s handbook, so it was important that the singing had that unemotional, repetitive feeling that medical text has when dealing with things such as birth, death or madness. These are intense, hugely important events, but are treated in a very pragmatic way.

Anil: Our songs always start with a conversation between lyrics and drum beats – the emotion created between them and the way the change of rhythm can change the meaning. This is very different from the more conventional approach of drums providing a structure of the songs. To us they are everything, the melody and the development of the lyrics are usually a development or a variation of the rhythm.

To casual listeners, the deadpan vocalisation does recall MISS KITTIN but compliments the stark electronic backing throughout the album? Any thoughts?

Anil: I take your comment as a compliment! I find the tension between being very expressive with the voice and suppressing emotion in the voice really interesting. A lack of emotion can often just heighten the feeling when you are delivering lyrics which are full of pain or darkness. It can also have an interesting brutality which further pushes the emotion.

Jonathan: I love Anil’s voice. When we were recording the vocals it was very clear that Anil’s accent should come through. Meaning that if the words were not perfectly said, it added more authenticity about where Anil comes from and feeling to the songs. The accent and the deadpan vocals also the give the same feeling as when you hear NICO or GINA X PERFORMANCE – you immediately associate their accents with a certain dark psychology.

Which tracks are each your particular favourites on the album?

Jonathan: Well I really like the last 2 tracks, ‘Need For Sanctuary’ and ‘Journey Taken’, the way they end the album, they really do what I remember albums are supposed to do when you listen to them in their entirety – take you on a journey deeper into the psychology of the album. The dark sounds in particular on ’Need For Sanctuary’ are a sound palette I really love.

Anil: I like ‘Bertha’ – most because of the subject matter but also the sound. ‘Deperson’ is the most personal song on the album, after I recorded the lyrics I had to go out. When I was walking around I was still totally consumed by the music and the meaning of the words. I felt so alienated from my surroundings and saw the world in a very singular way. I think that is a good mark of creating a song that is honest and authentic.

Who do you think FRAGILE SELF will appeal to?

Jonathan: We don’t really know who the audience is, and in some ways it is important not to limit the project by worrying too much. Obviously there will be people who will be interested in the graphics work of the studio, but it is a serious attempt to show how visuals and music relate so we hope it will appeal to people outside that.

Anil: We might even get some psychotherapists interested too!

Is the concert aspect of presenting the work somewhere you would like to venture?

Anil: Definitely, we really want to see how people directly react to the music. Also being on stage and singing these songs is going to be a very emotional experience that I am keen to try.

Jonathan: It is another big project entirely though – how to translate all of this into a live form. Obviously people are expecting something visual from us on stage, so we are planning that right now, again something new and very exciting for us.


ELECTRICITY.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to FRAGILE SELF

‘Fragile Self’ is released by Sugarcane Recordings / Daperson Society on 4th November 2019 as a vinyl LP, CD and 480 page book with download code, pre-order from http://www.fragileself.com/vinylcdbookdownload

Download also available from https://fragileself.bandcamp.com/

http://www.fragileself.com

https://www.facebook.com/fragileself/

https://twitter.com/fragile_self

https://www.instagram.com/fragile_self/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd November 2019

MISS KITTIN Calling From The Stars

MissKittin-Calling-cover-smallFor her third solo album, the one-time Queen of Electroclash MISS KITTIN has ambitiously issued a new double opus entitled ‘Calling From The Stars’.

Grenoble born Caroline Hervé first found fame in the electronic revival of the early 21st Century, working with THE HACKER, FELIX DA HOUSECAT and GOLDEN BOY although she did not actually release a solo record until 2004’s ‘I Com’.

Her most recent album ‘Two’ was in 2009 and her second collaboration with THE HACKER. But for ‘Calling From The Stars’, she has recorded alone within the cocoon of a closed mezzanine in her flat.

She said: “I think I wanted to write very simply this time… I’m not writing with so many metaphors any more – it’s actually very hard just to write simple things. I just wanted to write very good, strong melodies.”

The collection begins well with the compelling minimal synthesized templates of ‘Flash Forward’ and ‘Come Into My House’, both percussively vibrant with pulsing bass and danceable rhythms. ‘Come Into My House’ has the particular bonus of what sounds like an electronic cat being sucked though a vacuum cleaner! New single ‘Bassline’ though is a little steadier while the ‘Calling From The Stars’ titled track is spaced out with primitive string machine washes, MISS KITTIN nonchalantly and charmingly deadpan.

Heading back into rawer techno, ‘Life Is My Teacher’ captures some hypnotic rhythmical atmospheres. Vocalising in English and Japanese, ‘Maneki Neko’ is trademark Kittin, its chorus not wholly unlike ‘Rippin Kittin’, her cult club smash with GOLDEN BOY in 2002.

Much more mechanical though is ‘Tears Like Kisses’ but something completely unexpected is her cover of REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’. Musically, it sounds like an outtake from ERASURE’s ‘Other People’s Songs’ collection and is at odds with the remainder of ‘Calling From The Stars’.

This effectively begins the more sedate half of the album although much of the material is actually far too lively and percussive to be considered ambient. But it’s not particularly dancey either!

‘Only You’ presents a drifting electronic soundscape with Ms Hervé scatting the song’s title in a DOT ALLISON stylee. On the following track ‘Cosmic Love Radiation’, the sequencer pattern drives the track along quite obtrusively while again, the title is again repeated vocally… it’s as if she has forgotten to write any words!

Of course, KRAFTWERK have made a career out of this trick, but those used to MISS KITTIN’s witty lyrical observations on tracks such as ‘You & Us’, ‘1982’ or ‘Frank Sinatra’ may be disappointed with this approach. ‘Ballad Of The 23rd Century’ is a potential science fiction series theme and quite pretty in places but as this second part of the album progresses, there are fewer vocals and more lengthy bursts of experimentation; ‘Sunset Mission’ for example does turn into a bit of a laser gunfight while ‘I Don’t Know How To Move’ collages piano, voice samples and reverbed snaps with a repeated squelch mantra over its seven and a half minutes.

But like with that other double album out at the moment, THE KNIFE’s ‘Shaking The Habitual’, ‘Calling From The Stars’ is a very challenging listen to attempt in its entirety on one sitting. MISS KITTIN’s offering is perhaps more immediate at the beginning but ventures into more abstract territories that may reap rewards on return visits. It is certainly a brave project and for that, MISS KITTIN should be commended.


With thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

‘Calling From The Stars’ is by released wSphere Records

MISS KITTIN’s 2013 European Tour includes:

Barcelona Razzmatazz (30th April), London XOYO (1st May), Brussels Les Nuits Botanique @ L’Orangerie (3rd May), Berlin Berghain (8th May), Paris Le Trianon (17th May)

www.misskittin.com

www.facebook.com/misskittin


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th April 2013

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