GEISTE is the musical vehicle of Marie Chabrelie from near St Tropez who probably would have been a product of JRR Tolkien had he manufactured pop stars.
Haunting, captivating and endearing, she invites you into her moody world of escapist pop on her debut EP ‘Utopia’.
Like something that could have come off the soundtrack ‘Killing Eve’, the haunting opener ‘Omen’ is simultaneously bewitching yet sinister, beautiful yet unsettling, built around a repeating ivory motif, sinister humming and the emotive air of Nordic songstress Susanne Sundfør.
Beginning in a layered neo-acapella fashion, ‘Dither’ becomes mighty once the majestic vocal refrains and multi-coloured percussive fervour kick in alongside the penetrating deep drone of synthbass. Capturing the cut and thrust of a city walk, it’s a determined train of thought that GEISTE expresses despite the inherent forlorn melancholy.
The expansive ‘Ocean’ is perhaps GEISTE’s signature song, an environmentally conscious battlecry that showcases her widescreen cinematics and impressive vocals that capture the angst of Zola Jesus within a melodic fantasia.
The angst takes a breather for the shorter but dreamier ‘Fetish’ which plays around with some glassy sound design. But GEISTE belts it all out again on ‘Anthems’, a dramatic number swathed in a building rhythmic drama that recalls NIKI & THE DOVE while also throwing in a swooping dubstep drop.
The hypnotic ‘Moonchild’ has perhaps the unifying essence of everything on this EP thrown into a singular track, providing not only the EP’s crystalline highlight but one that shows ‘Ocean’ was no fluke. It’s that progressive successor to the initial breakthrough which all aspiring artists need in their developing repertoire.
Painting pictures in light and shade, ‘Utopia’ has the French youngster articulating over a collage of rumbling bass, synthetic orchestrations and ritualistic rattles before a staccato virtual choir provides a wonderful textural statement to close.
For her opening body of work, GEISTE has impressed by collecting her best seven tracks to date to offer to a potentially wider audience. You only get to make a first impression once and her ‘Utopia’ makes a rather enthralling otherworldly one.
‘Utopia’ is available as digital EP via the usual online platforms
Like Germany and the UK, Sweden has an established history in electronic music.
With a melodic tradition rooted in traditional Nordic folk music and the region’s long dark nights causing bouts of melancholy, the Swedes are more than well suited to stay indoors and further the art of synthpop.
In addition, Clavia Digital Musical Instruments, founded in 1983 and based in Stockholm, have emerged as a world leader in modern virtual analogue subtractive synthesizers with its distinctive red Nord Lead series as well as its digital stage pianos.
The iconic Energy Rekords provided a platform for modern electronic music in the country while today, labels such as Progress Productions, Labrador and Wonderland have maintained their support for domestic talent. Meanwhile, COVENANT maintain an audience across the Atlantic for their resonant futurepop and ROBYN has become so much part of the mainstream that her songs are regularly murdered by reality TV talent show wannabes.
Probably the most influential act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Their influence internationally on countless acts such as GAZELLE TWIN, GRIMES, AUSTRA, THE HORN THE HUNT and BECKY BECKY to adopt darker colours and mess with the very fabric of sound, has held a flag for inventive artful experimentation.
So what’s so special about Sweden then? Listed chronologically and then alphabetically from its UK perspective with a restriction of one song per moniker, here are 25 SVENSKA SYNTH SONGS…
LUSTANS LAKEJER Diamanter (1982)
With a shortened title, ‘Diamanter’ was a more synth driven re-recording of their second single. LUSTANS LAKEJER were labelled Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN and like the Birmingham combo, Johan Kinde and Co were heavily influenced by JAPAN. Their third album ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri with Mick Karn popping up with his sax on three of its tracks.
Founded in 1980 by Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko, PAGE are often credited with bringing the more purer form of synthpop as pioneered by Vince Clarke to Sweden. Their debut single ‘Dansande Man’ was a frantically percussive excursion suitable for dancing to as the title suggested. Bengtsson and Schiptjenko were to become key figures on the Swedish music scene in many guises, as we shall see…
Originally released as a single via Eskimo, currently unavailable
With their name inspired by a JAPAN song, THE MOBILE HOMES were another Swedish band adopting purer synthpop colours . For their second single ‘Feeling Better’, they signed to Sonet, a Scandinavian independent who coincidentally handled the early publishing of Martin Gore and Vince Clarke. Eschewing the quirkiness of PAGE, THE MOBILE HOMES reflected the more pessimistic side of life often associated with Sweden.
An almost cartoonish trio originally comprising of Alexander Bard, Jean-Pierre Barda and La Camilla, ARMY OF LOVERS countered their outlandish visual presence with catchy electronic dance tunes influenced by the hippy musical ‘Hair’. While the epic ‘Crucify’ was the huge worldwide hit, the musically more subtle ‘Obsession’ offered a softer side while still maintaining the cinematic drama.
In parallel with PAGE, Eddie Bengtsson joined vocalist Alexander Hofman to write and perform some ‘Star Trek’ themed songs for a friend’s Trekkie themed birthday party. . Originally called MR SPOCK, the band name was changed to an acronym for ‘Star Pilot On Channel K’ after threats of legal action from Paramount Studios. ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is still their crowning moment, a genius combination of deadpan vocals, bubbling synthpop and samples from Captain James T Kirk.
Available on the album ‘Five Year Mission’ via Energy Rekords
Founded in 1988, ELEGANT MACHINERY were another act who preferred a purer synthpop stance; they even covered SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ in the style of Vince Clarke for an excellent 1995 Energy Rekords tribute collection of the same name. Many consider ‘Hard To Handle’ their finest song, an excellent blend of dance friendly beats and blippy melodies.
Formed in 1986 in Helsingborg, the Eskil Simonsson fronted COVENANT managed to gain a footing in both synthpop and EBM camps, achieving great success in North America from touring the alternative electronic club network established following the stateside success of DEPECHE MODE. Still going strong, 2016 saw the release of their ninth long player ‘Blinding Dark’.
Sibling duo THE KNIFE are probably the acclaimed electronic act to emerge from Sweden. Their uncompromising approach has won them many plaudits. But there was a time when with their experimentation came a tune too. The wonderful ‘Pass This On’ took Karin Dreijer’s unsettling pitch shifted vocals and placed them over brother Olaf’s soundtrack of primitive string machine and uplifting steel drums. Things got much darker after this…
Tired of her label BMG trying to turn her into the Swedish CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ROBYN took began taking an interest in the electronic movement closer to home. Inspired by THE KNIF, she collaborated with them to produce what is now possibly the key song which transformed Robin Miriam Carlsson into the successful independently minded artist she is today.
Available on the album ‘Robyn’ via Konichiwa Records
Best known as a member of the cult Swedish indie band PARIS, singer and keyboardist Emma Nylén had aspirations to produce something that was more decisively electronic. Her first recordings immediately showcased a catchy dance friendly sound as exemplified by ‘Rock D’Amour’. Subsequent albums ‘Closet Wanderings’ and ‘Nomme’ have maintained the standard, although EMMON is currently on a career break to raise a family.
Eddie Bengstsson’s solo project, also referred to as SMPJ, saw him unafraid to mine his Synth Britannia influences. ‘Allt Är Klart’ was an ULTRAVOX tribute and effectively a Swedish vocal version of the instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard, staccato synth bassline was borrowed from the original, but the track was bolstered by some superb whirring synths in the tradition of Billy Currie’s adventures with the ARP Odyssey.
Combining dual male / female vocals with a danceable electro goth backdrop, Anders Hagström and Yasmine Uhlin achieved success in Germany as well as Sweden with ‘Spiders’. ASHBURY HEIGHTS came out of hiatus in 2015 with a new female vocalist Tea F Thimé and a new album ‘The Looking Glass Society’ after a settling a despite with their label Out Of Line.
BODIES WITHOUT ORGANS or BWO saw PAGE’s Marina Schiptjenko teaming up Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in a project that has probably come closest to exploiting the musicality of ABBA for the 21st Century. Fronted by the extremely handsome Martin Rolinski, the classic pop tradition of the original Super Swedes was more than obvious on the mightily bonkers ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ which they entered for Eurovision.
Producer Andreas Kleerup hit paydirt with ‘With Every Heartbeat’, a collaboration with ROBYN. A marvellous self-titled album followed with ‘Longing For Lullabies’ featuring Neneh Cherry’s sister Titiyo being the tearful highlight. Despite being driven with raw mechanical beats, the simple vocal melody was simple, almost keyboard-like going up and down the ivory scale in the best tradition of OMD while Titiyo’s vocal range made it a bit Agnetha and Annifrid too!
One established artist who made a volte face in the wake of THE KNIFE was KARIN PARK. It was on more her ROBYN-esque third album ‘Ashes To Gold’ that she sowed the seeds of her current electronic template. The synthpop disco of ‘Ashes’ fused electronic counterpoints and a live bass guitar with an incessant groove while Miss Park provided her enticing vocal presence.
Another act formed under the spectre of THE KNIFE, Stockholm duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf released ‘Mother Protect’ as a free download to launch NIKI & THE DOVE. Then came ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’; shaped by a ritualistic percussive mantra and whirring sub-bass, Dahlström’s witchy mannerisms provided the surreal scenario of what the Dreijers might have sounded like if they had decided to enter Eurovision.
Available on the album ‘Instinct’ via Mercury Records
Having issued their first album ‘:Adored’ in 1996 and their second ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’ in 2004, ‘Silent Dawn’ was a single released as part of DAYBEHAVIOR‘s much vaunted comeback. The song was an exploration in laid back filmic pop and breathy continental vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Italian art movie. Indeed their most recent single ‘Change’ was also released in an alternative Italian language version, naturally titled ‘Cambiare’.
KITE have been called “Sweden’s best kept pop-secret”; Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg have undoubtedly been producing some of the best electronic pop of the last few years. Only releasing EPs, things started to truly come together on their fourth release ‘IV’. From it, ‘Step Forward’ with its sharp percussive drama and pentatonic overtones was the undoubted highlight. More recently, the duo have been commissioned to provide a song for a new Steven Segal film.
With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline from Johan Angergård, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds with ‘Stop Taking Time’ that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor. Formed in 1995 as a more conventional pop act, CLUB 8’s most recent album ‘Pleasure’ celebrated 20 years for the duo.
MACHINISTA are seasoned hands, John Lindqwister was part of CAT RAPES DOG while Richard Flow was in VISION TALK with the late Krister Petersson. Their mantra is produce synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge. Like THE CURE gone electronic, or ALPHAVILLE crossed with SUICIDE, ‘Molecules & Carbon’ is both catchy and danceable with some suitably rousing elements too.
First launched via a set of mysterious viral videos with alphanumeric code titles, IAMAMIWHOAMI helmed by vocalist Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund premiered a delightfully odd cinematic electronic sound. From the second album ‘Blue’, the rich Scandipop of ‘Chasing Kites’ sees Jonna Lee hitting those ABBA-esque high notes with ablomb before adopting a huskier register for the second half.
Available on the album ‘Blue’ via To Whom It May Concern
A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, JOHAN BAECKSTROM said “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.
Founded by Dan Söderqvist and Karl Gasleben, TWICE A MAN were the opposite to many Swedish acts in that they used synths and electronic effects for more sombre atmospheric soundscapes rather than performing outright pop. Still operating as a unit, their 2015 album ‘Presence’ featuring epic environmental message songs like ‘High In The Clouds’ showed their talents have not waned over the years and indeed have become more accessible.
Available on the album ‘Presence’ via Ad Inexplorata
After her inconclusive self-titled debut album in 2011, VANBOT aka Ester Ideskog had a rethink and started venturing into artier climes with the dreamy and enigmatic ‘Trooper’. With layers of vocals and rushes of lush synth, it started a journey towards the otherworldly template of IAMAMIWHOAMI. Her icy journey continues on her next album ‘Siberia’ which was written and recorded on a 17 day trip aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.
REIN I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You (2016)
Feisty, ambitious and not to be messed with, REIN has certainly caused a stir with Europe’s male dominated EBM scene. A true Rebel Girl as suggested by one of the highlights from her self-titled debut 2016 EP, even within the inherent shouty nature of the genre and Joanna Reinikainen’s debut song ‘Can’t Handle Me’ effectively being a mission statement, things are ramped up to 11 on ‘I Don’t Get Anything But Sh*t From You’. She’s an artist to watch for sure…
Over the five years since its inception on 15th March 2010, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has aimed to highlight the best new music within the electronic pop world.
But with so much music and only a finite allocation of time, songs have slipped under the radar occasionally, or perhaps only received a glancing mention. However, a bit of time and distance can reveal if these recordings really are actually lost gems and whether the site missed the boat. So here are 30 songs from the cover the period between March 2010 to December 2014 which are worthy of rediscovery.
They have been released as physical product or purchasable / free downloads and are listed in chronological and then alphabetical order.
YVY DEMINA Alley of Aces (2010)
Sounding like night meeting day with an omnipresent gothic allure, YVY DEMINA has been making music since 2007 but despite having songs on compilations, so far she has yet to have a release in her own right. A debut EP scheduled for July 2009 never materialised but the excellent ‘Alley Of Aces’ crept out on the ‘Zwischenfall – A New Decade Vol. 01’ compendium which also featured XENO & OAKLANDER. No more has been heard since…
Available on the compilation album ‘Zwischenfall – A New Decade Vol. 01’ via Real Voice Of Underground
Seductive, Weimer Cabaret styled electropop with a rich, layered atmosphere, ‘Sternentanz’ was a gloriously vibrant song from this promising German songstress. But aside from three mixes of ‘Sternentanz’ and another track titled ‘Kein Weg Zu Weit’ on the single release, that was it. LYLEE’s website has long since gone offline so despite Google, there appears to be no extra information on her whatsoever… so a song and artist truly lost.
Available as a download single via Batleth Records, extended version available on the compilation album ‘electropop.5’ via Conzoom Records
Sick of female fronted synthpop? Well, tough! We want “synths with balls” cry the electro fraternity still stuck in their shouty, chauvinistic cauldron! But as the feminist synth combo TIKKLE ME put it on their song ‘Remind The World’: “I’ve got no balls you see… I’ve already checked!”. This Swedish collective certainly made a positive impression with some thought provoking lyrics on their feisty self-titled debut album and have tunes too! Their second album ‘What Is Real’ is even better!
Available on the download album ‘Tikkle Me’ via Gaphals
047 Featuring LISA PEDERSEN Everything’s Fine (2011)
With some rich Scandipop in the vein of ROBYN courtesy of guest vocalist LISA PEDERSEN, ‘Everything’s Fine’ showed that Swedish electronic duo 047 could produce quality song based material. Sebastian Rutgersson and Peter Engström started out as a chiptune act before expanding their sonic template on their second album proper, ‘Elva’. It is territory they’re continuing in with the much anticipated follow-up, currently being recorded.
JOHAN AGEBJÖRN & LE PRIX featuring LAKE HEARTBEAT Watch The World Go By (2011)
JOHAN AGEBJÖRN is better known as cult Swedish songstress SALLY SHAPIRO’s right hand man, but for his debut solo album, he brought in a number of guest vocalists like QUEEN OF HEARTS for ‘Casablanca Nights’, a rather danceable electronic pop album. ‘Watch The World Go By’ was an uptempo highlight with a longing, melancholic vocal from Janne Kask of LAKE HEARTBEAT that was treated to the point of being almost feminine.
Available on the download album ‘Casablanca Nights’ via Paper Bag
Produced by FRANZ FERDINAND’s Alex Koupranos, CITIZENS! ‘True Romance’ had a hint of HOT CHIP collaborating with Vince Clarke about it. Catchy and quirky, it was released in late 2011 and even had a slight passing resemblance to the CCS remix of LYKKE LI’s ‘Little Bit’. From a so-called indie band, ‘True Romance’ had a fresh, synth assisted approach that didn’t involve too many guitar interventions.
HIGH PLACES are a duo based in Brooklyn. Dark but danceable, Mary Pearson’s half spoken / half wispy vocals on the haunting ‘Year Off’ are unearthly. As a percussive mantra takes hold, the cacophony of synthetic sound produced by musical partner Rob Barber only enhances the cerebral experience of this magnificent track, with an electronic bassline solid enough to knock your head on.
Available on the album ‘Original Colors’ via Thrill Jockey Records
While quite obviously derived from THE KNIFE and the hanutronica mood of the times, ‘Mother Protect’ was a great brooding tune from NIKI & THE DOVE. Malin Dahlstrom had a menacing growl that strangely sat between Karin Dreijer and Cyndi Lauper on this doom laden percussive rattle. The pair had potential and while THE KNIFE go to Eurovision of ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ was another good tune in their cannon, they lacked consistency and the debut album ‘Instinct’ was not quite as impressive.
Full of European melancholy, ‘Darkest Days’ did what it said on the tin and appeared on the ‘Electropop.6’ compilation alongside VILE ELECTRODES and OBLIQUE. The vehicle of French producer Peter Rainman whose remixed for artists on labels such as Dependent, A Different Drum and Out Of Line, to date this has been his last offering as SPLENDOR PROJEKT. It is often quite puzzling how some musical ventures never get beyond a few released songs, while other less satisfactory acts keep going on and on…
Available on the compilation album ‘electropop.6’ via Conzoom Records
PATRICK WOLF once claimed to have had his image and act nicked by LA ROUX, but he seemed to do alright for himself as a kind of 21st Century’s answer to MARC ALMOND. With the synthetically accessible Richard X remix of ‘This City’, he actually came over like the lost Glaswegian band H20 through a Eurodisco filter. If Wolf actually stopped worrying about having his thunder stolen and actually did more stuff like this, he might then be able to outstrip LA ROUX.
Available on the download single ‘In The City’ via Hideout Recordings
Hailing from Portland, CHROMATICS were one of the brace North American electronic acts who appeared on the ‘Drive – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ with their song ‘Tick Of The Clock’. ‘Kill For Love’ from their fourth album of the same name could have been THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN if they were a female fronted synth band. With a lo-fi, punkier edge to their sound, CHROMATICS straddle several camps and bring a unique template to the alternative music table.
Available on the album ‘Kill For Love’ via Italians Do It Better
Gothenburg’s Ulrika Mild is COMPUTE whose first two releases ‘This’ in 2009 and ‘The Distance’ in 2012 impressed with their wispy, emotive DIY synthpop. Since then, she also found time to record a fabulous cover of ‘Goodbye’, written by Paul McCartney and first recorded by Mary Hopkin, for a tribute CD that also featured Swedish synth veterans PAGE with a great electro version of SLADE’s ‘Coz I Luv You’. Known for taking her time over things, COMPUTE’s third release is still eagerly awaited.
Available on the download compilation album ‘The Seventies Revisited’ via Friends of Electronically Yours
Following the second disbandment of A-HA in 2010, MORTEN HARKET has sat again in that awkward artistic hinterland where he has the voice and the cheekbones, but is more challenged in the songwriting department. However, the spritely ‘Scared Of Heights’ written by Espen Lind, a mentor on the Norwegian version of ‘The Voice’, recalled the best of A-HA’s classic singles with Harket’s trademark falsetto allowed to let rip. However, Harket is unlikely to ever escape A-HA…
Available on the album ‘Out Of My Hands’ via Island / Universal Music
While bandmate Sean McBride was busy with his MARTIAL CANTEREL solo project, XENO & OAKLANDER’s Liz Wendelbo took a parallel busman’s holiday and contributed string synths and vocals to some tracks recorded by Xavier Paradis of AUTOMELODI fame. Perhaps lighter than XENO & OAKLANDER and more obviously in key, ‘Rien À Paris’ captured Wendelbo’s Gallic charms in a manner than was Francoise Hardy rather than her usual Jane Birkin.
The act that influenced CHVRCHES, Edmonton duo PURITY RING combined synths and glitch techniques with a clattering, off-kilter drum machine backbone. Megan James’ vocals aren’t that far off Lauren Mayberry’s sweet tones but while ‘Belispeak’ was a good tune full of invention and atmosphere, overall PURITY RING have perhaps lacked the pop oriented immediacy and focus of their Glaswegian contemporaries. Where they head next in the light of this will be interesting…
The enticing project of NEW PONY CLUB’s Lou Hayter and Jean-Benoît Dunckel from AIR, ‘So Long My Love’ was a wonderfully motorik number with hypnotic drum machine, brash synth effects and sexy nonchalance all thrown into the bargain. Such an interesting combination had so much potential, but the resultant self-titled album released in 2013 lacked the vibrancy of this calling card and was sadly a disappointment.
Available on the album ‘Tomorrow’s World’ via Homebase
Released on Sweden’s Labrador Records who launched THE SOUND OF ARROWS, ‘Stop Taking My Time’ was proof that a danceable electronic tune didn’t have to be a journey into death by four-to-the-floor or longer than five minutes. With Karolina Komstedt’s dramatically assertive vocal and a bursting bassline, CLUB 8 showed in a crisp 180 seconds that glorious, uplifting synthpop could still have an impact.
Available on the album ‘Above The City’ via Labrador Records
Like fellow Mancunians HURTS, DELPHIC were hailed as one of the great hopes for male fronted electronic pop with a sound not unlike A CERTAIN RATIO gone right! Their debut album ‘Acolyte’ showed what they could be capable of, if they could only turn their extended jams into songs. However, the follow-up album ‘Collections’ disappointed with a misguided excursion into rap. The launch single ‘Baiya’ though was a cracker, combining the anthemic vocal pomp of MUSE with the rhythmical overtures of PRINCE.
Available on the album ‘Collections’ via Polydor Records
Ghostly are the innovative label founded by American electronic musician MATTHEW DEAR and home to electro-punksters ADULT. Their roster also includes a number of interesting acts like London based FORT ROMEAU. The project of producer Michael Greene, ‘Stay True’ takes on a pulsating electro influence, but is allowed to breathe and progress with the space permitted by the length of the piece.
ISAAC JUNKIE featuring GLENN GREGORY Something About You (2013)
Having toured both ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ and ‘The Luxury Gap’, HEAVEN 17 really needed to record new material to maintain their credibility. It could be argued that this collaboration with Mexican producer ISAAC JUNKIE and GLENN GREGORY went part of the way in kick starting that. A marvellously trancey electronic dance tune, the only thing that stops ‘Something About You’ from being perfect is the way Mr Gregory’s vocals have been processed and distorted.
Available on the single ‘Something About You’ via Isaac Junkie Records
Like MARSHEAUX crossed with POLLY SCATTERGOOD, the dream laden chillwave of ‘Oostende’ showcased what COCTEAU TWINS might have sounded like had they been a synth duo. Comprising of the gorgeous afflicted voice of Sarah P,. and the mysterious RΠЯ, KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS actually hailed from the Greek capital, but sounded like they’d emerged from a frozen Fjord in Narvik. Sarah P. subsequently departed in 2014, but KEEP SHELLY ATHENS continue today with new singer Myrtha.
Despite having released their five EPs in five years, this Swedish duo have tended to be overlooked. There was a two year wait for KITE’s most recent EP ‘V’, but it was worth the wait when Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg offered some fine, if mournful electropop in the shape of ‘The Rhythm’. With layers of exuberant synth sounds and Stenemo’s almost chant like vocals full of brooding sadness but with a glimmer of hope, the next EP ‘VI’ is set for a Spring 2015 release.
NATTEFROST is Danish musician Bjørn Jeppesen whose tenth album ‘Futurized’ encompassed many of the spacey elements of yesterday’s tomorrow that fans of JEAN MICHEL JARRE and KRAFTWERK would enjoy. Featuring as a guest vocalist, Michel Moers of Belgian synth subversives TELEX, his Gallic nonchalance on ‘Will I Get to Your Heart?’ is particularly good with sequenced percussive effects and rich synth sweeps providing some old fashioned synthpop.
Available on the album ‘Futurized’ via Sireena Records
MULU featuring RUSSELL MAEL David – Frozen Smoke Remix (2013)
SPARKS have never just been an exclusively synthpop act but with the Mael Brothers more orchestrated in their instrumental template these days, it is rare to hear the magnificent nuances of Russell Mael on an electronic track in the 21st Century. This rather good collaboration with MULU remained strangely unreleased until dance act FROZEN SMOKE threw caution to the wind and let their synth dominated remix with its meaty snare sounds out. Singer Laura Campbell sounded totally glorious next to the younger Mael.
Originally available as a free download via Soundcloud, currently unavailable
Art rockers NIGHT ENGINE are possibly the most interesting guitar driven band to come out of the UK for some time. What separates them from the pack is their use of whirring synths for their solos. The rousing ‘Give Me A Chance’ fuses DAVID BOWIE and TALKING HEADS before digressing into a punchy end section which would conscript the quartet into TUBEWAY ARMY. And this is without mentioning that lanky vocalist / guitarist Phil McDonnell has that menacing air of Thin White Duke about him too.
Available on the download EP ‘Night Engine’ via Demand Vinyl / Something In Construction
Mining the heritage of Italo disco, enigmatic Greek singer / songwriter TAXX aka Taxiarchis Zolotas successfully combined atmospherics, propulsive bass sequences and a solid electro beat on the immensely catchy ‘Is It Love?’. With a moodiness reminiscent of PET SHOP BOYS, but with spacey buzzes and a harder kick, TAXX’s homage to the club based sub-genre was a worthy excursion into classic European pop.
Available on the download single ‘Is It Love?’ via Undo Records
TRENTMØLLER featuring SUNE ROSE WAGNER Deceive (2013)
Anders Trentemøller made a name for himself when he remixed DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Wrong’ in 2009. He succeeded not only in stamping his own vision with a far superior interpretation but highlighted shortcomings in DM’s production department. The muted synth trumpets and spacey swirls of ‘Deceive’ driven by an incessant drum machine made for a positively nocturnal atmosphere . And when crossed with an eerie vocal turn by Sune Rose Wagner, it all came over brilliantly like DM meeting DEATH IN VEGAS.
Hailing from Canada, ELECTRIC YOUTH’s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on ‘Drive – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. The bridge and chorus are particularly tremendous. Now if this electronic ditty had come out thirty years ago, there is no doubt it would have ended up in a Brat Pack movie.
Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian
Pitch shifted to an almost asexual resonance, EMIKA delivered a wonderfully unique cover of one of Bowie’s best known tunes. The stabbing synth melody only vaguely sounds like it may have been derived from the original ‘Let’s Dance’. Indeed, this is more of a tribute with EMIKA herself describing it as “A new time-travel, gender twisting experiment in honour of one of my favourite artists…” – indeed, DURAN DURAN’s ‘Union Of The Snake’ sounds more obviously like a cover of ‘Let’s Dance’ than this does 😉
Available on the CD ‘David Bowie – Recovered’ free with Rolling Stone Germany – May 2014
The now New York based pop princess moved away from her Nashville roots for her first overtly pop album ‘1989’. Whereas tracks like ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Out Of The Woods’ merely flirted with synthpop in the mould of CHVRCHES, the appropriately titled deluxe bonus track ‘New Romantics’ almost went the full hog! In fact, if Miss Swift’s inherent Americanisms were not so apparent, this enticing number could easily be mistaken for the dreamy allure of Scandipodean twins SAY LOU LOU.
Available on the album ‘1989 – Deluxe edition’ via Big Machine Records
Having delivered one of the best synth based debut albums in recent years, musician and producer Andreas Kleerup is back with two new mini albums, the first of which is entitled ‘As If We Never Won’; the second set to be released sometime in 2015 while a full length album is to follow afterwards.
Seven years between albums is a long time even by today’s standards but Kleerup has been busy with his own, more conventionally focussed band ME & MY ARMY who released their debut album ‘Thank God For Sending Me Demons’ in 2011, the soundtrack for the Stockholm Stadsteatern’s production of the Swedish opera ‘Aniara’ and incidental music for Eurovision 2013.
Any new KLEERUP recording now lives with a high degree of expectation following the stupendous 2008 self-titled debut that included noteworthy singers like ROBYN, LYKKE LI, MARIT BERGMAN, NENEH CHEERY and Cherry’s sister TITIYO in its full expanded edition.
The EP’s launch single ‘Let Me In’, featuring Susanne Sundfør who sang on M83′s ‘Oblivion’ and RÖYKSOPP’s cover of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Ice Machine’, moves away from the dreamy synth melancholy of the ‘Kleerup’ debut and delivers a more organic template, sounding like KARIN PARK if she had joined ROXY MUSIC to record ‘The Space Between’ from ‘Avalon’. It is a superb calling card, showing progression but retaining the original appeal of KLEERUP’s debut. ‘Let Me In’ is brilliantly classic and yet still very contemporary.
Opening proceedings though is ‘Sad Boys’, a beefier version of the more tranquil ‘Northern Lights’ issued last year as interval music for Eurovision 2013. A vibrant but emotive instrumental in the vein of ‘Hero’ from the ‘Kleerup’ debut, live drums give some syncopated punch which appears to be the main change in the KLEERUP sound after the distorted machine beats of its predecessor. ‘Nothing Left To Die For’ sees Jenny Wilson, formally of FIRST FLOOR POWER, in a deliciously melancholic disco romp with her haunting vocals accompanied by some pretty synth tones. Despite the sadness, like with ‘Sad Boys’, there is a wonderful groove that reveals Andreas Kleerup’s roots as a drummer.
Meanwhile, the pace mellows for ‘Rock U’ featuring Malin Dahlstrom of NIKI & THE DOVE. The witchy growl that featured on ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ and ‘Mother Protect’ is omnipresent in this more guitar focussed rock ballad that sounds like a Nordic CYNDI LAUPER, not entirely surprising as Kleerup produced her song ‘Lay Me Down’ for her great comeback album ‘Bring Ya To The Brink’ and which eventually morphed into ‘Thank You For Nothing’ on the ‘Kleerup’ album.
The pace slows even further with the ‘As If We Never Won’ title track, a stark but epic ballad with Kleerup himself moodily duetting with Maja Ivarsson from THE SOUNDS. It takes a while to get going but evolves into something more satisfying with each listen. And in a nod to his ME & MY ARMY project, the EP finishes with ‘Thank God For Sending Demons’ in a raw, stripped down version of the original. Coming over a bit like JOHNNY CASH if he had been born near the Arctic Circle and with just an acoustic guitar for company, it is however the least essential number of this short set and can only be really be considered as a charming, if slightly incongruous filler.
Overall as a taster for the next KLEERUP album proper, ‘As If We Never Won’ contains a number of fine songs and is a welcome pop return for one of the best electronic music producers in Europe.