Tag: New Musik (Page 1 of 2)

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1980

David Bowie had famously dropped in to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE at The Nashville in late 1978 and hailed them as “the future of rock ‘n’ roll”.

But it was TUBEWAY ARMY fronted by Gary Numan who beat THE HUMAN LEAGUE to the top of the UK singles charts in Summer 1979 with Are Friends Electric?’ while just a few weeks earlier, SPARKS had been become willing conspirators with Giorgio Moroder on ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ to effectively invent the synth duo.

Although it was the dawn of synth, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. The landscape was changing and the seed of what became the New Romantic movement had been planted.

Following the critical mauling he received for his 1979 album ‘Lodger’ but aware of his burgeoning influence in these futuristic sounds, Bowie headed down to The Blitz with RCA assistant and club regular Jacqueline Bucknell to cast extras including the late Steve Strange for the video of his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’. It hit the top of UK charts and confirmed that once again “There’s old wave. There’s new wave. And there’s David Bowie…”

While Bowie’s was not an electronic artist in the way some of the next generation of artists had declared themselves, he couldn’t resist a sly dig at the acts that he’d inspired, using the line “same old thing in brand new drag” on the track ‘Teenage Wildlife’ from his next album ‘Scary Monsters’. And he was eventually to beat previous winner Gary Numan to the year’s ‘Best Male Singer’ accolade at the BBC endorsed British Rock & Pop Awards.

Belatedly looking back to 42 years ago before automatic stations came, here are 20 albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1980. They are listed in alphabetical order with a restriction of one album per act.


BUGGLES The Age Of Plastic

Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes met while working with Tina Charles and her producer Biddu. Together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. From the parent album ‘The Age Of Plastic’, ‘Astroboy’ developed on the duo’s sonic adventures while ‘The Plastic Age’ and ‘Clean Clean’ provided further if minor hits. Horn would go on become a top record producer.

‘The Age Of Plastic’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

https://twitter.com/Trevor_Horn_


DALEK I Compass Kum’Pas

Before OMD, the electronic duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes had left to join their live band. Although Alan Gill’s vocals could polarise opinion, ‘Destiny’ was their most immediate song with a precise percussive appeal while ‘The World’ was eccentric and retro-futuristic.

‘Compass Kum’Pas’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites

The success of the singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ attracted a loyal fanbase, so a FAD GADGET album  ‘Fireside Favourites’ was eagerly anticipated. Developing on the minimal industrialism of the singles, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while offering his own brand of romantic macabre in the fear of the imminent nuclear apocalypse was the neo-title song ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/fad-gadget


JOHN FOXX Metamatic

On the ULTRAVOX! eponymous debut,John Foxx announced “I want to be a machine”. On signing to Virgin Records as a solo artist, he virtually went the full hog with the seminal JG Ballard inspired ’Metamatic’. ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ were surprise hit singles that underlined the dystopian times while the fabulous ‘A New Kind Of Man’ and the deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ were pure unadulterated Sci-Fi driven by the cold mechanics of a Roland Compurhythm.

‘Metamatic’ is still available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HARALD GROSSKOPF Synthesist

Having worked with Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching, drummer turned keyboard player Harald Grosskopf took the plunge to go solo with the mind bending album ‘Synthesist’. A work comprising of eight instrumentals that blended a sonic tapestry of synthesizer soundscapes with drumming that provided colour as opposed to dominance, it musically followed in the exquisite tradition of his Berlin electronic friends.

‘Synthesist‘ is still available via by Bureau B

https://www.haraldgrosskopf.de/englisch/home.html


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Travelogue

With THE HUMAN LEAGUE learning lessons from their debut ‘Reproduction’, ‘Travelogue’ had more presence by creatively utilising the harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving their studio desk. ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ had its surreal Sci-Fi lyrics while ‘Dreams Of Leaving’ was a fantastically emotive slice of prog synth. There were glorious cover versions in ‘Only After Dark’ and ‘Gordon’s Gin’. While it was a breakthrough, all was not happy…

‘Travelogue’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://martynwareofficial.co.uk/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids

Dropped by Ariola Hansa, JAPAN found a refuge at Virgin Records. The bossa nova driven ‘Swing’ explored exotic grooves while the haunting ‘Nightporter’ was the ultimate Erik Satie tribute. An interest in Japanese technopop produced the brilliant ‘Methods Of Dance’ and saw leader David Sylvian collaborate with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Ryuichi Sakamoto on  ‘Taking Islands In Africa’.

‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ is still available via Virgin Records

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


JOY DIVISION Closer

While not strictly an electronic album in full, half of ‘Closer’ was dominated by polyphonic synthesizers. Featuring an ARP Omni and an early version of Simmons drums, ‘Isolation’ was the most electronic track JOY DIVISION ever recorded. On the second side, ‘Heart & Soul’, ‘The Eternal’ and ‘Decades’ provided the solemn but beautiful Gothic backdrop producer by Martin Hannett for Ian Curtis’ elaborate musical suicide note.

‘Closer’ is still available via Rhino

http://joydivisionofficial.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Individuellos

LA DÜSSELDORF were fronted by the late Klaus Dinger of NEU! There was a greater presence of electronics and the first half of ‘Individuellos’was dominated by variations on ‘Menschen’, a grand statement sounding like a blueprint for Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’. ‘Dampfriemen’ was a quirky slice of synth oompah with comedic chants and a kazoo section while the piano laden ‘Das Yvönnchen’ provided a beautiful closer.

‘Individuellos’ is still available via Warner Germany

https://www.discogs.com/artist/152540-La-Düsseldorf


NEW MUSIK From A To B

Time has shown that Tony Mansfield and NEW MUSIK with their strummed guitar alongside pretty synth melodies were underrated. Featuring the hits ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘This World Of Water’ and ‘Sanctuary’ as well as ‘On Islands’ which was later covered by CAMOUFLAGE, the band were dismissed as a novelty act due to the silly voices in their songs. Mansfield went on to produce A-HA, NAKED EYES and VICIOUS PINK.

‘From A To B’ is still available via Lemon Records

https://www.new-musik.co.uk/


GARY NUMAN Telekon

The negative side of fame got into the psyche of Gary Numan and his new songs took on a more personal downbeat nature away from the Sci-Fi dystopia of his previous work. ‘This Wreckage’ and ‘Please Push No More’ summed up the self-doubt but while ‘Remind Me To Smile’ could have been a single, ‘Telekon’ suffered from not having the hit single ‘We Are Glass’ and ‘I Die: You Die’ included on the original LP release.

‘Telekon’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

OMD released two albums in 1980 but their self-titled debut captured Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys using the most basic equipment, the duo not even having a polyphonic synth at the time. With energetic post-punk synth numbers such as ‘Electricity’ and ‘Bunker Soldiers’, on the other side of the coin were ‘Almost’ and ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’. An early version of ‘Messages’ pointed to hit singles.

‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ is still available via Virgin Records

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


ROBERT PALMER Clues

Although rooted in the blues via his previous band VINEGAR JOE, Robert Palmer took an interest in synths having become a fan of Gary Numan. That led to two collaborations including a version of ‘I Dream Of Wires’ released before Numan’s own recording and the Eastern flavoured ‘Found You Now’. The electronic centrepiece was the beautifully world weary ‘Johnny & Mary’ while ‘Looking for Clues’ added synthy art funk to the mix.

‘Clues’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

http://www.robertpalmer.com/


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties

Following the acclaim for THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller undertook a new project SILICON TEENS as a fictitious synth group where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ were enjoyably reinterpreted in a quirky synthpop style with Miller adding his deadpan monotone vocal. Frank Tovey aka FAD GADGET played the role of lead singer “Darryl” for videos and press.

‘Music For Parties’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/silicon-teens


SIMPLE MINDS Empires & Dance

Tours opening for Gary Numan and Peter Gabriel took SIMPLE MINDS around Europe to experience Cold War tensions at closer hand. Their wired mood was captured on ‘Empires & Dance’. With its speedy Moroder-esque influence, ‘I Travel’ was a screeching futuristic frenzy and ‘Celebrate’ brought some industrial Schaffel to the party. ’30 Frames A Second’ took a trip down the autobahn but ‘Twist / Run / Repulsion’ messed with the headspace of listeners.

‘Empires & Dance’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SPARKS Terminal Jive

Following the Giorgio Moroder steered album ‘No1 In Heaven’, SPARKS were despatched by Virgin Records to record a swift follow-up. Although Moroder was still nominally at the helm, Harold Faltermeyer took the majority of production duties on ‘Terminal Jive’. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll People In A Disco World’ seemed to reflect the confused direction but ‘When I’m With You’ was a massive hit single in France, leading to the Mael Brothers’ relocation.

‘Terminal Jive’ is still available via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com


TANGERINE DREAM Tangram

After experiments with vocals on ‘Cyclone’ and live drums on ‘Force Majeure’, with the recruitment on keyboards with Johannes Schmoelling to fill the difficult to fill void left by the departure of Peter Baumann, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke got back on track, combining a more immediate sequencer drive with the melodic New Age resonances on the two part ‘Tangram’ set that would characterise TANGERINE DREAM’s later work.

‘Tangram’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://tangerinedreammusic.com/


TELEX Neurovision

The second TELEX album ‘Neurovision’ continued with the trio’s tradition of deadpan electronic covers and a gloriously metronomic take on ‘Dance To The Music’ showcased their penchant for mischievous subversion. But this mischief came to its head with their lampooning self-composed number ‘Euro-Vision’, a bouncy electropop tune which they actually entered for 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, coming seventeenth!

‘Neurovision’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mutebank.co.uk/collections/telex


ULTRAVOX Vienna

Following the first VISAGE sessions, Midge Ure was invited to join Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann in ULTRAVOX. Providing a sonic continuity from the John Foxx-led era was producer Conny Plank while the robotic spy story ‘Mr X’ voiced by Cann provided another link. Opening with the mighty instrumental ‘Astradyne’ and closing with the synthesized heavy metal of ‘All Stood Still’, the ‘Vienna’ album was a triumph.

‘Vienna’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

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


VISAGE Visage

Formed as a reaction to the shortage of new electronic dance music to play at The Blitz Club, ex-RICH KIDS members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan recruited its figurehead Steve Strange to front the project under the name of VISAGE. Billy Currie, Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson joined later and captured a synthesized European romanticism that boasted the German No1 ‘Fade To Grey’ as well as two other hits in ‘Mind Of A Toy’ and the eponymous title track.

‘Visage’ is still available via Rubellan Remasters

https://www.therealvisage.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29 December 2023

2023 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

Just as it looked like it would be safe to come out to play, there was uncertainty within the music industry again.

What had become the artists’ favourite platform thanks to its low commission and 0% Fridays, Bandcamp was taken over by Epic Games in 2022 but then following a move by employees to unionise, was sold to Songtradr who immediately dismissed half of its staff… in hindsight, despite its proclamation that this platform cared about the music, it looked like this had been yet another start-up by tech venture capitalists. Just as many acts dropped their own websites in favour of Facebook over a decade ago but were then trapped into sponsored posts to reach the majority of their own fanbase, online shops had been dropped for Bandcamp. So, things are back to square one as many consider a rebuild of their web presence.

Meanwhile, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made a controversial declaration that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”. While THE CURE notably refused to do this and capped their face value tickets at $20 for their US tour, the Live Nation sister outlet Ticketmaster applied excessive booking extras of more than $20 per ticket for a “service fee”, “facility charge” and “order processing”! With dynamic pricing in place at a number of high profile events and so-called VIP tickets on the rise (which didn’t actually include a meet ‘n’ greet but only a nearby bar and a lanyard), fans had their “FOMO” anxieties triggered and simply paid up!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Another artist who kept ticket prices low was Midge Ure who embarked on the successful ‘Voices & Visions’ tour after a year’s delay due to uncertainties over the Covid situation in 2022. Complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and material from his second and third long players with ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’, it was a triumph. He was rewarded with a 70th birthday show celebrating his career at The Royal Albert Hall, which despite its plush surroundings was also kept affordable.

Who says an artist has no control over retail pricing? But one band who were shamelessly happy to charge more for concert tickets, more for merchandise and more for physical releases were DEPECHE MODE. For their first album and tour since the passing of co-founder Andy Fletcher in 2022, the remaining members played the death card with ‘Momento Bori’ and managed to plonk an even more underwhelming arena show into the stadiums of the world… at least the ‘Global Spirit’ tour featured risers!

With renowned UK venues such as Printworks and Moles closing down, as had already been highlighted by Juls Garat of US goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING via social media in 2022: “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”. However, one seemingly oblivious Devotee said about the inflated ticket prices: “Really don’t know what the issue is. Happily paid £108.00 for a DM ticket. Would have paid more!!”. And therein lays the problem… DEPECHE MODE played a date at Stadion Wankdorf in Bern and that said it all! As the man who Devotees call a genius once wrote: “Some great reward will be coming my way…”

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

As The Devotees wallowed in their collective misery during 2023, the Stockholm Syndrome was stronger than ever. On the Bratislava leg at the National Football Stadium, one of The Black Swarm commented to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I was there… I must admit, a bit disappointed… but I still love them!!!”. It was business as usual for DEPECHE MODE, with “business” being the operative word. It was reported that so much money had been sucked out of the European alternative music market in particular that a number of acts had to schedule their planned tours to 2024, while others who had made good albums worthy of attention in 2023 got lost in the sea of DM propaganda on the web.

Despite increased ticket prices at all levels, gig etiquette declined to the worst possible standards with the constant chatter and bad manners among some attendees. Surely if you have paid upwards of £30 or more for a show, you might want to pay more attention and enjoy it? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never seen it this bad in the 43 years it has been going to concerts, but this entitled arrogance to talk extremely loudly about total bollocks is a undoubted legacy of Brexit and Covid which in combination has normalised a lack of social graces in gathered environments… and when challenged, these total numbskulls become aggressive, pitifully unaware that they are ruining the evening of those around them.

Meanwhile, there was another undesirable element who only go to gigs to post selfies and badly distorted footage on their socials… these were often the sort of people who actually hated the band back in the day, but after 40+ years realised they like the song on the Vitality or Waitrose advert so are sudddenly giving it the big “I AM” about being a fan… but BECAUSE they are only there for one song, they then treat the rest of the gig like they were out with their mates in the pub! 🤬

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

The best live shows of the year came from PET SHOP BOYS and DURAN DURAN with their arena extravaganzas full of hits, classic fan favourites and great staging. Among the album celebrations, CHINA CRISIS ran through their second long player ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ on tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary and founder bassist Peter Hook took the first NEW ORDER compilation ‘Substance’ out on the road to coincide with its expanded 4CD reissue.

“Sweden’s best kept pop secret” KITE impressed with an imitate headliner for their debut London gig and later at Cologne’s Amphi Festival to a much larger crowd, while the return of Ollie Wride to the London stage at The Scala illustrated why he has potential to be the next synthwave artist to crossover into the mainstream.

Photo by Ed Miles

‘Time’s Arrow’, LADYTRON’s second album since their return from hiatus proved to be something of a disappointment while fairing slightly better with its anti-Brexit sentiments, ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ was touted as the final album from OMD; now kissing the strict machine, having previously been supportive of new electronic pop via ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK championed acts MIRRORS, VILLA NAH, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, their choice of art glam hipsters WALT DISCO as opening act on the UK leg of the 2024 tour was symbolic of the general poor state of modern synthpop ie pop music using synths, particularly within the narrow-mindset of Brexit Britain.

Although the UK was continuing to party like it was 1933, the incendiary language that Cruella Braverman was using was so extreme that she was even dismissed from fronting the Conservative Party new wave covers band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS… as a trio of poets from South Yorkshire once said: “BROTHERS! SISTERS! WE DON’T NEED THIS FASCIST GROOVE THANG!”

Reflecting a wider issue, 2023 also saw ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK publish its fewest number of ‘Introducing…’ new artist articles since its inception in 2010 with only Brigitte Bardini and Madeleine Goldstein featured. There were a number of possible reasons…

Photo by Bella Salvatore

“The technology leads the art form and it always has” said veteran producer Steve Lillywhite on a recent Rockonteurs podcast, “if the technology allows you to reference other people’s records… you WILL do that!”. This was summed up by an Apple Mac advert featuring sample-based British pop singer PinkPantheress demonstrating how to have a hit by appropriating a topline from Kelly Rowland and plonking it into GarageBand before processing her voice through AutoTune and nabbing the intro of ‘Gold’ by SPANDAU BALLET… you said it yourself Miss Walker, IT SOUNDS LIKE GARBAGE!

While the accessibility, usability and sound quality of modern tech has totally democratised music making, as another veteran producer Stephen Hague put it to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “it’s made it far too easy”, with the end result being familiarity and imitation rather than innovation. Now that an acceptable sound is able to be obtained fairly quickly on software such as GarageBand, the level of songwriting has generally declined in many genres. Artists abstain from putting in the hard work towards the actual songcraft because they think their track is already great, as it sounds like someone they’ve based it on!

However, the misuse of “synth” as a description reached a new nadir in 2023. There were those using “synth” or “synthwave” in their brand identity who proudly revealed via their Spotify Wrapped that their Top Genre was actually rock or made bizarre comments like “What I like most about synthwave is the guitar solos”. Meanwhile one artist declared they were synthpop because they had spent their youth “listening to too much Madonna”! But synth music as an enduring form is ultimately doomed when social media platforms using “Synthpop” in their idents think that guitar-based bands like BIG COUNTRY and COCTEAU TWINS are part of it, or compile acoustic playlists!! 🤦‍♂️

“Synth” has now somehow become is a general term for any retro-flavoured pop with an element of shiny artifice whether synthesizers have been used or not! These artists and “content creators” are now too young to understand what “synth” in music actually once meant and probably think the term is short for “synthetic” as in clothes and hair products, as opposed to “synthesizer”.

That said, 2023 was not all bad and there was a lot of excellent music. The song of the year was by the unlikely synth hero in glum rocker Lloyd Cole; while guitars made a more prominent but limited return on his album ‘On Pain’ following 2019’s electronically-dominated ‘Guesswork’, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ saw him provide a touching narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976.

Swedish veterans PAGE took the Numanisation of their poptronica to its zenith by bringing in former imperial phase Numan band members Chris Payne and RRussell Bell on their new album ‘En Ny Våg’. Across the Öresund Bridge, Danish synthpop couple SOFTWAVE showed the world the ‘things we’ve done’.

Photo by George Tripodakis

Another music veteran Ricky Wilde teamed up with NINA to reveal their ‘Scala Hearts’; full of classic pop references and a modern sheen, this was the record Wilde had wanted to make for a few years but hadn’t been able to with his sister Kim. Its creative drive showed and this was also the best long player that NINA had been part of since she launched her solo career in 2011. In a busy year, NINA also found time to satisfy many a red blooded fantasy by collaborating with Kid Moxie on the ‘Lust’ EP released by Italians Do It Better.

The Finns were strong too, with Jaakko Eino Kalavi and Jori Hulkkonen producing two of the best albums of 2023. The former’s eclectic ‘Chaos Magic’ featured Alma Jodorowsky, Mr Silla and Jimi Tenor as special guests while the latter’s ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ brought in John Grant, Ralf Dörper, Jake Shears, Jon Marsh, Juho Paalosmaa and Tiga.

While maintaining his front man role in MESH, Mark Hockings presented his solo project BLACKCARBURNING in long playing form and was ‘Watching Sleepers’. Also going it alone, Alison Goldfrapp squarely hit the dancefloor via ’The Love Invention’ with Kylie Minogue’s similarly glitzy ‘Tension’ as its companion. But with ACTORS still busy touring the world, the planned long playing debut from LEATHERS was yet to emerge but there were two new singles in the interim.

METROLAND and side project 808 DOT POP ambitiously released albums in five different formats with exclusive tracks on each between them simultaneously, in a move that had not been seen since 1978 when all four members of KISS released solo records on the same day. Much more discretely, ITALOCONNECTION came up with ‘Nordisko’ which comprised of Nordic pop disco covers. More ambient experiments were served by John Foxx, Vince Clarke, Patricia Wolf, Johan Agebjörn and the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, while putting those ethereal textures into song was Hinako Omori with her appropriately named second album ‘stillness, softness…’

Germany’s BEBORN BETON offered bleak commentary on the state of the planet with ‘Darkness Falls Again’ but encouraged everyone to be dancers in the dark while Chinese band STOLEN highlighted this ‘Eroded Creation’. Within their ‘Circle Of Doom’, NNHMN had pressing matters closer to home while ZANIAS emerged from her ‘Chrysalis’. FERAL FIVE confronted and worked with AI to declare ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ and Finlay Shakespeare tapped into his ‘Illusion + Memory’.

Photo by Tim Darin

Among the promising emergent acts with debut EPs were NEU-ROMANCER and DIE SEXUAL while German solo artists Jennifer Touch and Laura Dre added to their long playing portfolios, as did OHNOTHING and BUNNY X. Fronted by respectively by John Grant and Neil Arthur, CREEP SHOW and THE REMAINDER outlined the benefits of collaboration while CAUSEWAY joined forces with R. MISSING for the single ‘Wear The Night Out’.

Despite having plied their trade for over 50 years, SPARKS continued to be as eccentric as ever and even had Cate Blanchett appear in the video for ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’. With ‘*Happiness now completed’ and Dave Ball returning to the live fold after a period of serious illness, SOFT CELL effectively issued another new album featuring a significant number of previously unreleased tracks including covers of Giorgio Moroder and X-RAY SPEX to provide a much more satisfying listening experience than the parent ‘*Happiness not included’ record. Then there was the unexpected recorded return of CLASSIX NOUVEAUX with their ‘Battle Cry’.

Veteran acts who ceased active operations many years ago got worthy boxed set treatments; TELEX provided ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with the funniest interview of the year in support of their self-titled retrospective on Mute while LANDSCAPE were comprehensively catalogued by Cooking Vinyl. Not to be left out, the trusty Cherry Red via their Lemon imprint showcased how underrated NEW MUSIK and their leader Tony Mansfield were, especially with the latter’s sound clearly audible in today’s pop acts such as THE WEEKND.

Despite the return of Q, the jury was still out on whether music magazines are still desirable aside from their CD and vinyl artefacts. Meanwhile, music-based social media dumbed down its engagement to cut ‘n’ paste Wikipedia snippets accompanying archive photos or artwork, pointless 26th anniversary posts and non-significant birthday celebrations to attract likes. Comments from the public such as “My favourite album… I wish I still had it!” and saying “Happy Birthday” when the platform wasn’t even connected to the artist concerned only highlighted further the continuing inane nature of online interaction. And this was without those irritating “POV” reels and reaction videos on TikTok and Instagram which were unfortunately prevalent!

The less said about the right wing gammon infested sh*t show that Twitter has become, the better but on the new Threads platform intended to take it on, PENDULUM’s El Hornet remarked “omg threads is full of music industry self help w*nkers making lists about things nobody asked abort! ABORT!” 🤣

With such platforms also seemingly centred around the exposure of flesh with photos “just for fun” be the subject a golfer, gamer, painter, baker, comedian, hairdresser, photographer, psychologist, racing driver, book reviewer, poet, dating coach or Lego enthusiast, is it any wonder that several music artists resorted to setting up OnlyFans accounts to sell nude photos!

With pun totally intended, in this challenging climate for exposure, some acts simply got a bit too big for their boots and were unbearably conceited on their socials with their bragging and frivolous chatter to appease a needy flock who hung onto their every word, desperate to be seen to be “friends” of wannabe stars while crowdfunding towards their spa weekenders and vet bills for their cat… it was therefore ironic that one of these acts declared “Music isn’t a competition!” when it appeared that another band might be taking away some of their limelight! Well, stop acting like it’s a 24 hour edition of ‘The Apprentice’ then!!! 🙄

On the other side of the coin, one too cool for school band took a strange attitude to promotion by refusing to accept questions about their influences while trying to come over like total originals. Despite their inspirations being blatant and obvious to hear, they had a misguided self-belief that they were somehow speaking a new language! But everybody knows they started out by purchasing the sheet music to ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ from a New York thrift store! 😆

A few years ago, a lone British artist was complained about the lack of press attention for their new admittedly good album, but then proceeded not to answer emails containing interview pitches. Artists need to engage, no matter how much they say they hate doing promotion, they can’t have it both ways. The days of RADIOHEAD not doing interviews to promote a new album and letting the music speak for itself are long gone…

With the world now making up for lost time since 2020, it would be fair to say that 2023 has been something of a strange year!


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 December 2023

NEW MUSIK From A To B: The Sony Years

Forming in 1977, NEW MUSIK are quite possibly the most underrated band from that first wave of synth-flavoured acts who followed TUBEWAY ARMY into the UK singles charts after ‘Are Friends Electric?’ went to No1 in Summer 1979.

However frontman, main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tony Mansfield felt more at home in the studio and maintained a parallel career as a producer. Featuring Clive Gates on keyboards, Phil Towner on drums and bassist Tony Hibbert, NEW MUSIK appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with their first four singles between 1979-1980.

NEW MUSIK were often dismissed by the music press as a novelty act due to the comedic voices often used in their songs. But despite their apparent frivolity, there were often serious existential lyrical gists amongst the lush melodies and crisp production.

Giving its name to a new almost definitive 4CD NEW MUSIK compendium, the debut album ‘From A To B’ was recorded as a collection of songs over a period of more than a year. There was a fluid band line-up that earlier on also included Nick Straker who was to have a 1979 international disco hit ‘A Walk In The Park’ which Mansfield,  Towner and Hibbert played on.

Opening ‘From A To B’ with NEW MUSIK’s first single ‘Straight Lines’, the backdrop of acoustic guitars, synths, string machines, piano, deep drones and electronic claps demonstrated Mansfield’s desire to create a sonic balance between pop and oddness, laying the template for a unusual hybrid sound.

Released in 1980 on GTO Records who had THE NEW SEEKERS, FOX, HEATWAVE, THE WALKER BROTHERS and THE DOOLEYS in their roster, ‘From A To B’ contained their biggest hit in the quirky ‘Living by Numbers’. Although it embraced a perky radio-friendly sound, Mansfield’s lyrics projected more dystopian concerns with life reduced to numerical identity, be it for age, statistics, registration, credit or wealth. NEW MUSIK were to have another hit with ‘This World Of Water’, a musical metaphor for drowning in the pressures of society.

While both hits featured varispeeded and treated voices, they acted as memorable hooks in a manner that pre-dated THE ART OF NOISE. With a cascading synth riff reminiscent of John Foxx’s ‘Underpass’, the stomping ‘Sanctuary’ proved that NEW MUSIK’s chart successes were not flukes, but it would prove to be their last.

With three Top 40 singles on their debut long player, most bands would have been content but ‘From A To B’ possessed some other magnificent riches.

The fabulously dreamy ballad ‘A Map of You’ was one of the non-single highlights with its beauty  counterpointed by discordant metallic arpeggios. Meanwhile displaying an affinity to Thomas Dolby, ‘Science’ fully presented the widescreen scope of the Mansfield production palette.

‘Dead Fish (Don’t Swim Home)’ reflected the nuclear paranoia of the times while issued as a single in Europe, ‘On Islands’ was covered by German trio CAMOUFLAGE in 1989 on their ‘Methods Of Silence’ album. There was also the chirpy ‘Adventures’ which lyrically dealt with the curse of demotivation before the magical synth-layered folk of ‘The Safe Side’ completed what was a brilliant debut album.

Despite NEW MUSIK’s success, Mansfield sought to record a proper album with ‘Anywhere’ released in 1981. Aiming to be less pop and more experimental, the scene was set with the opening track ‘They All Run After the Carving Knife’ which following an obscure minute long avant-garde intro, burst into what in hindsight sounds like an anguished blueprint for A-HA with a marvellous closing passage of synths in the final 90 seconds!

‘Anywhere’ also saw drum machines brought more into the mix as on the spacey ‘Areas’ while ‘Churches’ brought in vocoder. Playing with eerie chorals and reverse voices, one of the singles ‘Luxury’ utilised a mechanised swing as Mansfield questioned the Thatcherite politics of the time, a theme also touched on in ‘Division’.

With technology leaping forward at a phenomenal rate, another single ‘While You Wait’ added PPG-derived bells and a dominant synthbass but although it was more accessible than the other tracks, it was not quite hit material. Despite a long instrumental intro and Mansfield’s lead vocal not coming until around the 2 minute mark, ‘Changing Minds’ provided a snappy highlight laced in rigid beats, strums and sumptuous synth heaven.

Although ‘Anywhere’ was a more serious album, a sign of Mansfield’s sense of humour came with the inclusion of a ballad called ‘This World Of Water’ which was totally unconnected with the 1980 hit. Meanwhile ‘Peace’ made use of a subtle bossa nova and ‘Back To Room One’ provided another classic NEW MUSIK number to finish as Mansfield expressed his desire to make a fresh start. Less immediate than its predecessor and perhaps overlong at 12 tracks, there were no hits from ‘Anywhere’ and the album itself, although very good, only reached No. 68 in the UK charts as a result.

By 1982, the signs were not good as NEW MUSIK’s label GTO Records folded while Towner and Hibbert departed the band. Signing to GTO parent company Epic Records, the final album ‘Warp’ was recorded by Mansfield and Gates with Cliff Venner on live percussion. But having been influenced by his collaborations outside of the band with Yukihiro Takahashi of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, with the advent of digital samplers and sequencing technology, the end result was almost entirely electronic.

More experimental than ‘Anywhere’, ‘Warp’ confusingly had two songs called ‘All You Need Is Love’ including a propulsive electronic take on THE BEATLES song with ‘Greensleeves’ tagged onto the end as well as Mansfield’s own pretty composition based around the original’s chord progression!

With a Simmons barrage that would later be a trademark of Mansfield’s NAKED EYES productions, ‘Here Come the People’ was a neo-instrumental that went straight into the cleverly produced ‘Going Round Again’ which connected Mansfield with Trevor Horn in their adventures in modern recording.

‘I Repeat’ recaptured some of the classic NEW MUSIK magic in its bright hooks but was ultimately not radio-friendly material, but the oddball instrumental ‘Green & Red (Respectively)’ was fun and banged a can in its use of sampling. ‘Kingdoms For Horses’ provided some new funk in an attempt to move forward with the times but was tucked away towards the end of the album, ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ was proof that NEW MUSIK could still produce excellent singles although this too failed to chart.

Closing proceedings with the playful ‘Warp’ title song, its tape chewed ending was symbolic. Seeing a brighter future in record production, Mansfield disbanded NEW MUSIK before the start of 1983. The sound seeded on ‘From A To B’, ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Warp’ would later appear in varying degrees on records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, NAKED EYES, AZTEC CAMERA, VICIOUS PINK and many more.

As well as the three NEW MUSIK albums, this boxed set includes a bonus CD of selected B-Sides, single edits and extended versions. B-Side to the ‘All You Need Is Love’ cover, the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ acts as a reminder of the ‘From A To B’ period, albeit with more updated instrumentation like Simmons drums. Meanwhile ‘She’s A Magazine’ and ‘From The Village’ were also worthy flipsides while ‘Chik Musik’ did as the title suggested and aped CHIC. NEW MUSIK also had a knack for brilliant synth instrumentals with ‘The Office’ particularly shining while ‘24 Hours from Culture (Part 2)’ now comes over as an inspiration for OMD’s ‘Junk Culture’.

Time has shown that NEW MUSIK were underappreciated in their day and deserve critical re-evaluation. The legacy of Tony Mansfield and his crafted sparkle combining pretty synth melodies alongside gentle strums and punchy electronic rhythms has can be heard today in THE WEEKND, particularly on ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Blinding Lights’. As if to confirm that link, after NEW MUSIK, Mansfield did the original production for A-HA’s first album ‘Hunting High & Low’.

In common with THE BUGGLES, LANDSCAPE and TELEX, NEW MUSIK featured musicians who subsequently excelled outside of their bands as producers. To be a good producer, it helps to be musical as well as technical and Tony Mansfield certainly proved that. This excellent boxed set provides an opportunity established music fans who may have missed them first time round and new listeners to discover the wonderful world of NEW MUSIK.


‘From A To B: The Sony Years’ is released as a 4CD boxed set by Cherry Red imprint Lemon on 24th March 2023, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/new-musik-from-a-to-b-the-sony-years-4cd-box-set/

https://www.new-musik.co.uk/

http://www.discog.info/mansfield.html

https://www.facebook.com/groups/128706093862654

https://www.youtube.com/@tmcstudio


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th March 2023

A Beginner’s Guide To TONY MANSFIELD

Photo by Andrew Douglas

Tony Mansfield is perhaps one of the UK’s most underrated production and songwriting talents.

Born in London, he first found fame as the leader of NEW MUSIK who released three albums and scored three successive Top40 hit singles. In common with Trevor Horn, Mansfield felt more at home in the studio than fronting a band and he maintained a parallel career as a producer. His innovative points deal with TMC Studios owner Bernie Proctor allowed Mansfield almost endless studio time to hone his craft.

With Clive Gates on keyboards, Phil Towner on drums and bassist Tony Hibbert, NEW MUSIK appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with their first four singles ‘Straight Lines’, ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘This World Of Water’ and ‘Sanctuary’ between 1979-1980. But in their day, the band were often dismissed by the music press as a novelty act due to the comedic voices in their songs.

Mansfield’s aim was to create a sonic balance between pop and oddness; while the varispeeded and treated voices heard on NEW MUSIK tracks could be considered annoying, these acted as memorable hooks that grabbed the attention of listeners and in that respect, they pre-dated THE ART OF NOISE.

Despite the seemingly perky radio-friendly sound, Mansfield’s lyrics projected dystopian concerns and downright bleakness. ‘Living by Numbers’ summed up how life was subject to numerical identity be it age, statistics, registration, credit or wealth. Meanwhile ‘This World Of Water’ was a metaphor for drowning in the pressures of society and ‘Dead Fish (Don’t Swim Home)’ reflected the nuclear paranoia of the times. But Mansfield could get genuinely wacky too and ‘Home’ by his short-lived side-project PLANET HA HA ‘Home’ in 1982 was an ode to ‘ET The Extra-Terrestrial’.

A guitarist and self-taught keyboard player with a fascination for technological developments, the Korg 700s, Logan String Melody, Roland VP-330, Prophet 5, Yamaha CS80, Oberheim OBXa, Emulator, PPG Wave 2.2, Synclavier 2 and Fairlight CMI were among his tools during his career.

Today, his combination of gently strummed 12 string alongside pretty synth melodies and punchy electronic rhythms has highlighted a sonic connection to modern pop such as THE WEEKND, particularly on songs such as ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Blinding Lights’. As if to confirm the link, Mansfield did the original production on A-HA’s debut album ‘Hunting High & Low’ in 1984.

While Mansfield’s work with A-HA did not have a happy outcome with his work on ‘Take On Me’ first remixed and then replaced with what eventually became the re-recorded hit version produced by Alan Tarney, it would be fair to say that without their time with Mansfield, A-HA may not have become as driven to pave their own path so ambitiously. Despite this set back, Mansfield’s production portfolio has included many other notable artists and netted UK No1s, European Top5s and US Top10s along the way.

Notably reclusive, Mansfield withdrew from the limelight after NEW MUSIK to concentrate on the job in hand. In more recent times, the world has been his oyster with international hit productions such as the 1997 Spanish No1 album ‘Puntos Cardinales’ for Ana Torroja and ‘Online’, the 2001 “Latvian Pop Music Album of the Year” by BRAINSTORM.

With the timely announcement that the Cherry Red imprint Lemon will be issuing a 4CD NEW MUSIK boxed set ‘From A To B – The Sony Years’ on 24th March 2023, here are 18 tracks selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK which act a Beginner’s Guide to the impressive and understated career of Tony Mansfield, listed in yearly and then alphabetical order by artist moniker…


AFTER THE FIRE Life In The City (1979)

AFTER THE FIRE were a London prog rock band who gradually developed into having more new wave inclinations by the time of their second album ‘Laser Love’. Notable for its fabulous synth solo, ‘Life In The City’ was re-recorded with Tony Mansfield producing for a single in late 1979 after NEW MUSIK first appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’. AFTER THE FIRE would score a US Top 10 single hit with a cover of FALCO’s ‘Der Kommissar’ in 1983 after they had disbanded.

Originally available on the AFTER THE FIRE single ‘Life In The City’ via CBS, currently unavailable

http://afterthefire.co.uk/


NICK STRAKER BAND A Walk In The Park (1979)

Nick Straker had been school friends with Tony Mansfield and was even slated to become NEW MUSIK’s keyboardist; he played on ‘Straight Lines’ and ‘On Islands’ which was later covered by German trio CAMOUFLAGE. Simultaneously Straker had been working on his own songs with the members of NEW MUSIK as his band. Produced by Jeremy Paul, ‘A Walk In The Park’ was picked up by Pinnacle records and became an unexpected and huge European disco hit.

Originally available on the single ‘A Walk In The Park’ via CBS, currently unavailable

http://www.nickstraker.com/


NEW MUSIK Sanctuary (1980)

Proving that the successes of ‘Living By Numbers’ and ‘This World Of Water’ were not flukes, NEW MUSIK scored a third Top 40 hit single taken off their debut album ‘From A To B’. Although ‘Sanctuary’ featured a similar cascading synth riff that appeared on John Foxx’s ‘Underpass’ which was released a few months before, Mansfield maintained that it was already on their demos from the previous year. He also felt that ‘From A To B’ was more a collection of songs rather than a proper album.

Available on the NEW MUSIK album ‘From A To B’ via Lemon Records

https://www.new-musik.co.uk/


NEW MUSIK Changing Minds (1981)

The second NEW MUSIK album ‘Anywhere’, aimed to be less pop and more experimental. With a long instrumental intro and his lead vocal not coming until close to the 2 minute mark, ‘Changing Minds’ provided a snappy highlight laced in rigid beats, strums and synth heaven. A sign of Mansfield’s quirky sense of humour, the album featured a song called ‘This World Of Water’ which was totally unconnected with the 1980 hit. But there were to be no hits with the album’s singles.

Available on the NEW MUSIK album ‘Anywhere’ via Lemon Records

http://www.discog.info/mansfield.html


YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI Drip Dry Eyes (1981)

Tony Mansfield had publicly cited YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA as his favourite band in 1980 and on ‘Drip Dry Eyes’ where he contributed keyboards to their drummer Yukihiro Takahashi’s 1981 solo album ‘Neuromantic’, the glistening synth melodies made it NEW MUSIK in all but name. 1982’s ‘What Me Worry’ saw Mansfield duet with Takahashi-san on ‘Disposable Love’; incidentally both songs featured Andy Mackay of ROXY MUSIC on sax.

Available on the YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI album ‘Neuromantic’ via Sony Music Direct Japan

https://www.room66plus.com/


PHILIP JAP Total Erasure (1982)

‘The David Essex Showcase’ was a bizarre BBC talent contest involving the major labels; the winner was performance artist Philip Jap who fought off TALK TALK and Thomas Dolby to win. Mixed by Tony Mansfield, ‘Total Erasure’ was a slice of synthesized art funk in the vein of Zaine Griff that provided the victorious performance. His self-titled 1983 album featured productions by Trevor Horn, Colin Thurston and Mansfield, but mainstream success was not to be.

Originally available on the single ‘Total Erasure’ via A&M, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/108718-Philip-Jap


NEW MUSIK The Planet Doesn’t Mind (1982)

The 1982 NEW MUSIK album ‘Warp’ was a more experimental and mostly electronic affair that confusingly had two songs called ‘All You Need Is Love’ including THE BEATLES one with ‘Greensleeves’ tagged onto the end! But ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ was proof that they could still produce excellent singles although this too failed to chart. However, seeing a brighter future in record production, Mansfield had disbanded NEW MUSIK by the end of the year.

Available on the NEW MUSIK album ‘Warp’ via Lemon Records

https://www.facebook.com/groups/128706093862654


SEARCH PARTY Urban Foxes (1982)

SEARCH PARTY comprised of Londoners Lee Jacob and Alan Rear, the pair respectively had an eccentric duet singing and talking style of expression. Having met Tony Mansfield at TMC studios and provided backing vocals on ‘Anywhere’, it was unsurprising that when he produced ‘Urban Foxes’, it sounded a bit too much like NEW MUSIK. Their second and final single ‘All Around The World’ was produced by Mansfield’s chief engineer Pete Hammond who later went on to work for PWL.

Originally available on the single ‘Urban Foxes’ via Magnet, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/588719-Search-Party


MARI WILSON Just What I Always Wanted (1982)

The self-styled “Neasden Queen Of Soul” scored her first biggest hit with this classic beehive pop pastiche produced by Tony Mansfield. Despite its brassy big band image and presence, ‘Just What I Always Wanted’ was laced with the latest studio technology, featuring voice samples, subtle synths and big electronic drums. The parent album ‘Showpeople’ also mostly produced by Mansfield featured variations on the theme.

Available on the MARI WILSON album ‘The Neasden Queen Of Soul’ via Cherry Red

https://www.mariwilson.co.uk/


AZTEC CAMERA Walk Out To Winter (1983)

Roddy Frame’s early AZTEC CAMERA singles on Postcard led to the young Scot being signed by Rough Trade. So who better than to handle acoustic guitars while adding a modern sheen than Tony Mansfield. The original 7” single version of ‘Walk Out To Winter’ saw a lovely synth intro while Emulator voices were brought in to add a then state-of-the-art texture. But it was reworked with a six string strum for the eventual album version.

Extended Version available on the AZTEC CAMERA deluxe album ‘High Land, Hard Rain – Expanded Edition’ via Warner Music

http://www.roddyframe.com/


CAPTAIN SENSIBLE Glad It’s All Over (1983)

Best known as the guitarist with THE DAMNED, Captain Sensible caused something of a shock by reaching No1 with a synthesized novelty cover of ‘Happy Talk’ produced by Tony Mansfield. The connection was made by The Captain’s NEW MUSIK fan girlfriend. While there has another novelty hit in the Croydon rap of ‘Wot!’, things took a more serious turn with the poignant anti-Falklands War anthem ‘Glad It’s All Over’ co-written by Mansfield.

Available on the CAPTAIN SENSIBLE album ‘The Power Of Love’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/sensiblecaptain


NAKED EYES Voices In My Head (1983)

Hailing from Bath, Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher were NAKED EYES. Although their Simmons drums heavy Bacharach & David cover of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ didn’t trouble the UK Top 40, it reached No8 in the US. The parent album ‘Burning Bridges’ was produced by Tony Mansfield and it opened with the catchy ‘Voices In My Head’. Rob Fisher later had hits with Simon Climie but sadly passed away in 1999 while Peter Byrne continues performing as NAKED EYES.

Available on the NAKED EYES album ‘Burning Bridges’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.nakedeyesmusic.com/


A-HA Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale – Early mix (Recorded 1984, released 2015)

Tony Mansfield had done the original production on A-HA’s debut album ‘Hunting High & Low’, but the band had been unhappy with the Fairlight-assisted results so remixed the sessions with their manager John Radcliff. The 2015 30th Anniversary Edition saw a number of Mansfield’s original mixes publicly emerge for the first time. Apart from having much louder drum machine, ‘Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale’ was not that much different in vision from the final album version.

Available on the A-HA album ‘Hunting High & Low – 30th Anniversary Edition’ via Warner Music

https://a-ha.com/


VICIOUS PINK Cccan’t You See (1984)

Formally known as VICIOUS PINK PHENOMENA, Josephine Warden and Brian Moss had begun as SOFT CELL backing vocalists, appearing prominently on ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’. Their debut single ‘My Private Tokyo’ had been produced by Dave Ball, but having shortened their name and got a deal with Parlophone, Tony Mansfield was at the helm of their best song ‘Cccan’t You See’. Sultry and sexy, it was luscious pop that deserved better than its UK peak of No67.

Available on the VICIOUS PINK album ‘Vicious Pink’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.instagram.com/vicious.pink.music/


THE B-52’S She Brakes For Rainbows (1986)

Produced by Tony Mansfield, ‘Bouncing Off The Satellites’ was the last album featuring founder member Ricky Wilson who passed away aged 32 during its recording. Although released a year later, promotional was low key as the band were still in mourning and declined to tour. Meanwhile the material perhaps not unexpectedly had a darker and more melancholy atmosphere. The album closer ‘She Brakes For Rainbows’ utilised a range of synthetically flavoured tones.

Available on THE B-52’S album ‘Bouncing Off The Satellites’ via Island Records

https://www.theb52s.com/


JEAN PAUL GAULTIER How To Do That ‎(1989)

Mansfield co-wrote and co-produced this appealing Euro house track with flamboyant fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier which debuted as a single sided laser etched single in the UK and France. Meanwhile he also co-composed the majority of the parent album ‘Aow Tou Dou Zat’ which featured remixes by Norman Cook, JJ Jeczalik, Tony Moran, Mantronik, CJ Mackintosh and Dave Dorrell. Gaultier would go on to present Channel 4 TV show ‘Eurotrash’ with Antoine de Caunes.

Available on the JEAN PAUL GAULTIER single ‘How To Do That’ via Mercury Records

https://www.jeanpaulgaultier.com/ww/en


MADER En Résumé… En Conclusion

Releasing his first single ‘Les Bandes Dessinées’ in 1978, Toulouse singer-songwriter Jean-Pierre Mader scored his biggest domestic hit ‘Macumba’ in 1985. Adopting a heavy synth-based sound, he turned to Tony Mansfield for his fourth album ‘Midi À Minuit’ from which, the highlight was ‘En Résumé… En Conclusion’. A song co-written for him by French superstar Françoise Hardy, she recorded her own version with David Bowie producer David Richards.

Available on the MADER album ‘Midi À Minuit’ via Polydor

http://www.jeanpierremader.com/


MIMORI YUSA Kotori (1994)

Tony Mansfield brought his distinctive synth and strums sound to two tracks on Mimori Yusa’s 7th album ‘Aluhi-Halenohi’. The Japanese singer made her nationwide TV debut aged 6 reciting a nursery rhyme. ‘Slowly’ saw original NEW MUSIK bassist Tony Hibbert return while the bittersweet ‘Kotori’ featured a melancholic Mansfield declaring “all you need is a cage”. She was also in supergroup LOVE, PEACE & TRANCE which featured Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Available on the MIMORI YUSA album ‘Aluhi-Halenohi’ via Sony Music Direct Japan

https://www.mimoriyusa.net/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th January 2023

THE WEEKND Less Than Zero


After ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Save Your Tears’, THE WEEKND have done it again and reminded the mainstream of the emotive beauty that can come from classic synthpop with ‘Less Than Zero’.

‘Less Than Zero’ has been co-produced and co-written by Swedes Max Martin and Oscar Holter; the ubiquitous Martin is the man behind hits by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Britney Spears but Holter was formally a member of industrial act NECRO FACILITY. Studio hands from a darker electronic background getting involved in pop is not unusual with Dave “Rave” Olgilvie from SKINNY PUPPY having helmed the final mixes of Carly Rae Jepsen.

Taken off the new album ‘Dawn FM’, ‘Less Than Zero’ itself sounds not unlike Michael Jackson produced by Tony Mansfield. The cross of catchy hooks, glorious counter-melodies and acoustic strums are reminiscent of Mansfield’s own combo NEW MUSIK who had UK hits with ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘This World Of Water’ and ‘Sanctuary’ in 1980; Tony Mansfield himself later went on to produce most of A-HA’s debut album ‘Hunting High & Low’.

The lush tones of ‘Less Than Zero’ even recall Cliff Richard’s appealing Alan Tarney produced synth period and of course, Tarney also went on to work with A-HA on a number of their biggest hits including ‘Take On Me’, ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’, ‘Cry Wolf’ and ‘Stay On These Roads’.

Over pop history, mainstream acts going through a period of synthpop or at least doing a synth-driven song or two has been a rock ‘n’ roll rite of passage. While the likes of Cliff Richard, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen and even Neil Young have entered the mysterious world of electronics in the past, with the assistance of that renowned Nordic melancholy and folk tradition, Abel Tesfaye appears to be enjoying his synthpop adventures as THE WEEKND more than most.

In ‘Less Than Zero’, he has created more magnificent earworm magic that harks back to the tradition of A-HA and others who came before them. No kids, the synth was not invented by Ryan Gosling in 2011 for the film ‘Drive’ ?


‘Less Than Zero’ is from the album ‘Dawn FM’ released by XO / Republic Records

https://www.theweeknd.com

https://www.facebook.com/theweeknd

https://twitter.com/theweeknd

https://www.instagram.com/theweeknd


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th January 2022

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